Simon Oliver, the writer behind the quirky, fan-favorite series The Exterminators, is ready to unleash a new story on Vertigo readers, this time with a look at what happens when the universe starts coming apart at the seams.
Collider, a new ongoing series that starts this week, will unite Oliver with newcomer artist Robbi Rodriguez.
The series asks readers to imagine a world where wormholes show up in the kitchen and gravity just disappears every once in awhile. And if things get really bad, people call the Federal Bureau of Physics for help.
The main character, Adam Hardy, is a rising star at the Federal Bureau of Physics (better known as the "FBP), and he longs for more information about his father, a professor who was lost when he was "tornado chasing" before the physics problems were understood. When Adam is sent out to investigate a "BubbleVerse" created during a gravity failure, he discovers a betrayal that will change his perspective.
As the first issue of Collider comes out this week, Newsarama talked with Oliver to find out more about the new Vertigo ongoing series.
Newsarama: Simon, how would you describe the setting of the story you're telling? What's different about this world?
Simon Oliver: It's our world, only the universe has expanded and stretched the space time fabric to its limit, as a result the "laws of physics" are not so carved in stone.
When this was first discovered, of course, it was front-page news. Quantum tornadoes ripped through the Heartland, wormholes popped up in Florida, everyone was braced for the end of life as we know it, but it never came — not in this lifetime anyway — and mankind did what it's always done: incorporated the new paradigm into the fabric of everyday lives and got back to the important business of paying the bills, putting food on the table and voting in TV talent shows.
And I think that's what makes this book different from other similar concepts. All this craziness is part of everyday life. The physics forecast is right behind the weather forecast, and you plan your commute accordingly.
Nrama: That's a really different approach. What was the genesis of that idea?
Oliver: I'd been talking to Mark [Doyle, Vertigo editor,] about doing a new book at Vertigo and had been bouncing around a few ideas but nothing had stuck. But something that I'd had in the back of my mind for awhile was to create a very normal world, one very recognizable and very much like our own, and just make one change to it. From there, all I needed was that one "change."
So it was a couple of years ago during tornado season, and Joplin, Missouri, had been trashed the week before, and I thought... what if it wasn't weather? What if it was physics causing the tornado? And that was it. I was up and running.
The next day I called Mark and pitched a rough idea — "what if the laws of physics were broken?" — and it went from there.
Nrama: Exterminators had a bit of a humorous edge to it, which made it fun for readers. Is Collider told in a similar style? How would you describe the comic's style?
Oliver: I really, really want it to be a fun, good ride, but at the same time, tie it to some cutting-edge physics and bend some minds in the process.
Nrama: We've just started seeing Robbi's art for the first time. How does the art add to the tone you're hoping to achieve?
Oliver: These are big ideas, and big ideas need art that conveys the sheer scope. Luckily, Robbi is more than happy to wade in and do what's needed.
A lot of time I'm asking him to convey things and concepts that are beyond the scope of what our brains can visualize. It's hard enough to get our heads around three dimensions, but a four dimensional cube is a tough call to draw. Current thinking has our universe existing somewhere around 11 dimensions, and many of those undiscovered dimensions are curled up and existing on time-space branes only inches from our own. None of that is easy to explain, let alone get on paper, but I think Robbi is going to blow some minds with the art.
Nrama: Introduce us to the characters. Who's at the center of the story?
Oliver: Despite Collider being a "big" story, I've really tried to trim down the cast list to a manageable level. There will be a bunch of characters recurring through the arcs, but we're going to focus on the three agents that make up just one Federal Bureau of Physics team:
Rosa: She's socially odd (borderline Asperger's), and as we will soon discover, she might not have been actually born in this dimension.
Cicero: The ranking member of the team and the "voice of scientific reason."
Adam Hardy: Our hero, who's only just starting to knuckle down and realize his potential as an FBP agent.
Adam's father, Professor Hardy, is one of the "lost" heroes and prophets of the early days of our "post-physics" world, back when people like him were dismissed as the "tin foil hat brigade." And he's also a father that Adam never met, as Professor Hardy vanished, presumed dead, under suspicious circumstances while chasing quantum tornadoes down in Baja Mexico.
Nrama: What themes are you exploring, and what interested you in those themes as a writer?
Oliver: Although each of the characters will get a narrative look-in and have a story to tell, the main story is driven by Adam and his search for the truth about the father he never met.
Along the way, compromises will be made, of course, causing conflicts between our three leads. The way I see it, one of the great things about a monthly comic series is you can veer off the main theme highway from time to time.
But I think one of my overall defining goals is no matter how crazy and "out there" the physics story gets, at the heart of every arc must be a very relatable set of human emotions. For example, the first big arc is about betrayal, a betrayal that happens to take place in a bubble universe, the second, a two-parter, is about a wormhole creating machine and, naturally, a Bonnie and Clyde-type love story.
Nrama: We've been told this is an ongoing. Is there a certain length for this series? Or an ending in mind?
Oliver: I have some directions in mind — directions and goals that could in theory be closed-ended narratives — but what I hope is that along the way, I can build the world of Collider into a self sustaining universe.
Nrama: Then to finish up, Simon, is there anything else you want to tell potential readers about Collider?
I really think it's going to be a good read, a fun ride, please roll the dice and check it out.