Taylor Jane has it all: a mom and homemaker by day, and a daring agent for the secret organization S.E.C.U.R.E. by night! Add in a hi-tech supersuit, a mysterious leader, and a daughter who's a teenage hacker -- and you have the latest MTV Comic, Agent Mom!
Created and written by Alaina Huffman, John Huffman IV and Tony Lee, and drawn/designed by Dan Boultwood, Agent Mom is the latest comic book from MTV Comics. MTV Geek chatted with Alaina and Tony about Agent Mom, the finer points about collaborating on a project, and where they see Taylor Jane in the future!
MTV Geek: Alaina, are you excited to see your first comic book finally go online?
Alaina Huffman: Totally, who wouldn't be. Almost a year ago my husband gave me the idea for Agent Mom as a surprise birthday gift. There were these big posters from designers from all over the world. He knew that I was getting nervous about turning the BIG 30 and that I wanted to find a place to put my ideas. I've got a big vision for Agent Mom and I am glad that it all kicks off online with MTV.
Geek: Tony, how did you get involved with Agent Mom?
Tony Lee: I first met Alaina and John, her husband at the MCM London Expo - they were guests (as was I) and we started chatting while in the green room - Alaina had just had her 30th birthday and as a present John had commissioned a scriptwriter to turn her dream into a comic for her, as she'd spoken about this for a while - and they were looking for someone to work with who could do more with it. And for some reason, everyone they asked suggested me!
So we sat down and went through it, and I was objective about the current script and story that she had - I felt that the background that she currently had written was a little too overused for the character. So we stopped her being a vigilante and made her a secret agent, Mission Impossible meets SHIELD. At that point the title - AGENT MOM came to me and both Alaina and John liked it, and agreed that this was the way forwards. From then it was a case of working out who she worked for and why, while creating a background that was exciting and valid for the character. John, Alaina and I sat down at San Diego and hammered out more of the idea, we spoke on Skype regularly and compared ideas - and realised that we were so closely tuned in, it was scary!
Geek: What has the collaborative experience been like for you all?
Alaina: These guys have been great to work with but it isn't always easy. John and Tony have really strong personalities and opinions. They can be a hoot to watch and at the end of the day it all makes for great art. Honestly, it is cute to see all my boys (John, Tony, Dan and Ciaran) work so hard toward helping momma bring Agent Mom to life. Lets go boys!
Tony: John, Alaina and I will meet up - either in person or on Skype. We've been quite lucky this year as several conventions in the US have had us both as guests, so we're able to get together and plan out stuff while there. Also, I visit LA a lot for meetings and Alaina and John live there, which makes things easier.
John and Alaina will tell me their ideas, I'll throw some back, we keep going on like that until we have a storyline. We'll make sure we have an underlying arc, we'll look at characters and work out what they're purpose is, that sort of thing. I'll then put together an outline for each issue and we work out what's needed - what's not.
From then I'll script up the pages, sending them to Alaina and John when I'm finished, and Alaina will edit dialogue, check if she wants anything moved, that sort of thing and we'll back and forth a few times before we think it's finished. At which point it goes to Dan, who draws and inks the pages - and then to Ciaran who colours it.I've worked with Dan for close to a decade now, he's one of my closest friends and I'd trust him with anything I write, so I know that it'll pretty much be good to go by the time he's done, which saves us time. And Ciaran is a master at colouring and incredibly flexible. It's a definite A-List team.
Once each page is done I then letter it, and Alaina and John have final proof / say on whether there are any last minute changes. Once done, it's sent off to MTV.
Geek: Tony, can you give us the story of Agent Mom, in a nutshell?
Tony: Taylor Jane is an agent for S.E.C.U.R.E, a secret organisation that saves the world against terror. Led by the mysterious Brigadier, she dons a technological super-suit and fights the world's evils, aided by a support team and a sarcastic A.I built into her suit. A multitasker, Taylor can fight baddies while playing twitter chess and watching martial arts movies on her heads up display - this woman is hardcore.
And then there's the other life - where she is a recently married mother of two, one only a few months old, a life where her family believe her to be a simple events planner, often away at conventions. Think TRUE LIES and you get the gist. But, the one thing we wanted in this was that pretty much everyone has a secret life. For example her oldest daughter, Court is a teen hacker, and Court's biological father, Roman has been in witness protection all her life.
There's a big bad in the series - Samuel Dupont who, as the series progresses we discover is a wealthy and bored young industrialist who just wants to see the world burn. Lex Luthor with hair. And he has a past history with the Brigadier, a story that shows that the latter is more than just a man in his own right.
With a corrupt senator in his pocket and weapons of mass destruction hidden over the United States, Dupont wants to destroy S.E.C.U.R.E and the Brigadier. The question is, what will Taylor and her co-workers do when they're against the wall and everything is gone?
Geek: Alaina, are there more tidbits and teases you could share regarding the first issue of Agent Mom since the last time we chatted? What can readers expect and look forward to?
