Catching Up on Air: Talking to G. Willow Wilson

Air #7, in stores now

Everyone has a horror story about flying – but Blythe has got you beat.

Blythe has fallen in love, been chased by terrorists, and landed in a country that doesn't exist – and oh yeah, she met Amelia Earhart. Granted she's a stewardess – but no amount of job training could have prepared her for this. That's the story in the Vertigo series Air by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker. Both relative newcomers to comics, this series has really picked up steam in the eyes of critics and creators and Vertigo recently priced Air #7 at one dollar to entice readers to jump on board.

Coinciding with the special one dollar issue, we interviewed the writer G. Willow Wilson. We tried to do it on a plane to make it more authentic, but the editors said no. Maybe next time?

Newsarama: Willow, it’s good to talk to you. I've just read Air #7, and it really puts a whole new perspective on the book. Let's not spoil it just yet for those who haven't read it or are waiting for the trade, but how would you describe the series so far?

G. Willow Wilson: You know, in my head it's this glorious machine with about a million working parts. To a reader it's probably more like sticking your head in a paint mixer. That's how Blythe feels as well, though by now she's starting to get a handle on the extent--the somewhat terrifying extent--of her abilities.

NRAMA: Her abilities are just beginning to be known… but the recent #7 does provide some eye-opening moments. After a month hiatus, this issue #7 is marked down to a special price of $1. What were your thoughts when you initially were presented with this, and did you write #7 with that in mind?

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GWW: When they told me they'd done something similar with Sandman back in the day, I figured I was in good hands. Issue 7 was mapped out (and written) long before this decision was made...in fact I think they chose Issue 7 to be the $1 issue because it's kind of a stand-alone story. Makes it easier for a new reader to jump in.

NRAMA: I have to ask about issue #7. The idea of one character reliving the events of another is very interesting. How'd you come to do this, and was it difficult to balance Zayn and Blythe in this?

GWW: Well, Zayn is tricky. He's a huge player in the story, but we almost never see him. I wanted a way to reveal more about him without bulky exposition. Once I had the idea for this issue it became totally organic. It almost wrote itself. It made sense to me that Blythe, in her ability to enter a territory through a map, would become Zayn in her attempt to locate him. (And through him, the Device.)

NRAMA: Let's talk more about her. The lead character, Blythe, has been shown so far to be on a rollercoaster – that is to say, almost a spectator as this story rushes by her. In a way that's a metaphor to her work as a flight attendant being a passenger on a plan going all over. I know it's early on, but how do you think Blythe has changed since we first saw her in issue #1?

GWW: She's less naive, for sure. Less passive. She's getting tired of being pushed and pulled by forces she doesn't fully understand, and is starting to push back. The heroine is revealing herself.

Air #9

NRAMA: Zayn has dropped into Blythe's world and been pretty much a mystery the whole time. Blythe never seems to be able to catch her breath with him with all his comings and goings. How would you describe their relationship thus far?

GWW: It's totally faith-based. They have absolutely no reason to continue chasing each other, but they do. I wanted to do something different from the typical pop culture romance formula, where the guy and the girl start off as colleagues or friends who bicker and suffer silently and date other people and Discuss Their Relationship and only get together when you've stopped caring six episodes ago. I thought, what if they get together in the very first issue, and then never see each other again? That'd be fun to write.

NRAMA: Blythe is a flight attendant, and you've said before that this was partially inspired by an experience with one. Can you elaborate on that for us?

GWW: I was once subjected to this mini-interrogation by a blonde stewardess at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. It laid the groundwork for that scene in Issue 1 where Blythe interrogates Zayn, who is traveling under an alias. Only Blythe is a lot more interesting than that stewardess, who was mostly just rude.

NRAMA: Cotinuing to talk about air travel -- this series is about the airline industry and terrorism: two volatile subjects when mixed in light of September 11th. As a writer doing this, did you have any apprehension or attempts to handle this with kids gloves so to speak?

GWW: I can't afford gloves. A lot of these issues affect me and my community, directly or indirectly. I wanted to tell a certain story, and if it irked some people, that was okay with me.

NRAMA: Some people have described the mystery of Air as a style similar to the television show Lost. What do you say to that?

GWW: You know, it's funny--when I pitched Air to Vertigo, Lost had already been around for a season or so in the US, but hadn't made it to Egypt yet. So I had never even heard of it. Karen Berger had to describe it to me over the phone. A few months later, when episodes started to air in the Middle East, I became an avid viewer. Lost makes a lot of sense to me, philosophically. Air is sort of the inverse of Lost--it's location-less, whereas Lost is super-located--but the attitude toward place and identity ends up being similar. So the mysteries surrounding place and identity have a similar vibe.

NRAMA: Air is your first ongoing series – what's it like writing these characters month-in and month-out?

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GWW: Comforting. It's nice to follow characters all the way through their evolution...with superheroes you're inevitably jumping on halfway through the journey and quickly jumping off again.

NRAMA: Before we go, I wanted to get a flight plan of sorts for the book. Early on in the course of Air you were quoted as saying that you "have a solid detailed topographical map for the first year and a half and a loose hand-written treasure map for another couple of years". Where would you say you are at now in terms of planning the series?

GWW: I'm writing Issue 14, which is kind of scary. I have to work fast because MK is a machine. He never sleeps. So right now I'm turning the hand-written treasure map into a solid detailed topographical map.

Air is written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by M.K. Perker. Published by DC/Vertigo, issue #7 is in stores now as well as a graphic novel collection of the first five issues.

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