Issue Three, Volume One
2099UGR Unlimited #1
Chat Transcript by David Ellis and Jason McDonald
Original Issue Written by David Ellis
DAVID ELLIS: You're reading the commentary chat for 2099UGR Unlimited #1, the first Blade 2099 story. I'm David Ellis, the writer of the issue. Joining me is...
JASON MCDONALD: Bruce Wayne.
JM: Er, Jason McDonald, the Assistant Editor of the 2099UGR.
DE: Who's putting off his nightly crusade against the forces of evil, crime, and cradle-robbing in order to help me with the commentary.
DE: Sometimes I let Dick Grayson fill in for me. Helps his self-esteem.
JM: You know, reading that first line, I always think they're talking about Blade.
DE: That was intentional. I wanted the first scene to have the typical Blade movie trappings: vampires, nightclubs, chases, and some mention of a "Daywalker".
DE: So I came up with VJ Daywalker the video jockey for the club, in order to misdirect the reader. He originally was going to have nothing further to do with the Blade 2099 series, but I ended up liking the idea of VJ as a sidekick, so I brought him back in the third story.
JM: You mean, dragged him back, kicking and screaming, into Blade's world?
DE: More like stumbling and drunken.
DE: Anyway, 2099UGR Unlimited was originally planned as one of the launch titles for 2099 UnderGround Revised, so while Mike Shirley, the Editor-in-Chief at the time, was fielding ideas for anthology stories as well as ideas for actual series.
DE: This was actually not the first story that was going to see publication in Unlimited; in fact, it wasn't even the first story I pitched. I forget what the first story was going to be -- maybe an X-Men 2099 story by John Bush -- but the first story I pitched was Hand 2099.
JM: Good question. I'd thought the Hand was going to be the first one, but you wrote Blade first or something. That was a loooong time ago.
DE: Yeah, I forget why the order turned out that way. It was a lot of chaotic scheduling around that time as Mike was trying to get the releases lined up.
JM: Yeah, 2099UGR Unlimited was to be the anthology series of the site, used to "test" out new writers or spotlight characters that didn't necessarily have their own titles. Like the 2099 Unlimited title of the Marvel 2099 canon, but with only one story per issue rather than three.
JM: I think Mike had a Galahad story he wanted to write in there at one point, right?
DE: Yeah, he had wanted me to co-write that.
JM: And n00b 2099! Remember n00b?
DE: lol! Yeah, that was going to be our co-writing venture about some kid in cyberspace who ends up becoming some L337 H4XX0R. Or something.
JM: Yeah. I still have our plots saved somewhere.
DE: My inspiration for Blade 2099 came when I was watching Blade II.
DE: In it was a member of the Blood Pack, an Asian swordsman called Snowman. He was played by Donnie Yen, and he seemed like a total badass with some sweet moves. I was disappointed that he never got to fight Blade in the movie, because that fight would have been awesome.
JM: Tsss. That it would have been. I remember you modeled Chen off of him quite a bit.
DE: Yeah, I imagined Blade 2099 with Donnie Yen/Snowman in mind. I took a few elements that I liked about Blade -- his swordsmanship and martial arts, his lonely war against vampires -- and I built a new character around that.
JM: You took the "where one zigs, the other zags" path that PAD took with Spider-man 1996 vs. SMAN 2099.
DE: I made sure there were key differences between Chen and Eric Brooks (the original Blade), though: whereas Eric has spent his entire life fighting vampires, Chen only gets caught up in it recently. And whereas Eric never really had a family, Chen had a wife and daughter and that was very important to him.
JM: And yet, they eventually take disturbingly similar paths.
DE: Yeah, by the time the story takes place, Chen's wife is long dead and his daughter Xu is ten. He supports her by taking jobs as a sword for hire, the way some samurai did back in feudal Japan.
JM: I forgot at first why he was hunting down the vamps.
JM: And Alucard Enterprises is footing the paycheck. Which, when you spell "Alucard" backwards, you get the word "Lasagna".
DE: Funny. You get the word "Dracula", which Chen realizes too late.
DE: I really liked writing Claymore Valentine, the head of Alucard. He had a great, dark sense of humor, in contrast to the more stoic Chen.
JM: Oh yes. He's a great rotten bastard, he is.
DE: He was partially inspired by Stephen Dorff's Deacon Frost in the first Blade movie. His transformation into a monstrous batlike form is an attempt to acknowledge the way 2099 vampires were portrayed in the Lachryma story in an issue of the 2099 Unlimited comic.
JM: Yes. Some general shape-shifting. And Claymore uses it to such great effect. He overtakes Chen without any effort at all, even with Chen's cybernetic enhancements.
DE: Chemical enhancements, actually. More like a variation of a super-soldier serum.
JM: And I like how you describe being bitten. "His eyes were open wide, but they saw nothing." Creepy.
DE: Heh, yeah, I forgot I'd written that. Looking back on this issue, there's so much I'd forgotten about, it's like someone else wrote it.
JM: Well, it has been nearly three years.
DE: It has, hasn't it? Why, I was a mere lad then.
DE: Now ... I'm a less-mere lad.
JM: A wee spry youth of only 26.
JM: Lemme guess, I got that age totally wrong.
DE: 3 years ago I was 25.
JM: I loved Xu's beef-jerky-flavored chewing gum. That has to be so unbelievably disgusting.
DE: Yeah, the jerky-flavored gum was a throwaway gag on my part. I wanted to show something that might be a fad the same way the present day has its own trends and whatnot.
