Moviegoers get to spend two hours with the characters of Mad Max: Fury Road, but they’ve been on director George Miller’s mind for so long that each has his or her own rich back story.
The cinema screen isn’t big enough to hold them all, which is why Miller is bringing these residents of the Wasteland to comic books.
A series of Mad Max prequel stories from DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint kicked off last week, looking at the earlier days of Fury Road’s prime players, beginning with the villainous overlord Immortan Joe (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne in the movie) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), one of Joe’s loyal War Boys.
An issue focusing on Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and how she met Joe’s brides, women chosen to bear a worthy male heir for the ruler, arrives June 17, and two chapters focusing on Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) and a hazardous trip to Gastown – and Thunderdome Plus – are due out July 8 and Aug 5. (A special hardcover edition collecting all the stories will be in stores Aug 26.)
It’s an important project for the director, who worked on the comics with screenwriter Nico Lathouris and storyboard artist Mark Sexton. “They’re a huge influence on modern culture,” Miller says, “and this is the first opportunity of taking something I’ve worked on and having them rendered in comics. That’s a big deal for me.”
The Fury Road movie begins in the middle of a lot of characters’ lives, so to present a cohesive and authentic post-apocalyptic world, Miller worked out various back stories for his actors and their roles. For example, he told Hoult the tale of how Nux got his name and became a War Pup as a young child that is featured in the first Mad Max comic.
So, too, did Miller regale Keays-Byrne with the history of Col Joe Moore, the militant leader of a private army and motorcycle gang when “The Fall” happens, and through oil and water wars, how the man who would be the Immortan built an armada and ultimately finds his place as ruler of the Citadel.
The Immortan is “the last fascist, feudal moron”, says production designer Colin Gibson. “For me, he was the last white man on Earth, and partly the reason for why we were screwed.”
While grand stories and comics are just now coming together in a project for Miller, 70, they’ve been major aspects of the filmmaker’s life since he was a kid growing up in a rural, remote part of Queensland, Australia.
“Comics are part of my lifeblood,” Miller says. When he was younger, though, “they were illicit. You couldn’t take them to school, and your parents thought if you were reading comics you were somehow not getting an education.”
But Miller also started to draw them himself, he adds. “I always hung out with the kid in the class who was the best (artist), and obviously that had a huge influence on me and the aesthetic.”
Miller reveals that he has two more stories, a novella and a screenplay, to one day add to the mythology, which began with 1979’s original Mad Max and kicked off a trilogy starring Mel Gibson.
“It’s a very seductive world to work in because you are working in allegory: Everything is reduced so the story can become timeless,” says Miller, who realised while doing the first movie that Max fits a universal archetype.
“When you read Joseph Campbell, you realise what he is: He’s a character who predates cinema and is almost in all folklore, the wanderer in the wasteland searching for meaning.
“You can take these stories and the subtext seems to pour out of them almost unburdened,” the filmmaker adds.
“That’s always an exciting thing to do. They won’t go away and they almost feel like imaginary friends in your head, filling your dreams.” – USA Today/Tribune News Service/Brian Truitt