Inside the carnage and bloodshed that was World War II, many veterans say they saw things they’d never seen before and never want to see again. Who knew they were talking about aliens.
In the new webcomic F-00 Fighters, the Axis Powers and the Allied Forces find themselves on the defensive after an alien invasion threats to make their struggle look like a playground tussle. Can the two sides put aside their differences to combat this alien threat? That’s the twist in this unique webcomic launched earlier this year and distributed on USA Today’s website. Every Wednesday a new handful of pages is put online, and they’re well on their way to completing their second issue this month.
Newsarama spoke with writers Jason Stevens and William Wilson, along with artist Jason Reeves, about this dog-fighting drama pitting man versus alien.
Newsarama: Fellas, how would you describe the story of F-OO Fighters?
Jason Stevens: Simply put, it's the story of the world's greatest fighter pilots assembled into a top-secret squadron. Their mission? Stop an alien invasion. So you have American pilots fighting alongside the Japanese, Russian pilots fighting alongside the Nazis. In other words, this baby is global.
One of the more interesting aspects of the story is that the world as a whole is unaware of what's happening in the skies above. While humans are fighting over the planet during World War II, the F-OO fighters are fighting to save it. But that's not to say everything is rosy in the ranks of the squadron. There is animosity amongst the various pilots because they're being “recruited” during one of the darkest moments of history.
The story centers primarily around a good ol' farm boy from Kentucky, Billy Miller. As the book opens, Billy's older brother, Danny, is already part of the F-OO Fighter squadron. Inevitably, one thing leads to another and Billy finds himself thrown into the mix to help protect the planet. So you've got a young kid, a very skilled pilot, who is called upon to save the world. He's sort of the Luke Skywalker of the bunch. He leaves home, finds his destiny and kicks some alien ass. We've also got a female Russian pilot, a Nazi nobody likes and a Japanese pilot that shows all the newbies the ropes. It's definitely a mixed bag of characters.For instance, the Russian pilot doesn't care too much for the fact she's fighting alongside a Nazi. It makes for some great drama because you're throwing these opposing ideologies together. But they don't have a choice. Find common ground, defend the planet or get blown away.
Nrama: Jason, with F-00 Fighters taking place in the 1940s, how’d you do the research as an artist to get the visuals accurate?
Jason Reeves: Whenever I’m doing a new comic I always hit up the Barnes & Nobles and Borders discount section to see if I can find any good reference. Thankfully, for F-00 Fighters there were tons of good military themed books photos on the discount shelf, with lots of photos in them. What I can’t find there, I use Google images, my Netflix account, and my good ole’ imagination.
Nrama: I have to ask about the name; it's taken from a WWII era gun, but it's been popularized by Dave Grohl's rock band. Any concerns or talks with them on sharing the name?
Stevens: There was actually a long debate over the title. Obviously, we knew Dave Grohl and the boys had dibs before we laid our paws on it, so we had to look for a unique solution.
We didn't want to lose the term because it fit so well with the story. But we also did not want to get sued. Reeves played around with the wording, ditched the traditional spelling of "Foo" and created "F-OO." Turns out, that worked even better because that logo is something you might actually have seen on the side or wings of fighter planes during that time.
Nrama: This alien invasion happens right in the midst of WWII. You mentioned some people might be fighting on the same side on t his, but will the Allies and the Axis Powers stop fighting each other to fend off this global threat?
Stevens: No. The war is still raging between the Axis and Allies. Unlike other alien invasion stories, these invaders aren't that direct with their methods. There's a bit more subterfuge involved with this threat. The Allies, not wanting to tax the general public anymore than they already are with the war, makes the decision to form a squadron that can combat the menace. The aliens use hit and run tactics to soften everything up for the main invading force that is well on its way. From a storytelling standpoint, we thought it would be more interesting to keep the public in the dark about the whole thing.
Nrama: What are the alien forces like in this comic?
