The Making of Templar

Update: Here’s my schedule for San Diego Comic-Con:

  • Friday 10:00 – “Graphic Novels: Words & Pictures” Panel in Room 23ABC
  • Friday 11:30 – Signing books in Autographing Area (AA09)
  • Friday 2:30 – Signing books at First Second Booth (1323)

And if you can’t make it to SDCC, you can still “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, Saturday (July 20) at 10 am Pacific time (1 pm Eastern).

Hope to see you there!

promo02Artists LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland and I had so much fun collaborating on our graphic novel Templar, we hated to stop! So we’ve gone and made another book together: The Making of Templar. And we’re giving it away for free.

As usual for our projects, this one grew to be a little bigger than we expected — but no regrets. The Making of Templar is an 86-page e-book, lavishly illustrated with LeUyen and Alex’s sketches and behind-the-scenes materials, in which we discuss our work process and five-year journey making Templar. Topics include:

  • differences between writing for comics and film/video game writing
  • character design
  • writing and storyboarding action sequences
  • historical research
  • creative collaboration

You can download the free e-book here. And if you haven’t read Templar yet, never fear; we’ve steered clear of spoilers.

We hope you enjoy The Making of Templar — and Templar, too!

Posted on Jul 15, 2013 in Blog, Comics, Making Games, Templar | 3 comments

From Prince of Persia to Templar

Update: Templar is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores. Follow the Templar Tumblr and Facebook pages for news, reviews, and upcoming events.

The story of how a book, movie, or video game came to be — any project that takes years and the combined effort of many people — is always intertwined with the stories of other projects that didn’t.

In 2001, when I joined a Ubisoft Montreal team hoping to revive an all-but-dead franchise I’d created in the 1980s, Prince of Persia, we had no guarantee that our efforts would see the light of day. We did our best, and the result was a game you may have heard of or played: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Whereas a game I can guarantee you’ve never played is the next-gen Prince of Persia sequel that team went on to develop. It wasn’t abandoned because it wasn’t good enough; rather, it was so good, Ubisoft decided to make it a new franchise in its own right. Assassin’s Creed was born.

PrinceOfPersiaWallpaper1024Meanwhile, I’d written the “Prince of Persia” movie for Disney. My first screenplay would be substantially rewritten by others before cameras rolled — but the experience sparked a great friendship, and my next writing project with co-exec producer John August: an hour-long dramatic TV pilot about down-on-their-luck private military contractors who accept questionable missions in a different conflict-ridden corner of the world every week. We got as far as casting our leads (Luke Mably and LL Cool J) before Fox pulled the plug. You’ll never see that pilot (though you can read it on John’s blog).

All that happened in one year, 2005. One project cancelled, two others went on without me. To anyone outside the film or video game industry, such a litany of “might-have-beens” might sound discouraging. But if you do work in the industry, you know that what I’m describing is actually a normal, productive year. Most creative people spend a significant percentage of their careers working on projects that don’t see the light of day, or morph into something completely different by the time they do.

Which is why it’s such a rare miracle when a work reaches completion in a form that not only fulfills the writer’s dreams, but exceeds them.

Templar-COVFor this to happen requires luck, timing, a talented and creatively aligned team, and a visionary and committed publisher. It happened with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and now, ten years later, I’m delighted to say it’s happened again. This time not with a video game, but my original graphic novel Templar — out today from First Second Books.

The book is a self-contained romantic action-adventure about the fall of the medieval Knights Templar — 480 pages, full-color, hardcover, illustrated by the husband-and-wife team of LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland. If you’re a fan of Prince of Persia, graphic novels, or historical fiction, I hope you’ll check it out.

(Templar is available from Amazon and other booksellers; more info on the Templar Tumblr page).

Here’s how it came to be:

From video games to comics

In 2004, I got an email from Mark Siegel, editor-in-chief of Macmillan’s new graphic-novel imprint, First Second, asking if I’d ever considered doing a Prince of Persia graphic novel.

A few minutes into talking, I realized that Mark wasn’t trying to jump on the Ubisoft/Disney bandwagon. Not only was he not aiming at a merchandising tie-in with those bigger-budget efforts, he didn’t know about them. He was remembering the original, side-scrolling Prince of Persia he’d played in the 1990s. This was just one of the things about Mark’s approach that charmed me. I said yes.

