Have you ever wanted a clone of yourself so you could leave them to do all the menial chores of your daily life and leave you to do the exciting things? What if you were the clone and someone else was living it up in your shoes? In the upcoming graphic novel Decoy from Kickstart Comics, an unassuming family man named Zekiel Dax finds out that he’s the stand-in duplicate for a jet-setting secret agent. When this Decoy finds out the truth of his existence and that his original is not the stand-up guy he is, he’s forced to make a choice --- but not before having to partner with his counterpart to save their wife and kids.Set for release on October 24th, Decoy is the latest in a string of creator-owned stories from writer Mark Sable after recent releases likeGraveyard of Empires and Rift Raiders earlier this year. Joining him on this standalone story is artist Andy MacDonald (NYC Mech, Terminator), who brings his penchant for robots, espionage and firepower to create this unique team-up drama. Sable spoke with Newsarama about this book, as well as the upcoming collection of his indie series Fearless from Image.
Newsarama: What can you tell us about Decoy, Mark?
Mark Sable: Decoy is the story of an seemingly average guy who learns he's a robot when he miraculously survives a terror attack. But not just any robot - he's a robot replica for Agent Zekiel Dax, the world's deadliest secret agent.
Unlike the Life Model Decoys that say, S.H.I.E.L.D. uses, Zekiel's Decoy wasn't created to be used in the field or fake his death. The Decoy was designed to safeguard Agent Dax’s family and otherwise provide cover while he's off saving the world.
When Agent Dax is captured, The Decoy is forced to rescue him…only to learn that the man he was created to replace is a gambling, womanizing gun for hire. When the “family” the Decoy was programmed to protect is put in jeopardy; this unlikely pair has to team up to save them.Nrama: And this perfect family man who’s the Decoy -- tell us more about him, and what makes him so different from the original Zekiel Dax.
Sable: The Decoy has been programmed to protect Agent Dax's family both at all costs. Unfortunately, that also makes him overly cautious. He's a beloved husband and father, but his family wishes he would take some more risks and loosen up.
When the Decoy learns he's a robot - he has to ask himself if he's REALLY the perfect family man. Along from his caution, all his good qualities – loyalty, caring etc.- were not something he worked for. They are a function of his programming.
Although he's an artificial being, that's something I think we all can relate to. Are we who are because of how we were born or raised? Are the choices we make our own? Are we capable of change?
Nrama: You described the original Zekiel Dax as a bit of a loose cannon. But just who is he?Sable: Zekiel Dax is an agent of T.A.L.O.S., a centuries old organization dedicated to the advancement of artificial intelligence. In Greek mythology, Talos was a giant bronze automaton created to protect the isle of Crete. From the Bronze Age to the present, Talos has been protecting progress from those who would retard or reverse it.
Agent Dax is an action junkie, and loves his work - and the perks that come along with it - more than his family. He's great at his job...but at least when the story starts, he's not a great guy. In fact, when he first learns his Decoy is aware of his existence, he wants the Decoy’s memory erased. He's effectively asking for another living person to cease to exist.
The story is about Agent Dax and his Decoy working together to bring down common foes, and hopefully bring about the best in each other. The question is whether there's room in the world for both of them.
Nrama: These two sides of the same coin are pulled together when Dax’s wife and kids are in danger. Set it up for us.Sable: When the terror attack on Decoy fails, Agent Dax disappears. That leaves Decoy standing between Agent Dax's enemies and his family. The Decoy lacks Dax's combat training, but despite the revelation of his false existence, he can't help but want to care for his "family".
The Decoy is under threat from two villainous organizations that I had a lot fun creating. The first is Vulcan, a neo-Luddite group named ironically for the Roman god of fire and smithy - essentially the armorer to the gods. From the longbow to the atom bomb, Vulcan believes that more technology means more war. And they kind of have a point.
Vulcan wants to stop the creation of artificial intelligence for fear of a Terminator or Matrix-style "Artilect War"...even if that means taking mankind back to the Dark Ages.
