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Thursday, May 13, 2010

24 Days of "24": A "24"-Huntington Connection

Huntington comic book fans are more than familiar with Huntington native Beau Smith, who has been writing and marketing comic books for a number of companies for the past 25 years.

The characters he’s written for include Green Lantern, Batman, Spawn and…Jack Bauer.

In 2004, IDW Publishing began publishing comics based on “24.” Each book told a lost story from Jack’s past. In 2008, they released “24: Cold Warriors,” a one-shot by Beau that told one of those stories.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Beau about his “24” story, his favorite moments from the show, and how he feels about the show coming to an end…

Q: How did you get involved with writing a "24" story? How much input did the studio have in your story?

BEAU: At the time, I had just finished doing a creator-owned comic book series of my own called “Cobb: Off The Leash” through IDW Publishing. “Cobb” is about a former secret service agent that had gone off the grid. He is pulled back into government work when the Russian Mafia joins forces with an Islamic terrorist cell to set off a nuclear bomb in New York. IDW Publishing CEO, Ted Adams and IDW publisher, Chris Ryall were looking to do a “24” graphic novel and thought that after “Cobb,” I would be the perfect choice as a writer to do a Jack Bauer story where he is taken way out of his element, in this case, Alaska.

I was given total freedom by IDW to do a Jack Bauer story that I wanted to do. They even let me remove the ticking clock so that my story could have the feel of a “24” movie put to print. The first thing I wanted to do was to take Jack Bauer out of Los Angeles and put him in a location that was the polar opposite (pun intended) of what “24” fans were used to. That’s how a blizzard in remote Alaska came in. I sent my story proposal in, IDW loved it and they sent it to FOX for their approval and changes. I was pretty nervous and figured that I was in for quite a few rewrites. After all, I had Jack in Alaska, no ticking clock, I used not only Jack, but TV characters, Chloe O’Brian and Bill Buchanan as well. I also added back stories from Jack’s past. I thought that would be a minefield of red flags for FOX. Much to my surprise they didn’t ask for a single change. My proposal and script went through with flying colors on the first try. In fact, they really liked the characters I created and added as well. I was stoked.

Q: The thing that really separates your story from the other “24” comic stories is that yours is not just about Jack. It's also very much about Chloe. Can you talk about that a little bit?

BEAU: I’ve been a viewer and fan of “24” since day one. I’ve always enjoyed the layers that they give the characters from Jack down to the smallest guest star. Needless to say, there has never been a supporting character in an action series quite like Chloe O’Brian, played by Mary Lynn Rajskub. She’s incredibly loyal, like and to Jack, but she is also very anti-social and does not suffer fools. Sometimes you get the feeling that Chloe thinks everyone is a fool. The beauty is that the writers of “24” have always been able to make the character of Chloe likeable. That is so hard to do with any character, let alone one that is more apt to snap your head off if you open your mouth just to say hello. I felt this was my chance to give Chloe some spotlight and let fans of “24” see how she would do in the field and out of the CTU offices. I also wanted a chance to re-enforce her friendship and loyalty to Jack for the fans. As a fan, I had always wanted to see an episode where Chloe joined Jack in the field on a mission. I got my chance!

Q: What are your thoughts about the show coming to an end?

BEAU: Like most viewers I am really gonna miss it. On the other side, I also understand that it’s best to end it on a high note for the series and the characters. Growing up, I was all too used to TV ending too soon with loose ends or going too long and leaving a sour taste in my mouth. I think shows like “Seinfeld,” “Lost” and “24” are doing the right thing by being able to close their own door to their house. I look forward to the possible “24” movie and think that will be very satisfying for everyone.

Q: Do you have a favorite “24” moment? A favorite episode?

BEAU, Yeah, I do. It’s an odd moment too. It was Season 5, Day 5.20 (2006) when Chloe is in the lobby of a hotel hacking and helping Jack with her laptop and a guy named Ross tries to strike up a conversation and maybe hit on her a little. She barely looks up as he pesters her looking at her laptop, nonchalantly pulls out a stun gun and zaps the guy. She casually gets up and walks out. A classic “Chloe” moment in “24” history.

Q: How would you like to see the show end?

BEAU: With the President and the government thanking Jack for everything he’s done and for once, returning the loyalty that he has always given his country. I’d like to see Jack be able to walk off into the sunset for once without any impending hammer of doom waiting to fall. I’d like to see the guy get a real vacation. I’d like to see Chloe remain as head of CTU. I’d also like to see Jack shoot a ticking clock, just once.

“Cold Warriors” is now available as part of the “24 Omnibus” available from IDW Publishing. You can also find “24: Cold Warriors” online and at your local comic shop.

Original illustrations from Beau’s personal collection are on display now through May 30th at the Huntington Museum of Art.

Photos Credit: and FOX