Interviews

Interview: Bryan Q. Miller Talks ‘Smallville: Season 11,’ ‘Arrow’ and SyFy’s ‘Dominion’.

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Bryan Q. Miller is a man who worked his way up in the business to become one of the busiest writers of nerd-dom, with his hands in some of the most iconic comics and television series. He’s given voice to Clark Kent in Smallville in both live-action and the funny books, he’s written Oliver Queen and Co. on the CW’s Arrow, not to mention a revolutionary run of the Batgirl comics and his upcoming work on SyFy’s Defiance and freshman show Dominion (a continuation of the Paul Bettany film Legion).

Bryan’s a cool guy and was nice enough to carve out some time at Phoenix Comicon to indulge my love of all things Smallville and some of the other exciting projects he’s worked on. Here’s the lowdown:

[WARNING: beware of spoilers for Smallville: Season 11 comics and Arrow: Season 2]

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The Smallville: Season 11 comics adapted the mini-series format after the conclusion of the Olympus storyline. What was the reasoning behind switching the numbering and “Season 11” header in the title?

I think it’s because we got so long in the tooth, numbering-wise. Reverting to #1 for each storyline was to help, especially for print readers, to not give them a little bit of sticker shock. “Issue 28?! Well, if it’s a continuous season I don’t want to go back and buy 27 issues.” So I think that was probably the biggest reasoning behind it, so that every four issues we go back to a new #1.

Bryan Q Interview 03That makes sense and makes it less daunting when someone does pick up a higher issue that would be the equivalent of #28…

Even though it is! Even though it doesn’t say it on the front…

I admit I was a little confused at first. I wasn’t sure if these were side-stories or different continuities from the main part of Season 11, but once I opened the first one it was very clear. 

On the apps is where it gets tricky. If you have subscriptions setup, every time a new arc starts you have to re-subscribe.

Smallville: Chaos is the arc that just started (June 6th) so how many more arcs do we have left before the season ends? One? Two?

I know how many!

Ah, but you can’t tell us!

But I cannot reveal how many. But we are getting there. We’re closer to the finale than we’ve ever been.

It seems like judging from the first issue of Smallville: Chaos that we might be getting into some world jumping with Clark and Lois?

Yes, they’re going to be lost in the Multiverse, or what’s left of the Multiverse, for a little while. Just to give us an idea of how big the threat the Monitors pose (see Smallville: Alien). What we’re going to do, which is pretty cool from a timing standpoint as well, is every time they go to a different world, we go to a different artist. So the main story back on our Earth happens with Agustin [Padilla] through the whole arc, then we switch out, I think, two different artists for the Multiverse.

Did you specifically choose the artists that you’re using?

Yes and no. There is a talent pool that is broken up amongst [DC’s] Digital, of people that are and aren’t available. So yes, in the picking of the kickball teams way, yes.

One of my favorite things about these comics are Cat Staggs’ covers. 

Yeah, she’s fantastic.

Bryan Q Interview 01Another element I really enjoy are the design choices for the new characters and outfits. Superman’s Green Lantern outfit is so, so cool. How closely do you work with the artist on these designs?

A bunch. I think what I described in the script with Marcio… it was great because I did my Kickstarter [Earthward – check it out] with him and I already had a good short hand and a very good relationship and I know how fast he can work, sometimes to my editor’s chagrin, but I knew Marcio would pull it through.

We had talked about from Mass Effect, the Engineer design with the hard light that appears over things and that the ring would, rather than make a green and black costume, would make a black bottom [suit] and everything else, like the costume itself, was a glowing construct of the ring itself. So that’s kind of what we went for and since every ring reacts differently with its user, that everyone’s armor would look different based on how they created them.

The Batman costume was interesting as well. I’ve never seen that sort of look before. He has the blue… exposed… 

Facepaint? Warpaint?

Yeah, what inspired that design?

It was at first a little bit of a nod to Batman Beyond. Because he definitely, when we first met him, had a red symbol on his chest. It made the red sunlight. But also it was to help give him the demon appearance like in Batman Begins when The Scarecrow sees him and he’s all black like a gargoyle. So that it’s much scarier and from Bruce’s standpoint, smarter to not even show what race he is when he’s running around as Batman, because his mouth and chin are totally visible. So it’s both to instill fear and as a precautionary measure.

It feels like there’s a lot of backstory left to tell with this Bruce Wayne. Especially having a completely unique Robin (Barbara Gordon). Dick Grayson is NOT the current Robin.

But he does exist! We have set that up.

There are some fun lines of dialogue involving him.

And there will be some more.

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Will this Batman get his own spin-off to flesh his story out or will it be contained within the Smallville line?

As far as I’m concerned, he’s a fabric of the show – with quotes. Just as he popped in during Smallville: Lantern and Smallville: Alien even though Gotham is a different city, the world of Smallville is so large now that you can go to other cities to have things happen in episodes. Just like when we first did Oliver Queen [on the Smallville TV series] and he was just in for like six episodes, that’s how he became a larger part of the show itself. So we’re doing the same thing with Batman.

Speaking of Oliver, you’ve co-written a few episodes of The CW’s Arrow. Was it weird having to write two very different versions of the same character for live-action television?

Any new staff that you visit is a strange experience. Not in a bad way, but you’re literally a guest. If you’re there from the ground up it’s different, but this is a unique situation because I’ve written Oliver two different ways. But it’s just a vibe of knowing the show.

