The 1960's was a radical time in American history, but also gave us some of the most popular icons in pop culture, especially in the realm of comics. What happens if you take those familiar tropes such as secret agents, costumed criminals, evil terrorist organizations, and sprinkle in super-powered heroes out to save the world? You end up with something like Chris Roberson and Scott Kowalchuk's The Strangers, debuting this weekend as the Free Comic Book Day offering from Oni Press.
Newsarama talked with Roberson and Kowalchuck about The Strangers and the Strangers themselves, all the fun inspirations that went into the creation of this world, as well as the potential for an ongoing in the future.
Newsarama: So, Chris, can you set the stage for world of The Strangers, and who they are?
Chris Roberson: The Strangers is a superspy supernatural adventure in the swinging '60s. The “Strangers” themselves are three people who have been changed by contact with energies and entities from other planes of existence, touched by the strange and made stranger as a result. They take their instructions from Absalom Quince, an expert in the supernatural and paranormal who seldom leaves the rambling mansion called Strangeways Manor.
Nrama: Scott, you're a relative newcomer, but really picking up steam in the independent scene. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what attracted you to something like The Strangers?
Scott Kowalchuk: Thank you! My first series, The Intrepids, was published in 2011 by Image Comics. Since wrapping that book I have been put to work by Oni Press. Prior to leaping into Strangers last year I worked on an OGN for Oni called Down Set Fight (with writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers).
The main attraction to The Strangers for me was again working with Oni Press and getting the huge opportunity to work with Chris Roberson! Since first reading iZOMBIE I've been a massive fan of Roberson's work. It's been a complete blast getting to work with one of my favorite writers.
When Chris pitched me The Strangers I was immediately hooked. I'm a sucker for 1960s TV, movies and pop culture, so this book was an enthusiastic 'YES!' from me.
Nrama: The term "spyfi" is tossed around a lot when talking about The Strangers, Chris, what where some inspirations that went into writing this world and characters?
Roberson: The inspirations are probably too many to list them all, but the look and feel of the series in general was definitely inspired by things I watched growing up. And the inspiration is probably most evident in the structure and design than in the specific characters themselves. The series is set in the Sixties, but not the 1960s you’d find in a history book. Instead, it is set in the high contrast, brightly colored world found in TV shows and movies like Danger: Diabolik, Our Man Flint, The Avengers, and The Prisoner. Not the Sixties as it really was, but as the period imagined itself to be.
In many ways, I’ve approached this as a modern day comic book adaptation of a Sixties TV show that never existed.
Nrama: Why did Oni seem like the publisher to take this story to?
Roberson: It was actually the other way around. I really wanted to work with Oni because I’m a big fan of the work they do, and I really like the people there on a personal level. So it was a question of figuring out a project that would be a good fit for them. They had been wanting to find a project for Scott to draw, and Scott had mentioned in an interview that he’d be interested in collaborating with me some day, so Oni paired us up, blind-date-style, to see what happened. Scott and I swapped a bunch of emails and a few phone calls, figuring out what kinds of things it would be fun to work on together, and discovered our mutual love for Sixties-era TV and movies. The Strangers was the result.
Nrama: Scott, how would you describe your artistic style? It definitely has an old-school vibe to it. Can you tell us some of your influences?
Kowalchuk: I think my style is 'fun.' I have lots of fun drawing comic books and I very much hope readers get swept up in my enthusiasm.
Guys like Mike Allred, Chris Samnee and Javier Pulido draw comic books that look like comic books (to me). When I look at work from those guys I get wrapped up in the world of comic book wonder. I'm also extremely fond of David Mazzucchelli, Chester Gould, the Hernandez Bros and Alex Toth.
Nrama: On a scale from Get Smart to the James Bond series, where do you guys put something like The Strangers?
Kowalchuk: I think The Strangers takes elements from the British Avengers, Batman '66, and Mission: Impossible. It's a boatload of fun imagining this series slotted amongst my favorite 60's TV.
Roberson: On a scale from Get Smart to James Bond, I would rank The Strangers as falling right around Derek Flint.
Nrama: So you have the FCBD issue coming out this weekend but, is there a potential for an ongoing down the line?
Kowalchuk: Oh yes! Oni Press has been incredibly supportive of us and The Strangers. Chris and I have lots of mythology to develop around this series and these characters.
Roberson: We have loads of story ideas for this series, and we’ll keep telling them as long as we’re able!