"The Mainstream #1" preview
Credit: Talent Caldwell (Zenescope Comics)
Credit: Talent Caldwell (Zenescope Comics)

Talent Caldwell made a name for himself in the mid-2000s with work on Superman, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Wildcats, and Fathom - but in recent years, he's been off the radar.

But now he's back, re-energized with a new five-issue miniseries titled The Mainstream at Zenescope. Working with co-writers/co-creators Michael Dolce and Darren Sanchez and artist Tony Moy, Caldwell is acting as writer/artist/designer of this new series which he describes as "cerebral sci-fi."

With The Mainstream #1 scheduled to debut April 11, Newsarama spoke with Caldwell and Dolce about this new series, Caldwell's return, and how it all came together.

Credit: Tony Moy (Zenescope Comics)

Newsarama: Talent, Michael – who or what is “The Mainstream” of The Mainstream?

Michael Dolce: Our story revolves around an inter-dimensional task force, known as the Keepers, that polices alternate realities and keeps people and things from other realities from invading our world, which we call “The Mainstream” - and a Chicago cop with extraordinary abilities that gets pulled into this world of inter-dimensional policing that he had no idea existed when he’s tasked with tracking down a brutal killer from an alternate universe.

Talent Caldwell: I'd add also that it is a twisty, cat-and-mouse, sci-fi thriller with a really heavy focus on the big ideas and quandaries that come from us dissecting and reconstructing the very concept of alternate realities itself.

Nrama: Who are the two key characters?

Credit: Tony Moy (Zenescope Comics)

Dolce: So the main character on the cover is Detective Nate McCallister, a Chicago cop who’s grappled with an innate ability his entire life to see people and things around him that don’t belong. And while this ability has complicated his life, it’s also helped him rise to the rank of detective in the Chicago PD. Alongside his partner and best friend Dexter Combs, the duo has solved some of the most baffling and strange cases in force history.

The woman on the cover of The Mainstream #1 is one of the Keepers. Their story lays the backdrop for the entire series, so you’ll have to pick up the first issue to learn more about her. [Laughs]

Nrama: So, McCallister and Combs investigate strange cases in Chicago?

Dolce: Unlike Men In Black, there’s no aliens in this one (well, maybe in an alternate universe aliens do exist but I digress...). [Laughs]

It’s alternate versions of us, from alternate universes. We’ve got this whole backstory worked out about how alternate realities can exist and why, all of a sudden, they’re spilling over into ours. And it all revolved around the Keepers and the murder victim whose prints match the killers.

Credit: Tony Moy (Zenescope Comics)

Caldwell: What he said.

Nrama: I get a Men in Black vibe, but with more of a gritty police approach. How'd you two develop this project into what it is?

Dolce: It’s funny you mention that. We often cite Men In Black as a frame of reference for our story. How their story pulls Will Smith’s protagonist into this secret world. But as you mentioned, it’s definitely a more gritty, real world story than Men In Black and doesn’t involve aliens. [Laughs]

In fact, it’s a really grisly murder that pulls our hero Nate into this secret world of the Keepers.

Credit: Tony Moy (Zenescope Comics)

Caldwell: It's been so long now I can hardly remember how or when it all started. I just know that Mike is always pitching something, somewhere, to someone, at sometime - We were in Chicago at the time and a number of elements he posed and his unique take really sparked up the hamster wheel in my head.

Dolce: The project initially started between myself and writer Darren Sanchez and the phrase, “There are people on this Earth that don’t belong.” A few months into it, Tal and I connected. After I told him about the concept, he got real excited and started brainstorming out possibilities. After the call, I was like, “Do you want join the book?” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Caldwell: I love cerebral sci-fi, and my mind almost immediately started to ‘Christopher Nolan' the thing (Why this? How's that? What if this! Oh, cool, this can explain that!) Exploring the potential pseudo-science and rationale really piqued my interest, as well as the natural ebb and flow of constructing the story with Mike. Five plus years on and many, many, many conversations, rewrites, and visits and now here we are.

Credit: Tony Moy (Zenescope Comics)

Nrama: How did you two meet?

Caldwell: Mike and I have been friends for maybe more than a decade now. All the way back to my time at Aspen as it was getting started and he worked for Wizard Magazine. And like I said earlier, Mike is always pitching - so the formation of any and everything, person, or connection is him basically being Batman recruiting the Justice League. Eh, so I guess that makes me Wonder Woman in this example.

Nrama: Talent, this is a big return for you - something your fans have been hoping for for some time. What have you been up to since your last big project?

Caldwell: That… that's a story. Many stories. Many adventures, some misadventures, travels, lots and lots of travel. Love and heartache. Learned new things, always working to refine my art. I even flirted with other creative opportunities like an animated project for a time.

Dolce: He’s a big flirt.

Caldwell: That's the nickel version. Oh, and also, I'm not the artist on this, that is Tony Moy. I'm co-authoring with Mike, doing covers, and have art and concept designed every visual aspect of the project (as well as post-work and FX here and there).

Nrama: What are your big goals with this series?

Dolce: Honestly, we see this as being bigger than just graphic novels. We could easily see this as a TV series or movie with several layers to it. That being said, Tal and I come from a comics background so we’re more than happy to keep building this world on the printed page as well. If it goes well, we’d love to get a trade paperback made and a sequel series to follow.

Caldwell: And a boat.

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