Vertigo's SAUCER COUNTRY Returns - With A New Publisher

"Saucer State" cover by Ryan Kelly
Credit: Ryan Kelly (IDW Publishing)

That’s no UFO – Vertigo’s Saucer Country series is back, but with a new publisher.

Creators Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly are moving the title to IDW Publishing and launching a new ‘second season’ titled Saucer State. Scheduled to launch in 2017, IDW will be republishing the original 14 issues of Saucer Country in advance of the new series.

So what’s it all about?

Described as The X-Files as if by David Mamet, U.S. Presidential candidate Arcadia Alvarado was abducted by aliens hours before she entered the race. She returned however, and entered the race nonetheless – with the constant specter of extraterrestrial life on the periphery. In the final issue of Saucer Country, Alvarado won the presidency and now Saucer State deals with the implications of a sitting U.S. President having intimate knowledge of alien life.

Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly spoke with Newsarama about this surprise return after three years, where Saucer State picks up, and if they'll answer the big burning question left unsaid in Saucer Country.

 Saucer Country has hovered over to IDW to become Saucer State and Newsarama has the first interview with Cornell and Kelly about the return.

Newsarama: Paul, Saucer Country is coming back as Saucer State after three years in limbo. How did it all come together with IDW?

Paul Cornell: Once we got the rights back from Vertigo, we immediately started to look for someone to take Saucer Country on, and IDW were very positive. I've always loved the way they do things, and Editor-In-Chief Chris Ryall is a joy to work with, so I couldn't be happier that they've picked the series up. Saucer Country is a passion project for me. I've been determined to get it finished. I get asked about it every week. So it's great to be able to say to those people that it's coming back. It's coming back! Did I mention it's coming back?!

Nrama: Before we talk new stories, let's cover our bases: For those that missed the original 14 issues, any chance of a reprint of those stories leading into the new #1?

Cornell: Yes, first of all IDW will be bringing out a reprint of the previous material.

Nrama: Getting into the new, first off -- with three years of waiting, when will the new series begin?

Cornell: We're looking at 2017. The new run is going to be called Saucer State, to mark the change in setting, with Arcadia being President. I've just written the first script, and Ryan is about to start drawing. You can tell I'm excited, can't you? I nearly gave you a moment-by-moment breakdown of where we're at.

Nrama: The last issue at Vertigo left things on a particular strong and confident end - of a chapter, but not a title. Where do things pick up here?

Ryan Kelly: We're thrown right into the action and it's a fantastic jumping-on-point. For Saucer Country readers, it will feel like we never skipped a beat. It feels so familiar returning to this world, and Saucer State #1 reads as an effortless continuation of the original series. New readers are introduced to a new President undertaking her leadership role while plunging deeper towards the truth behind her abduction. All of Arcadia Alvarado's staff is back. Harry is the emotional conscience to Arcadia. Prof. Kidd is back as the believer that Arcadia needs in her mission to uncover the truth. Chloe is back as the shrewd and tough-as-nails tactician. Michael is probably my favorite character as we see him trying to have a normal life but some new mystical visions threaten his grip on a "normal" reality.

Cornell: We join Arcadia, as President, a few weeks after the end of the last series, remind the reader of what was going on, introduce some new characters and jeopardy and then the end of issue one is... well, it turns everything on its head. Saucer State is an organic continuation of Saucer Country, but something huge has just happened. New readers really can start here, though we hope they'll be interested in picking up the reprints. If you like political tricks and confrontations, the sneaky business of House of Cards, and if you like the spooky side of UFOs, a series that revels in 'real life' UFO mythology, then this is the title for you.

Nrama: That finale was all about the election, and here we are now in a crazy political season for both the U.S. and the U.K. Is there more election drama to be had in the new Saucer State in its return?

Cornell: No, we're in the first weeks of a new President's run, but I'm also representing the extraordinary state of American (and world) politics with some characters and points of view that comment on the current situation. How could I not?!

President Arcadia Alvarado is determined to use her position to discover who, or what, abducted her and her ex-husband Michael.

Professor Kidd has been looking into the military industrial complex, seeking extraterrestrials, startled to the point of doubting his mission by how human the forces attacking the President have been.

Michael seems to be having some new mystical experiences.

And Chloe is looking for work with the Republicans.

We'll get into the business of the shady group of aerospace engineers who think 'nuts and bolts' alien spacecraft fly US skies later on. We'll revisit the dark forces inside the intelligence community. We'll be going to Russia. But, as you'll see at the end of the first issue, this isn't business as usual by any means. The stakes are about to get way higher, as American political fears materialize in a very Saucer State way. We're once again The X-Files by the way of David Mamet, but I think our audience know now that we're very much our own thing, and the first issue of this run is a big indicator of that.

