By Ben Morse & Marc Strom
When Robert Rodi wrote the four-issue limited series LOKI in 2004, he never dreamed his story would one day become the basis for the next Marvel Knights Animation series, “Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers.”
Available for download on iTunes, Xbox LIVE, and PlayStation Network beginning Monday, March 28, “Blood Brothers” brings Rodi’s and artist Esad Ribic's story to life as Loki gains what he thought he always wanted…rule over Asgard.
|Thor & Loki: Blood Brotherse|
We spoke with the writer about the process of seeing his work adapted for the small screen, as well as the genesis of the original story and how Rodi sees the characters of both Thor and Loki.
Marvel.com: First and foremost, what’s it like to see your work brought to life this way?
Robert Rodi: It’s amazing. When I first heard the book was being turned into a [Marvel Knights Animation series], I suppose I imagined something along the lines of pan-and-scan with voiceovers. But this is animation in the truest sense; it brings honest-to-God life to the story. The sense of weight, of texture, of movement--down to the slightest stirrings of a breeze or the merest twitch of an eyebrow--it really is a freakin’ movie. Don’t anyone try and tell me it isn’t.
Marvel.com: What was your reaction to seeing your name in the credits?
Robert Rodi: It’s funny, I’ve sold a couple of screenplays over the years, and none of them ever got produced, which left me wondering when my first actual screen credit would in fact occur. I never dreamed it would sneak up on me this way--thanks to a bunch of amazingly gifted people working on a script I wrote for an entirely different medium. Life’s full of surprises. Anyway, I loved it. I couldn’t have asked for a finer screen credit debut.
Marvel.com: Was this close to how you pictured this translation of your work would be or were you taken aback?
Robert Rodi: I was completely taken aback by the depth, fluidity, and naturalism of the translation; in fact I think my jaw’s still on the floor. When you do a story like this one, that hinges more on character than plot, you strive to make it more than just talking heads--to show that in every conversation, there’s something monumental at stake. The animators have astonished me with how completely they grasp that, [in] the pacing, the gestures they’ve added, so subtle that you might not even notice them--everything contributes to the impact of what I was trying to achieve. The music, too, is absolutely emotionally spot-on. It’s all tremendously flattering, and a little humbling; these guys may understand what I was doing better than I did.
|Screenshot of Thor from Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers|
Marvel.com: What were your favorite parts of the first episode? Were they different from your favorite parts of what you wrote?
Robert Rodi: I thought the transitions were astonishing, the melding from flashback to the present. And of course Hela’s entrance was a knockout. That was the visual highlight of the first issue, and in the first episode it just takes on added scope and dimension.
Also, I have to say the panoramic shot at the beginning, based on Esad’s two-page spread, is a small masterpiece on its own; there’s a lot going on in that spread, and the animators gave every last element its own integrity. Watching that scene was when I first realized, okay, this story is in very good hands.
Marvel.com: Why was Esad’s work uniquely suited to the story you wanted to tell and also why does it work for this medium?
Robert Rodi: The obvious answer is that he’s such a wonderful painter; his gift for color and texture is unparalleled, which is so vital for a story of this nature, where you’re veering between, say, palace throne rooms and prison dungeons. Esad knows how to stage a scene, how to dress it for maximum effect, and his figure work is unmatched as well. Like I said, most of this story is talking heads, but in Esad’s hands it takes on the dramatic intensity of pitched battle. Everything he does shimmers with electricity and power.
Marvel.com: Did Loki “sound” how you imagined he would? What did you think of the voice acting in general?
|Screenshot of Thor vs. Loki from Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers|
Robert Rodi: I have to say I’m thrilled by the quality of the performances in the [series]. I wrote the dialogue for literary impact, not theatrical, and had I known it would one day be spoken by actual actors I might have pulled it back a bit--made it friendlier to the tongue. But it’s clear the cast are all classically trained because they make everything sound so natural and spontaneous, while managing to maintain the integrity of the cadences as I composed them. Not the easiest feat in the world. Listening to them, I was tempted to think, “Damn, I’m good,” but really it’s more a case of, “Damn, they make me sound good.”
Marvel.com: What were you setting out to say about Loki with your original work? How do you view him as a character perhaps differently than others have in the past?
Robert Rodi: The wonderful paradox about Loki is that he’s the trickster god, the subversive god, the god of misrule. Yet he’s always trying to take over Asgard. It’s as though he can’t see how that guarantees failure for him. Balder has to come right out and tell him, “The lord of misrule cannot rule.” By definition, he can’t. But by the time Loki hears this, it’s too late. He’s the absolute ruler of Asgard. And he doesn’t want to be; everything about the job rubs him the wrong way. So what’s he doing there? Why did he strive so hard to get there?