Alaina: When she was a teen mom, Taylor Jane was given an ultimatum. "Become a secret agent... or die." You're gonna want to learn about her baby's daddy, why they were ultimately torn apart, what has become of their beautiful baby girl and why anyone would want to turn a teen mom into the world's greatest secret agent. How's that for "what can readers expect and look forward to?"
Geek: Tony, what is it like to write a female protagonist? How do you get into her head?
Tony: I'm lucky here as a lot of the 'in her head' is from Alaina, who's been thinking about and dreaming up this character for years. If I want to know what Taylor would do at any point? I ask Alaina. She knows exactly what she wants out of the story, and she's incredibly imaginative at the same time. Also, she plays Black Canary on Smallville, so she's got an idea of how much fun (or rather how much lack of fun) wearing one of these suits actually is!
When I first got into comics back in 2003/2004, I wrote an 11 page story for the X-Men (then) member Sage, and I remember wanting to go further with the multitasking aspect than I could with the 11 pages that I had. It's taken me seven years, but finally some of the ideas I wanted to play with back then are finally coming to fruition.
Geek: Would you describe Agent Mom is a superheroine?
Tony: That's a tough one, because in the physical sense, I'd say no. She's got no powers; she has a super suit, but that's it. Everything else is training and experience. She relies on her skills and her devices in the same way that James Bond, Batman, Flash Gordon do.
But at the same time she takes on incredible opponents and fantastical situations, which throws her into the world of the superheroine, in the same way that Batman is often called a superhero. So I'd say she's not a superheroine, but she plays one on TV.
Geek: Tell us about the supporting cast for Agent Mom.
Alaina: I can't tell much but there's my family... I call them "The Homies". There's my team at the agency "S.E.C.U.R.E." and there are "The Baddies" at Terra-Core.
The best way for me to tell you about them is to quote them.
Court Hernandez (Taylor's daughter): "I am a freaking Skyrockid! I'm going places people."
The Brigadier (Taylor's boss): "It is rumored that I once beat a man to death with his own body parts."
Samuel DuPont (Taylor's enemy): "I have more money that GOD and I'm bored."
Geek: Tony, this is your second MTV Geek comic with Dan, “The Gloom” being the first. Why do you think you two make such a good team?
Tony: We know each other so well, we're friends outside of the comic world and more important, we live close by. I speak to Dan almost as much as I speak to my wife, Tracy - although perhaps not with as many pet nicknames. We have the same humour and we're on the same wavelength, and I know Dan's limits and his strengths.
Funnily enough Dan wasn't first choice on this, at San Diego we had a few artists being looked at including the awesome Steward McKenny of Superfriends fame, but Dan had met John and Alaina at the MCM that I did, our book HOPE FALLS had really impressed Alaina and she asked him to have a shot at it. His first concepts hit the ball out of the park, and he was given the job - but by then THE GLOOM was already agreed to run at MTV, so he fell into the second by default!
That said, we already have an idea for when THE GLOOM ends - with Ciaran, who is now the third member of Manor Club Productions!
Geek: Do you all have any hopes or plans for Agent Mom beyond comics?
Alaina: I'm excited about becoming a transmedia storyteller. The idea that we can tell the Agent Mom story online with MTV Comics and build a fan base that we can take over to Paramount to discuss turning that story it into a movie is just awesome. Agent Mom is a perfect opportunity for me to do what I love... develop characters, act and take incredible stories to my fans. So yes, I can absolutely see myself cast as Agent Mom. But quite honestly, I can see others cast as Agent Mom as well. I'd probably have my company (BullyVision) hold a casting and I'd read for the role just like everyone else. But right now... I'm very committed to developing ALL of the characters, ALL of their back stories and to the story line. I want people to get just as excited about Sylvia Novak (a Baddie) as I am. Here is a quote from the wicked Miss Novak: "Any time, any place, anywhere - and the bodies never get found."
Tony: I think it would make an INCREDIBLE show, and although Alaina's incredibly humble and I know for a fact all she ever envisaged was a comic, I think she'd be perfect for the part. We even fought to ensure that it looked like her - Alaina originally didn't want to be associated with the character in case people mistakenly believed that it was a vanity project.
I think there are a lot of transmedia possibilities here, I'd love to see a series done with these characters, and with the contacts that Alaina has, it'd have an awesome cast... Oi! TV producers! TAKE NOTE!
Geek: Alaina, do you have any other upcoming projects that you're excited about that you'd like to share with our readers?
Alaina: I can't wait for you to hear what we are doing with the music for Agent Mom. There's a song called "Treasure" that will help girls from every walk of life remember how precious they are.
Other than that, I'm in a really special place right now. Smallville is in its 10th and final season. Stargate is in its 17th and final season. Both of these incredibly successful television franchises brought me on in a small way to play characters that I am really proud of.
And now, I'm getting after the next chapter in my career. I ultimately wanna do big movies and I've been so close so many times. They keep giving my roles to girls with just a little more exposure that me. So, true to form... I have a plan. I am looking to land a recurring role on a hit network television show like the one that shoots in Los Angeles right up the street from my house and stars a rapper turned actor who used to wear a Kangol hat and rap "Momma Said Knock You Out!" LOL! And you can follow me on Twitter: @alainahuffman