On the other hand we have I.E.D, a cartel of hackers and criminals who are all for the technology that T.A.L.O.S. creates and safeguards - as long they control it. While they are criminals, they have the opposite view of Vulcan when it comes to what they see as the inevitable rise of AI. They believe that instead of robots turning on their masters, there will be a technological singularity where man and machine will merge together to become godlike beings. They are optimists...albeit greedy, amoral ones.
Despite these threats, it's not an easy choice for The Decoy to face them. Agent Dax and T.A.L.O.S. regard him as mere property. And although he loves his family, isn't that just because T.A.L.O.S. made him that way?
Nrama: You’ve always had a penchant for working with hot up & coming artists, from Paul Azaceta to Robbi Rodriguez and Sean Murphy. How’d you hook up with Andy Macdonald for Decoy?
Sable: I have to thank Ivan Brandon (DC's upcoming Men of War), Miles Gunter (Bastard Samurai with Mike Oeming) and Jeff Amano and Sal Cipriano for that. Andy MacDonald is comics’ best kept secret. Those guys were some of the first pros I met, and Ivan edited my first book (Grounded) and helped me out tremendously in my career.
Ivan and Miles co-created NYC Mech with Andy, which proved nobody can create robots better than Mr. MacDonald. Jeff wrote Red Warrior, which showed me Andy could do espionage as well as hard sci-fi. I've been dying to work with him ever since I first saw his work. Given the mix of genres I'm dealing with in Decoy those projects made Andy seem like a perfect fit.
Nrama: You’ve also got a collection of your old miniseries Fearless coming out in this month’s Previews. It’s been a couple years since it’s original release, so there’s a lot of people who never heard of it. Since we have you, can you break it down for us?Sable: Fearless is about a vigilante with a crippling anxiety disorder who needs an anti-fear serum not only to fight crime, but to function in everyday life. Our story concerns what happens when someone cuts off his drug supply. It's co-written by David Roth, a successful TV/feature/Don Draper advertising guy. The art is the real treat though - PJ Holden is best known for 2000 AD and Garth Ennis's Battlefields, but Fearless was his first American work.
I generally don't go back and read my own work, so there was a tiny part of me that was cringing when I heard it was finally being collected in trade paperback. But without jinxing anything, there's coincidentally been some heat in terms of Hollywood stuff with the book, so Dave and I have had to go back and read it to start working on treatments for other mediums. I think it really holds up.
Mostly it's exciting because next to Unthinkable - the trade of which is no longer in print and extremely hard to find - Fearless is the book I get asked most about at conventions. Whether readers sampled some Fearless in singles issues and are craving more, or you're looking to get hooked on something new, I really hope you’ll give Fearless a try. Like any good drug...the first taste is always free!Nrama: There’s a lot of “Fear” titles going on in comic, from Fear Itself to Marvel’s upcoming miniseries The Fearless. Have you talked to anyone about the name similarity to your book?
Sable: Some people have tried to get me riled up about the title similarities. That's not hard to do. I've had to change titles because of similarities to titles from the big two. But working for Marvel has been a joy, and from what I've read so far Fear Itself has nothing in common with Fearless. Having been through it myself, I would never want to cause anyone the hassle of having to change a title, even if I could. Particularly Matt Fraction, since I'm a huge fan of Casanova, and any espionage book like Decoy stands in its shadow.Ultimately, it's not titles or even concepts that are important - it's execution. Hopefully with both Decoy and Fearless we've created original material that reads like nothing out there on the market.
Nrama: Coming full circle, what would you do if you found yourself a Decoy, Mark?
Sable: Honestly, I think I'd do the same thing that Zekiel did. I'd use him to fill in for me in all the unpleasant tasks in life so I could focus more on what I enjoy. The only difference is that I enjoy writing, not spying. No comment on when it comes to sleeping with femme fatales, though.