You might know Eric Heisserer as the screenwriter behind Arrival, but his next big project is in a different vein: Secret Weapons, a new superhero miniseries for Valiant Comics. We spoke to the writer to see what it's like writing for the screen and writing for comics, and what's in store for the Valiant universe.
Image: Valiant Comics. Variant Cover Art by Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic
Secret Weapons — featuring art by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin — will follow former Harbinger member and electronics-controlling technopath Livewire as she forms a new team of unlikely psychic heroes to explore the dark supersoldier program that turned her into a hero in the first place.
It isn't the first time Heisserer has written for Livewire; before writing Secret Weapons, he helped bring the character and other Valiant heroes to life as part of early plans to bring Valiant to live-action in a series of Sony-produced movies. Check out our full interview with Heisserer below, as well as an extended preview of the first issue in the four-part series making its debut here.
Tell us a little bit about the premise of Secret Weapons.
Eric Heisserer: This kicks off a story with Livewire, introducing a new set of characters who'd been staying at a facility in Oklahoma City owned by Livewire's old boss, Harada. Livewire discovers this is where Harada placed psiots whose powers he found useless. So it's an island of misfit toys in the Valiant 'verse. Livewire learns about them because they are now all being hunted by someone or something. She's desperate to save them, but will they trust someone who worked for the man who called them all "useless"?
You've mentioned in the past that you fell in love with Livewire while helping to screenwrite Valiant's movie projects. What is it about her as a character that appeals to you?
Heisserer: Her powers are amazing, I think. And beyond that, her empathy for fellow human beings makers her the kind of role model I need in my life right now.
What can you tell us about the other Psiots joining Livewire's new team?
Heisserer: Nikki can speak to birds. Owen can conjure up inanimate objects, but can't control what he gets (or often, when). Martin can make objects glow with non-harmful light. Another character we'll meet in issue two can turn his whole body into an incredibly strong stone, like marble, but he's frozen in place when he does. I have a handful more to introduce if I get the chance. But those are the main ones — Owen and Nikki in particular.
The book continues to deal with the fallout and legacy of Harada and the Harbinger organisation. What's it been like being able to delve into all that lore and Valiant comics backstory to help with this new series?
Heisserer: It's a great experience. The Valiant Universe they're building out has always had some smart connections among the titles, but also allows each character to have their own stories, and the tone can vary without it feeling unmoored from the rest of the books. My hope is just to integrate with the big, sweeping arcs they have planned.
As a screenwriter, what's been the transition to writing a comic book been like? What's the biggest difference?
Heisserer: It's a fairly smooth transition for me, as they're neighbours in terms of storytelling. Comic writing makes me think more like a director, which in turn improves my screenwriting. The biggest difference, by far, is the process. In comics, it's more elegant. A writer, an artist and an editor are the only creative voices to feed into a story, and as such you get a book that doesn't feel like it went through a committee, a marketing team and a bunch of test readers before the public sees it.
What do you think you've learned from writing comics that will play into your future work as a screenwriter?
Heisserer: Oh, without a doubt it's how little dialogue you need to communicate an idea when you have a talented artist with you. I can save my speech balloon space for banter and the occasional backstory/exposition, and let the visual action tell the story more.
You're coming off of a huge success with Arrival, a movie we love here, an adaptation from short story to movie. What's it been like going in reverse with Livewire, from writing for her in a film to writing for her in a comic?
Heisserer: It's a similar gear shift, I believe. The trick now is that I have to live up to her portrayal in other comics, whereas in a film adaptation you don't have a filmic comparison yet so you can set the stage the way you like.
Now that you've had your dream of writing for Livewire, is there another Valiant character you'd love to write a series for following your work on the films and Secret Weapons?
Heisserer: Maybe it's my fascination with the paranormal, but I'm rather fond of the way Jen Van Meter wrote Dr Mirage. And certainly the most iconic character I'd love to write for is X-O Manowar. Maybe one day...
Secret Weapons is set to begin this June.