Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Steampunk at SDCC: Bruce Boxleitner's Lantern City

Custom cover sketch by Joe
Benitez. Lady Mechanika 2
Aspen Comics
Steampunk elements have been appearing consistently in all kinds of media. In comics, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Joe Benitez's Lady Mechanika are good examples. Steampunk concepts have been appearing on television as early as 1965 in The Wild Wild West series (and the 1999 film), and are easy to find in current series like Dr. Who, Sanctuary and Warehouse 13.

Bruce Boxleiter's Lantern City, a television series in development, was soft launched during Boxleiter's signing session at San Diego Comic-Con. The new web site contains a through description of the parallel world of Hetra, the walled city (Lantern City), and all the characters that are trying to find the city, get out of it to the mythical world outside, or protect the status quo. Politics, intrigue and opportunities for exotic technology abound.  The production plans to incorporate fan ideas and designs into the show.  I was fascinated by this concept of fan participation, and wondered how they planned to do this. I was able to address my questions to Matthew J. Daly, writer for the Lantern City series. 

KM: What did you think of San Diego Comic-Con? Had you been to it before? What was the response to Lantern City from people who heard about it?

MD: I thought that SDCC was incredible. I had never been to this Con before, but it was as wonderful as I imagined it would be. I loved the panels and costumes and freebies and meeting a lot of great people. The response for the show was amazing. Many people have visited the site and we have had various interviews so far. The important thing for us to do is keep the momentum going.

KM: Why do you think Steampunk is interesting to so many people?

MD: I know why it is interesting to me and I assume these reasons also attract others. I love that it is rooted in history and/or alternative history and it prizes science and inventiveness. The rules are always being written, which allows for flexibility (meaning, if you asked ten different people to define Steampunk, you would have ten diverse definitions that wouldn't be wrong). It also attracts me because it does not have a work that defines it - the fans have driven this for years.

The above is an introductory video by Executive Producer Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, Babylon 5).
If you can't see it, click here to see it on the Lantern City site.

KM: I see that the production is encouraging fan participation. If all goes well, how do you plan to incorporate fan designs & ideas into the show? What are you looking for?

MD:The concept is that the fan submissions will be an ongoing contest. We will look through
the submissions and choose pieces that interest/inspire us. People will not be paid, but
they will receive credit and be featured in a special section on the website.

KM: When I was reading the series description on the web-site, I was looking for opportunities to see some wild gadgets. I noticed Killian (the ruler of the walled city) has a "secret facility," is this a place where we will see fantastic inventions? Would this be a spot you would share some fan designs?

MD: Killian does have a facility where he trains and designs weapons. There is a factory that can produce weapons as well, but it isn't used often. Most of the weapons are holdovers from previous generations that the current citizens will refashion for their own use. This could certainly be a place where we use fan submissions.

Concept art of Lantern City
 KM: The guys on the "collaborators" page, Art Donovan, Thomas Willeford, Tom Banwell and Joey Marsocci, look like they will really shape the look of the Lantern City world. Tell more about how they came together and how the production found them.

MD: These four guys are some of the most respected artists working in the Steampunk community. It was important to us to collaborate with people that the Steampunk community trusted; they have also helped us in assuring that we are remaining within the world of Steampunk. Trevor and I reached out to all of them and it is wonderful to have working artists on board. 

KM:  Where are you in the process? Any possibility this could begin as webisodes like
Sanctuary and some other Syfy series?

MD: The series bible and two-part pilot are written (and have received great response). We are currently preparing for Dragon Con (taking place Labor Day weekend in Atlanta). We have a panel and are properly introducing the show (with a trailer and concept art, neither available on the website yet). The show feels like too big of a production to do as a web series, but we have not closed any doors yet.

KM:  Are you planning any other media? Publications? A Lantern City Comic?

MD: Besides the fact that we are going to be at Dragon Con, I am developing a comic book series that deals with important events that take place before the show (it will be a stand-alone story that will add a dimension to the viewing experience or simply please comic book fans); I am going to start proposing it to comic book publishers soon.

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