Writer Prioritizes Adding Female Character to Vertigo's FBP

DC Comics' December 2013 solicitations
Credit: DC Comics

Now that writer Simon Oliver has introduced readers to the whacky world of Vertigo's FBP, his next goal is simple:

Introduce a little female influence into the book.

Credit: DC Comics

But Oliver, who launched FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics six months ago with artist Robbi Rodriguez, doesn't want to just have the usual, generic "kick-ass female" in this book. As readers find out in a two-story arc that begins in this month's FBP #6, the new character — an agent named Rosa Reyes — is anything but usual and generic.

"Unusual" is par for the course in the world of FBP, which is a mind-bending world that's just like the one we live in, only the universe has expanded and stretched the space time fabric to its limit — resulting in the "laws of physics" being… well, broken.

In FBP, people aren't really phased anymore when quantum tornadoes rip through the Heartland, or wormholes pop up around the world. Although everyone thought the world was ended… it hasn't. And the Federal Bureau of Physics is who gets called when another pesky anomaly pops up.

At the center of the story is an FBP agent named Adam Hardy, and at the end of the first story arc, he lost his partner. And that leads to the introduction of Rosa Reyes, a character that Oliver describes as "socially odd, borderline Asperger’s, and as we will soon discover, she might not have been actually born in this dimension."

Oliver launched FBP after the success of his former Vertigo series, The Exterminators, which he created with artist Tony Moore. Now that's he's well into the creation of FBP, Newsarama talked to him about the series, what's coming up next, and why it was important for him to introduce a well-rounded female character into the series.

Newsarama: Now that you've gotten people interested in the premise, what's the next step for FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics?

Simon Oliver: I made a very conscious decision at the beginning of the book to hit the ground running, and be fairly skimpy on the characters. But what I wanted to do was go in fast and set up the premise of the book, and then kind of dial it back and get into the characters, which I think you can see a lot more of now, particularly the new character we're bringing in — the new agent to replace the one that betrayed Adam in the first arc.

Nrama: Yeah, you just introduced this new character, Rosa Reyes. What can you tell us about her and what she'll bring to the book?

Oliver: For her character, the starting point I came at was that she's a little bit borderline Asperger's-ish, in terms of her social interaction. Not just that — I wanted to find some reason in terms of the big concepts of the book as to why she would be this sort of square peg in a round hole, socially.

And it's easy to say that, and it's easy to do it on a TV show or a movie. It's really hard to get that across in a comic, that someone's socially awkward. It's really hard to write that. It took some doing. It took some thinking about how to portray that in a comic book.

But I wanted to find a way to explain it in terms of this world being broken, the physics being broken, why she would be like this.

It's going to be a story that develops over this two-issue arc and then into the next arc, where she came from. Her origin's not totally clear at the beginning.

She has some connections to another dimension. And she accidentally seems to have come back.

Nrama: So this connection to the other dimension is part of why Rosa is a little "off?"

Oliver: Yeah, that's how we're explaining her sort of strange social skills, and also the underlying drive of the character — like, what does she want out of this? Where does she want to go with it?

Credit: DC Comics

I think she's a really interesting character. And I was also really conscious of the fact that, when I started the book, I didn't have any female characters in the book, and it was kind of important to me to bring someone who wasn't just the, you know, comic book trope of the strong, ass-kicking female character that fanboys are going to love. I wanted her to be a fully rounded-out character in her own right and not just a supplement to the guys — sort of like, "hey, look at the girl."

Nrama: How does her introduction into the series play off what Adam's going through right now?

Oliver: He's a little preoccupied at this point with trying to get to the bottom of who was behind what happened in the first arc, in the bubble verse, and how that ties into his father and his search for what happened to his father. So he's a little preoccupied.

At the beginning of the arc, he's kind of like, "Who is this nut job I've been dumped with [about Rosa]?" Like, "I cannot wait to get rid of her." But then, by the end of the arc, she's proved herself a little bit, and she's going to be around to stay, and we continue that into the next story that I'm writing now — the next story arc — which is a big, fat, six issues.

Nrama: So the two-issue story that introduces her began this month, and then it's followed up with this larger story arc?

Oliver: Yes, the two issues start with #6 and #7, and it's pretty much all Rosa. There are ongoing plots and there's a bigger story, but we really focus on establishing the Rosa character and bringing her in.

The two issues are about a wormhole. There's another woman involved in it, and I don't want to give away too much, because there are some pretty big twists and turns in the story. But it's about wormholes, ultimately. It's about what would happen if you had a machine that could pummel you into places with a wormhole.

Rosa gets caught up in that story and is faced with some pretty big decision.

Nrama: How would you describe what you're hoping to do with the series over the next year or so?

Oliver: The first half of the year, we're continuing to explore and play with this world where physics doesn't work.

The six-issue arc takes place in Alaska, in a town that's called the craziest town north of the 48 states, where physics is kind of… not working at all. And we get to see how people have incorporated it into their everyday lives.

So we're playing around in that world.

But the whole time, we've got Adam as the lead character, still looking for his father, still looking for what happened to his father, and trying to find the truth about things. So we've got that still pushing forward in the story while we're having fun with the concept.

Nrama: The style of this book really stands out, not only because of the way you write it, but also because of the approach from artist Robbi Rodriguez. How would you describe his contribution? And what's it been like working with him?

Oliver: It's been great. I started writing the series — I wrote the first three or four issues before Robbi started on the first issue — and I was writing them very much how I had in the past. You know, I handed in a script, did a couple re-writes on it, and then it was given to the artist. And then I got to see pencils and layouts and that kind of things. But my involvement after I hand in a script is limited. I'm still involved, but it's much less of an ongoing process. I'm more doing corrections and tweaks here and there.

What happened, though, when we started to get into the process — partly by Robbi's request, and partly because I think it's what the book, as the book developed, it's what it demanded, since it's such a visual book — was I've been writing much looser scripts than I have in the past.

It's much more of a back-and-forth process than I've had in the past, and I think it really helps the book as well.

I'm really trying to give Robbi the space and the chance to really do what he does really well, which is to bring that element of craziness to it.

Credit: DC Comics

I'm asking him to do a lot, because I'm asking him to visualize things which… they're really hard to visualize. Like, you know, let's draw a cube with four dimensions. It's like how do you begin to do that? It's things that are very hard to visualize.

Robbi's talent is being able to visualize and draw and represent things that are very hard to get your head around, and I think where the book has gone and where it's going — and it will really kick up a notch — we have a lot of situations where I'm like, "hey, Robbi, I want this, this and this — the rest of it just figure it out and do what you do best."

I'm super excited for people to see what's coming up in the book, because I think he's really nailing it.

I'm excited to see how the next few months of issues will be received. The arc in Alaska is super fun. I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm just about to hand in issue #12, and I think all the gears have clicked together, and it's firing on all cylinders, and I'm super excited for the next year of the book.

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