The Mac Walters Mass Effect Interview: Part 4

In this final part of the Critics Circle’s week-long series, Mac Walters espouses his views on the Illusive Man. Who is he? How did he come to be? Was his creation really inspired by The Smoking Man on The X-Files? Read on!

HG: What is the overarching role of the Illusive Man in the comics?

MW: He will do anything for the sake of humanity in the game, even the horrible things sometimes, if that’s what’s necessary. But he’s a very gray character. What is his moral stance? Can you trust him? But as the name suggests, we didn’t give you a lot of hints about who he is. The comic was a chance for us to go back in time and discover how he got to be the head of this massive organization, Cerberus and what established his pro-human world view. So we find out about the key points in his life that made him what he is in the game. We have this character who is cerebral, clearly very powerful, but what was he like as a young man? Did he get out? Was he rough and tumble with a gun?

HG: In essence, he’s you and he’s me. This guy really in a sense is EveryMan because we all have what he has in us. But he’s also like the Smoking Man from The X-Files, and the Virtuous Man as well. Or are people just riffing on what they think you’ve been inspired by?

MW: I’m sure it’s a bit of both. We’re all riffing on something and our ideas are based on our experiences and what we’ve seen. But we wanted him to be very unique and iconic, even down to the stage we always witness him on. What is that sort of sleek, black room he sits in with his chair while he has his drink and has a cigarette?

Casey (Hudson) even had some people in real life to riff on, the people at a party someone instantly gravitates to because they have a strong presence. Plus, we’re fleshing out his back story. But because of his nature, he’s never going to be the kind of character that we’re going to learn too much about in the game.

He’s not the kind of guy that will hang out with you and have windy conversations about his past. So the comic gives us a snapshot of what happened back in time. But not too much. When the comics starts, he’s already in his thirties. So what did he do before that? What was his childhood like? We want to leave that open to people’s imaginations or for further story telling in the future.

HG: So what can you tell me about Mass Effect Evolution?

MW: It’s a new series of four comics, the first of which will hit in the first quarter of next year, and then, one issue a month for four months.

HG: What can you tell us about the plot?

MW: We’re not saying too much at this point. But if you’re familiar with the universe, you’ll see people and places that you’re familiar with. But they’ll be in situations you won’t expect to see them in.

HG: What about the Illusive Man?

MW: We’ll see him in a more active role that we’ve ever seen him before. We’ll tell a little history about the First Contact War. So we’ll know a bit more about these guys, the Turians. We’ll know more about humanity’s first step and then misstep into the Mass Effect universe and ending up in war with one of the powerful species there. Through a person that we know now is so knowledgeable and has a wealth of information at his disposal, what was the universe looking like to him as one of the first humans to explore it?

But each of the mediums has its own flavor. I worked with the Dark Horse people to make sure this wasn’t just a good Mass Effect story. First and foremost, it was a really good comic book story.

-Harold Goldberg

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