Duncan Jones: ‘The idea of a graphic novel has always sat with me’

Madi Preston has had better weeks on the job. As an elite operative for J-Squad, one of several privatised special forces outfits that dominate life in a near-future tech dystopia, she has a lot on her plate; several hacked brains, one stolen child and more very large guns than you can shake a USB stick at. It’s enough to put any worker off the high-tech security, surveillance and espionage they’ve been trained to do but, luckily for us, she’s not the quitting type.

And in Madi, the new graphic novel from Duncan Jones, Alex de Campi and a mouth-watering cabal featuring some of comics’ best artists, we get to witness every BAM, BOOM and BRAKKABRAKKABRAKKA along the way.

The last decade has seen a steady migration of comics properties to screens large and small. Six of 2018’s Top 10 grossing films were spawned from comics properties. (A seventh, The Incredibles 2, merely aped the superhero genre without ever having had a textual forebear.) Perhaps, then, it’s surprising when traffic moves the other way, as when director Duncan Jones abandoned the idea of filming Madi – a long-gestating third film in his Mooniverse trilogy – and opted for the page instead.

“It was an actual film script,” Jones says of Madi, gesticulating from his home in LA over Zoom. His gestures imply an imaginary, but noticeably thick, script held between clenched hands.

Jones is, of course, the film director behind Moon, Source Code, Warcraft and Mute. He is animated in conversation, fizzing with enthusiasm as he and co-writer Alex de Campi cut across each other over a wide-ranging hour, spiralling into conversational by-lanes that cover books, movies, and a surprisingly long detour through the best places in London to get barbecue food.

“That script was quite a beast”, he recalls, “so I asked Alex if she’d be interested in helping me turn it into a graphic novel”.

Multiple artists

De Campi had been recommended by a few of Jones’ friends, having penned indie comics like Smoke, Bad Girls and the Twisted Romance anthology series. She’s also helmed a long list of action-packed properties for DC, 2000AD and Marvel, not to mention the sheer, propulsive, lip-biting delight of last year’s horror romp Dracula, Motherf**ker.

But, writing aside, she’s quick to emphasise the other skills she brought to bear.

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