The day after Christmas, the aliens are coming. And it’s all James Robinson’s fault.
On December 26, 2013, Image Comics will publish the first issue of a new ongoing series titled The Saviors, which shows Robinson and artist J. Bone craft a story of aliens and alienation. It all begins when Tomas, a “naïve slacker” as the writer describes him, ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and stumbles upon a secret invasion of Earth by monstrous shape-shifting aliens. The Saviors follows Tomas and others like him as they attempt to transform from unknowning bystanders to fighters on the front line against a secret war happening in the world around us.
The Saviors is the first in a wave of new series Robinson is launching, joining his upcoming Marvel series Fantastic Four and All-New Invaders as well as a second creator-owned book, Grand Passion, scheduled to launch at Dynamite later in 2014. So Robinson’s writing about an alien invasion while amounting a invasion of his own into your local comics store and comics reading device.
Newsarama: James, what can you tell our readers about The Saviors?
James Robinson: Well, basically it is an alien conspiracy horror comic where an innocent, naive slacker discovers, completely by chance, an alien infiltration of the human race. In the course of eluding the aliens and finding other people aware of the infiltration, he becomes more of a hero and less a helpless young guy with no clue.
In the series, the cast is going to change constantly. We’re jumping to different parts of the world to follow different sets of people embroiled in different aspects of the unfolding drama. It’s very much a big world epic, and at the same time it deals with aliens who may or may not be an actual threat at all. There’s a lot of secrets going on.
Nrama: I’ve read in another interview you did that the aliens invading think they’re the “Saviors” of the title. What’s going on with them?
Robinson: Everyone has their own perceptions, don’t they? Every political party believes they have the right course of action for people. The aliens believe they’re in the right, even though their actions can involve the deaths of a large amount of humanity. They believe they’re doing it for the planet’s benefit.
Nrama: Good intentioned or not, your “slacker” Tomas Ramiraz is onto them. Tell us about him.
Robinson: He lives in a small town, not too far from the Mexican border. He’s just an American kid. Like most every other small town, most everyone has moved off for bigger things but he’s still there working at a gas station, getting high (or drunk) on his breaks and not fulfilling life. One day he happens to see the wrong thing at the wrong time, and that one moment of misadventure snowballs into a colossal adventure.
Nrama: You’ve described these aliens as monsters – what was the process like between you and J. Bone in figuring out what they would look like?
Robinson: Well, they have two appearances, and one of them is monstrous. What I wanted to do with the book is combine the spooky, creepy aspects of pulps stories, the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie and the short-lived The Invaders TV show from the 1960s. I try to combine that with, at the same time, the idea of these somewhat human looking aliens can when the situatioon require transform into really monstrous creatures like in John Carpenter’s The Thing. Real big monster horror, which thinking about it is the other end of the spectrum from Invasion of the Body Snatchers in terms of 1950s alien horror films. So with that in mind, we have two different appearances of the aliens. One is slightly lizard-like, humanoid look that we see, at least through the eyes of Tomas. When they need to do something involving action or killing -- big action, they can transform into anything they want. So one minute the aliens could transform into a giant crab creature or some horrific dragon/pterodactyl, or an undersea creature. Anything. Literally, there’s a uniform look to the lizard people that J. and I talked about, then with the monsters we briefly talk and then J. is off to the races with what he thinks is the most exciting to do. In the course of the first five issues ofThe Saviors, you will see these as monsters flying, aquatic and walking.
Nrama: This is an ongoing series, and I know you love your world-building. How would you describe the planning, forethought and thinking behind the larger series and story you want to tell?
Robinson: When you doing something like this, you have the beginning and aspects of the whole series, and then an end point you want to get to. In-between are a lot of variables. For instance, after the first arc with Tomas we’re going to jump to from a small coastal town in Mexico to Paris with a completely different set of characters going through similar things as Tomas. We’re really jumping around, adding characters here and there, with it all coming together at the end. It was something I had in mind, and it really took hold as I began writing. As with most of my longer stories, Starman for example, the planning is a mixture of what you have set in stone from the onset and then other things come up along the way. And that’s what’s happening in The Saviors.
Nrama: Working with you on this is J. Bone, whom I read you met during work on Shade #4, which he did finishes over Darwyn Cooke for. On the exterior Bone might seem better suited for something more all-ages like Leave It To Chance, but The Saviors seems firmly rooted in noir and alien invaders. How’d you to find this story to be one you wanted to tell together?
Robinson: Early on we talked about doing something together, and I asked him what he was in the mood to do. As you said, with his own work and doing finishes for Darwyn, he known as an “all-ages” type artist and he wanted to break out of that. He wanted to do something that would shock and surprise people, and when he said “horror” I think he was thinking more like something Mike Mignola or Steve Niles would write. No slight to either of them as they’re both geniuses, but I came back to J. with this alien conspiracy story that has a nice amount of 1950s “monster movie” aspect to it. So with all of that in mind, we came up with a direction for the series.
Another idea J. and I are doing, we somewhat borrow from Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead… and in my defense, we borrow from everybody, especially Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks. I did sort of love the fact that characters are played by big name actors in Mars Attacks and then they are murdered; that idea was actually in the original Mars Attacks! Card series, and I thought that would be great for The Saviors. So here, we’re never going to know who is going to die, at any moment.
Nrama: This series has the distinction of being the only book Image is publishing the week of Christmas. Does that unique release date mean anything to you?
Robinson: I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Will readers come in and pick it up if it’s the only new Image book on the shelves, or will they stay in their homes drinking eggnog? It’s a completely interesting thing to watch.
Nrama: Last question, this is your long-awaited return to creator-owned, and will be joined by Grand Passion in 2014. What’s it like to get back into the mix of things, doing your own work like you did with starting out in London’s Dark and more recently in Leave It To Chance?
Robinson: It’s odd… I won’t lie. It definitely has a different aspect to it. With creator-owned comics it’s up to you to get it going; you don’t have editors calling you up about a book coming out.
It’s an interesting time for me; I’m no longer at DC, so everything is new – working at Marvel, doing The Saviors at Image, doing Grand Passion for Dynamite, and developing another thing with artist Greg Hinkle for Image hopefully. It fills me with excitement. No matter if I’m working for Marvel, Image, Dynamite, DC or any other company for that matter, I’m just trying to do my best work. So there’s not a huge difference in my mind; the creator-owned stuff is something I'm very excited by, obviously. But everywhere, I’m trying to do the best work I can.