In Valiant’s far-flung future of 4001 A.D., a woman and her son look for a place for their people to survive and thrive within the contaminated, toxic world of Earth.
That woman is Ana – a.k.a. the War Mother - and her ‘son’ is a sentient rifle named Flaco.
Inspired by Mad Max; Fury Road, War Mother was a breakout character in last year’s 4001 A.D. event and on August 23 launches title with co-creator Fred Van Lente and artist Stephen Segovia. Newsarama talked with Van Lente about the success of the character, and expanding her world in this new four-issue miniseries.
Newsarama: Fred, War Mother is back. What is she doing in the far-flung future of 4001 A.D.?
Fred Van Lente: As a result of the events of the 4001 A.D.: War Mother #1 one-shot - which you absolutely do not need to read to enjoy this book, I swear - Ana, a.k.a. War Mother, is faced with a serious problem: the Grove, the bio-organic home of her tribe for centuries, is dying. As the sole protector of the Grove - and the only member of the tribe to have seen the deadly world outside it - she has to venture forth into the dense, lethal jungle outside to try and find them a new habitat.
Nrama: In action comics there tends to be a good guy and a bad guy, or at least a protagonist and an antagonist. Who is War Mother up against here?
Van Lente: There's a cybernetic luxury tower of flats dating from before the fall of society as we know it, The Montana, sending out a signal for people to come live there. Sounds perfect for a new base of operations - maybe even too perfect. Ana and her sentient cybernetic rifle, Flaco, head out to investigate on their own, and find - well, there be spoilers. Something really bad, let's say, something that will cause horrible death and destruction to her own people - and even worse, shatter the bond between her and Flaco as well.
Nrama: I gotta ask: can you tell us more about the sentient sniper rifle she has and how it would be to have one yourself?
Van Lente: Geez, I can only imagine the kind of havoc I would wreak with a weapon bio-electrically bonded to my own nervous system. Ana is a very thoughtful, controlled person - the "War Mother" of the title. I'm too much of an impulsive spaz. I wouldn't trust myself with it. If I had Flaco, I shudder to think what would have become of the driver who nearly ran me over making an illegal u-turn last Saturday night.
Nrama: I can't shake the inspiration of Mad Max: Fury Road to this. Tell me, how much does it - or just the response of that movie - affects, influences, or just tinges this book?
Van Lente: I love the entire Mad Max series - I'd say it's one of the few movie franchises that doesn't really have a bad entry - but I've loved apocalyptic fiction since I was a kid, growing up in the still-Cold War 80's. My favorite video game RPG is Fallout, I'm running Metamorphosis Alpha forerunner to Gamma World in my tabletop RPG group right now, and The Day of the Triffids is one of my all-time favorite sci-fi novels.
Nrama: Any other big influences?
Van Lente: A big influence on this project was a seminar I participated in with Singularity University out on California about the future of technology. A lot of work is being done right now in - I hope I'm getting the terminology right - bio-materials, which are man-made structures and raw materials that mimic the designs of nature. That's where the inspiration to the Grove came from, made entirely from genetically engineered pseudo-plant metal stronger than steel, and how Flaco is a living symbiote with just a few non-organic parts.
Nrama: Stephen Segovia is coming in to illustrate this after Tomas Giorello did the one-shot. What kind of marching orders did you give Stephen?
Van Lente: I get a little nervous pitching some of the crazier ideas of War Mother's world to artists, but first Tomas and now Stephen have really taken the concepts and run with them. Stephen has taken the ball and is scoring a 100-point touchdown. That's a good analogy, right? Sports!
Nrama: War Mother debuted last year during the 4001 A.D. event. Did you pitch her at that time as a one-off, or did you hope for something like this miniseries even way back then?
Van Lente: Valiant and I had been talking for some time about how to really expand the 4001 A.D. milieu, give it legs beyond Rai and New Japan. We had talked about a few different characters, but I think they really wanted to explore South America and Ana was the character that just fit.
Nrama: How did doing the one-shot and stewing over it affect this first War Mother story, versus doing it right out the gate?
Van Lente: I think it has been helpful. It's helped me refine a lot of ideas and really get the heart at what makes the franchise tick.
Nrama: Will there be any hallmarks of Valiant continuity in this War Mother miniseries?
Van Lente: Not really, beyond some references to New Japan and other aspects of 4001 A.D. What I love about the Valiant Universe is that all the titles are so distinct, they create their own little mini-universes that cross over when it's really necessary, and really special.
Nrama: What are your big goals of War Mother?
Nrama: The core of what interests me is this relationship between Ana and Flaco, war mother and war son. Both are utterly dependent on each other but have a lot to learn from each other too. I think it's that relationship growing and evolving is what will keep people coming back to the series. And the monsters. And the explosions. And the bloody action. And the crazy post-apocalyptic sci-fi concepts.