Presidential Election Meets Sci-Fi in SAUCER COUNTRY

 

As U.S. citizens go to the polls today, there's a race for the White House heating up in a comic that's reflecting political reality.

Saucer Country, the new Vertigo comic by writer Paul Cornell, mixes the volatile political climate of a U.S. presidential campaign with the world of alien abductions and UFOs.

The first collection of the new series, titled "Run," will be released on Nov. 27th. And the monthly issues have just reached a climactic moment that should drastically change the presidential race.

The story, drawn by artist Ryan Kelly, centers on Arcadia Alvarado, the Mexican-American governor of New Mexico. As she's about to embark on a campaign for president, she and her alcoholic ex are abducted by aliens.

Suddenly, her campaign for the presidency takes on new meaning as she begins a quest for answers about what happened to her.

The comic also includes accounts of "true stories" about people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, as Saucer Country examines the mythology surrounding UFOs in both the real world and its fictional one.

Cornell is a former TV writer who's well-known among Doctor Who fans, but he's also made a name for himself in comics with runs on titles like Action Comics, Captain Britain and MI: 13 and Demon Knights.

In a spoiler free interview for people interested in the collection as well as the monthly issues, Newsarama talked with Cornell about the fictional presidential race and how the realistic meets the fantastic in Saucer Country.

Newsarama: Paul, I'd like to do this interview spoiler-free, for people who might not be aware of this series. As the first collected edition is coming out in November, how would you describe the series and what you're getting to delve into in the first story arc that's collected in the trade?

Paul Cornell: Saucer Country is me getting to do two of my favorite things at once, which is politics and UFO mythology.

But the very simplest description of the comic is that it's the story of Arcadia Alvarado, the governor of New Mexico, who is abducted by aliens on the eve of her deciding to run for president. So it becomes about her campaign for president, combined with the complications and the trauma and investigation of this experience she's had.

Nrama: When you first told me about the series, I expected one thing, but I feel like there's just so much more to the story than that simple explanation. Or at least, it's not the "expected" alien abduction story.

Cornell: I think people expected an alien "invasion" story, and it's not. This isn't that type of comic.

Nrama: I think what makes it unique is that there are so many different points of view to this mythology, but they're all connected more and more as the story progresses — particularly her ex, Michael, and Professor Kidd. Can you describe their different points of view?

Cornell: Michael is Arcadia's former husband, and we find out he was in the car when she was abducted. And their memories of the events don't agree with each other, and he is desperate to find out what happened to him.

 

Arcadia has got her quest to get her through. She's got her aim now to become president, to find out more about this. She has the potential to have power over her situation, at least slightly.

But Michael is completely at sea. Not only was he at a crossroads in his relationship with Arcadia, which has now changed, but after what he's been through, he isn't even sure of his reality now. Things changed for him. He's very lost in the world. I think it's a very modern character, this guy who's completely lost. I've become increasingly fond of him, actually. His lack of heroism, and the fact that he's just trying to get by, is very interesting.

Arcadia is a hero to some extent. She has a mission in life. But Michael just is trying to survive.

Professor Kidd, on the other hand, is coming at this from the point of view of a former Harvard professor, with a very skeptical yet interested point of view. He's somebody who's very interested in UFO mythology, but he doubts. It's the point of view I actually have myself. I'm very interested in this mythological stuff. I think there may be something to it. But I don't buy into any quick solutions to it.

So Kidd is a doubter, but his saving grace is that he cares so much. He believes the people he interviews, as he investigates it. His final verdict on Arcadia was, "I'm sorry you were tortured." Not the nature of what her experience was, but he's sorry for how horrible it was. That's why he's in our cast, to be a voice of compassion.

We also find out that Kidd is haunted by the couple that appears on the plaque that's on the side of Pioneer 10, the space probe that has now left the solar system. They pop up and advise him to do things, and seem to have some behind-the-scene knowledge of his life. There's an indication that there's something going on with him. He hasn't admitted that he sees them to anybody else. So we have that mystery added to his point of view.

Nrama: You mentioned that you have a passion for UFO mythology. Did that play into your research for the comic? Did you already know a lot of this stuff?

Cornell: Oh, yeah. I have always been a student of UFO mythology, since the 1970's, literally since childhood. I didn't even have to do much research. I just had to go back and check the things I remembered. UFO mythology is still so deep and multi-faceted and interesting, that even though it's been explored by shows like The X-Files, they really didn't cover the breadth of it at all. And it's changed an awful lot since that show ended, as well.

It's also vastly self-contradictory, this body of myth. So there's always stuff that nobody's ever talked about. So I just wanted to go in and start dealing with pieces of it.

 

I think we've found a new way to look at the mythology. It's something I'm very proud of. I think we're doing good work.

Nrama: One of the other aspects of this comic is that it's examining a presidential race while the U.S. is actually involved in a presidential race. How has that informed what you're doing in the comic?

Cornell: American politics fascinate me, and the comic has loads of political maneuverings and process in it that I'm very proud of.

In the comic, people say that it's impossible for Arcadia to successfully run, to be the leading candidate because she's a Latino woman. But this is only the case until somebody does it, particularly when the Spanish-speaking population of the States is growing. So that gives the comic's presidential race an interesting twist that's actually based on the real situation.

But yes, I am watching the presidential race with great interest. I'm amazed at some of the dynamics I'm seeing.

And it does influence the way I'm writing Saucer Country. We have a Republican political strategist in the comic who is working for Arcadia, who is a Democrat. So we have quite a bit of that element in the comic. And all of these things we're seeing now in the current race do get boiled down into what I'm writing in the comic.

Of course, it's a fictional campaign of a fictional contender. So we reflect reality, but we're telling it within the framework of this story.

Nrama: How has it been working with Ryan Kelly?

Cornell: It's been just amazing. I can say to him something like, "Here's what the character looks like, but here's what they're really thinking," and his acting is so good that he can portray all of that within his drawing. So I don't have to say everything in dialogue, and also I can have characters say one thing but mean something else in their acting.

Nrama: And finally, for people who are reading the comic, obviously something big has just happened in the comic. Without spoiling that event for trade readers, can you tease what's coming up for those of us who are reading it monthly?

Cornell: These three issues, #7, #8 and #9, are, I think, some of my best work in comics. It's a simple single story with three threads.

As far as what just happened, that picture is a genuine depiction of exactly what is going on.

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