DE: The final scene was heart-wrenching to write. From the moment I came up with Xu, I knew that she served the purpose of inspiring Chen's crusade against vampires. So she had to die.
JM: Yeah, that was soooo vicious.
JM: Didn't the inspiration from that come from Blade: Trinity?
JM: The evil vamp woman threatens Hannibal that she'll bite him and feed him his friend's daughter?
DE: Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was at the back of my mind when I came up with the way she would be bitten. Rather than have Claymore do it, he wanted Chen to have his first taste of blood as a vampire. And who better than his own daughter?
JM: Interesting, that he thinks of the woman simply as FOOD, rather than as a human being. That's a little creepy.
JM: I mean, he's in pure bloodthirst, of course.
JM: God, I love Valentine's antagonizing of Blade. "Like our hospitality suite so far?"
DE: Yeah, Chen is starving in that scene. He hasn't had sustenance of any kind in a week, and that would weaken a normal human. For a vampire, that is absolute torture. So by the time a human showed up, he honestly didn't care who she was. Just that she was a warm food source.
JM: Absolutely. Interesting you ended it where you did.
DE: Yeah, it ended up being a two-part story rather than a one-parter. But that was so I could spend a lot of time showing how Chen fought his servitude to Valentine and became Blade.
DE: "The heavy stone door slammed shut with a loud click. Chen's manacles opened with a much softer click." I liked writing that line, because the latter click would undoubtedly be much louder in the reader's mind.
JM: The manacles opening would be louder?
DE: No, I meant that the manacles opening would be quieter, but the reader would be paying more attention to the 'sound' of it in their heads because it's more important. It means all hell is about to break loose. Or at least, I hope it worked that way.
JM: One thing that caught my eye this time though: Valentine says he "went through this before." Did he in fact go through this process before, or is he just being facetious? And if he did go through the exact same torture and conditioning, it says a lot about Claymore and Blade that they react so differently to the same type of situation.
DE: The way I figure it, Valentine's first meal as a vampire was his own family. The circumstances might not have been the same, but he wants to feel a kinship to Chen, so he arranges for Chen to feed on his own family.
DE: And from there, I'm sure readers figured out before Chen did that his victim was his own daughter. But that was the point: it's all the more brutal and terrifying because the audience knows what's coming and is helpless to stop it. So if any scene in Blade 2099 can be considered old-school horror, it's this one.
DE: Looking back on it, I should have spent more time with Chen's realization of what he'd done. The reveal was in the next-to-last paragraph, and he went from feeling the punch-in-the-gut loss to swearing revenge on Valentine. It happened too quickly, in retrospect.
JM: Chen's a cold-blooded bastard! How could you create such an evil character, you monster?
DE: Scroll up.
JM: :-P I'm kidding.
DE: I know. I enjoy taking the wind of your sails.
JM: Ellis....I will have my revenge.
DE: Geez, you'd think I'd locked you in a dungeon and had you snack on a relative.
DE: Okay, so there was that one time, but I apologized.
JM: *shakes fist*
JM: But, I do agree with your analysis. Chen's switch from grief, to anger strong enough to warrant revenge should be a biiiit more drawn out.
JM: It does feel a little too much like it's setting itself up for something else.
DE: I can't remember if I ended it there because I was in a hurry or not, but if I had to do it over again, I'd do it differently.
JM: Do it over!
JM: And I don't want any sass from you.
DE: The Eric Brooks Blade would be likely to go from that loss to revenge, because his philosophy is to use his anger. Chen would spend more time with it, and show more vulnerability. At the time, I wasn't thinking about it from that perspective; I didn't have Chen as clear in my head as I do now.
JM: Yeah, Eric is pretty headstrong, reluctant to show any emotion.
DE: Fatherhood is a completely foreign concept to Eric, but it's completely integral to Chen. I did that on purpose, so that I could give Chen concerns that Eric never had. The same way Peter Parker never had to worry about a dysfunctional family like Miguel O'Hara had to.
JM: Good stuff.
JM: I never realized that about Chen. He's had fatherhood to deal with. That totally changes you.
JM: Or so I'm told.
DE: It does more often than not. My brother will attest to that.
DE: I have a lot of backstory to Chen that I have yet to reveal in-story. Hopefully I'll have a chance to write more Blade 2099 stories and get into that.
JM: I'd love to see more Blade 2099.
DE: Yeah, me too. And I'd planned to have written more Blade stories by now, but other commitments have taken precedence. That's why the third story was called "Janus", after the Greek God of beginnings and endings. On one level, it was VJ Daywalker's real first name, but on another level, it was a hint that the story was designed to be a jumping-off point in case I never got the chance to write another Blade story.
JM: I'd thought it meant that it was the beginning of a new status quo, and a new partnership.
DE: That too. See? Beginnings and endings.
JM: I wish my titles were as cool.
DE: Heh. You've come up with some great ones in Moon Knight 2099.
DE: But anyway, now that my Fantastic Four 2099UGR run is ending, that frees me up to write other things, so I can do more Blade 2099 stories.
JM: There ya go!
JM: Though, not ending permanently, I hope...
DE: So stay tuned for that, folks! Eventually. But for now, this has been the commentary to 2099UGR Unlimited #1. This is David Ellis, signing off!
JM: And this is Jason McDonald asking the folks at home, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around ... then why did it fall in the first place?
DE: Jason McDonald thinks too hard.
JM: Poignant ecological commentary, or caffiene delusions from a sick mind? You decide!
NEXT ISSUE: X-Men 2099UGR #1: "Eddie Comes Home" Commentary