Information Free For All
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of JayJay Jackson’s Technomancers …
JayJay Jackson’s Technomancers
JayJay Jackson’s Technomancers from Broadway Comics was a strange and stylistic marriage of the Watchers from Joss Whedon’s phenomenal favourite Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Grant Morrison’s critically acclaimed The Invisibles. They were Planetary before Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary #1. They kept their collective eye on the powers that be, while chronicling all the strange happenings taking place all over the Broadway Universe. This included the coming of the Star Seed – a mild-mannered super-man that was taking Manhattan by storm.
With that said, what is the secret origin of the Technomancers?
The Technomancers were a group of idealistic cyberpunk uber-nerds who wanted to seize power and right wrongs through their expertise in tech. They were a disparate group who found each other through in the early days of the interwebs and had the ideal to form a New Athens in cyberspace, a home for ideas, philosophy, technology, art, and culture to flourish in an environment of openness and acceptance.
Technomancers was supposed to debut in Powers That Be #1 – but ended up never appearing at all. Why was that?
I don’t remember. I have periodically kept a journal off and on for much of my life, which is mostly the reason I can answer a lot of these questions. I have a note in my journal on April 8th, 1996 that we were working on that for PTB#1 and notes that we worked on the story off and on through the month of May. Then it drops off my radar. (shrug)
I kept a journal in the early days of Broadway Comics. Starting with the first meeting with BV’s Eric Ellenbogan on Sept 1, 1995 I wrote entries more or less daily for a while. I made the last notation in it on Aug 21, 1996, when we heard we had been sold to Golden Family Entertainment and they didn’t want us, only the properties.
That first day Eric told us he wanted new properties and I started in right away working on ideas. I had a few that I pitched but the Technomancers was one of two that interested the “Powers That Be.”
The Technomancers were made up of a colorful cast of characters. What inspired their creation?
One of the things in comics that I loved most was Chris Claremont’s Morlocks in his X-Men comics. I think they are brilliant and I always wanted more of them. They were the spark of inspiration behind my idea for the technological underground that became the Technomancers. I imagined this weird bunch of alienated geniuses united by a love of technology and a common philosophy that information should be free. (I was also into following the exploits of hackers at the time and read 2600: The Hacker Quarterly religiously)
Around the time I started work at Broadway Video (working on developing an IP movie treatment for Harley-Davidson), I took a vacation back home to Texas to work on a house I bought for my mom, visit two (!) friends who were dying (300 miles apart) and attend the Kendall County Fair with a group of friends, then I flew up to Ithica to visit friends (Roger Stern and wife) meet up with Joe James to go sightseeing in the area and all the time I was traveling I was coming up with story concepts and making notes. I had a few different ideas. One was called “The Mythic” about a man/myth who lived through several ages. A different take on the Eternal Warrior idea that I was still burned about losing when we were ousted from Valiant. Another was called The Venerati. A month or so later I came up with an idea that evolved into a graphic novel named Spire that I was working on. (J. G. Jones was slated to draw that.) But the Technomancers seemed a good fit for the universe we were creating. They were intended to be a tech underground with connections to everything.
I read the first script and read that they had just discovered the Star Seed! Was Fatale and the secret organization that was trailing her next on their radar?
The Technomancers were a group that was interconnected online like we are now, but this was back in ‘95. I imagined that they had huge numbers of people helping them, maybe without always knowing exactly why, and they had alerts set up for anything odd that popped up in media or websites. They were able to use technology in creative ways and were subtly guiding and providing the right information at the right time as well as gathering data. Both watchdogs and action heroes.
I think they had data on everyone and were working on putting together a clear picture of everything that was going on and how it all interconnected and what it all meant for the world and humanity. They would use information to influence and help as well as having their own technically enhanced and body-modified “super-soldier” Hank (Cyber Henry). He was inspired by Henry Rollins, by the way. They were an odd combination of geniuses and their friends, fans, and families who lived as a sort of loose peripatetic commune of weirdos. They solved problems with science! So fun.
What can you tell us about their antagonist, Saint –Saens?
I imagined Saint-Saens as the opposite of the open-source, sharing and building (Lynux-style) culture. He was someone who wanted to exploit tech, and people, for his own personal gain and wasn’t too concerned with ethics. A real “means justifies the ends” kind of guy, and the end he wanted was to be richer and more powerful.
Was Broadway Comics going to use the Technomancers as a way to create a universe-shaking crossover like you did with the Geomancers in Unity at Valiant?
Hmm, I think (my take) on the Technomancers was fundamentally different. I viewed the Technomancers as builders and creators who wanted information to be free and open to all. They wanted to encourage people to think for themselves, even at the expense of the anarchy that might cause. The Geomancers are a much more secretive and closed society working with secrets and in secret. The Technomancers were working toward elevating all of humankind to the ultimate of each person’s ability and potential, they imagined an online utopia free of physical limitations and prejudices where people could have an open exchange of thought. To me, that whole approach is fundamentally different, but it also could generate a massive crossover, just by the nature of their goals. That is not to say that my ideas about the stories and characters are the ones that we would have ultimately used. The final decision wasn’t entirely up to me. And it was fairly brutal to have it all ripped away. Again. Never getting to finish any of the things I started was really giving me a complex by this time.
How far did you plot ahead with the Technomancers? What secrets were they going to uncover?
The concept of the Technomancers was that they would uncover all the secrets! Their vast network of contacts and connections gave them almost “Watcher” status.
We had ideas, but I can’t say the story was plotted far ahead. One of my ideas was to use the “New Athens” as an online meeting place where everyone could meet and exchange information at any time faster and more efficiently than any other way. It would spark a huge crossover that happened both online and in the real world.
I was very into The Palace (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Palace_(computer_program)
The Palace (computer program) – Wikipedia
The Palace (or Palace Chat, Chat Palace, Palace) is a computer program to access graphical chat room servers, called palaces, in which users may interact with one another using graphical avatars overlaid on a graphical backdrop.The software concept was originally created by Jim Bumgardner and produced by Time Warner Interactive in 1994, and was first opened to the public in November 1995.
at the time and I would stay up late into the night chatting online with people from all over the world. I talked with people from countries I had never heard of and they told me about their lives. It was fascinating. Many years later I had similar experiences in World of Warcraft, chatting ingame with people everywhere. I find other cultures very interesting.
Who was going to draw the comic? Anyone we know?
I don’t remember if we had a firm commitment from an artist. I’m sorry. Jim and Joe were working on page layouts for the first story. I could be wrong. But the only page layouts I could find copies of are definitely Jim’s. I have a note in my journal that Joe and I met with Eileen Mac to offer her Technomancers and she said she would have to think about it. I do not remember who that person is. Terrible of me, but there you are. My memory isn’t great.
Would you like to revisit the basic concept of the Technomancers in a future project?
I would love, too. I feel like it’s one of the best things I’ve ever worked on, but it was an idea that was very much of its time. I had even developed a proposal for a computer game that took advantage of different media to solve a mystery. I’m not sure how the story as I originally imagined it would translate to today. I was very idealistic in those days, as well. Maybe not so much now. Though, I’m very focused on my own writing these days. I’m currently working on my seventh book, a YA novel.
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