Hard at work finishing the visual and sound effects on “The X-Files: I Want to Believe,” Frank Spotnitz, the co-writer and co-executive producer of the highly anticipated sequel, slipped away from the editing room for a few minutes to speak with CBR News about his upcoming Wildstorm comic book special illustrated by Brian Denham, due in stores July 23.
Spotnitz told CBR News, “We’re working on a very compressed schedule to complete the film. But it’s very exciting.”
Exciting, yes. But it’s also cramping his style a bit too.
“It’s really fun but I wish I didn’t have this movie distracting me from writing comic books,” laughed Spotnitz. “I never tried my hand at this before obviously, and it’s really nice actually.”
Spotnitz said when Topps Comics was producing its 42-issue run of “The X-Files” during the heyday of the cult television series in the late nineties, it never crossed his mind to write one himself. “Back then, I was so completely consumed by the [television] series,” explained Spotnitz. “I barely had time to read the comics, let alone write one, so this is a real pleasure. I still don’t have that much time but I have more time then when I was doing the series.”
The filmmaker said while he’s new to the medium as a creator, he has become an instant fan of what working in comics means creatively. “I know I am not the first person, nor the last person, to say this, but [comics] is so different than doing television or a movie because you don’t have to go through all of the layers,” explained Spotnitz. “It’s just you and your editor. It’s very pure. And it keeps you connected to what you love about the process instead having to deal with all of the politics that inevitably surround filmmaking.”
Asked how the comic book spinoff came to land at Wildstorm, Spotnitz acknowledged he had a little help from his friends. “It’s interesting,” he said. “We were talking about re-launching X-Files as a comic book series or a graphic novel series and the people at Fox were trying to figure out what to do and I just said, ‘I am going to call some of my friends and see what they think.’ And I called Brian K. Vaughan and I called Brad Meltzer and both of them ended up pointing me to Wildstorm.
“So I actually contacted Wildstorm and said, ‘Hey, do you guys want to do X-Files?’ And they said, ‘yes.’ I actually thought there would be some corporate conflict because they are part of DC, which is part of Time Warner and we are a part of 20th Century Fox, which is part of News Corp and I didn’t know if these corporations got along. But it ended up not being a problem and it’s been great.”
Unlike the movie sequel, set six years after the final episode of “X-Files” aired in 2002, the comic book returns to the scene of the crime, smack dab in the heart of the television series’ storyline. “My thought was that it made more sense to set the comic series in, I hate to use the word but, the classic period of the X-Files,” explained Spotnitz. ”Mulder and Scully are both still at the F.B.I. working in Mulder’s basement office. The Lone Gunmen are around. Skinner is around. It’s the heart of what everybody knows and loves about the X-Files.
“It would just be too difficult to address how fluid the world of the X-Files is at this time. So it just made easier to set it in the past.”
Spotnitz revelead the special scheduled for July is a stand-alone, ‘monster of the week’ story set somewhere between Season 2 and Season 5. “It’s in classic X-Files mode. Mulder the believer. Scully the sceptic. And scary,” said Spotnitz. “It’s simpler than an episode would be because it’s shorter than the length of an episode. It’s fun to be back in that world and have Mulder and Scully investigating a new case. It’s a different mode than the mode of the movie, which is set six years after the series ended. They are both in very different places in their lives in 2008 then they were when the TV series was going on.
“It’s like revisiting Holmes and Watson when they were at the peak of their adventures, as well.”
Spotnitz sums up the major difference between writing comics and writing for TV or film with one word: precision. “It’s being very precise with dialogue, saying less and showing more, which I love to do,” said Spotnitz. “There is a reason why comic books translate so well to the big screen. It’s because they are cinematic and it’s telling stories with pictures instead of words. And I love that. The challenge is saying things so succinctly that they fit. You don’t have tons and tons of dialogue. I have to say it hasn’t been painful at all. It’s been really enjoyable. It’s just finding the time to do it.”
And if the idea of X-Files returning to comics isn’t enough for you, Spotnitz said wait until you see the artwork by Brian Denham. “It’s so beautiful. I was just blown away when I saw the first couple of pages that he’d done,” teased Spotnitz. “They came to me as a file on my computer. And I just opened them up and it was like, ‘my God, this is gorgeous.’ I just can’t wait to see it in print.”
Spotnitz has signed up to write three specials for Wildstorm in the coming months, and while the first one is a stand-alone, the second and third will tie-in more directly with the X-Files mythos of aliens arriving, and eventually invading, Earth. “The idea now is to make stand-alone specials but the next ones that I am going to write tie into the mythology of the show not in a way that changes the path but deepens it a little bit,” said Spotnitz.
And while an ongoing series is not likely at this point, Spotnitz said there are lots of X-Files remaining to be solved. “I think I’d like to keep doing them,” said Spotnitz. “As my time allows and then bring in other writers to do them. That’s my hope that we can make this a vital enterprise.”
Those other writers don’t include Brad Meltzer and Brian K. Vaughan just yet, Spotnitz said it would be worth the call to see if there is interest. “I’d be thrilled if they would [come on to write a special]. I haven’t asked them yet but I’d be delighted if both of them would. They’d be awesome. And I am going to make some calls to old X-Files compatriots too and see if I can rope any of them in, as well.”
“The X-Files Special” is scheduled for July 23, two days prior to the release of the movie, “The X-Files: I Want To Believe.”