by Vince Brusio
Alyssa Milano is a philanthropist, U.N. Ambassador, and actress that is currently appearing on the televison shows Mistresses and Project Runway. Her latest passion, however, is an action series from Archaia Entertainment called Hacktivist which arrives in comic shops January 22nd. It is a story that Alyssa discussed with us over the phone, as she believed the comic/graphic novel treatment was the best way to give life to her idea that she didn’t want to see compromised.
In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Alyssa Milano explains how her new book is something she sees as a time stamp for how social media is currently transforming our culture.
PREVIEWSworld: Alyssa, given that you’re now visiting a sandbox that many of us over here call “home” (the comics community) can we ask what first exposed you to comics? What circumstances drove you to considering this medium?
Alyssa Milano: Well, really, I have a brother that’s ten years younger than I am, so I pretty much grew up with them everywhere in the house. I was very aware of the medium. I felt that once the seed of this idea was planted in my head, the only way to really convey the story in a powerful way was to do it as a graphic novel. I didn’t want to go in and pitch this idea and have a network or a studio tell me all the reasons why it couldn’t be done, shouldn’t be done, or “Yeah, we’ll do it, but we’re going to do it like this.”
I really wanted the medium to reflect the integrity of the original concept. So that’s basically how it came to be in this format.
PREVIEWSworld: So BOOM!/Archaia more or less gave you the autonomy that you wanted which wasn’t possible using a TV or movie set?
Alyssa Milano: Yeah. I mean, here’s the deal: I pitched the idea to my agency first. They set me up on one meeting, and that was with Stephen Christy from Archaia.
And he got it immediately. And then he also understood — and this was vital — the importance of surrounding me with great people that were going to execute this in a way that I would be protected. And that was really important, because I don’t know the inner workings of this medium, and I really looked at Archaia to put together the best team humanly possible. The risk that they took was that this is not a story with a superhero, or the guy that has the great suit, or a cool Batmobile, or anything like that. All my guy has is a computer.
PREVIEWSworld: So he’s super nerd.
Alyssa Milano: (laughs) Yeah! Exactly!
PREVIEWSworld: Ok, so with Hackivist, you’re dealing with a super social media strategist then, correct?
Alyssa Milano: Do you want to hear the complete story of how the idea came to be? I think it will make a lot more sense to you then.
PREVIEWSworld: Hey, if you’re willing to talk, we’re willing to listen.
Alyssa Milano: A couple of years ago I became very interested in social media because of my Twitter stream. I mean, it broke on social media that we captured Osama bin Laden before any major news network carried it. So for me, it was like “Ok. Here’s where we are right now. And this is kind of fascinating.”
The fact is that social media has played such a huge role in political uprisings like the Arab Spring, and giving a voice to the people that can actually affect change. So that was all very interesting to me. And then I became somewhat fascinated with Anonymous. And I thought, well, hacking is its own form of warfare. How interesting that these guys are soldiers of the human spirit, and they’re all over the world. They’re trying to make a difference through their computer skills. That’s so intriguing to me.
So I thought, what if the entire group of Anonymous —which is apparently throughout the entire world — is actually just one guy using the group as a front? It’s really just one mastermind. And that made me think, well, who would this mastermind be? And what traits would he need to do what he does, and that obviously means being socially aware, politically aware, compassionate, philanthropic, being able to hack code. How would he create these armies to start these uprisings?
The only person I could think of that would have that power and the tools to do that was Jack Dorsey, who is the inventor of Twitter, and who is a very dear friend of mine.
And I thought: what if Jack Dorsey, the inventor of Twitter, actually created Twitter specifically to change the world by using algorithms and the math numbers he has to reach people to create this kind of change? And so that’s where the idea came from.
PREVIEWSworld: Alyssa, I have to say that the way this story sounds, it’s sort of makes me think that at some point you said to yourself not only could this happen, but there’s a very strong possibility that it actually is happening.
Alyssa Milano: For sure. Oh, for sure. Look, there were crazy moments when I was sitting with Colin and Jackson, my writers, and we would be brainstorming and pitching ideas to each other, and then three days later it was all actually happening.
It would be in the news.
So I’m really excited for you to read this. I just think it’s really beautiful. Everything. The art. The lettering.
PREVIEWSworld: Archaia stayed true to the vision like you wanted, right?
Alyssa Milano: Yes. When I pitched this idea to my agency, I said I didn’t want to bring this to TV or film because I knew that they were going to give me a bunch of notes, and change things. I wanted this to be in its purest form. So my agency said I needed to do a graphic novel. And there was only one place they would send me, and that was Archaia.
PREVIEWSworld: Well, that’s pretty much it, then. Nice to know that Archaia’s got a great reputation that holds up. Good for them.
Alyssa Milano: Oh, absolutely. Everyone there has been so wonderful, there all so smart. They all just get it. They understand my passion for this, and how I wanted to keep it very pure, because I really do think that this is a time stamp for where we are in the world.
PREVIEWSworld: And you’re pretty much getting the best of both worlds, now that BOOM! and Archaia work hand-in-hand, right?
Alyssa Milano: Yeah, when BOOM! Studios and Archaia merged, BOOM! decided that it would be a great 4-issue story. So that’s what it’s going to be, and it will be released as a graphic novel in its entirety this summer.
PREVIEWSworld: Just in time for San Diego Comic Con?
Alyssa Milano: Yeah, exactly. That’s the idea.
PREVIEWSworld: Hey, we film there every year. Maybe we could bump into each other?
Alyssa Milano: Perfect!