Stevens: We kept the aliens ambiguous for a variety of reasons, first and foremost being we really wanted to zero in on the human drama of the story. I thought it was more important to focus on what it takes to bring this particular group of pilots together to function as a fighting force, rather than the motivations of the invading aliens.Not to mention the fact one of my all-time favorite sci-fi films is the original War of the Worlds. You saw the aliens in that one only a couple of times. So to me, as a writer, I want the reader to fill-in-their own blanks as to what these creatures may or may not look like. But that’s not to say we don’t have a reveal. It’s just not in your face.
Nrama: Seeing alien spacecraft up against WWII-era dogfighters is a sight. Jason, how’d you come up with the ship designs for the aliens?
Reeves: Anytime I do concept design I try to stray away from what’s already been done. Ambitious, and not always possible, but it is good to attempt to be original right? Since our book is about the sort of hidden history of aviation science and war, I wanted to play up the conspiracy theories in the designs. Rumors about aliens building the Pyramids, the Mayan Ruins or stuff like that. So the alien ships are loosely based on ruins and ancient organic/ornate structures. I wanted them to contrast the sleek and highly technological aspects of the F-00 Fighters’ planes.Nrama: How did you hook up with artist Jason Reeves to tell this story in comic form?
William Wilson: I've known Jason for years, going back to the early 2000s. It’s been long enough that I can't even remember the first time we met. What I do remember is that the first time I saw his art, I knew the world would see great things from him. We have always wanted to work on something and this was a story that really appealed to him. At Arch Enemy, we really want artists to be comfortable with what they work on. We always feel that when an artist is happy with a story or subject, the product is ten times better than if he simply doesn't care. Jason was drawn to the project, so it was only natural that he work on it. As we were working on the project, Jason wanted to bring in colorist Luis Guerrero. My feeling has always been when one master recommends another, I will always say yes. It is a decision I have yet to regret. Personally, I feel blessed and grateful to work with such a powerful creative team. I can already say the world has not seen the best that Jason Reeves, Luis Guerrero, and Jason Stevens have to offer.
Nrama: Part of the buzz surrounding this title is the fact that you’re putting it online on USA Today’s website, but you list the publisher as Arch Enemy. How’s that work?
Wilson: William Wilson: Well, technically speaking, USA Today is our strategic partner in distributing the project online, and we are very fortunate to be working with Brian Truitt at Arch Enemy on this. He has allowed us quite a bit of creative control. Brian is a man of incredible vision and can see where the market is going. He always believed that a partnership with a creative company was the next move for >O?USA Today, becoming one of the few news publications to do so. With F-00 Fighters, Arch Enemy's role is as the publisher. Though, in the digital age, publisher has a much different meaning than it used to. It makes us a creative think tank, a digital content provider. We are a media company, not a place that simply creates comic books. We want to tell good stories, no matter what the format.
Nrama: Will there be a print edition of F-OO Fighters, or be available on mobile comics platforms like comiXology?
Wilson: Currently, the plan with our strategic partner is to deliver a free product to a global audience through their website, usatoday.com.
We are only interested in telling our story to the world. It was important to us and to the people at USA Today that F-00 Fighters be available to anyone who is interested in reading it. As a company, we are moving towards the digital frontier. We are a media company and digital platforms are the next step in that evolution. With all forms of media finding a home within this space, we found it a natural and logical progression that our work move into that realm as well. However, this project has a home, and as of now we don't see a need to leave. We want to be in business with people who trust and respect us for a long time. USA Today has been beyond kind to us, and we hope to have a partnership with them for years to come.
Nrama: How many issues do you have planned for F-OO Fighters?Wilson: As with all our stories, all of our projects, the mandate handed down by Arch Enemy President, Percy Carey, is that as long as there is a story to be told, it will be told. It may not be what the traditional comic market might call an ongoing, but we will see the story through to its end. It's hard to put a number on that. We also listen to our fans. If people want to see more, we will always be there to give more.
Reeves: I think Jason’s script has that Band of Brothers quality people seem to gravitate to. It gives that crucial mix of action and character. And to make my pencil scratching look like actual pieces of art, we have Luis’ colors adding to the vibrancy and tone; making the pages look better than they have any right to. It has the best of Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure, and Drama; with a lot of heart. Will and I like to throw around the term ‘popcorn movie’ well,
I’d like to think of F-00 Fighters as a ‘popcorn comic’.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!