I couldn’t write it myself — I was still busy writing the Prince of Persia movie and the Fox pilot, and Assassin’s Creed was still Prince of Persia 2 — but, kibitzing from the sidelines as Mark brought together Iranian poet A.B. Sina and husband-and-wife illustrators LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland to create that Prince of Persia graphic novel, I realized three things:

First, I wanted to write a graphic novel. Comics had been my first love as a kid, along with movies (before video games existed). Cartoon art and storytelling had hugely influenced my work in video games, from Karateka to The Last Express. How could I have let three decades slip by without jumping on an opportunity to work in this art form I cared about so much?

Second, I wanted to write a graphic novel for First Second.

Third, I wanted LeUyen and Alex to illustrate it.

Oddly, throughout the year they worked on the Prince of Persia graphic novel, we’d never met. Whether out of reticence to intrude on each other’s creative domains, or because of the crazy pace of production (that book and their first baby both shared the same, non-negotiable delivery date), all our communication was by email, with Mark as intermediary. But I noticed that every single one of their polite and deferential suggestions made the book unquestionably better. They were brilliant artists, this was their first book-length comic as a team, and their mastery was visibly increasing with each new batch of pages. Whoever wrote their next book would be a lucky writer indeed. I wanted to be that writer.

A strange mystique

I’d had the Knights Templar on my mind for at least a decade. I first learned of their amazing backstory doing research for The Last Express — a World War I-era adventure game about the quest for a legendary, possibly cursed, object that never changes hands without staining them with blood. As anyone who reads books, sees movies, or plays video games with any regularity knows, such objects almost always turn out to be part of a Templar conspiracy.

Once Templars are on your radar, you start seeing them everywhere. They pop up in the third acts of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Robin Hood” (the 1938 Errol Flynn version), “The Da Vinci Code,” and in the prologue of “The Maltese Falcon.” As Umberto Eco put it in Foucault’s Pendulum: “Everything has something to do with the Templars.”

I became a collector of Templariana. I hatched any number of Templar-conspiracy plotlines — including a screenplay prequel to The Last Express, which I abandoned in 2002 (probably wisely) to focus on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. If its MacGuffin bears an uncanny resemblance to The Da Vinci Code, it’s not because either Dan Brown or I were aware of each other, but most likely because we’d been independently reading the same pseudo-historical nonsense about the Templars. You can read the first 40 pages here.

A little research is a dangerous thing. A lot of research can be fatal. My enthusiasm for my various Templar conspiracy-theory plot lines was killed by realizing that they weren’t, after all, that original. The world didn’t need another third-act revelation where the hero discovers that the secret he’s been chasing/fleeing is part of a centuries-old Templar plot to uphold/destroy/hide/reveal something or other. (Or so I told myself. The subsequent popular success of “National Treasure” and The Da Vinci Code suggested that the world had, in fact, wanted at least a couple more.)

What really gripped my imagination, and stayed in my mind long after I’d put away all that historical and pseudo-historical research, was the actual history of the Templars and what had happened to them. It was weirder, deeper, more disturbing, and more moving than any of the best-selling riffs on it I’d scarfed down (and I’d scarfed a lot of them). It had the unmistakable ring of truth, of stuff you couldn’t invent. I wanted to read that story.

Which meant I had to write it.

Six years in the making

I pitched Templar first to Mark Siegel, in a café around the corner from First Second and Macmillan’s Flatiron Building headquarters.

Second, I pitched it to LeUyen and Alex, in the kitchen of their San Francisco apartment. They’d just spent two years exhausting themselves to produce a 192-page Prince of Persia book, and had just become new parents to boot, so I knew my chances of convincing them to sign on to an even more ambitious, multi-year book project were slim. But I had to try.

p137s squareThat was six years ago. A lot has happened since. LeUyen and Alex now have two children. Assassin’s Creed has become Ubisoft’s flagship franchise, and — in a historical irony that would not have surprised Umberto Eco — involves a conspiracy tracing its origins to those very same medieval Knights Templar.

