Word of the Nerd interviews writer James Robinson (Starman, Airboy) and artist J. BONE (The Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror, The Spirit) about their series The Saviors published by Image Comics. A trade paperback collecting issues 1 through 5 will be available October 26th.
Synopsis: Tomas Ramirez discovers a deadly extraterrestrial conspiracy to take over the world. He joins forces with other freedom fighters to defeat the secret alien cabal who will stop at nothing to conquer the Earth.
The Saviors is a wonderful homage to the 1950s space alien invasion flicks, especially The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Were you a fan of these films from the Atomic Age?
James: I think Jay and I both gravitated towards the “horror film as a sign of society’s fear and paranoia” type films of the 1950s. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Them, The Thing From Another Planet. Those movies, while being exciting horror flicks of their day, also spoke of society’s fear of the future, of the cold-war, of the bomb. I think society’s looking over it’s shoulder a bit now too, with politics and terrorism and the gradual realization of what we’ve done to the planet. The underlying question I think Jay and I wanted to pose is “would being controlled by the aliens be so bad?” Even though we’re portraying the aliens and as evil and a threat, is what they want for us any worse that what we’re doing with ourselves.
J.: I absolutely love ‘50s invasion and monster movies. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (from the ‘70s) was one of the movies James and I talked about when we started working on The Saviors. The idea was “What if mankind is actually better off under alien control?” I think it’s a fascinating idea. Naturally there will be people who don’t agree with what the aliens are doing; that man should be left alone to survive or bring about its own destruction without interference.
Unlike the dashing leading man usually found in sci-fi films of the 1950s, Tomas is the hero of the story. Tomas’ recreational pot smoking gives him a heightened sense of perception. His ability to detect the aliens posing as humans is as serendipitous as the common cold killing the Martians in H.G. Wells War of the Worlds. How you decide to make the affable and mellow Tomas the world’s unlikely savior?
James: That definitely comes from the other influence (for me anyway) for this series, that being the Phillip Kaufman 1970s version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It got me thinking about 70s films and how even none Sci-Fi films had these stars in them who by today’s standards of looks were character actors. Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Al Pacino, Gene Hackman. The 1970s were a time we character won over looks in terms of who were movie stars. At the same it made the films of that time far more believable. And a lot of those films — The Conversation and The Parallax View immediately spring to mind — had that sense of paranoia and unease even if they weren’t Sci-Fi or horror. Even Close Encounters of the Third Kind had Richard Dreyfus as its start and a Government that was shadowy and conspiratorial. Tomas is us doing that kind of a hero. Scruffy, believable, relatable
The story and art are the perfect pairing for a series that is both horrific and humorous. Tell us how you decide approach fleshing out the visual approach for The Saviors.
James: I remember seeing Jay’s style for The Saviors and being blown away by it. How it was true to what I’d seen of him before, but with more of an animated/Pixar feel to it also. It suited the story, marrying his slightly cartoony style with an edge and sophistication I loved. There was a lot of great comic book storytelling too, in terms of layout and panel-by-panel transition that Jay brought to the project, which blew me away. This certainly ranks among the best work Jay has ever done.
J.: James and I started this project as a team. I’d wanted to do something a little more serious but still drawn in my cartoony style. As it turned out I decided to ink The Saviors in pen rather than my usual thick brush line which gives it a different look. It may be that the way I exaggerate expressions is what some people interpret as “cartoony”…so I’m still doing that, but with more detail. The important thing for me was giving life to the characters James wrote. I wanted them to have different personalities on a visual level to reflect their dialogue. James’ dialogue helped me find their traits and “act” out the characters on the page.
Tell me a bit about the collaborative process that brought The Saviors to the printed page?
James: There was a lot of back-and-forth to start as we were working the idea up. and then we went into our camps of writer and artist. We probably should have spoken more, but at the same time it gave me the thrill of seeing his art coming at me, out of the blue. I loved getting these pages with clean line and such beautiful use of shadow, tone and color.
J.: We built up a lot of the groundwork together through conversations and email. James would write and I’d start drawing once I got the script. I don’t remember having too much back and forth as I drew other than to, I think, send James pages as I worked. I tend to be an introvert/hermit when I’m drawing.
What I really loved about the script was how James fleshed out the characters. My job was to interpret his words in a way that (hopefully) added to the story. It was a nice challenge to ‘act’ through drawing. I worked to give the characters their own body language as much as I could. To think about who they are and what they might be presenting visually as they spoke. Character acting and location research are two of my favorite elements in drawing comics. In Saviors I got to work on both those skills.
The first and second issues of The Saviors added grey tones to the black and white line art. Issue #3 you introduced other tones based on location (e.g. brown for Playa Del Angelina and blue for sequences on the water.) Was it your intention all along to use certain colors as a story telling device?
J.: The change in colour was James’ idea. The book starts out like a black and white ‘50s desert- town invasion movie and then changes to terra-cotta when we move to Mexico. I love that shift from cool to warmer color and then ending on the cold blue-grey when we’re out on the ocean. My favorite coloring style is to use more abstract elements and graphic shapes to lead the readers’ eye. The color is more about establishing geography and the mood of each place.
The first issue of The Saviors was released December 2013 and finale August 2014. The Saviors will see release as a collected trade paperback October 26th 2016. Has the hiatus from the series been the result of the busy schedule of both James on Airboy and your self taking over the art on The Rocketeer at War for Dave Bullock with issue #3? Or were there other factors that made late October 2016 the date for the trade’s release?
James: I think we could both have gotten the collection together in a more timely manner, but I think the time away helped us see the project with fresh eyes. I know that critically looking at the pages again for the collection has made me re-appreciate the story as a whole, as well as Jay’s amazing art and all he did on it.
J.: I take responsibility for this one. There were a few art changes I wanted to make as well as adding all the sketch material on the back-end. I started and stopped a few times compiling everything. Finally James got us on a schedule and with help from Joel Enos (and all the designers at Image) we got everything compiled into the collection. I just got my comps and I have to say I’m incredibly proud of how this came out. Makes a grown man cry to see all that work together in one beautiful package.
Will there be any original script pages or concept art included the trade paper back of The Saviors?
James: Script pages, not so much. I’m not a big believer in showing too much of that.
J.: Concept art – yes.
Will the next arc previewed at the conclusion of issue 5 follow The Saviors trade paperback? What can you share with us about the arc coming up next?
James: The series may be on the shelf, but I don’t feel it’s been totally put away. I’ve actually had ideas about the series and new adventures even as the collection was being put together. And I would LOVE to work with Jay again. Our collaboration really is among my favorites.
J.: I know we’d both like to tell more stories in this world. The next issues were going to involve different characters dealing with the invasion in an earlier time and a different country. It was a lot of work (enjoyable, but drawing comics is still work) and I know that I needed a break. One year leads to three and then suddenly you’re wondering why you haven’t been drawing more of that alien invasion comic.Looking through the art these past months reminded me how much I love the characters and enjoyed working with James.
THE SAVIORS trade paperback is available at comic book stores Wednesday, October 26th, and bookstores Tuesday, November 1st.
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