Named Best Indie Writer of 2008 by the Project Fanboy Awards, Massachusetts born-and-bred Jason M. Burns made the leap from entertainment journalism and public relations to comic books in 2004 after being approached to write a short story for Dead@17: Rough Cut, Volume 1. Since that time, he has created and written a number of critically-acclaimed and commercially successful comic book series including A Dummy’s Guide to Danger, Curse of the Were-Woman and The Expendable One, which is being developed into a major motion picture by Intrepid Pictures. Most recently, Burns has spent time writing for creations other than his own, and crafting comics and graphic novels for such recognizable brands as Shrek, Megamind, Jericho, Pocket God, Kung Fu Panda, Richie Rich, Fraggle Rock, and Child’s Play. He is also working with on-screen talent like Law & Order: SVU’s Christopher Meloni.
Shaun Daniels: What is the elevator pitch for Pocket God?
Jason M. Burns: From the first story arc, which is where everybody should start. When Ooga questions the gods and their relentless pygmy pounding, the gods strike back, taking away the gift of immortality bestowed upon the islanders, and forcing Ooga and the gang on a dangerous mission to recharge the Gem of Life. Based on the best-selling iPhone app!
SD: How does the creative process work on a licenced property?
JMB: I’ve worked on a bunch and they’re all different. Some are more restrictive in what you can do creatively, others allow you more freedom. Pocket God definitely offers up a lot in the way of creative freedom, and because the world is continuing to grow, there’s so much that can be done with it and the characters. It’s a great sandbox to play in.
SD: How did you get involved in Pocket God?
JMB: The company I was working for, Ape Entertainment, licensed the property and I pitched on it as a writer. I was ultimately chosen as the writer for the project and I haven’t looked back since. I’m currently working on issue 12.
SD: What is the advantage of working on a licensed property?
JMB: They definitely allow you and your writing more exposure because they come with their own built-in audience. By working on licensed properties, people who would not normally read your work do so, so it opens up more doors for you in the long run.
SD: How much creative breathing room do you have on Pocket God?
JMB: Quite a bit. The creators, Dave Castelnuovo and Allan Dye, have a good idea about where they’re taking the series, but how we get there is always up for discussion and they allow me the freedom to get in there and get my hands dirty with their creations, and I’m very grateful for that.
SD: Is it hard to come up with new and creative ways to kill the inhabitants of the island?
JMB: Not really. In the Pocket God world, there are very few rules, so it’s not like I have to stay within a certain set of parameters. Creatively, that allows for a limitless well of pygmy murder and mayhem.
SD: With the characters coming back to life, does that change the dynamic of storytelling?
JMB: No, I don’t believe so. There are still major stakes in the story and the characters’ way of life can and will be greatly challenged throughout the course of the series. I think as long as there are stakes, death or otherwise, it allows for dramatic storytelling even when you’re throwing in elements of action, adventure, and comedy.
SD: Is the best part of your day coming up ways to kill off the inhabitants?
JMB: The best part of my day is coffee. I’m drinking some now actually. Maybe I’ll dunk a pygmy in my cup and watch him sink.
SD: Was it a challenge to develop the world of Pocket God?
JMB: Not really. The creators had such a strong idea of what they wanted to do with their characters that it was really just filling in the blanks between point A and point B. The biggest challenge is keeping all of the characters in the story at all times because it’s an expanding world with a lot of different personalities all vying for the spotlight. And, as with the new story arc I’m currently working on, there will be even MORE characters calling these islands home. Stay tuned!
SD: The Angry Birds vs Inhabitants of Pocket God island?
JMB: I have to go Pocket God. The birds are dangerous and angry, of course, but the pygmies can’t die. Those birds could do their worst, but eventually they’ll get tired. The Pocket God inhabitants have all of infinity to wage that war.
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