Yesterday, Archaia revealed a whole lineup of giveaway posters premiering during WonderCon 2012 featuring the publisher's publishing slate for the coming year. While many of the projects have been solicited or revealed already, four books stood out from the pack as unsolicited and previously unannounced: "Space 1999," written by Andrew E.C. Gaska and based on the 1970s British science fiction television show; "Gang of Fools," a futuristic dystopian tale by James Smith; "Pantalones, TX," an all-ages humor book by animator Yehudi Mercado; and "Iron: Or, the War After" by S.M. Vidaurri.
To shed some much-needed light on the upcoming Archaia releases, CBR News spoke with Archaia editors Paul Morrissey and Rebecca Taylor about the upcoming releases, the stories behind them and how each release helps to expand Archaia's diverse catalog.
CBR News: Paul, tell us about "Space 1999" and writer Andrew Gaska's plans for the graphic novel.
Paul Morrissey: Andrew Gaska wrote our "Conspiracy of the Planet of the Apes" book. I think he did a fantastic job with that particular book and much in the same way he knows the "Planet of the Apes" world and mythology, he has really been a fan of "Space 1999" and explored that world. The premise of the TV show is that there's a moon base and they're cut off from the rest of the Earth because the moon has fallen out of Earth's orbit and is traveling through space. In the first book of "Space 1999," Drew does something that's really cool: he actually explores the ramifications on Earth of the moon leaving orbit. So all these natural disasters and calamities occurring on Earth because of that event are explored. He does a little bit of backstory with Commander Koenig, Martin Landau's character on the TV show, and we see a little bit of the moon base. The first series is showing us something from that world we've never seen before. The books in the series will go back to the moon base and follow what has gone on with them. In total, it will cover the events we don't see on Earth all the way through to events that the show never got to explore because it only lasted a few seasons.
Will "Space 1999" follow the same publishing formula Archaia has put into place with other licensed properties like the Henson titles?
Morrissey: I think what Drew does is a little bit different. With "Fraggle Rock," we never expand the mythology or the continuity. Every "Fraggle Rock" story we've done pretty much exists before the series ended. What Drew does is he really goes into those worlds and expands the mythology and expands the story. We'll see things in "Space 1999" that you never would have seen in the show. I think its approach is a little bit different, it's really an expansive look at both worlds.
Let's move on to "Gang of Fools," which has a really cool art style and is written and drawn by James Smith. What's the concept behind this book?
Rebecca Taylor: "Gang of Fools" is a dystopian cyberpunk future book, but it's different than most dystopian future books in that it's not as dark. A lot of the content is extremely mature, but it's a little bit lighter than most of the dystopian books. It's about this group of friends who are hipsters to the extreme, almost. They live in a city in the future in which everyone is constantly plugged in to the Internet all the time. People will kill each other for a couple of blog hits and people orchestrate huge, massive mob conspiracies just to get 15 minutes where they're the #1 YouTube video. It's all about being on top of the trends and all about being on top of the fads. It's this totally convoluted, weird, bizarre world with all these weird trends. The characters within it, even though everything is dark and kind of crazy, they have a sense of humor about it. That's just their life and that's the way they go through things. The main character is a girl named Aditi whose main problem is she needs $10,000 for rent by the end of the week, so she gets a job as a messenger, a courier, on a skateboard. She has to navigate through the city and in doing that, she ends up getting connected in this "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" kind of way to all these different crazy conspiracies that are going on. One of the great things about it is that it's a creator's vision, which is always really fun.
Let's move on to "Pantalones, TX," which was the only cover I couldn't tell anything about just by looking at it. What's the story behind this one?
Morrissey: It's by a guy named Yehudi Mercado and it's a straight-up comedy book. Gosh, I guess I would initially describe it as "Dazed and Confused" meets "Smokey and the Bandit." It's just about a small town in Texas and the sheriff rides a giant chicken. It's just very funny. Yehudi has a great background in animation, so his style is just very cartoony and fluid. I think that book can be a little coming out of left field from Archaia, but it's a very singular vision and that vision just happens to be a comedic vision.
Taylor: I think it is obviously very funny, but it's an all-ages property which I think is very important to mention. It also has a "Captain Underpants" vibe to it or "Jimmy Neutron" vibe. It's completely all-ages. I don't think it's "Dazed and Confused" where everybody's high.
Morrissey: Well, yeah. I meant in the same way that "Slacker" and "Dazed and Confused" are about all these eccentric people in a small town. That's a good point. Also, Yehudi's from Texas -- but yes, like an all-ages "Slacker."
Taylor: It's set in this weird town, Pantalones, TX. It's also a little "Dennis The Menace"-y where we have this one kid in particular who's just a total troublemaker. He's the fastest kid around and he drives the sheriff absolutely crazy. It has the level of bizarre that cartoons like "Jimmy Neutron" have, where it's like the town next to it is a total rich town and they have a weird cult that worships chickens. It's really weird and it's really fun. It's a total all-ages cartoon funfest. It's hilarious.
Morrissey: Yehudi's cartoon style is also fantastic.
Will "Pantalones, TX" follow in the footsteps of Archaia's other all-ages offerings with plenty of material for both kids and adults?
Taylor: Yes. I laughed out loud three times at least in the first 50 pages when I was reading through the first draft of it. It definitely made me laugh, but I think it will really appeal to kids because it does have that totally bizarre humor kids are attracted to. I don't think a lot of our all-ages books currently do. A lot of our all-ages books are -- not necessarily serious -- but more toward the fantasy, "Mouse Guard" classic way. This is much more comedic. Kids will be able to read it and just laugh, which I think is cool. It's a cool new direction for us.
Speaking of "Mouse Guard," Archaia has a tradition of some fantastic animal stories. How does "Iron" follow in those footsteps?
Morrissey: We had David Petersen do a pin-up for "Iron" and he added something to the character that he drew a pin-up of that manifested itself into the story. For me, it's a great book in the sense that one of our premiere creators like David got on board and helped influence that story in a way. I think there's a lot of synergy with that book, not only for Archaia as a brand, but for Archaia's creators. I think "Iron" is going to be amazing.
Taylor: I think "Iron" is -- not really a follow-up piece to "Mouse Guard" because it's a completely new world -- but it's for readers who grew up reading "Mouse Guard" and are older, or for adult fans that "Mouse Guard" is something they really love and they enjoy even more now that it's gotten darker and more serious. "Iron" is the next book they should read because it's kind of an adult version of "Mouse Guard." What's great about it is that it's not adult in that there's gore or horror or swearing, so it could be read by little kids -- but the themes in it are so much more mature. The characters and plotlines are extremely complex and deep. It's much better suited for slightly more sophisticated readers but I think the fans who love "Mouse Guard" for how seriously it treats that world and animals and the fantasy element of it and the characters themselves will react to "Iron" very well.
It's a really cool story where they have anthropomorphized animals and it kind of looks like the Russian steppes in winter. The whole thing takes place after a huge war has been fought. It's in the aftermath of this war and there's a military regime that's in place. There's a resistance that's going on trying to fight against the regime in a guerilla movement, but it feels very communist because there are a lot of intellectuals resisting against the regime. The story starts out with a spy in the resistance who is a rabbit. He steals documents from a military base and the crow, who is an official in the military, doesn't shoot him as he escapes. The book then follows, through an entire ensemble cast, how that one event then trickles down and ends up affecting all the characters in this world from the highest general in the military to the orphan child of one of the resistance workers and how one action of letting the rabbit escape affects characters on both sides. Each chapter has a different main character, so a secondary character in the first chapter may be the main character in the second. You really get to see how the aftermath of this war is really affecting every single person and the destruction something like war causes on all sides and how there's never a winner or loser. Everyone loses when it comes to that level of violence. It's a cool story.
What's S.M. Vidaurri's art style like for the interior pages?
Taylor: The interior art is actually completely different from the cover. He does all watercolor. The entire book is painted. It's all hand-painted, not digital. It's absolutely gorgeous. It's done mostly in blue tones and he does amazing textures and background with these amazing winterscapes. He does an amazing job of using ambient panels and the pacing of it, even though it feels really slow, makes the story creep up on you because it is such a dark, complicated story, because he's setting it in this world with this beautiful watercolor art and beautiful scenery, it doesn't make the story feel as dark and depressing as it could have because you're in this beautiful art world. I think that's part of what makes it work is that his art is so magical.
Stay tuned to CBR for more on Archaia's 2012 lineup.