Kelly: There's political drama. And, Paul handles the political stuff really well. I'm aware: Politics can be a turn-off in comics, and I know the folly in being too over-bearing with it. But, Paul is great at showing the dynamics of American politics--both Democrats and Republicans; liberal and conservative--and just letting the characters speak for themselves. The political drama is just one component of Saucer State though, and it remains topical and current. 2016 is measurably different from 2013, and in an attempt to keep it engaging, Saucer State reflects some of what we're experiencing in our world today.

Nrama: I was somewhat surprised you didn't reveal what happened to Arcadia and Michael in their abduction in the original volume's finale. Is it all mapped out in your head, and can readers expect to find out now in this new IDW volume at some point?

Cornell: Yes, and this is very important to me: every single question will have a firm answer by the end of Saucer State. We're heading for a specific ending, and we know how long it'll take to get there. I didn't resolve that in the last run because I didn't have the space to do it in a satisfactory way. We decided, given the number of issues we had left, to sort out one or two big questions and get past the election, and by doing that I think we gave the run an ending that felt right. But I'm determined that this isn't one of those ongoing tales where the central mystery isn't dealt with. Our job is to provide satisfactory closure. We know where we're going.

Nrama: Ryan, has Paul filled you in on the truth?

Kelly: I know a little bit. It's a weird artistic compulsion of mine, but I often don't read ahead on scripts. I like surprises. Sometimes, when I work on a script, I don't even read the whole thing. I just draw one panel at a time. I suppose this is insane and most artists don't work this way. I'll probably get in trouble for this. But, it works for me. Ask other writers: I'm a good storyteller, if anything. Paul often leaves out specifics on facial expressions and character motivations in the panel descriptions, so I’ll stop and ask sometimes. We give each other a lot of freedom and trust. It worked out well for us the first 14 issues.

Nrama: Ryan, how do you think the 2016 you is handling the script and the style for this as compared to the 2013 you?

Kelly: I think I'm a better artist than I was in 2013, and I feel I have more of a command over all the nuances of the story. There's a large cast of characters with all these angles and subplots converging…but, I feel that's right up my artist alley. I feel like I'm the only artist that can draw this book. I suspect some artists would have trouble drawing Saucer State. It's a lot of intrigue and drama and characters having intense, emotional moments and that's punctuated with these incredibly surreal and horrifying events. There are no caped crusaders and web-slingers and whatever else artists want to draw these days. There's so much crazy cerebral stuff going on in Saucer State, that I feel it takes a special set of skills to translate it, visually. I think I have the power.

Nrama: As I mentioned earlier, the original Vertigo volume ended pretty confidently -- not in the usual 'last issue, let's wrap up loose ends' kind of way. Looking back on it three years now, are you glad you stuck to your guns and didn't try to telescope your entire plans for the series in those final issues once you found out Vertigo was cutting it short?

Cornell: Hugely. The Vertigo guys were good to us, and at least we knew how many issues we had to do things in. Reading back over it now, I think it flows very well as a complete arc. To finish it off completely in the space provided, we'd have had to have a final issue that was just people explaining things with flip charts and diagrams.

Nrama: A key but possibly overlooked part of this return is that both of you are doing it. Sometime when titles jump publishers, one creator isn’t – for one reason or another – able to come with. What’s it like to be together on this?

Credit: Ryan Kelly (IDW Publishing)

Kelly: I say this all the time, but Saucer Country was the book where I was as much a fan as co-creator. I'm so excited to be returning to this world. These characters are incredibly fleshed-out and feel so real to me, and that's all due to Paul's crafty writing. I enjoy unraveling all the mysteries surrounding these characters. Working on Saucer State is so effortless and fun at this point. Paul writes some of the easiest scripts I've worked on. His panel descriptions are breezy, to-the-point and devoid of extraneous dictation. As an artist, I like that for the most part. Less reading, more drawing!

Cornell: I wouldn't have done this without Ryan. It wouldn't be right without him. I'm hugely looking forward to seeing him draw those characters again. With him drawing this, I can be sure that the nuances of facial expression and character acting will all be in place. He provides such amazing depth.

Nrama: Speaking of returning, will any of the original colorists, letters, or even editors now since Will Dennis and Karen Berger are freelance, be coming back?

Cornell: We're hoping to get our original colorist, Giulia Brusco, back, but I'm not sure where we are with that. Her color art is also a major part of the feel of the book. We're reporting directly to Chris Ryall this time, so our lovely former editors won't be joining us. But they deserve huge credit for betting on us back in the day.

Nrama: Big picture, what do you want fans to expect with Saucer State?

Cornell: Surprises, character growth, more and more closure, heading toward something explosive. As will become obvious at the end of issue one!

Kelly: It's quite possible fans will see more UFOs, faeries, and silver space ladies…but at this time, I can't prove or disprove it.

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