Writing Peter Quill, Rocket, Emma Frost, and More with 'Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord' Scribe Benjamin Percy
Spoiler alert! Join Ben Percy for a closer look at the character arcs inside this epic journey to the Wastelands!
In a post-apocalyptic future, Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord finds Peter Quill and Rocket a little paunchier, a little slower, and a lot saltier than they were during the glory days of the Guardians of the Galaxy. They quickly discover the Earth isn’t what it used to be either, when they crash land 30 years after all the world’s Super Villains have seized control.
In the barren, desolate wasteland of the mid-west as controlled by Doctor Doom, they encounter the ageless telepath Emma Frost, outlaw Ghost Riders, Doomwood locals, and the bloodthirsty Kraven the Hunter. Who will find the Black Vortex first, and what will be the price of its power?
That's the premise, and that's the question.
But the stories and the characters that somehow sprout from these post-apocalyptic plains are fecund with strife, conflict, consideration, and growth. And it was up to writer Benjamin Percy to put it all on the page, from cacophonous crash-landings to quiet recollections, before Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord could come to life in its final audio form.
Now that the finale has been released, Ben joined Marvel.com for a discussion about the characters that led the way in the Wastelands—and the challenges they presented to him, each other, and themselves...
To begin, Ben, could you share a sentence or two about your thoughts on this iteration of Peter Quill?
Okay, well, I'm going to talk for more than a sentence about Quill to do him service.
I wanted [Marvel’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord] to be funny as hell and packed with spectacle and rife with suspense. But at its core, I wanted it to be the story of a fallen man hoping for redemption, reclamation of glory. So in this way, Peter Quill's story thematically mirrors the Earth's story in that both are broken, stripped of their luster, and hopeful for a new dawn.
So Quill goes, over the course of the story, from self-centered to selfless. He opens up the season as a character who wants to save his own ass and make some bank while doing it. And we end the season with somebody who will risk everything to protect a community.
How about Rocket? Chris Elliott is such a great Rocket.
Yeah, that was fantastic. I listened in to a lot of those sessions and was laughing uproariously and silently, since I was on mute. Just that the interactions that were between him and Timothy Busfield—they had such a unique chemistry and sometimes sort of improvised, riffed off, jazzed up the lines in really surprising ways.
So Rocket is loyal and viciously cantankerous. He is calling Quill out constantly on his bull. He's a truth-teller about everything, except for one secret—one secret that you will have had to make it through about eight episodes to discover.
Here's a new character: Red.
Yeah, well, it's always a blast to write these canonical characters. But you have to build a few from scratch as well to make things unique. And Red was one of those inventions. I heard the voice in my head and everything fell into place from there.
He is somebody who has made a go of it in the Wastelands, trying to carve out a life for himself and is struggling forward, even as he has to pay out an unfair due to the Doombots who collect taxes. And he teams up with Quill and Rocket and, as a result of that team up, becomes lawless and sort of realizes a new version of himself as a ghost rider.
So he goes from somebody who has been trying to work within the system to somebody who's trying to break the system as an anarchist. And he's inspired to do so, as so many others are going to be inspired, by the arrival of these heroes (or self-proclaimed heroes), Quill and Rocket.
Speaking of classic canonical characters: Emma Frost. What went through your mind as you wrote her?
Think of Emma Frost as the Al Swearengen of Doomwood. So she runs the central watering hole there, but she's also running a different sort of business behind the scenes. She knows everything, as she would given that she's an Omega-level telepath. But she's also trying to quietly build a revolution, build a resistance to Doom's control over the Wastelands.
How about Kraven?
Kraven is one of my favorite villains in the Marvel Universe, so I was thrilled to get the opportunity to write him. And I imagined his voice as that of Werner Herzog's—Werner Herzog as written by Cormac McCarthy. Pure tooth and nail, this terrifying voice that comes out of the abyss; wildness incarnate.
And finally, your thoughts on Doom.
Doom is omnipresent. Doom is omniscient. Doom has risen up as a kind of god in this time of hopelessness. And he is a cruel god, one who will punish you if you don't do as you're told. He's also one who gives people just enough that they're afraid—just enough food, just enough protection that they're afraid to balk at what he demands of them.
The thing about Doom is he wears a mask. And despite the fact that he's everywhere—his voice is being broadcast through the airwaves, his face is carved into mountains, his Doombots wander the streets. Despite the fact that he's everywhere, he's nowhere to be found. He hasn't been seen in many, many years.
And I mentioned before how everybody in this series has a secret, and that's true of Doom as well.
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