That’s the difference between my take on Loki and everyone else’s. No one’s ever brought Loki as far down the road of his ambitions as I have. So we naturally get to see a different side of him: Not the conniver, the schemer, the subverter of everything that’s good. We see him on the other side--when he’s become the very establishment he worked to overthrow. To me, that’s inherently interesting. Gods are supposed to represent indelible human traits and qualities; so Loki can’t change his station without betraying his essential nature. But by the time he figures that out, there’s almost nothing he can do about it--the damage has already been done.
Marvel.com: What’s your take on Loki’s relationship with Thor? Where did the idea that they are so intertwined and perhaps even co-dependent come from?
Robert Rodi: It’s always seemed to me that the great adversaries of literature define each other. They give each other a raison d’etre, they each provide a purpose and a direction [to the other]. It’s a very modernist concept based on ancient archetypes--opposites bound in eternal conflict. You ask yourself, what would Sherlock Holmes be without Moriarity? Holmes knows the answer: lonely. That’s what Loki discovers in this story, after he’s finally crushed Thor. Everything loses meaning. His identity itself founders.
|Screenshot of Loki from Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers|
Marvel.com: Following up on that, does Thor need Loki as much as it seems Loki needs Thor?
Robert Rodi: Maybe I’ll tackle that in a follow-up series someday. But off the top of my head, the answer would be yes. Thor needs Loki, because Loki keeps him humble. Loki is Thor’s greatest failure, and it’s a failure that still threatens to swallow him whole. While Thor lives, there’s theoretically a chance that he can redeem himself by redeeming Loki. But of course that can’t ever really happen, because they’re gods--their natures are immutable. But they sometimes let themselves forget that, as Loki does in this story. Balder alone never forgets, because Balder is special. Balder sees everything.
Marvel.com: Is the portrayal we see of Thor here how you honestly view him or tinted through Loki’s perspective? Little bit of both?
Robert Rodi: I don’t see Thor the way Loki sees him, not at all. And in fact by the end of the story Loki sees him entirely differently, too. Thor’s a good guy, he’s a hero. He’s not a complex character, he’s not [filled] with contradictions or subtleties. Loki is, however, and that’s why he sees what he needs to see when he looks at Thor. He interprets Thor’s behavior in the way that best suits him--whether it’s to fire his ambition or salve his wounded pride.
I do have to say, however, that the picture of Odin I present here is pretty much the way I see the All-Father. Loki lays a pretty heavy accusation on Odin in this story, and I think he’s right on the money. But then I’ve never really trusted the big, bearded, fiery-eyed sky-god types who rule like tyrants over their constituencies. Thor’s an open book, but Odin’s a seething maze of questionable imperatives. He’s a great character, but not a likeable or a dependable one. I’d trust Thor with my life. I wouldn’t trust Odin with my dry cleaning.
Marvel.com: Why choose to start this story with Loki having already achieved his goal of conquering Asgard?
Robert Rodi: Simple, no one had ever done it before. And to me, that’s always the most interesting question in drama: When a character has sacrificed everything to satisfy his ambition--honor, integrity, morality--what happens when he achieves it? Is it worth it? Think of Macbeth. I wanted to make Loki a character on that level--a villain of Shakespearean dimensions. Once he’s triumphed, it all turns to ash in his mouth because he never really asked himself why he wanted what he wanted, or if he really wanted it at all. And by the time he finally does, it’s too late.
Marvel.com: What are the greatest challenges Loki faces after having finally gotten what he thought he always wanted?
Robert Rodi: Loki’s never thought past the initial triumph of gloating over Thor and the other gods. Whenever he fantasized about being lord of Asgard, that’s all he saw, himself looming over Thor and Odin and Sif and Balder in chains, taunting them. But once that’s done, there’s the whole matter of, y’know, being lord of Asgard. Of running an actual freakin’ empire, with disparate nations and races and peoples and factions. And Loki has absolutely no interest in doing that. It bores him out of his skull. But it is in fact the very thing he’s spent several millennia striving for, so he has to stop and wonder, “Wait, was this what I really wanted? And if so, why?”
And then there’s the whole matter of Thor. As soon as Loki wins and takes the throne, everyone stars pestering him about when he’s going to execute Thor. And Loki’s like, “Wait a minute--I never said I was going to do that.” And everyone laughs, “Yeah, like you’ve got a choice. So seriously, when?” And Loki has to think hard about who he’ll be once Thor is gone, and the answer is he doesn’t know. He’s spent thousands of years being defined by Thor. Executing Thor will be like executing himself. It’s all a wonderfully complex and frustrating dilemma. I loved getting into Loki’s head and forcing him to face up to all this. And leading him, slowly and by inches, to the realization of what all his actions have really been about, and what he really wants to do with his power--but realizing it too late. That was exquisitely sadistic of me. But it makes, I think, for a really powerful story.
Stay tuned to Marvel.com for even more on "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers," and download the trailer now for FREE on iTunes and XBox Live with the first episode available for download beginning March 28!