Fury of Solace is an incredibly immersive, new series that combines a web series, live Twitter events, and a digital comic to tell a superhero story in an entirely new way. I recently sat down with Emmett Furey, the creator of Fury of Solace, to discuss his new form of storytelling and the future of his awesome series.
This interview was conducted on August 20, 2012.
Jason Enright, Fanboy Comics Contributor: For our readers who may be totally new to your project, could you tell us a bit about Fury of Solace?
Emmett Furey: Fury of Solace is centered around a supervillain of the same name, who does wrong for the right reasons: Solace targets corrupt CEO’s and politicians for extermination, believing the world will be a better place without them in it. And, in so doing, Solace frequently runs afoul of the blue-haired superhero called the Orphan, a Los Angeles do-gooder with a much more traditionally black-and-white sense of morality, who thinks killing is wrong regardless of the target. But, what the Orphan doesn’t realize is that her live-in boyfriend and Fury of Solace are one and the same.
And, as if that wasn’t enough, their relationship has one more wrinkle: The Orphan’s no-killing code stems from the formative event that inspired her superhero moniker: the brutal slaying of her parents in front of her very eyes when she was a little girl. So far, those murders remain unsolved, but we know something the Orphan doesn’t: Fury of Solace was responsible for her parents’ deaths, as well.
JE: Fury of Solace is an interactive musical web series, comic book, and Alternate Reality game. This is a pretty big undertaking. How did you come up with the idea and was it always going to be a multimedia project, or did it start as one type of project and evolve into something more as time went on?
EF: I would say it definitely evolved. For a very indepth look at how this came about, I’d direct people to my transmedia blog Coefficient of Fiction, but let me give your readers an overview. The most out-of-place element of this has got to be the musical aspect, hands down. To explain why that’s a part of Fury of Solace, I think I have to mention that what became the pilot episode was part of a competition for the DVD release of Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible. But, after coming up with the character, and seeing people’s response to the first episode, it became clear that there was a lot more story to tell and that there was a demand to see that story told. At a certain point, I realized that I had access to a very talented, aspiring comic book artist named Evaun Wallington, and that some aspects of our story were simply going to be too expensive to consider filming in live action, and that was how the comic book elements came to be. But, it did occur to me that I’d never seen a narrative switch back and forth from live-action to comics like we were planning to do, and I wasn’t sure if an audience was going to be willing or able to make that leap. And, it was from that concern that the immersive transmedia experience of Fury of Solace evolved. Our first Twitter-based ARG was our attempt to bridge the first live-action video with our first comic book episode, and when that went off without a hitch, we realized just how effective that kind of transmedia storytelling could be. So, we made a point to make all of these elements an integral part of the series going forward.
JE: When writing the story, how do you decide which episodes will be told through a video blog, or told through Twitter, or through a comic? Do you write the story first and let the needs of the particular episode determine the format, or do you say hey we want to do a Starla Carter news report, what episode of the story would be best told that way?
EF: That’s an excellent question. A large part of what went into the creation of any episode was keeping in mind our budgetary restrictions. So, we were always faced with the challenge of implying a much larger world than we had the resources to actually produce on screen. But, it was definitely an organic process, we came up with the overarching story points first, and then what format we wanted to use to convey each of these plot points was determined later. And, at a certain point, we became acutely aware that our audience would be discovering this story in much the same way that people in our fictional world would discover it. If this were really happening, how would you keep abreast of the situation? You’d watch news reports. And, if the key players in these unfolding events had video blogs or written blogs, you’d look to those. At no point did I want to tell our story purely from that perspective; I always intended for there to be traditionally narrative episodes, but as is clear at this point, that kind of in-world storytelling is now an indelible part of the Fury of Solace formula.
JE: For a superhero story, yours is pretty unique. How did you decide to do an alternate reality where superheroes are a normal part of society?
EF: My father introduced me to superhero comics during my formative years, and I grew up on the superhero genre. But, in more recent years, my tastes have tended towards more grounded dramatic fare, shows like HBO’s The Wire. That show has possibly influenced me as a creator more than any other, because, in my opinion, it successfully managed to deal with societal issues in a compelling narrative way, which has definitely been a goal during the production of Fury of Solace. So, in a lot of ways, Fury of Solace is a marriage between my childhood fascination with superheroes and my current bent towards dark, grounded drama.
And, along with that, we set out to create a modern world where superheroes could logically exist. When superheroes were created in the ‘40s, they were a response to the boogeymen of the time, be they the Nazis, the communists, pick your poison. We needed preternaturally powerful beings to guide us through those troubled times, and superheroes fit the bill. But why, in this day and age, would costumed vigilantes need to exist? Even if you allowed for the existence of superpowered humans, why wouldn’t they just become cops or federal agents, or generally fight crime from within the system? Well, it seemed to me that the only reason superheroes would fight crime outside the system is if the proper authorities were unwilling or unable to exercise their prescribed functions. That means a world where the police force is so inept and/or corrupt that people with powers feel their only option is to police the world themselves. For a more indepth look at these aspects of the Fury of Solace world, check out these excerpts from the book The Superhero Complex, written by one of the characters in our series.
