Interview: Mark Osborne on the Mylo Xyloto comic
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With the news just revealed that the first issue of the six-part Mylo Xyloto comic is to be released at this week's Comic-con in San Diego, we asked the comic's co-creator - Academy Award-nominated writer and director Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda, MORE, and the upcoming The Little Prince) - to tell us a bit more about it.
Hi Mark. How did the Mylo Xyloto comic come about?
Well, it's been a long and winding road, but the comic is the latest expression of a music-driven feature animated film that the band and I started developing several years ago. I had just finished making Kung Fu Panda and I was eagerly looking to develop several indie dream projects. I have always wanted to create a new kind of "Yellow Submarine" and when I saw a story on 60 Minutes about Chris and the band’s creative process I thought it might be something they’d be open to. So I "cold-called" Coldplay and it turned out it was perfect timing and Chris and I started collaborating in Los Angeles over the course of that summer. After much development and many iterations, it was clear that the animated feature film would be much longer in development than the album, so the band decided that the album would come first. Creating a companion comic book series became the best way to further explore the story and express the visual side of the equation. Honestly, I'm happy to finally talk about it all, it's been very hard to keep the secret this whole time!
How closely did you work with the band on it?
The whole band has been approving things all along, especially at the stage when I was developing the visual look of the universe and the "bible" for the project. The real serious story collaboration on the movie started with just me and Chris, with him at a piano sometimes (which was fucking crazy cool) and with both of us writing and sketching ideas out. Then after the first few months, Phil joined in and it really became something that the three of us developed together, weighing in on all story ideas, character designs, scripts, inked pages, etc. Phil ultimately became the "story editor" bringing great insight, ideas and objectivity to the process. It has really been a great collaboration every step of the way.
Did the comic inform the album or did the album inform the comic (or was it a bit of both)?
Well, I'd like to think the development of the story did affect the album, and the album certainly did affect the development of the comic, but it's all a bit mixed together for me. The first demo version of the album that Chris put together to inspire me way back in the beginning drove the writing process for the feature film ideas, but the album changed greatly from that first demo stage, as did the story. There were always key words and phrases from Chris that drove the story process, things like "glowing in the dark" and "dreaming of paradise" and so things like this were very inspiring to me as we went along. Also, the spirit of the band and the music library in its entirety really dictated the kinds of themes and ideas I was exploring, just in a different medium. And of course elements like the Hypnofeed were pulled directly from Coldplay lore, mixed with the lore of the body of work from my universe (see my short film MORE on iTunes or check out www.happyproduct.com).
There was one point in the process when I had lunch with the whole band at the Bakery when it was clear that the movie was going to have to take a backseat in favor of the music and the comic, we decided to use grafitti and otherworldly street-artists as a visual metaphor for the creation of music, this was the moment when the whole thing was pushed in the direction it now follows. The idea that the rebels in this world create musical graffiti was the big breakthrough for the sake of the comics, to make it not just a story about music, but a story about the power of creativity and the power of having a creative voice, which has always been a strong theme for the band. This also was far more visual and made the comic series a reality.
Please could you give us a brief snapshot of the plot/scenario?
Well, all I will say is it is the story of Mylo Xyloto, a young Silencer on the front lines of a war against sound and color in the world of Silencia. Mylo discovers that the enemy he's been trained to hate his whole life might not be the enemy after all.
Tell us a bit about Mylo Xyloto himself?
Like many Silencers, he was raised in an orphanage and conditioned to be a Silencer from a very young age. Legions of Silencers were created after the Great War of Colors took many lives, including the lives of Mylo's parents Aiko and Lela. That war threatened the safety of the citizens and strict measures were put in place to ensure it would never happen again. At the start of our story, Mylo is not so sure that all the propaganda and strict measures are legitimate, but he keeps these concerns close to his vest since they are just vague feelings that even his best friend Rex can't quite support.
Are you pleased with how the whole thing turned out?
I am beyond thrilled. It has been a very long process with many artists weighing in on the movie development, but it wasn't until Alejandro Fuentes started developing artwork for the comic that the world snapped into sharp focus. Our initial inspiration for the comic was to do something in the vein of Moebius, and Alex's work reminded us so much of his work that he was hired to develop the world. Now looking at issue one, I think we've created something that is unique, but also a tribute to Metal Hurlant and I'd like to think Mylo is something that could have been published in the early days of that seminal compilation. The color by Steve Hamaker is also very exciting for me. He's fleshed out the tone of the world in such an amazing way and there are so many great subtle details and effects put into each panel. And to even have Nate Piekos of Blambot doing our lettering is super exciting since The Umbrella Academy was such a huge influence for me as we started developing this. As for issues 2-6, we are thrilled to be collaborating with writer Dylan Haggerty who is doing an amazing job of expanding the universe with us and I can't wait for everyone to see the future issues.
Do you think reading the comics will give people a different understanding of the album?
I hope so, but that is really up to the imagination of the fans. There will hopefully be many, many connections for them, including lots we didn't even intend I'm sure. I'm excited to see how people link the two and what develops after this. I always conceived of this story as being directly connected to the music, so it is strange to express the story in such a silent form to start out. Once all six issues are released it will be interesting to see if fans try to line up the whole series with the album, maybe in a "Dark Side of the Moon / Wizard of Oz" kind of way. I'm not saying this will work, but you never know...
Does Major Minus really have one eye watching us?
Let's just say that each Hypnofeed helmet only has one camera lens to show each wearer the world around them safely depicted in black and white. Those camera feeds aren't just directed inside the user's helmet...
WIN A COPY OF THE VARIANT COVER ISSUE ONE OF MYLO XYLOTO! Enter your info below before 9am BST on Tuesday, 24 July. Five randomly-chosen winners will each receive a comic.