Forget the shiny spacecraft and the beautiful aliens -- when it comes to BOOM! Studios' upcoming book Cold Space, the final frontier is as dirty and unforgiving as it gets. Coming from the minds of Samuel L. Jackson and Afro Samurai executive producer Eric Calderon, this series will follow the toughest of the tough, the man known as Mulberry, as he fights through the nastiest the galaxy has to offer. Newsarama caught up with Calderon to talk about the series, as he discussed about the importance of Patience, how little humanity will change over 2,000 years, and how they planned to bring the flair of Afro Samurai to this newest project.
Newsarama: So we should begin with the obvious question -- what brought Cold Space on? How long has this idea been gestating among you two?
Eric Calderon: After working with Sam for the past 5 to 6 years on the production, writing, and release of Afro Samurai, I really wanted to continue our relationship. I was always kind of nervous pitching him something because... well.. He’s Sam. But, I just got gutsy one day and threw it out there. Good thing he liked it!
Nrama: According to BOOM! Studios, the protagonist of this piece is an on-the-run outlaw named Mulberry, which will have Sam's likeness. Could you tell us a little bit about who Mulberry is as a character, and what the back-and-forth between you and Sam has been like to present him?
Calderon: It’s been super easy. We both kind of lit up when we realized we could bring an African-American ‘Han Solo’ type of character to sci-fi. The genre is really missing something like that. Just like there was never a great African-American samurai character before Afro Samurai. After that, we’re really just channeling Sam’s general comedic style into a believable futuristic world. If you can imagine it, Mulberry is just Sam if he was broke, the best shot in the galaxy, trained in military combat, and then thrust oh... about 2,000 years into the future.
Nrama: Based on the solicits, it seems that the planet and the warring factions are just as much a character as Mulberry himself. What can you tell us about the world of Cold Space, and a little taste of what the premise of this story might be?
Calderon: What Sam loved about my original pitch was that it was the ghetto of space, not the towers and perfect beautiful places like in the new Star Wars films. We wanted a tough and gritty place. The gang leaders in our story have goals like any gangster does -- money, power, and chicks. No ultimate energy sources. No gods, demons, or cosmic space heralds. Just men killing other for dough and political influence. But, I do really like one bounty hunter we’ve named Patience. He’s a trip. I think people will like him. He’s got a flamethrower strapped to his arm. Haha.
Nrama: Every science fiction story has that hook to it, that certain something that sets it apart from everything else. Sometimes it's a central metaphor, other times it's pure style. For Cold Space, what would you say sets this book apart?
Calderon: I think the hook is the title. I like titles that are pure and irreducible. COLD. SPACE. Plus, it’s got the double entendre of the vastness of the emptiness out there and the whole slang of ‘that’s cold man!’ built into it.
Nrama: Eric, you're best known as an executive producer over on Afro Samurai, which got a lot of acclaim for both its action and its own inimitable style. Will Cold Space have that same sort of unorthodox appeal? If so, how do you make it come across in a static, silent medium like comics?
Calderon: I’ve actually been in animation for 16 years now and have been lucky enough to work on lots of cool projects with lots of cool talent. Along the way, I guess I built the theory that animation, like comics, is a visual medium first and foremost. It’s not like a drama TV series or a cop show. Those can be sold on a great script, a great actor, or a great premise. Animation and comics for me, have to look good first to catch your attention. Then you watch it or read it. So, in order to get that ‘unorthodox appeal’ as you call it (I’d call it uniqueness), I’m really pushing the artists to create a great silhouette and color scheme. Looking like Sam is an incredible start. But I threw in a blue head tattoo and Dave Johnson made an excellent body armor design that was part space suit and part Japanese traditional Bushido armor. I hope that makes it all come to alive when it’s placed against everything else out there. Not to mention, Jeffrey Spokes’ cover art really knocking me out!
Nrama: How about working with Jeremy Rock? How's that been, between the three of you? What strengths do you feel Jeremy has for projects like this?
Calderon: This is my first time collaborating with Jeremy. But, I liked his work immediately when BOOM! introduced me to it because I liked the expressiveness of his character’s faces. We knew this was going to be a book whose appeal was going to be snappy dialogue, comedy, sci-fi, and action in that order. So, we needed someone who didn’t just draw people punching, kicking, and grimacing. That, plus I like that Jeremy has a firm sense of anatomy that isn’t too distracting or over-stylized. It just feels easy to focus on what people are saying and doing -- rather than how detailed they’re drawn.
Nrama: Are there any moments that you're particularly excited about for this series that you could tease? Anything you think will get any stragglers on the boat?
Calderon: I’m really excited about building to a big duel between Mulberry and the rival bounty hunter Patience. That should be fun. Also, we dropped in some creepy aliens too. Hope everyone likes that. As for the stragglers... If they don’t jump on now, Sam’s gonna be pissed. Believe me - you don’t want that! Haha.