INTERVIEW: Bill Groshelle talks OPERATION DRAGON and how dinosaurs fit into World War II

Last week Dark Horse Comics released Operation Dragon, a new graphic novel by writers Bill Groshelle (Top Gun, Doomsday Chronicles) & Brendan Cahill (Morbius, Silver Sable, The Harcourt Legacy), artist Germán Peralta, colorist Kristian Rossi, and cover artist Randy Gaul. This ‘mythic adventure’ untangles the lives of three American soldiers at a Japanese weapons-research base during World War II. A disgraced ex-cop, a mobster, and an intelligence officer are forced to team up and investigate a highly confidential weapon only to find out their fate is now in the claws of trained dinosaurs.

“The book started as a screenplay. I decided to re-engineer it as a graphic novel,” Groshelle revealed to The Beat. Cahill joined him later to adapt the entire screenplay into a graphic novel. Mashups have always been a popular trope but it comes with challenges of its own, to have “people resonate” with stories that have with unusual circumstances or settings. “It can be tricky but I think there’s room to have fun with it,” he added. Some of Groshelle’s personal influences include Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (2009) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011).

Operation Dragon has an abundance of fast-paced action panels balanced with the compelling back stories for the protagonists, giving the three characters a chance at winning sympathy from readers. Having a professional background in animation and live-action movies for many years, Groshelle confirmed that storyboarding for filming is a lot like creating a graphic novel. “Action is fun to experience in books or films, but you have to care about the characters or it’s all just eye-candy,” he said. “California Institute of the Arts imbued me with a sense that story is the paramount thing that counts in any type of creative project. The beauty of producing a graphic novel is you can create a feature film with unlimited special effects for a tiny fraction of the cost.”

Using Groshelle’s screenplay as a roadmap for the graphic novel, the duo split the storyline into eight chapters that each ended in a cliffhanger. All was going well until long-distance collaboration between them and the art team in Buenos Aires got interrupted. “The toughest part was Germán getting scooped by Marvel halfway through the book,” Groshelle shared. Though the writing duo had everything planned out, it was Peralta’s idea to play around with the panels and bring the story to life. The artist has worked on Marvel titles including Maestro: War and Pax, King in Black: Black Panther, and Strikeforce.

The aforementioned cliffhangers work in Operation Dragon to a great extent, mainly because of how diabolical the antagonist is. General Ryu, leader of the Japanese military research, has a peculiar personality with a “refined and philosophical demeanor.” Groshelle revealed that Cahill made him more terrifying by making him a junkie for dinosaur serum. “We thought this gave him an extra dimension, that was a plus,” he said. Groshelle also has a soft spot for Tony Bruno, the mobster who naturally comes off as “the bad guy who’s made a career of doing bad things” but eventually redeems himself. Lieutenant King, the intelligence officer, comes a close second for him, as she is the most competent and righteous character, the moral compass of the trio.

Groshelle is currently working on a new book that takes a somewhat similar approach to mixing genres and timeframes.

Operation Dragon is available in bookstores and comic shops now.

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