JE: What kind of work do you look to for inspiration? Do you have other favorite comics or web series that inspired you to create Fury of Solace?
EF: Well, I mentioned The Wire above, but in terms of comic books, I have a special place in my heart for comics that focus on how ordinary people deal with the superheroes in their midst. Books like Gotham Central or Rucka’s current run on Punisher, or Bendis’ Powers. Because, honestly, a lot of traditional heroes are so black and white in their morality as to become predictable and boring. The Punisher is a good example; he’s not a terribly interesting character, because we know what he’s going to do in any given situation. Ennis made it about the journey, by infusing the character with a level of wry, absurdist, violent glee. But, after he left the book, no one was going to be able to out-Ennis Ennis. So, Rucka comes in and says, instead of focusing on Frank Castle, let’s look at how the cops and the press and the society at large reacts to the Punisher’s bloodbaths. And, that’s a large part of the Fury of Solace story: If these superheroes and villains really did exist, how would society react?
JE: Does your unique format offer any interesting opportunities or create any obstacles? Do you ever find yourself wishing you had just done a straight up web series or comic book?
EF: A friend of mine once asked me if I ever considered writing Fury of Solace as a traditional television pilot. I was momentarily taken aback, because I never had considered it. But, after a few moments’ consideration, I realized that Fury of Solace has no place in traditional TV. It lives on the web, it’s tailor-made for this kind of immersive, online experience, and I believe it would do the story a disservice to tell it in any other medium.
I think one of the biggest challenge to this format is that when we incorporate sites like Twitter, which have unalterable timestamps, if we can’t produce the story in real-time, we have to justify why time passage in the real world isn’t the same as it is in the story. Sometimes that requires us to make changes retroactively, or to use the comic book term, employ a “retcon.” But, I believe in the final analysis, this should all be largely transparent.
JE: One of the most interesting aspects right from the beginning of episode 1 is the relationship between Orphan and Fury of Solace. He is responsible for her decision to become a superhero, they are together romantically, but she doesn’t know that he is a supervillain. The series so far has explored a lot about Fury and the corporation he is attacking, will there be more exploration of Fury and Orphan’s relationship?
EF: Fury of Solace and the Orphan’s relationship is, in fact, the central story of the entire series, and if we get the opportunity to tell the rest of this story, that relationship will be explored in great detail. I say “if” only because this series has been entirely created on waivers and favors; this current cycle of the show was produced on an incredibly low budget, as a proof of concept of this kind of immersive transmedia storytelling. We have the series planned out to its conclusion, but we’ve kind of reached the glass ceiling of how good this show is going to be if we can’t get at least a little bit of funding. No matter the sum of its parts, we aren’t going to be able to realize the rest of the story without at least a modicum of financial backing. Whether that would be through crowd-funding or traditional avenues of revenue remains to be seen. But, myself and the rest of the Fury of Solace crew are dedicated to making it happen, and we thank all of our fans for inspiring us to take it as far as we have.
JE: Just as the series itself uses different forms of media, the characters in the series also use Twitter, video blogs, and the internet to accomplish their various goals. Do you see this series as a commentary on social media, both its advantages and disadvantages in the modern age?
EF: I will say that it’s certainly been an interesting social experiment. After the title character Fury of Solace bombed the corporate headquarters of the allegedly “evil” pharmaceutical company Mason International, it came out that about a dozen relatively innocent victims were killed in the explosion. Afterwards, Fury of Solace took to Twitter and basically said he felt terrible about the loss of innocent lives, but that in a war like this, casualties are inevitable. And, to my astonishment, people on Twitter actually reassured him instead of rebuking him. I know we’re living in a world where we’ve been trained to accept protagonists like Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey, and Dexter, and I know people are aware that Fury of Solace is just a flight of fancy, but I was still shocked by just how much leeway our audience was willing to give our lead character just by virtue of the fact that he happens to be the protagonist.
That said, using social media to tell certain aspects of the story, and as a jumping off point for Alternate Reality Games, has been a truly fulfilling experience. And, we’re presenting the story in such a way that even if you come to the series after the current cycle has all been released, the relevant social media exchanges between characters will be right at the fingertips of anyone who wants to delve that deeply into the story, these ARG’s aren’t simply one-off events that disappear into the ether after the fact.
JE: What exciting things do you have coming up for Fury of Solace? What can our readers expect to see in future episodes?
EF: Well, at the end of this current cycle, we will have had about 20 videos total, and there are at least two major characters in what we’re calling the first season that haven’t even really been introduced yet. One is LAPD Detective Katherine Czerny, a personal friend of the Orphan, who thus far has only existed on Twitter. The last piece of the puzzle is Sara Ward, the character introduced in passing in our San Diego Comic-Con ARG, who plays a much larger role in the story to come. But, as much as this truly is an ensemble drama, we won’t be straying too far from the core of the story, Fury of Solace and the Orphan’s relationship. There’s a lot more of that in store, and we very much hope we get the opportunity to tell those stories.