"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials," the eagerly-anticipated sequel to last year's hit movie "The Maze Runner," won't arrive in theaters to cause us all severe emotional distress until September. Still, you should probably start preparing yourselves now. Do you have enough tissues? Water for when you dehydrate yourself from crying? A Dylan O'Brien-shaped pillow to hug? It's okay, you've got time.
But if you're a diehard "Maze Runner" fan and you just can't wait until this fall to have all the feels, then there's hope! This Wednesday (June 24), BOOM! Studios is releasing "The Scorch Trials Official Graphic Novel Prelude," an officially licensed tie-in comic that will solve some of the franchise's biggest mysteries -- like how WCKD was first created, what the Flare-ridden world beyond the Maze is like, and how the OTHER experiment subjects solved their own maze.
Below, check out some of the exclusive never-before-seen art from this new graphic novel, as well as an interview with writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing about how they approached James Dashner's thrilling dystopian franchise.
MTV News: How did you both get involved in this project? Were you fans of the Maze Runner series before you started writing for the book?
Jackson Lanzing: The blunt answer is that they came to us and asked. Back when the first movie opened, we worked with Stephen Christy at BOOM! and the filmmakers behind the movie (Wes Ball and T.S. Nowlin) to put together a short prequel comic for the blu-ray. That story followed Minho before Thomas’ arrival in the Maze - with art by our frequent collaborator and friend Marcus To - and was how we became familiar with the world of the books and the films. That story’s actually reprinted in the new book, so you get a sense of where we came from.
Collin Kelly: Ball and Nowlin actually wrote a story for the same project: the really excellent "My Friend George." You can read that in the new book as well.
Lanzing: Far as this book’s concerned, it all started with a phone call from Dafna Pleban, our editor at BOOM! Studios. We’d done "Hacktivist" and "Regular Show" at BOOM! -- and have "Joyride" coming out early next year -- so they know us pretty well over there. When they asked us to dig into the heart of the "Maze Runner" series - and basically gave us carte blanche to tell stories we found interesting -- we jumped at the chance. There are a ton of unexplored corners in the "Maze Runner" franchise. Dashner’s story is laser-focused on the characters -- which leaves a lot of room for expansion and growth in the wider world of the story. We were a little concerned that they’d think our ideas were too crazy, but when we were told that we could freely add specifics to the mythos, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.
Kelly: We were joined by some truly awesome artists. Nick Robles turned our story of Group B - "The True Maze" -- into a work of frigid beauty, while Andrea Mutti (who is doing incredible work on "Rebels") brought out the darkness and pain of Jorge and Brenda’s origin in "Scorched." Meanwhile, in "World Gone Wicked," we asked Tom Derenick to tell the full history of the fall of the world, from the first Scorch to the rise of the WCKD... and he absolutely killed it.
MTV: How much interaction did you have with James Dashner or the screenwriters of the "Maze Runner" movies before starting? Did they offer any advice or ideas?
Kelly: When we first came into the project, James Dashner and the team over at Fox had already put together a loose idea of what stories they wanted told: the tale of Jorge and Brenda; an exploration of the second maze; a history of how the world fell, and WCKD rose. That was basically it -- starter sentences. From there, we had tons of freedom to innovate on the story and the way it was told. The last thing we wanted was to write stories that people expected -- hopefully, even the most fervent fan of the franchise will find things in this book that surprise.
Lanzing: James also wrote our forward and was involved in the approvals process, so fans of the books can rest easy that this comic has his blessing -- even if it’s a bit of remix.
MTV: I was really interested in the parallels between the Gladers and the Icers in Aris' story ("The True Maze"), especially because we don’t know much about what kind of maze Group B worked in from just looking the original text. Can you explain where the idea to put Group B in that environment came from?
Kelly: One of the only things we knew about Group B was that they were primarily female. From that single seed, we began exploring what that would actually mean to a society. While we found it hard to buy the idea that it would be so brutal and cruel as Group A, it also would be far from a utopia, because these girls are still scared human beings. Once we saw that their society was going to be evolving differently, we realized that that was probably part of WCKD’s plan all along… and as such, there’s no way they would put them in the same kind of maze as the boys. From there we went wild with ideas, but what we eventually settled on -- a frozen caldera of constantly shifting ice -- felt authentic to the universe, while still providing something unexpected. If the boys were going to be tested by the heat of their jungle microclimate, we wanted the girls to freeze.
Lanzing: Think about it for a moment. These kids never get any instruction from WCKD. The Gladers (or Group A) came up with “running the maze” on their own, so the term “Runner” doesn’t apply universally to those who map the maze. Neither does the term “Glader” or “Greenie” or “Griever” -- those are terms coined by Alby and his society. With Group B, we had an awesome opportunity to create an entirely different society that worked by similar-but-different rules -- one that had different terminology, governing systems, and monsters. And since their maze is ice, they don’t run -- they skate and climb. It’s a reflection of Group A in many ways, but in other ways the Icers have their own story -- one that could fill a whole book. We loved telling their side of the story.
MTV: Who was the character you were most interested to explore in this graphic novel? Which are you most excited to see audiences connect to?
Kelly: We loved the idea of exploring how damaged, frail Aris came to be one of the few Group B survivors, and of course Jorge is a fascinating character study of a man left behind by the world. But honestly? If the audience can connect to Ava Paige -- if they can read this story and say, “I finally understand this twisted woman who killed the world trying to save it” -- then we’ll have done our job.
MTV: For you, what’s the most exciting thing about getting to play around in the ‘Maze Runner’ franchise?
Lanzing: Getting to answer some questions and pose interesting new ones, so that the fans and new readers alike can fully understand the wider context of this crazy post-apocalyptic Maze Runner world. How did WCKD form? What tore Mary Cooper and Ava Paige apart? Where did the Cranks come from? Why put kids in giant mazes to cure a worldwide plague? What was the second maze really like? And how did Brenda and Jorge survive in the Scorch all those years?
These are questions that invite exciting answers -- and more importantly, dynamic stories about interesting, damaged characters. Since those are our favorite kind of characters, this project was a joy to explore.
"Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials Official Graphic Novel Prelude" is available on June 24 for $14.99 from BOOM! Studios. "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" hits theaters September 18.