There's a reason Xombi has become a cult classic comic.
Filled with supernatural and science-based oddities, and featuring quirky-yet-lovable characters like "Nun of the Above," the innovative comic tells the story of how scientist David Kim has become the immortal superhero known as Xombi.
The character was first introduced in the early '90s as part of the Milestone imprint, which had a short-lived existence. But the Xombi series became a cult classic, with fans constantly asking for the character's return.
Now Xombi is returning to DC Comics with a brand new #1 issue in March, with series creator John Rozum back as writer and Frazer Irving on art.
Xombi first appeared as a DC character in The Brave and the Bold #26, also written by Rozum and published in August 2009, the year that all the Milestone characters were being integrated into the DC Universe. But loyal fans of the character inundated DC with requests for a Xombi series, so DC is giving it a try in March.
Newsarama talked with Rozum about the new series and what kind of strange things might show up now that Xombi is back.
Newsarama: John, this series had a cult following when it was being published by Milestone, and I'm sure all its loyal fans are thrilled it's coming back. But will you re-introduce the character to new readers with this #1 issue?
John Rozum: The new series, particularly issue #1, was conceived with the idea that anyone reading it has never heard of Xombi before, let alone read the previous series from Milestone. You have to know absolutely nothing going in to be able to follow it. You could even jump in at the beginning of issue #2, #3, or #4 and be able to do the same thing. Everything you need to know about David Kim, his powers, and the world he occupies will be reintroduced as we go.
Readers of the original series should be pleased to discover that they won’t be faced with long recaps of material they are already familiar with. Everything in the new storyline is new, and the manner in which we learn about David Kim will be in a way that’s natural and grows out of the new storyline rather than through a series of flashbacks. I wanted the new series to be rewarding for all the people who have supported Xombi throughout the years as well as for new readers willing to give it a try.
Nrama: Did fan demand bring back Xombi? You must hear from fans a lot, don't you?
Rozum: Out of all the work I’ve ever done, Xombi is the thing I get the most email about and questions asked at conventions and signings, even after all these years. I get a decent number of emails about it every month. Dan DiDio told me that DC also received a lot of requests to bring it back, and that was a big factor on the decision to resurrect Xombi. It’s a great example of the fans making their voices heard and getting a response.
The new ongoing has been a very welcome return for me. Writing the first issue was very easy. it was almost like the 16 intervening years had never happened. I hadn’t had so much fun writing a comic book in a long time. It was a real blast. With the potential to expand the story of David Kim and lead him down the course I’d planned for him has really allowed me to invest myself fully in this project, and I think that full immersion will really show in the stories and characters themselves.
Nrama: How would you describe the overall feeling of this comic? Is it dark, funny, science-driven, supernatural?
Rozum: Yes.It’s really an odd mix of things that somehow all come together and feel completely natural in the context of the series. Everything that you mention is a key ingredient in Xombi, with some stories leaning towards different combinations more than others. The first storyline leans more towards being a strange adventure and has less outright horror elements than other stories, although they are definitely there.
Nrama: Introduce us to David Kim. Who is he as we pick up his story in this new series?
Rozum: David Kim is a medical researcher who was attacked in his laboratory by strange creatures and left for dead. His supernaturally induced mortal injuries were repaired by nanomachines injected into his body.
The combination of science and the supernatural has left him with two consequences:
1. He cannot die. Ever. He can heal any wound, any disease, never has to brush his teeth, diet, worry about aging, or use a toilet. The nanomachines in his body process everything and keep him in peak physical condition. This condition brought on by artificial means is what makes him a xombi.
2. He has now become a weirdness magnet. All manner of really strange stuff occurs with him somehow winding up in the center of it.
The series is about David Kim coming to terms with both of these conditions, learning his way around in a world most of us never get to see occupied by the most bizarre characters and situations while desperately trying to maintain a place in our mundane everyday world.
Each storyline is designed to take David through a specific character arc, or development. At the point the new series begins, he’s accepted that he has these new powers and that he’s now part of this strange shadow world that coexists within our own world. He’s examining ways to use his powers to do things beyond simply regenerate himself, and taking a generally more proactive approach to his new life. His worries now are that there’s no longer a place for himself in the regular world that all of his friends from before he became a xombi occupy, and he’s very unwilling to let his place in that world go.
Nrama: How does David feel about his superpowers?
Rozum: He’d rather not have them and go back to being a normal medical researcher, but since that’s no longer an option, he’s doing his best to feel like he’s in control of his new situation and not the other way around.
Nrama: Who are the supporting characters we'll be seeing in the comic?
