PROPHET MARGIN (continued)
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It turns out that Prophet's origin is linked to two pop culture visionaries. "This is going to sound strange, but Prophet was inspired by Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg," Liefeld says of the creators of Star Trek and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, respectively. "When I was a kid, I always wished for a [Star Trek] phaser or teleporter - I still do. I look at everything that Roddenberry and Spielberg have done and it fascinates me to no end.
"One day I though to myself, 'What if these guys were from the future?' They came to the past to show us everything that we will have in the future, sort of like blueprints. What better way is there to show people stuff than through the most powerful tool out there: the media? Then they take their money that they've earned and bring it back to the future to fund whatever they need there.
"That's how I got the idea for Prophet: a scientist names Horatio Wells comes back in time from the future into the World War II era." Wells transformed the theretofore-ordinary Jonathan Prophet into a supersoldier by means of novel DNA-enhancing procedures. "Prophet is both a weapon and a time capsule that was going to be placed into stasis for many years. When the time was right, he would re-emerge in the future and do his duty by helping Wells's people in fighting the evil Disciples.
"The problem was that Hitler and his Third Reich heard about Prophet, who is basically the Übermensch. They tracked Wells and Prophet down, and the two of the just [vanished]. I don't want to say what happened to Wells, but Prophet was secured away from Hitler [by Wells]. When Prophet is found in Youngblood #2, he's freed from stasis." Unfortunately, the U.S. research expedition that rescued Prophet did so about 50 years too early for him to fight the Disciples.
Wizard 35 Cover
How exactly did Prophet get his powers? "The idea is that there's a 'perfect DNA' out there," Platt explains. "Somehow, Wells was able to alter Prophet insofar as his DNA became 'perfect.' The process didn't work on other people - only him. His body's been incredibly enhanced - the man's seven-and-a-half-feet tall! He can understand and communicate in all languages - not only human languages, but with creatures that have their own language, like whales, or with computers.
"At the same time, he's very childlike, having been in stasis," the artist continues. "He doesn't know the social workings of the world that most of us take for granted: he can't hail a cab, and he eats ice cream too fast and gets a headache. By showing things like this, you present the character's humanity and make the character approachable. Readers can get attached to Prophet through things like this. It's sort of like Wolverine; people started to really appreciate him [as a character] after he almost got married and had his heart broken, or started thinking of the X-Men as his family. That's how the readers can empathize with him."
As demonstrated by the name of Prophet's partner, Jackson Kirby, Liefeld has a great affinity for the late comic book creator Jack Kirby. Readers might also note that Prophet's intelligent orbiting satellite, D.O.C.C. (which stands for Direct Orbital Command Center), which apparently restores Prophet's powers and acts as his counselor, is much like Jack Kirby's Brother Eye satellite from his OMAC series. Liefeld acknowledges the similarities but says that they're unintentional.
"The only link is that there's a satellite that talks to Prophet. I don't want to give much away…but the reader will find out that D.O.C.C. has nothing to do with Prophet's powers. We'll see that when D.O.C.C. is destroyed, Prophet will not be affected. Y'know, honestly, I see more of a resemblance of Prophet to Captain America." That Marvel character also underwent experimentation and is also considered a supersoldier.
"By now, readers should be discovering that not everything that we've said about Prophet in the monthly book is true," Liefeld laughs. "In the first four issues of Prophet, we told the readers everything that John Prophet knows about his own origin. Then, starting in #5, we've started to show that Prophet himself doesn't know his own past. Both he and the readers have always assumed that Prophet was in stasis ever since World War II, but that's not true. The readers have now seen him being used as a mindless weapon of war in Vietnam, and the question is now how often has Prophet been used to do various dirty deeds - and how bad were they?
"The fact that Prophet was used in Vietnam [against the Viet Cong] says that he might have - and probably was - used elsewhere," Platt says. "He was basically a weapon that was rented out to whomever would pay enough money. Need a one-man army? Pay up and you get Prophet."
But not permanently. "Whenever a government rented or acquired Prophet, the neuromanipulative implants that the government implanted into [his brain] wouldn't last forever, as we showed in the Vietnam issue. Sooner or later, his neural network is going to override the commands that he's being given, so you have to send him in and out fast and go for quick, brutal missions…"
"Basically," Liefeld concludes, "Prophet's much more of a scary guy now - not because of things that he's done consciously, but things that he's done subconsciously. It really serves to add to his character; there are a lot of levels in Prophet."
Platt is also taken by the character's complexity. "Prophet's going to feel responsible for the things that people forced him to do, even though he can't remember them. He's always thought of himself as a good person, and now he's discovering that the things he did were hideous by all standards of human decency. He's going to have to take a spiritual journey to discover who he really is. Journeys that take place entirely inside your head are the best kind to write about.
"Prophet's got a long way to go for him to sort himself out - and this is a great way to start it all up."
Of course, every epic needs a villain, which Prophet got in issue #4. "The principal villain in Prophet is a man named Omen - he's a diabolical genius. Pretty original, huh?" Platt jokes.
"I don't want to soapbox with Prophet, but I was [talking] with a friend about Robert Oppenheimer's experiments and wondering if it was a good thing or not," Platt says. "He knew his work on splitting the atom was going to be used for malicious means before benefiting society. The very first thing they developed with these breakthroughs was the atom bomb, of course. I think Einstein knew just as well what he was getting into. They knew what they were participating in, but they stuck with it.
"Nothing places the human race in more peril than an irresponsible genius," Platt asserts. "A genius has the power to open doors for both the good and bad of mankind. Omen is an evil person, a narcissist, and he's insane. But he's a genius - you can't doubt his intelligence. He's extremely formidable and extremely intelligent; this is what happens when a monolithic intellect is matched with a monstrous person.
"We like to think that scientists are naturally altruistic people…but they're just people," the artists says. "They'll work for the best offer they can find, and if it's making biological weapons for the CIA, then that's what they'll take."
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© 1994 Gareb Shamus Enterprises Inc.