Keith Giffen says he's not doing it on purpose. Destroying Australia, that is.
Nevertheless, folks down under need to be watching the skies in January 2003, because Giffen will be destroying Australia ... again.
"First of all," Giffen told CBR News on Wednesday, "It's part of this 'shared universe,'" Image Comics' new superhero universe, that is, "And they gave me Australia, because of what I'm doing. 'Dominion' is basically 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' with superheroes.
"I originally asked for England. They said, no, no, Australia's better, because it's down there. I'm used to destroying Australia, since I did it in [the DC Comics miniseries/event] 'Invasion!'"
Giffen, whose heavy New Yorker accent belies the fact that he was born in England, knew England. Had plans for England. With Australia, despite having destroyed it previously (that's the last time we'll mention it for a while, promise), he's playing a bit of catch up and he's looking for help with slang, local color and so forth. "Any Australians out there want to help me out, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."
"Dominion," plotted and penciled by Giffen, with dialogue by co-creator and co-plotter Ross Richie (producer of the "Mage" movie) and inks by Claude St. Aubin, tells the story of the first species that came into being after the Big Bang. Over the millennia, the species, which resembles a terrestrial virus in many ways, has evolved to take over host species and rebuild them to better suit its needs. And then, one day, the species arrives on Earth, in Australia to be precise, aboard meteorites.
"I've taken 'Look, up in the sky!' and turned it into a warning," Giffen said.
Once infecting humans, it begins rebuilding their hosts to become more capable of defending the beachhead for their invasion against a world full of Image Universe superheroes. While only a handful of Australians are initially infected -- Giffen calls it a "slow-moving contagion" -- it's enough. They seize control of Australia and shut it off from the outside world.
"The book is basically about the structure that the superheroes set up before the rest of the superheroes of the world can react."
Of course, as in our world, a new unpleasant world superpower (so to speak) that wants nothing to do with the established world order would be very attractive to certain "rogue states," which means that in "Dominion," the country that was once Australia quickly finds itself with new allies, including Iraq and North Korea.
Meanwhile, the virus begins to further change and adapt their hosts.
"You don't wake up, and all of the sudden it's the virus talking. It's a subliminal thing. I wake up, and suddenly we hate each other. ... It's not us, it's the virus particles have a grudge against each other."
Cue super-powered fisticuffs. Or worse.
Of course, the story doesn't end with the invasion. Giffen got the idea when he rewatched the Terminator movies, and saw the scene of humans in a post-apocalyptic wasteland running for their lives, with energy beams being shot down at them from the heavens.
"What if you panned up, and it was Superman?"
And so it is in "Dominion," as the ordinary uninfected Australians fight back against beings that would make DC/Wildstorm's Authority look like a bunch of goody two shoes wimps. The world's reaction to this sudden influx of powerful and alien beings is caution -- the world's superheroes don't leap into certain death by trying to retake Australia, although the world is well aware that this influx of new superheroes isn't anything benign.
"It's like Pearl Harbor aware. People are aware. As for how the other books will react, I don't know. ... One of the things I'm going to establish is that the moment you hit international waters, there's a major carrier group or battleship waiting there. Not so much because they're hostile governments or anything, but because it's under quarantine."
If you haven't yet guessed, this is Giffen in his dark mood again.
"I have two main wells I drink out of: The very dark stuff, where I exorcize whatever demons are haunting me. And then I like the humor stuff. I'd even say that's my favorite stuff. ... I can do straight superhero books, but I have no real interest in doing something that John Byrne can do better.
"'Dominion' falls into the dark side with some what I think are really gut-busting hilarious moments. It's sort of like getting rabbit punched while you're falling down laughing. ... 'Dominion' is a hard look at the dark side of superpowers.
"I think it's an uplifting optimistic book cloaked in a horrifying one," Giffen said, since he looks to pit ordinary Australians against amoral superhuman aliens -- and sometimes they'll even win. "'Let's see, I've got a gun, I've got a bat, I've got a knife. Let's go kill Superman!'
While Giffen clearly has a fondness for superheroic icons, "Dominion," even moreso than his past work on "Lobo" and "Ambush Bug," gives him a chance to look at the darker side of a superheroic universe.
"What do you think Superman would do if he woke up with all those powers and knew there would never be any consequences for the rest of his life? He wouldn't be anyone you'd want to be around."
And given that the character closest to a Superman analogue in "Dominion" is far more powerful than the Man of Steel -- he was the test bed for ALL of the superpowers the aliens were going to add to their hosts -- it's even more true.
"What happens to the abused wife when she wakes up and realizes that she's Wonder Woman? What happens when friction is applied to the Flash?"
Having said that, don't look for "Dominion" to be a constant exploration of classic superhero tropes:
"It's not going to be 'read the comic to see our version of Spider-Man,'" Giffen said. "Each of these characters I like to think is coming from a unique place and can stand on his or her own."
"Dominion" marks the first time in several years that Giffen is writing and drawing an ongoing series. Given that he's not drawing the upcoming "Lobo" book for DC Comics or other projects that one might expect him to draw, why made him pick up the #2 pencil he uses to draw for "Dominion?"
"The same thing that makes me decide a lot of things: A whim. And knowing that Claude would be there if I needed it."
Giffen will be using his "chunkier" art style, more in the vein of the "Five Years Later" stories in "Legion of Super-Heroes" than his work on "Trencher," similar to his recent fill-in stories for "Powers" and "Power Company."
Don't look for the return of his (in)famous nine panel grid layout, however.
"That was a deliberate experiment, and it was an attempt to give people more story for their dollar. Comics had just increased in prices. And I got torn to pieces for it!"
"Dominion" will be an ongoing series -- "Of course, if the sales don't warrant it, I'll swear it was a maxi-series," Giffen said -- and with a hopefully monthly schedule.
"The goal is monthly. But if bi-monthly is the only way I can be honest with the readers, we'll go bi-monthly. I don't want to, but ..."
As for whether readers will embrace Giffen's post-apocalyptic superbeings and Australian freedom fighters down under, Giffen has no idea. He's just here to tell a story.
"Whenever I put out a new book, I hope that there's new readers. ... But I never know. Every book that I've done that I thought would be successful has failed."
The battle to retake Australia begins in January.