In a special edition of our Lightning Session interview series, we sit down with Max and Greg Borenstein, real-life cousins and writers of ‘Godzilla: Awakening’, the newest graphic novel release from Legendary Comics. Below we discuss their favorite comics, writing a comic vs. a screenplay, their earliest Godzilla memories & more! Name: Max Borenstein Why you’ve heard of him: Max Borenstein is a filmmaker and the screenwriter of Legendary's 'Godzilla’, as well as co-author of the graphic novel ‘Godzilla: Awakening’. How to connect with him: @MAXBORENSTEIN (Twitter) Name: Greg Borenstein Why you’ve heard of him: Researcher in the Playful Systems Group at the MIT Media Lab. Explores new possibilities for play created by computer vision, machine learning, and ubiquitous digital devices. How to connect with him: @atduskgreg (Twitter) & gregborenstein.com What’s your favorite comic of all time and why? Max Borenstein (MB): ‘From Hell’. It’s just one of the best books I’ve ever read, period. Alan Moore is a titan. (Source: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/perennials/) Greg Borenstein (GB): Since Max already went with Moore, I’ll say ‘American Flagg!’ by Howard Chaykin. It’s like a pop art version of ‘Blade Runner’. Visionary science fiction told through some of the most inventive graphical storytelling in comics. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Flagg!) What about the future of comics are you most excited about? MB: I’m loving Comixology and the expansion of comics into a digital space. I don’t know what’s coming next, but I suspect the lines between comics and motion pictures may continue to blur. GB: I’m also excited about digital distribution — above all because of the incredible diversity of creators and comics it makes available. As readers we’ve never had access to a greater variety of voices and stories. Mainstream superhero comics is stronger than it’s been in decades and the indie and creator-owned scenes have broadened comics to include stories about every facet of life in every genre and a growing array of styles. If your life was a comic book, who would write and illustrate it? MB: Ooh. Can it be Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, just because? GB: There’s definitely days at MIT where things get weird enough that I feel like I’m in a Warren Ellis book. More ‘Doktor Sleepless’ or ‘Transmetropolitan’ than ‘Iron Man’, though, scarily. Awesome answers, guys. Now let’s talk ‘Godzilla: Awakening’! How did you approach this project? MB: This was an opportunity to expand the universe of the film. There was an idea I had during the writing of the screenplay about Dr. Serizawa’s backstory, which I always loved but wasn’t able to include in the film due to time constraints. So this felt like a great chance to use that kernel of an idea as a jumping-off point and really spin it into a full-scale yarn in its own right. GB: I’d also add that research was really important for us. We wanted to be true to the grounded style the film had set for ‘Godzilla’. Also with the historical nature of some of the material we cover — and I guess just my personality as a technologist, researcher, and all-around geek — we wanted the story to be grounded in real events and science as much as we could. So I did lots of reading about everything from the aftermath of the atomic bomb to what life was like on earth 250 million years ago. And, being at the Media Lab, I was able to pick the brains of some researchers working at the cutting edge of biology. How did your approach differ between writing the screenplay to writing the comic? MB: The writing of the comic was a complete collaboration between Greg and me, whereas the screenplay was something I wrote solo…though of course it was developed very much in conjunction with Gareth and the producers along the way. The collaborative process on this was the part I enjoyed the most, because I’d never had the chance to write with Greg before - and now it’s something I can’t wait to do again. GB: I can’t speak to Max’s screenwriting experience, but writing the comic really was amazingly collaborative in a way that none of my other work is. My normal work, whether its designing a game or developing a new 3D scanning technology, tends to have long isolated stretches where it’s just kind of “Me vs. Machine”. Max and I grew up together very closely, almost as brothers at times, so we have an uncanny ability to communicate and understand each other. I also can’t wait to do more of it. What’s your first Godzilla memory? How were you first introduced to the character? MB: I first became aware of Godzilla after seeing Power Rangers as a kid and thinking “What is this strange phenomenon?!” then going to the video store and seeking out the early Japanese creature features, which provided a history to that weird program on afternoon TV. I watched a lot of the first and second series of Godzilla at that time, and the part that I liked - or got a kick out of - was the campiness. Later on, I moved on to different films and obsessions and relegated Godzilla in my memory to the realm of kitsch and camp… all that changed once I finally saw the original Japanese film ‘Gojira’ (which I’d only seen in its American re-cut), and it completely redefined my sense of what a Godzilla film could be. To me, it’s still the high bar of what to strive for. GB: I’d also been vaguely aware of Godzilla growing up. Then the Roland Emmerich film came out when I was in high school. My friends and I went to see it and were disgusted by how bad it was. But as self-styled film geeks we decided to rent the original Japanese one to compare. We were shocked by how much better it was, how it managed to combine the fun of a monster movie with a powerful sense of anxiety about nuclear weapons. Do you want to continue to be involved in comics, and if so, which type of stories do you want to tell? MB: Hell yes! Greg and I are already working on a new series. I don’t know if I could classify what “type” of stories, except to say: things that belong in comics. I think there’s a very specific type of story (many types) more suited to the graphic novel form than, say, a screen. So those are the ones I’d like to write as comics. And I really would love to keep on doing it. The more storytelling in the more media the better! GB: Absolutely! As Max said, we’re already working on a new idea. Without giving away too much about it, I’ll say that it’s inspired by some of the emerging technology I’ve seen and worked with at MIT. I love science fiction as a way to imagine how new technology will actually feel as it starts to enter and transform people’s lives. As scientists and researchers we get to live with new technology long before it’s ready for use by most people. Telling stories, particularly in comic form, is a great way to imagine the personal and societal consequences of what we invent and to communicate that to a wider audience. As the great SF author, Frederik Pohl said, “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam”. It’s been a pleasure, so thank you so much to both of you. 'Godzilla: Awakening' is in stores now, and you can see ‘Godzilla’ in theaters May 16.