EXCLUSIVE Interview: Dark Horse Aims For The Sky With DRAGON RESURRECTION

You guys like dragons, right? Well, get ready for them to almost fly off the page in the brand new Dark Horse graphic novel DRAGON RESURRECTION. What makes this project particularly unique is that its a co-production with a Chinese company – DeZerlin – and the launch of what hopes to be the next, big cross-platform franchise. To find out more from writer Mark Byers, as well as some peeks at the stunning art for the project, read on.

MTV Geek: What’s the general pitch for Dragon Resurrection? I hear it’s like Jurassic Park meets Mission Impossible…

Mark Byers: Jurassic Park meets Mission: Impossible – great idea! Yeah, actually, that’s definitely the flavor – action, adventure, intrigue, with a sci-fi twist.

The official log line:

When adventurer Jesse Chang discovers the remains of an actual dragon frozen in the mountains of Tibet, she sends a sample of its DNA to her geneticist twin brother, Jack. But when a rogue American general learns of the discovery, it sets in motion a global pursuit to seize and control the technology for his own shocking ends.

Really, the whole idea is just to be cool and exciting. If this were a movie (which it will be), it would be a popcorn movie – a lotta fun to watch, and entertaining to talk about afterwords. So the book is really a fun read, with some intriguing ideas, and real live dragons, right here, right now.

Geek: How did you get hooked up with this project?

MB: The Dragon Resurrection graphic novel is the first fruits of an exciting collaboration with DeZerlin Media in Qingdao, China (beautiful seaside city on the east coast of China, and yep, same place the Tsingdao beer comes from).

DeZerlin is a cool creative boutique generating original IP for books, movies, animation, games, and related merchandise. They are creating some amazing stuff there for the global market that no one would believe is from China.

They have been in high level meetings at ComicCon and in Hollywood, and they are cutting deals that would be unheard of for a start-up, let alone a company from China.

But it was the vision of Dark Horse that first believed in what DeZerlin could deliver, and the result is Dragon Resurrection.

Geek: If this hasn’t already been answered, with this being a cross-production with a Chinese entertainment group, what’s the process of putting this together been like?

MB: I have been in China since 1999, putting together co-productions, and doing a lot of animation. Everyone in China talks about getting into the international market, but no one one knows how to do it, and always end up just making something local.

Lin Zhang, the CEO of DeZerlin, is very savvy and has studied the international market to see what is working, and figure out why it is working. He and his team then apply this research to their projects, and the result is unlike anything any other Chinese studio is producing.

Most of the other Chinese studios end up doing outsourcing work for Western companies, and think that makes them international. DeZerlin is actually creating original IP that is standing on its own globally.

When I first began working with them, they already had the concept for Dragon Resurrection worked out (along with several other exciting projects, which we are also getting set up). I worked with them on the scripts for the graphic novel and the animated movie, bringing a Western story structure to their killer concepts, and ending up with the great book you see now.

Keep a close eye on these guys – they are destined to become the Pixar of China.

Geek: What – if anything – do you think makes the Chinese approach to comics different from the American approach?

MB: Chinese storytelling structure is very different than Western story structure. The true power in DeZerlin’s approach is combining the best of East and West to create something that is not Chinese and not Western, but is truly global.

As mentioned before, there are elements of Mission: Impossible and Jurassic Park in our Dragon Resurrection (and not a little James Bond), but there is also a very definite Chinese flavor to the work that is very refreshing to readers, and a new approach to “cool.”

Geek: Let’s talk about the story… Who are Jesse and Jack Chang?

MB: Jesse and Jack are twenty-something twins who in their childhood followed their father around the world as he sought out ancient myths and legends to find the germ of truth inside each one.

Jesse is an active, adventurous girl who loved the adrenalin rush of the unexplored and the unknown.

Jack, on the other hand, thrived on the academic side, always fascinated by the theoretical, the sheer possibilities of what could be, and hated all the action and uncertainty.

Both went to college at UCSC, and a run-in with street thugs left Jack a paraplegic, and Jesse blaming herself for her brother’s injuries. Jesse left school as quickly as she could to rejoin her father’s exploits, while Jack stayed and delved into genetic research.

Their father turned his explorations into an obsession to find evidence of the existence of dragons, and Jesse wholeheartedly supported him, because they were hoping that some essence of an actual dragon might somehow be used to cure Jack and enable him to walk again.

But when they discovered the remains of an actual dragon frozen in a Tibetan glacier, they got so much more than they bargained for.

Geek: What about the dragon(s)? What makes them different – or the same – than the creatures of myth?

MB: There is a germ of truth inside every legend, a distant reality behind every myth. With so much legend and lore about dragons all around the world, there must be some truth that we have yet to discover. That’s what drives Jesse and her father on their quest, and that is what drives all of us in our continuing fascination with the creatures, even now in the 21st century.

There are major differences between Chinese dragons and Western dragons that we had to reconcile for the Dragon Resurrection book. For example, although Chinese dragons can fly, they don’t have wings as we would think of them, but rather slither through the air much like a snake in water.

But it is hard for a Western audience to buy a flying dragon that doesn’t have full wings. So for the imagery in the book we had to take a Chinese dragon and add Western wings, giving us a hybrid that hopefully works for everyone.

In basic appearance, they are Chinese dragons, but they have wings. They also have the special powers that Chinese dragons possess. Western dragons are strong and smart, and perhaps they can breathe fire, but that’s about it. Some Chinese dragons can control the power of wind and water, others have telekinetic powers, and can project what we would call a force field – very different from their Western counterparts.

And, of course, our Jesse dragon knows kung fu.

Geek: And if I was to guess from the description, something happens to Jesse and Jack over the course of this book that, er, changes them?

MB: Clever boy. Yeah, geneticist Jack synthesizes the DNA of the dragon remains found by sister Jesse, and creates a formula that circumstances force Jesse to inject herself with. Of course, that formula is appropriated by a rogue American general with sinister motives, and Jesse and Jack have to transform into the dragon twins to combat the evil.

Geek: I couldn’t help but notice the cover says this is the first adventure of Jesse and Jack Chang… I assume that means they’re more? Are there teases in this book, or a stand-alone?

MB: The ability to transform into a living, breathing dragon is just too cool for only one book! So we will be following up Dragon Resurrection with Dragon Retribution, Dragon Revolution, and more.

But we have developed the first book, Dragon Resurrection, as a stand-alone… except, of course, for that last scene that more than hints at a sequel.

Geek: Any other teases you can give us? Things that are going to make comic fans and dragon fans alike excited about this book?

MB: Oh yeah. Our rogue general just happens to be the head of DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, an actual agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military.

So in the book we present super-secret cutting-edge weapons systems, and extrapolate them to the next level. This is really, really cool stuff that is based in reality. There are weapons in use here that really are the stuff of science fiction, except they are in development by the US military.

We also do some amazing and at times horrific things with genetic mutations, and what can happen when you muck about with the human genome.

And perhaps most cool of all, our Jesse (in her human form) has been taught how to kick butt by a real kung fu monk – and she takes her awesome martial arts ability into her dragon form when she transforms. You haven’t lived until you have witnessed a kung fu fighting dragon who can control the power of wind and water.

You’ve got to see it to believe it!

On top of it all, we are developing a major animated movie with partners who have made some of the biggest grossing films in the last couple of years, along with unbelievable games, spin-off series, merchandise – and more books with Dark Horse!

DRAGON RESURRECTION hits bookstores next Summer, only from Dark Horse, but we’ve got a look at the pages for you right now: