It's hard to imagine how different the world would be if the Axis powers had defeated the Allied forces during World War II. It's even harder to imagine how different the world would be if the Axis powers got their hands on forbidden alien technology and forced the global conflict to extend well into the 1950s. But these aren't difficult thoughts for creator Paolo Parente - for him, these thoughts form the very spine of "Dust," his alternative science fiction take on World War II.
Over the years, "Dust" has rolled out through various different platforms including expertly crafted pinup illustrations, model kits, tabletop games and other interactive events. In June, the world of "Dust" continues in the form of "Dust Wars," an Image Comics miniseries conceived and created by Parente, written by Christopher "Mink" Morrison and illustrated by Davide Fabbri. CBR News spoke with all three creators to discuss the new miniseries and the overarching goals of the "Dust" world.
With the "Dust" universe, Parente has rewritten history so that in 1938, the Axis powers discovered a spacecraft in Antarctica filled with advanced alien technology, giving them a tremendous edge over the rest of the world. "They used this technology to build a fantastic army of robot machines, missile technology, jet fighter crafts and night vision," Parente told CBR. "When the Allies' D-Day assault happened, the Axis was able to hold off the Allies with this new technology. This created a stalemate in the world similar to the Cold War of the '80s. The Allies now have Generation 1 technology and the Axis were at Generation 3 technology."
At the center of "Dust" are two powerful women, Koshka Rudinova of the Allies and Sigrid Von Thaler of the Axis. "Koshka and Sigrid are my ambassadors of the 'Dust' World," explained Parente, who provides cover art for the "Dust Wars" miniseries. "They are both strong, intellectual, beautiful and driven women each with their own set of principles and desires. Koshka searches to find out what happened to her father, who was a commander in the Soviet Army, and avenge him. Sigrid searches to become the most powerful female commander in the Axis army. I draw from a lot of personal interest in my work and they both reflect different passions of mine in the art and toy world. I think they're great adversaries for each other."
Other characters featured in "Dust Wars" include Mickey - a war-hardened blonde bombshell "who can dismantle any engine blindfolded," according to Mink - and Sergeant Brown, a street-wise hustler from New York who becomes the leader of the first ever Special Forces Ranger Team.
"In this series, we follow Sergeant Brown and a rag tag group of American soldiers looking to get out of the military altogether, who accidentally help Koshka and the Russians save the world," Mink described of the story of "Dust Wars." "In 'Dust Wars,' we're exploring specific military events that have occurred in the 'Dust' story arc and the impact they may or may not have on the outcome of this struggle."
"'Dust Wars' serves as a tandem collection of stories for the entire universe of products," said Parente, who is also releasing a "Dust Tactics" tabletop game later this summer. "It allows me to cherry pick different parts of the world that I'd like to visit and then further expand on what will happen in our alternate universe with the characters that exist in the products I choose to make."
According to Mink, each member of the "Dust Wars" team works together in order to create the miniseries, even if Parente has "the final say on whether or not [an idea] is worthy of 'Dust,'" he said. "It's a lot of fun bouncing things off each other. Some things make it and others do not. It's a 100 percent collaborative process, but I think it helps so much that we're all on the same page to start with, much like a tight film crew or sports team. Most of all, we all love what we do respectfully and we strive to collaborate to make it the best we can. Plus, Paolo is a crazy genius and his art style and concepts are like nothing in the market, period."
Parente's "crazy genius" art style and concepts for the "Dust" comics and various other products come from his fascination with World War II, model kits, science fiction, movies and military history, all of which are inspirations shared by Mink and artist Davide Fabbri. "I met Paolo in 1993 and there are passions that brought us together - the love of drawing, World War II military history and the building of model kits," Fabbri said. "Every time Paolo has asked me to draw a concept design for one of his projects, I always know what he needs. It's always fun to start from real tanks and guns and [then] create 'Dust' tanks and 'Dust' guns. In fact, you can find a lot of elements recognizable from the real World War II military items, from equipment to supplies, throughout the 'Dust' world. The starting point for us is always historical in origin, and our research is then blended with Paolo's creative inspiration to create 'Dust's' original visuals and technology."
The first chapter of "Dust Wars," titled "Gunter Valley," debuts in June. Although currently listed as a three issue miniseries, Mink revealed that the team is already hard at work on new stories. "'Dust' is designed to be an episodic universe," he said. "There will be eight more issues in this story arc following the characters from this story through the entire campaign of Paolo's story, and we're already at work on the next series to drop as soon as possible. 'Dust,' for Paolo, exists in multiple mediums at the same time, so it is critical we keep all the creative areas spinning non-stop."
"'Dust' is my baby, my passion," said Parente. "It's the reason that I do what I do. It represents my love of model making, toy manufacturing, design, illustration and games. I've been very fortunate over the years to have gathered my team of 'Dust' collaborators, and together, they have helped me create some wonderful products."
Paolo Parente's "Dust Wars" #1, written by Christopher "Mink" Morrison and illustrated by Davide Fabbri, hits comic book stores on June 2, 2010. The "Dust Tactics" tabletop game is slated for release later this summer. For more information on the various products of the "Dust" universe, visit the official "Dust" website.