Imagine a world where the rulebook of physics is thrown out the window and replaced by wormholes and black holes showing up almost anywhere and anytime. Collider from Vertigo, once called "Strangeways" until re-Christened later, tells the story of the task force responsible for dealing with such anomalies. The central focus of the book is Adam Hardy, a budding superstar in the Federal Bureau of Physics, aka the FBP, who discovers things are not all well within the Bureau.
Newsarama recently spoke with the writer of the series, Simon Oliver , and now we change gears to discuss the book with artist and a rising star in his own right, Robbi Rodrigez. This is Rodriguez's first ongoing series for one of the Big Two, having honed his craft in the independent circuit with such hits as Oni Press' Polly and the Pirates 2 and Maintanence, as well as doing a fill-in on Uncanny X-Force with Rick Remender. We spoke to Rodriguez about the collaboration process with Oliver, working within different realms of the sci-fi genre, and why he sadly thinks he doesn't have all that much time left in the business.
Newsarama: Robbi, you've been in the indies for most of your career with only having done an issue of Uncanny X-Force at Marvel, with Collider being your big debut as well as first ongoing over at DC/Vertigo. What has this journey meant to you as a professional artist?
Robbi Rodriguez: Well first, let's not use that "artist" word. It sounds so pretentious and at this point much like the word "genius" it means nothing. Everything leading up to Collider has not been much of a journey. It just happened because I made a bit of buzz doing my own thing away from the mainstream or even the indie world. I had no ambitions to go to Marvel or DC ever in my comics career. It's just something that happen. Whether it's cause of the Image guys I broke in with taking over the industry or editors taking notice on the things I've been doing online. I never had the feeling of I've reached the destination, but more like I just stopped at a dive for a few beers. I could be here for a drink or I could close it down. But regardless, I'll always be on my way at the end of the night.
Nrama: You're no stranger to sci-fi stories as you've handled it in the past, especially with your webcomic "Frankie Get Your Gun", but what was your artistic approach going into something like Collider?
Rodriguez: The sci-fi in FGYG is bit more like the chaser after a shot of Bourbon whiskey. Collider's is far more like a nice Old Fashioned. It has to be balanced just right or the drink can go to shit. There some ideas I've been playing with for a bit that just did not work for FGYG, but would work for something that I'll get to after Frankie is completed. Collider was the perfect R and D lab to work these out. I knew color would be a big part of it as well. I went in wanting to do big ideas of the scale of AKIRA or Neon Genesis Evangelion. The subject matter is great for that type of Japanese storytelling and I wanted to push myself in that direction before I pull it back in with my next solo book. So basically, lots of thin lines and open shapes. Lots of black lines and closed in spaces. Something of that nature.
Nrama: You're paired up with Rico Renzi on colors for the book. This is not your first collaboration together, so what is it about Renzi's palette that attracts you?
Rodriguez: Well, it is actually our first time working together outside of some pin-up fan art stuff in the past. Like every pro, I love his work with Chris Brunner. I've known Rico for a while as we share mutual friends and we both have the same line of thinking when it comes to color theory. If you look at both of our works we tend to pick the same color schemes: pinks, yellows, and purples. You see those same colors if you look at the universe photos and I want you to see them on the page when we are dealing with the same subject matters. Rico is also a guy who needs his due in this business and I want to show a large audience what the man can do. By the way, Rico and I have agreed fuchia is out, teals and lime greens are in.
Nrama: What was it about Collider that made you want to get on board in the first place?
Rodriguez: Many factors want into it.
Well, I said no to the project a few times and this was at a time when I was basically unemployed. I was not a fan of the initial pitch and I told editor Mark Doyle I can't see myself doing it. I mean I've spent most of my career working on projects I forced myself to fit into. Mark called me back and asked what I would change and what would I do with if I can control it. I gave him my thoughts, talked to Simon, and we were off to the races and I said to send over the paperwork. What came into saying yes was I wanted to know if I can do a monthly again. I said yes because I wanted to see if I could help make a new [intellectual property]. I said yes because I wanted to see if I can push this book to the point to where they will fire me. But also, I said yes as an advertisement for FGYG and to build my brand. I said yes to invest cash flow in myself and I said yes because I'm thirty now and I need to put some money away because I see my career being done in five to ten years.
Nrama: Why do you think your career will be done in the next 5-10 years? Is that self-imposed?
Rodriguez: The way my eyes and my body are going it's all I think I have left in the tank. I was burnt out when I took the X-Force gig and the Vertigo work started coming just after that. I know myself that I won't stop to take a break or a vacation because that just drives me nuts. Also in my ten years, it's the only real time I've made any cash doing this. So I can't stop at the moment. I can't only push myself to do everything I need to say in the medium that I can.
Nrama: The series got delayed for some time now, aside from working and polishing up your issues, what else have you been up to?
Rodriguez: Thats the catch about this. I've only been able to work on Collider. I'm too burnt out and my body is just too broken down to work on FGYG at the same time so that's been sadly on hold. I got the FGYG album and shot a video for it during the time, but I no other comic work has been made. All the punishment I did to myself in my 20's is catching up.
Nrama: Were there any challenges that you found difficult as you built this world?
Rodriguez: The biggest challenge was coming to a compromise on the world from all three parties: the office, Simon, and myself. As far as anything else, the book takes place in this alternative world where I can just make it up as I go.
Nrama: What has Collider offered you as an artist creatively that no other past project has?
Rodriguez: The biggest shock I had coming into the mainstream was the control of the art direction of this book. Bringing in Rico for colors as well as Nathan Fox for the covers as soon as I heard he was free and trusting the talent I brought in to take the load off of me. I mean that logo is all Nathan without my input and it came out perfect. The packaging of this book is something I can be proud of. Outside of FGYG, I can not say I was ever proud of the packaging of my indie stuff. I never had that control in my ten years, but find it odd that I get it at a Time-Warner company. Now this is not a Sean Murphy "I'm glad I'm a DC guy now" moment. I'm well aware that I work for a corporation with intentions of IP farming. I am just emphasizing that I'm shocked with the amount of control in the corporate world then what could be called the "creator-owned" world. They are getting their money's worth for sure.
Nrama: Would you consider doing another monthly when/if your time on Collider is up?
Rodriguez: I don't think so. I like one-and-done stories as I grew up on EC Comics. I want to go back and do my solo stuff again. The more and more I work in this field, the more I feel I'm not the best collaborator. If I do anything it will be because a friend is working on the project. I think after this I'll just work on my own stuff and my core group of buds. If it's an ongoing and it seems to get my rocks off, who knows.
Nrama: Were there any influences you took from when designing these characters and this world or was it all you and Simon?
Rodriguez: A bit of both, actually. The cast started out as five and we cut it down to three. I made the call on Adam's Arabic look as I wanted a real diverse cast. Some of the cast where just bits that simon had in mind that I amped up and others were just the charters talking to me, describing what they looked liked. The look of the world was all me. Again, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a big influence on the book and I wanted to create an American version of that; timeless with mixed tech here and there. It's like FGYG, but on the other end of the spectrum.
Nrama: What do you want your fans to get out of Collider once they've put it down?
Rodriguez: Could I just spout out movie poster tag lines like it's a roaring adventure and blah blah blah? No, I can't. I think it's unlike any that's in the new Vertigo line-up and proud that it's a major player in the new relaunch. I mean you see Nathan's cover with all the rest and it just punches you in the mouth. That's what I want. I want you rubbing your jaw and feel like we did not waste your time knocking you on your ass.