They're Coming...Again! Nelson talks "War of the Worlds: Second Wave"

Thu, December 15th, 2005 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Justin Jordan, Guest Contributor

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They looked across the void with hard and hungry eyes. They struck without warning and without mercy. Within days, our armies fell, our cities burned, and their victory was almost complete. Then, as unexpectedly as they came, they died, felled by things too small to see and too insignificant to plan against.

H.G. Wells' classic tale of invasion, "The War of the Worlds," has been enthralling audiences for more than a century in every medium, from radio to television to film, and in the new Boom! Studios ongoing series "War of the Worlds: Second Wave" by writer Michael Alan Nelson and artist Chee, we finally see what happens to the Earth in the wake of the alien's first attempt to steal our world.

The fact that this new series comes in a year when one of the most successful movies is a Tom Cruise version of the story is no coincidence, according to author Nelson.

"One night Ross [Richie; Boom! Studios Publisher] and I were geeking out over the news of a new 'War of the Worlds' movie. And as most of our conversations do, it turned into a game of 'what if,'" Nelson told CBR News. "I mean, what if, when the aliens died, humanity didn't unite in victory over their common enemy? What if we all tried to take advantage of the chaos and tear each other apart? What if the red weed survived and started growing out of control? But most importantly, what if the aliens tried again? I kept asking these questions until Ross finally suggested I answer some of them in the form of a proposal. I did and he liked what he read. So here we are."

And the "here" is a tale set in the aftermath of the invasion, where we've learned a few of the aliens' tricks, as told from the perspective of a man who lost everything in the first wave and now not only anticipates the returns of the aliens, but relishes the possibility.

"The story follows the main character, Miles, his best friend, and the various people they meet as they try to navigate through an alien landscape," explained Nelson. "Of course they have more than just aliens to deal with. Human power structures are fractured and rewritten as the 'us' in 'us vs. them' can't always be defined as all human beings. But it's not just a story about survival. They want their planet back. Oh, and the red weed. Can't forget the red weed. "

The tale itself has been adapted often, including versions made by some of the greats like Stephen Spielberg and Orson Welles. Following in the footsteps of these men didn't daunt Nelson when it came time to present his vision of the aftermath.

"I have to say that my absolute favorite is the Orson Welles radio play," said Nelson. "I can't even imagine how terrifying it must have been listening to that in 1938 and not realizing it wasn't real. To this day, I still get weirded out hearing that reporter being cut off in mid sentence. In fact there's a scene in the original movie that I always have in the back of my mind when I'm writing. Right after the meteor lands, three men approach it while waving a white flag. Pretty soon they find themselves on the wrong side of an alien arc welder. For some reason, that's always stuck with me. It's the ultimate consequence for assuming that the aliens see the world as we do, think as we do. That's what happens when we look at them through a strictly human filter. They're alien in the most dramatic sense of the word. Not only would they not know what a white flag means, but the mere concept of surrender doesn't even exist for them. "

The differences between the humans and the aliens, and how their interaction changed them both, is one of the things that Nelson will show in this new series.

"That's something I really want to do with this book. I want to explore the alieness of them. Most of the aliens we see in comics, fiction, movies, have some aspect of humanity," Nelson said. "Not necessarily in the way they look, but in their technology, in the way they communicate, they way they perceive the world around them. I really want to play with that."

Nelson is a relative newcomer to the comics field, with stories published in Boom! Studios' "Zombie Tales," "Zombie Tales: Oblivion" and the upcoming "Zombie Tales: The Dead" series, but he is also the writer of the popular novel "Dingo," currently being serialized on the Internet, as well as winning the 2004 New Times 55 Fiction contest for his short-short "The Conspirators."

"I have to admit that I came to comics pretty late in life," said Nelson. "I grew up in a small Indiana town and the closest thing we had to a comic shop was the public library. They had a decent collection of fantasy and science fiction novels, but the only comics they had were some 'Elfquest' books and an adaptation of the movie 'Alien' (which, for ten-year-old me, was truly decadent since it had words that, until then, I'd never seen outside the men's room at the local truckstop). But once I ploughed through those, there was really nothing left. So comics fell off my radar for the next twenty years.

"It wasn't until I met Mark Waid at a dinner party that comics finally blipped back onto my screen. I was politely eavesdropping on the conversation he was having when he began talking about a new project he was working on called 'Superman: Birthright.' I don't know what it was that I expected to hear, but when Mark started to explain the importance and underlying symbolism of Clark's glasses, I was floored. I was still under the common misconception that comics were all boobs, capes and ka-POWS! I had no idea that that kind of intelligent storytelling could be found in comics. Later when I asked a friend about it, all he said was, 'Well, duh!' So he turned me onto what I had been missing for the past twenty years. I've been in love with the medium ever since."

When asked why he picked something as big and high profile as a "War of the Worlds" follow up for his first long form work in comics, Nelson's answer was simple.

"It's just a great world to work in. Even though I'm building off of the original story, there are so many different avenues that I can take. Plus, tripods dude. I get to write about frikkin' tripods!"

You can learn to love the tripods too when the "War of the Worlds: Second Wave" hits comic stores everywhere in February 2006 from BOOM! Studios.

 
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