In the image series Gødland, writer Joe Casey and artist Tom Scioli have taken the idea of superheroes and the cosmic epics from such legends as Kirby, Lee and Ditko and created their own tune – and what a tune it is. Over the course of the thirty-two issues that have been released so far, they’ve charted a course for spaceman Adam Archer, his family and an assortment of friends, villains and hangers-on into the realm of surreal splendor. And while the series has been on hiatus for several months now, fans don’t have much longer to wait.
May 19th is a special day for Gødland fans, as on that day the series returns with a new issue and the second trade paperback volume of the series, Celestial Editions comes out collecting issues #13 – 24. The new story arc, titled “Døgland” has the world turned on his head as Earth’s great protector Adam Archer is nowhere to be found, and Earth must turn to the most unlikely of protectors to save their fragile planet. Newsarama talked with Casey and Scioli just days before Gødland’s return, and you’ll read it here first.
Newsarama: Thank Iboga, Gødland is back. Did you two miss it?
Joe Casey: Well, for Tom and I, it's never been "gone". We've been working on it consistently since it launched. So I never miss it.
Tom Scioli: I didn't miss it. Gødland's always on my mind, always on my drawing board.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the return in #33 and in the upcoming issues?
Casey: All I can say at this point is that things are getting dire for just about every member of the cast. The Earth itself is currently unprotected, what with Adam Archer in deep space, and a fleet of Almighty Decimators has used that opportunity to attack. Of course, no alien invasion force could predict that the first Super-Villain Congress (led by Freidrich Nickelhead, of course) has assembled and will fight for their planet. Meanwhile, a cosmic entropist named R@-Dur Rezz has decided to become the new Creator/Destroyer Of All Things and, believe me, that's no good for anyone. It's all coming to a cosmic head... each issue is like a ticking clock, counting down to the big finale.
Nrama: Gødland hasn’t had the smoothest of runs – but being a creator-owned work everyone understands it can only go so fast. But can you tell us the causes of the breaks between issues?
Scioli: I work on it pretty steadily, but the weeks and months just go by so fast. I look back at a year and it's like we put out 5-7 issues in a year. I don't see the breaks. Godland is my constant companion.
Casey: Like I said, we've always been working on it. At this point, we simply put out the individual issues when they're ready to go. We'd love to get it out quicker -- and I know the guys at Image would love that, too -- but I have to believe that things play out as they're meant to. In a weird way, the longer it takes, the more of our life experience filters into the work, making it richer and deeper. That's how I'm looking at it, anyway. Helps me sleep at night...
Nrama: Joe, what’s it like from your perspective as a writer doing a series with the breaks? Did you write the series all in advance, or did this pauses pause your scriptwriting on this? And did those breaks allow you to look at the story different than you would have if you blazed through the whole series in one big monthly swoop?
Casey: No, there's been no discernable effect, as far as my approach to writing it. I think some folks have rightly observed that it's tough to jump onto the series just by picking up any single issue. But we're playing a long game here. I think we've got our readership for the monthly comic, a dedicated cult following at this point. They get their concentrated blast of weirdness whenever the comic hits and they seem to like it. But for the collections, there's another audience that waits for them, that loves them, that craves them. And I'll admit... for those readers, it's probably a much different, much more satisfying experience. Eventually, when Gødland ultimately exists solely as a series of big books, that'll be everyone's experience with it. The 2nd Celestial Edition hitting stores in a month or so is a testament to how the series will eventually be known. It's a great-looking book packed with extra material.
Nrama: I’ve seen interviews where you’ve stated this is a homage to those cosmic hero epics from the silver age. Have you had any conversations from creators of that era like Jim Starlin or Steve Englehart or others from that era about the book or just about the concepts in general?
Casey: Those writers are definitely heroes of mine, but I'm pretty sure they've left their innocent, herb-fueled days of cosmic revelry far behind them so I'm not sure what those conversations would be like. I mean, I'd love to pop into a time machine and go back to 1974 and talk to them then. That'd be a blast. But, y'know, when you write this type of material, everyone has to find their own way so I'm just as content to read those old works for inspiration.
Scioli: I told Englehart I was fond of his comics work, but that's it, just a fan expressing admiration. I never spoke to Starlin, but I'd like to. I discovered both of their work relatively recently, after Gødland started and people made the comparisons, I sought their work out and really enjoyed it, especially Starlin's work. Just last month I got his Superman run from DC Comics Presents. Those comics are right up my alley. Superman done right, taking on huge, huge cosmic villains and concepts out in space.