As for the Persian prince who originally brought us together, he’s executed a remarkable series of running leaps — from the 8-bit Apple II screen where he began, to new generations of video game consoles, graphic novels, LEGO play sets, and the big screen that inspired his creation. I have no doubt that, being the plucky and resourceful character he is, he’ll find his way through the sandstorm and back into the video game world very soon.

For today, I’m immensely proud and excited to offer you Templar — one of the most rewarding creative collaborations it’s been my privilege to be part of. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Comments are open below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Posted on Jul 9, 2013 in Blog, Comics, Featured, Film, Games, Last Express, Making Games, Prince of Persia, Templar | 12 comments

Templar Tumblr

Less than two months to go until Templar’s release! Today, we’re inaugurating a Tumblr page for the book. We’ll be posting all things Templar there, including announcements of upcoming events, and behind-the-scenes materials from artists LeUyen Pham and Alexandre Puvilland and me.

Two events are already on the calendar: If you’re in L.A. on July 9 (the day the book launches), come by Skylight Books in Los Feliz, where I’ll be doing a reading/signing and Q&A. The following week, I’ll be at San Diego Comic-Con (event details TBA).

Meanwhile, see you on Tumblr!
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Posted on May 13, 2013 in Blog, Comics, Templar | 0 comments

Announcing Templar

Templar-COV-300rgb

I’m excited to announce that my original graphic novel Templar will be published in July in its entirety as a 480-page, full-color hardcover from First Second. (Book one of the saga was previously published in 2010 as an individual paperback, Solomon’s Thieves.)

It’s a hefty tome. Artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland have outdone themselves, evoking 14th-century Paris with all the action, humor, and depth a writer could hope for. I’m immensely proud of this book, and I can’t wait for you to discover it.

Templar will ship on July 9, 2013. You can pre-order it from Amazon here.

Watch the Templar facebook page for updates about book events and other news.

Posted on Jan 20, 2013 in Blog, Comics, Templar | 2 comments

Templar Sneak Preview

Just back from a visit to LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland‘s San Francisco studio, where they’re hard at work drawing Book Three of our Knights Templar graphic novel trilogy, Solomon’s Thieves.

I’ll post as soon as we know the release date. There’s a lot of work still to do — the full trilogy will weigh in at over 450 pages, in full color. To all those who read Book One (published last year in paperback) and are waiting for the rest of the story, many thanks for your patience!

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak preview of a couple of inked (not yet colored) pages from the third book:

I’ve posted these in an album on the Solomon’s Thieves facebook page, plus a colored sample page from Book Two.

(By the way, the Sketchtravel auction was a huge success and raised over $100,000 for the charity Room to Read. Yeahh!! Looks like some kids in Southeast Asia are getting a library.)

Posted on Oct 31, 2011 in Blog, Comics, Templar | 3 comments

Awesomest travel sketchbook ever

The amazing husband-and-wife artists LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland (my collaborators on Solomon’s Thieves) recently participated in a project called “sketchtravel.”

It’s one sketchbook with a bright red cover that’s traveled the world for over four years, passed from the hand of one artist to another — literally. Shipping the book in the mail, or giving it to an intermediary, is not allowed. Each artist gets a few days to do a “sketch” in the book. No do-overs, no mistakes.

The sketchbook eventually reached over 70 artists, including such living legends as Quentin Blake, Hayao Miyazaki, Peter de Seve, Carlos Grangel, and Tadahiro Uesugi — and, I’m proud to say, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland.

Here’s Uyen’s page:

You can read more about the project at www.sketchtravel.com.

The original book will be auctioned in Brussels on October 17th, with proceeds going to a charity called “Room to Read” that builds and furnishes libraries for children throughout the world. I really, really envy whoever gets it.

For the rest of us who don’t come up with the winning bid (I think it starts at something like 20,000 euros), a reproduction of the book is being published by a European house called Chêne, and can be purchased through amazon.fr. There’s also a super deluxe collector’s edition complete with a wooden box.

Pre-ordering mine now.

Posted on Sep 30, 2011 in Blog, Comics, Sketchbook, Templar | 0 comments

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