In just a few short years, writer Nathan Edmondson has quickly made a name for himself as a comics creator with an eye for research, an ear for voices and a mind for spycraft. From Who Is Jake Ellis? to the recently concluded Dancer to his ongoing The Activity and his run on DC’s Grifter, Edmondson has become comics’ closest thing to a Tom Clancy. Showcasing the lifes of current and former special forces operators working for, against and sometimes under the noses of the U.S. government, this writer’s stories have shown he knows what he’s talking about, who to talk to, and how to make these characters, situations and stories real.
Edmondson and artist Tonci Zonjic recently kicked off the second volume of their Jake Ellis serial with Where Is Jake Ellis?, while the writer keeps going on his special forces ongoing The Activity and preps to do a comic based off the popular video game series Splinter Cell for UbiSoft. iFanboy’s Chris Arrant coordinated a rendevous with Edmondson to talk about his these spy-centric stories, and what its like to be known as a espionage writer in comics.
iFanboy: As a writer, how do you build up suspense and intrigue without making it still engaging and enough for readers to get wrapped up in the story?
Nathan Edmondson: I might say that I just create the character, throw them to the wolves and the forest, but the truth is if I knew what I was doing I would probably know how to do it better.
iF: In this new series, we’re seeing Jake and the man he could only see, Jon Moore, split and each running from their own pursuers. How would you describe the connection they have together, though?
NE: I suppose I would describe the connection as “necessary,” or “inevitable.” The nature, and necessity of the connection are what we explore in Where Is Jake Ellis? They are questions at the center of the story, in fact. And the answers, I think, will surprise our readers.
iF: How would you describe the situation(s) they’ve got themselves in now?
NE: Jon escaped by the skin of his teeth, and only with the aid of Jake Ellis. The Facility is still after Jon–or at least those behind the Facility are. They’re back with a vengeance, having learned. And Jon is without Jake now–so what chance does he have? Jon wants to make it on his own. The chances of that are diminishing.
iF: Is there a end game for Jon and Jake here – is there a way they could conceivably leave all this behind?
iF: …ominous. What is coming up in issue 2?
NE: The mountain is brought to Mohammed–but the assassins may be standing on it.
iF: Switching gears here…. in January’s The Activity #11, you take Team Omaha square into the American heartland with a bomb going off in Minneapolis. Would you say it’s harder for a unit like Team Omaha to operate inside the U.S. borders versus on foreign soil?
NE: This is something that Special Operators have done in the past, and still due. In fact, part of their training is counter-espionage on American soil, hiding from American authorities.
To say it’s harder, I’m not sure. Each environment offers it’s unique challenges. A non-permissive environment of course is inherently more dangerous than a permissive one. Though I suppose there’s something to be said for pretending to be a good guy versus flat out playing the game in the shadows.
iF: In that January issue, artist Marc Laming steps in to tell the backstory of one of your operators, Switchfoot. What makes Switchfoot unique to you compared to his fellow soldiers?
NE: Switchfoot is our “shooter,” which is to say, he has the most direct-action experience as a former Delta (CAG) operator. He’s the most badass when it comes to breaching a location, finding the target, blasting his way in and out. The other teammates have various combat experience, but Switchfoot is the only one with Counterterrorism direct action experience.
iF: In this backstory, Switchfoot is operating as part of Delta Force in Fallujah during the 2004 siege. As a writer, how’d you get this all realistic without weighing down the story with too much facts?
NE: I dig into the facts, I talk to soldiers, I learn what I can. Then I lay it all down and tell a story on top of them.
iF: Will you be doing these one-off back story issues for each of your main characters?
NE: Yes, that’s the plan!
iF: This ongoing series segues into a talk about your next big book. Do you think your work on The Activity put you in the position to work on Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell: Echoes?
NE: It certainly did; it was that book that brought me to Ubisoft’s attention.
iF: What’s it like being known as a writer of military and spy fiction so much now between Jake Ellis, The Activity, Splinter Cell: Echoes and Grifter?
NE: I suppose that I am, I’m just frequently surprised that, considering how popular spy/spy-fi/military thriller fiction is in films, TV and books, there’s so little of it in comics. I’m happy to throw down some more material for others to pick up!