Rozum: We’ll be seeing at least on supporting character from the original series, besides Nun of the Above. There are three supporting characters who are really central to the first arc:
Annie Palmer - a woman who was stranded when her fantastic home was stolen and who recruits David Kim to help her return home. She’s done some truly terrible things in her quest to return home.
Roland Finch - a magician and master manipulator who stole Annie’s home for his own ends. He’s the villain of the storyline and commands some nasty creatures to enforce his will.
Morgan - a very old, militaristic leader of a special castle who finds himself strategizing with David and Annie, because it’s also in the best interest of the people Morgan represents that Finch is removed from Annie’s home.
Nrama: Is that Nun of the Above on the cover of the second issue? And the solicitation says they're going up against James Church?
Rozum: Nun of the Above is indeed back and with a new habit. James Church is a college student who was transformed into a homicidal maniac by a reading assignment come horribly wrong. He’s less of a hazard than a means to an end in this story. His homicidal nature is not the worst secret he’s carrying.
Nrama: What other strange things will we see in Xombi?
Rozum: There are so many. I’ve tried to include at least one or two big ones every issue as well as dozens of extra ancillary strange things. I’m purposefully going out of my way not to really say anything about what they are, because I think a lot of the fun of reading this series is encountering all the weird bits as you go. It’s packed with strange bits. You definitely get your money’s worth of strange.
Nrama: What does Frazer Irving bring to the comic?
Rozum: Frazer is really the ideal collaborator. He was my first choice for this storyline, as well as editor Rachel Gluckstern’s. I’ve always been a writer who chooses the stories because they serve to highlight certain aspects of the characters participating in them, so characters have always been more important to me than plot. Frazer has spent a lot of time working to understand the characters, their motivations, how they interact with one another and so on, so that he can give each of them a unique performance that breathes life into them.
His storytelling is also really terrific, he’s made some choices with how he’s staged scenes in the first issue that really wowed me, and his color sense is amazing. Just looking at his color breakdowns is a real education. I’m told I’m one of the few writers who actually includes color notes in their scripts and uses it as part of the storytelling process, but with Frazer I’ve actually gone out of my way to not mention color and let him make all of those choices.
This comic is going to look incredible, and in anticipation of seeing new art from him, I’ve been like a little kid checking the mailbox everyday to see if something they ordered has finally been delivered.
Nrama: Some readers questioned the decision at DC to kill the Asian-American scientist, Ryan Choi, who was the new Atom. Do you feel like Xombi brings a bit of needed diversity to the DCU?
Rozum: We live in a country that’s incredibly diverse. When I lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., my kids went to public school where there were more than 40 languages represented and where "apple pie" American white kids were in the minority. It’s not anything like that where I live now, unfortunately, but it’s spread out. There are a lot more than just people of European descent here.
People with superpowers still seem to be almost exclusively white, and if they’re not, it’s because they are a character that lives in China, Africa, India, or someplace other than the United States. I think bringing diversity to the DCU, or any other universe, can only be a good thing, but it shouldn’t be done simply with that goal in mind. That’s how you end up with token characters.
David Kim is Korean-American, but that’s not what his purpose is, or what defines him as a character. My goal is to write a character that people like and get involved with, not to fill a quota. If I tried to write him to represent all Korean-Americans, or all Asians, it would be a disaster. The best thing I can do is simply to make him a strong believable character whose story people want to follow.
The original Xombi series was probably the most religiously diverse comic book series at the time, but that was something that grew out of the material, and not something I set out to do on purpose. My feeling was that if you were telling stories that involved supernatural beings, then various religions would very likely have their own agents to investigate such phenomena. This led to the creation and inclusion of Nun of the Above, Catholic Girl, and Rabbi Sinnowitz. None of these characters were meant to be viewed as a stand-in for their faith. For me they were always individuals, and my goal was to make them as well rounded as possible.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell readers about your Xombi series?Rozum: I want to thank all the fans who have continued to support this series over the years, and who took the time to let DC know that they really wanted to see this series come back. Now that they, and I, have been granted their wish, don’t squander it. Spread the word, give it to your friends to read, and continue to let DC know that you are happy to have it again.
Many people have speculated that if the internet had been the way it is now, with all of the blogs and message boards devoted to comics, that Xombi most likely would have found a much larger audience the first time around. Now’s the time to make that theory a possibility. I promise that as long as this book runs, that I will deliver the best stories possible. But this book will only continue as long as sales merit it, and waiting for trade paperback collections is not going to make that happen. I say the same goes for any comic book series you love: Make your voice heard and help nurture it. This new series proves that you can make that happen.
Fans can share comments or questions about the new series with John Rozum by visiting www.johnrozum.com.