These guys weren't who I was homaging in Gødland, I was homaging Kirby mostly, and Ditko somewhat. I hadn't read their cosmic stuff until after Gødland started. I had read their Batman comics, though. Starlin was the Batman guy when I was a kid, during the Batmania leading up to the release of the Michael Keaton Batman movie. I was reading reprints of Englehart's Batman stories back then, too. But I never thought of them as cosmic guys until after Gødland. Grant Morrison was another writer I discovered after people compared Gødland to his work. I thought, I better check this guy out.
Nrama: While it is a homage of sorts, you two both add some healthy humor and ability to reference these concepts in a new way. Are these kinds of thoughts ones that have been brooding in your head for years, or did the real meat of this book come about when you were actively writing the script for the series?
Casey: Gødland, as I've always said, is an improvisational series. While I have an overall direction that I'm going in, from moment-to-moment, there's a lot of quick decision-making. It's what makes it fun for us. If it was all planned out, down to the panel, I don't know what kind of book it would've ended up being. Probably far too pretentious for anyone's tastes, including mine.
Nrama: At one point, it was widely – and perhaps – incorrectly speculated that this was building up to a conclusion for the series and Adam’s story with issue #36. To get the record straight – is that the case? And even if so, could you see more stories about other characters in the Gødland universe at some point?
Casey: I've said this before, but with Gødland being creator-owned, it'll end when we decide it should end. The story will dictate, as it always has. I don't think it'll be issue #36... but it might be #38 or #39. At the moment, I really can't say a specific issue number. When it feels right, we'll know it.
Nrama: Your collaboration harkens back to the olden days of comics – and not just talking about style. This long collaboration – 32 issues and counting – is unheard of in modern comics, yet you did it – and are still going. What’s the relationship like at this point – do you have your own shorthand, do you talk in some secret language?
Casey: I think we just trust what the other brings to the table. This book is in our blood at this point... it's such a fluid collaboration that it's difficult to imagine it any other way. And, at the end of the day, I'm just a big fan of what Tom does. When we talk about the book, we talk about creating something that we'll be proud of forever. So far, so good.
Scioli: I haven't been a believer in the supernatural, but lately I'm beginning to think there's a little bit of a psychic phenomenon going on between us on this project. We have very little contact with each other, but it seems like we're so perfectly in synch with each other, in ways that can't really be explained.
Nrama: 9. In many long-term collaborations in comics, film, TV, everywhere – you sometimes see writers and artists riffing off what each other is doing – seeing something they do well and then in the future writing to suit that particular skill. Is there any of that going on in this? If so, can you maybe point out something you saw in Tom’s pages that changed the way you wrote something down the road in the series?
Casey: At first, it all began with character design. Tom and I were riffing on characters and some of the visual ideas he threw at me became major components of the book. But I'd seen Tom's work on Myth of 8-Opus at that point and I felt like he could draw anything. Literally, anything I could imagine, I knew he could pull off with great style and enthusiasm. We agreed from the very beginning, the idea behind the book was "no limits". As far out as our imaginations could take us, that's where we wanted to be. Beyond that, I'm just laying out a narrative that Tom translates into visual storytelling, and then I add the icing on top with the dialogue. It's a lot of fun and I think that particular kind of creative energy translates to the readers.
Nrama: Comparing your initial concept of the series with how it’s played out in the 32 issues so far, has there been any real deviation or inspired changes once you got down to writing the book?
Scioli: Yes, yes. I've changed a lot. When I started, I wanted to do this as straight-faced as possible, but I've changed my mind about that after I read Joe's dialogue over my art in issue 1.
The villains seem to have taken over the series. When we started I thought our heroes were pretty interesting, but our villains are that much more interesting.
Sometimes we'll start out with a character and the way I'll draw it will evolve because his role in the story changes. Maxim is a good example, when he first showed up, I accentuated his bestial and alien aspects, but as the series progressed and his personality came out, the way I drew him became more human, more nuanced to match his role. Kind of like how the Thing went from an Atlas monster to a proto-Muppet over the course of the Fantastic Four.
Also, I thought we'd get to the really crazy race-for-the-stars cosmic stuff a lot sooner. The kinds of things that happened in issues 25-31 are what I wanted to do right off the bat. I'm a very impatient person, but I've learned the benefits of the slow build.
I had a lot of rules for myself back then as an artist and a lot of them were "don't do this" and "don't do that." Now I'm willing to try anything if it gets across the right effect. I'm a little more fearless and it's liberated me. It's made me enjoy the work a lot more.
Casey: The initial concept was to have fun working in this genre. That's never changed. The story itself has evolved as we've gotten more into it, which is at it should be. After all, one of the major themes of Gødland is the idea of evolution itself, how we can evolve as a species, how each of us can evolve emotionally when confronted with an inevitable future... it all ties in.