Bryan Q Miller Interview 12This Oliver, especially in Season 1, does not make jokes, does not do quips. And in Season 1 would kill people, which was something in Smallville that was a very big deal for Oliver. His entire character arc had to do with murder and the ramifications thereof, alcoholism all that stuff. So it was certainly different, coming into Oliver at two different points in his life.

But they’re inverted because the Oliver in Arrow has already dealt with all of his issues with the moral implications of murder from the island but hasn’t grown into a hero yet, where as we had the flip in Smallville where he was already a hero and then was darkened by that. It was certainly a challenge but still fun… [yells to someone down the aisle, “No, I still got nothing!”]… for the readers at home, I don’t have a chair right now. But standing is great, it’s good for the circulation. But it’ll be murder on my back by the end of the day.

But anyways, yes it was great. It was a challenge but a good kind of challenge.

Arrow Suicide Squad News 00

How did you end up getting to do the Arrow Season 2 episode Suicide Squad? That had to have been one everyone wanted to write.

[Arrow executive-producer] Andrew [Kreisberg] had just called me and we’d talked about after Unfinished Business coming back in Season 2 to do another freelance, and he said in the batting order it was time for a freelance to happen and that they wanted it to be Suicide Squad. So I said “Yes! I will absolutely. I will relish that.” It was also a chance during the course of their year, to help push that Diggle/Deadshot relationship down the field. It was fun and had a little bit of Alias to it, which was nice.

It absolutely did, yeah!

There was waaaay more Alias in it at first. Then it was like “Oh, we have a budget!” and then everything shrunk down.

I was actually very surprised to see a drone made it in.

Yeah, the drone stayed in. The drone was the one piece that stayed in. Many little nods to Alias. They thought the device was small and they could take it, but it turned out to be very large. Lots of very on purpose nods.

Suicide SquadAmanda Waller. Very drone crazy in Season 2 of Arrow

Yeah! Because then at the end she brought them back! You know what? You put the gun on the table, you gotta use it! Amanda has drones to solve problems, so Amanda is going to use drones to solve problems.

Any talks of writing for Season 3 of Arrow

We haven’t talked about it yet, I know timetable-wise they’re convening right now to start [writing]. I would assume production starts over the summer. It’s up to them, but certainly it’s a good time.

With where Deathstroke ends up in Season 2, would you consider maybe writing a Deathstroke-led Suicide Squad episode?

The things is, being a visiting team, a guest in the room, you don’t really get a say. So it would be awesome, it would be great to revisit any of the surviving members and Amanda and Lyla and ARGUS and that whole world, but it’s not a call you make when you’re freelance.

Speaking of surviving members, was the long-distance shot of a smoke pillar indicating Shrapnel’s demise in that episode meant to be ambiguous, or was it intended in your script that he was dead? 

From the script, homeboy blew up. The bomb was in his head and it took the car with him.

Fair enough. The shot was a bit suspicious and made me raise an eyebrow.

I think that probably comes from [the fact that] we had to pay for a drone sequence at the end of the show. We blew up the car off-screen.

Bryan Q Interview 05What about the Harley Quinn cameo?

Deranged Squad female.

There were promos that actually showed her face in what was apparently additional scenes. Was there stuff you wrote that was cut?

There was definitely an actress there in the shooting of it, but I think it was always meant to be, at most, no more than the eyes through the window and the pigtails from behind. There were more lines. Everyone took a swing and when Tara Strong did the voice she read them all and they just used what fit. It was “Oh, it’s not Harley, but Harley! Everybody write a line!”

I thought she was used in just the right amount. You don’t want to overplay that hand.

No, and then if you make too big a meal of her and then you don’t come back to her… that’s why she’s just an Easter Egg.

You didn’t write the pilot, but have you started your work on SyFy’s Dominion [a sequel to 2010 Paul Bettany film Legion]?

We all came aboard on episode 2.

Finished your scripts?

Oh yeah, it’s all done. I think shooting finished a week ago? A few weeks ago? It’s a pilot plus eight episodes.

What was it that drew you into the project?

It was a mix of things, as with any of these things. There’s opportunity, there’s people you like working with, there’s subject matter. This was kind of a nice little cross section of all that because Slavkin and Swimmer, who I knew from Smallville and I worked on Season 2 of Defiance with, came over to Dominion.

So I knew those guys and wanted to work with them and they wanted me back over there and Vaun [Wilmott] and I hit it off, because even if you want to work on a show, doesn’t mean you’ll get to work on the show. So the pilot, which I’d gotten to read and got to see an early version of like you saw, is really sharp. It was definitely an attractive place to go while Defiance was down.

I’m a huge Whedon nerd, so I loved seeing Anthony Stewart Head in the pilot. 

He’s so good.

Bryan Q Interview 10

He’s fantastic on the show. 

And there’s so much good stuff with him. It’s a great cast, but he gets to play something that’s so much not Giles [from Buffy], which I think for him as an actor is also very exciting. Just because it goes dark. We go darrrrk, dark, dark.

It does seem like there is a bleak vibe. 

But there’s also a sense of hope in the rumor that there is a savior who is out there. So there’s hope for us all out there through him. If he decides to surface.

Thanks so much for the time. Very much enjoy your work! Good luck with the chair situation and good luck with the rest of your Phoenix Comicon!

Thank you! Good to meet you and you too.

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Smallville: Season 11’s current mini-series ‘Chaos’ releases digitally on Fridays via readdcentertainment.com and Comixology. You can see Bryan’s upcoming work on Defiance Season 2 and Dominion when both shows premiere on SyFy June 19th.

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