Jane Wiedlin has been abducted by aliens.
The Go-Go’s musician is breaking into outer space with aliens and robots aplenty in “Lady Robotika,” Wiedlin’s upcoming Image Comics miniseries co-written by Bill Morrison and co-illustrated by Morrison and Tone Rodriguez. In “Lady Robotika,” a fictional version of Wiedlin is abducted by aliens and transformed into a cybernetic life form thanks to extra-terrestrial technology. After arriving on the aliens’ home world, Wiedlin performs a concert, thereby causing a slave uprising against the alien oppressors. In the process, Wiedlin herself is reborn as a hero – a hero known as Lady Robotika!
“Lady Robotika” will arrive first in comic book form on July 14, but there are already plans to expand the brand with a concept album written and recorded by Wiedlin, not to mention a developing stage musical. To learn more, CBR News spoke with Wiedlin and Morrison about all things “Lady Robotika.”
CBR News: Bill and Jane, as much as you can say without giving too much away, what’s the general premise for “Lady Robotika?”
Jane Wiedlin: I get abducted by aliens who, with their superior technology, experiment on me and begin to transform me into a cyborg for their own nefarious purposes. When we arrive at their planet, Herron IV, I end up giving a concert there, starting a revolt of the slaves and becoming Lady Robotika. That’s just the beginning of the tale!
What are some of the major distinctions between the “Lady Robotika” version of Jane and the real Jane? What do the two have in common?
Wiedlin: The two Jane Wiedlins are virtually alike, but the fictional Jane Wiedlin always has a sassy comeback line – I only mostly do – and is super hawt, whereas I am only pretty hawt!
Bill Morrison: The fact that Jane and I are co-writing has made the Lady Robotika character very authentic. There have been other comics based on real people where the writers have tried to get inside the head of the celebrity and make the character think and talk and act like the celeb does in real life, and it’s difficult to get that right. But with Jane being one of the writers, the character is always going to ring true to who she is, even when placed in fantastic situations. There’s no second-guessing about how Lady Robotika sees the world, her moral perspective, her sense of humor, her passions, whatever.
What led to the decision to have Jane as the central figure in the book as opposed to a fictional character? Is there just something inherently more fun about creating this highly stylized version of Jane?
Wiedlin: Aw, hell yeah! As soon as Bill and I decided to work together, I absolutely wanted to be the star of the story. I mean, who wouldn’t?
Morrison: I think we could have easily created an alter ego for Jane, sort of a Ziggy Stardust to her David Bowie. But making the character actually Jane seemed more intriguing. Rock and roll to me has always been about having a fantasy life. I grew up listening to Bowie, Alice Cooper, Todd Rundgren, Peter Gabriel – these were all musicians who created stage personas that, to varying degrees, were theatrical fantasy versions of themselves. To me, that’s the best reason for making Lady Robotika and Jane Wiedlin one and the same. It’s in keeping with the best rock and roll traditions, and one of the things we’re trying to do with this book is to meld the worlds of music and comics in as many ways as possible.
How did the idea for “Lady Robotika” come about, and how did you two sync up to collaborate on the project with one another?
Wiedlin: Bill and I are kindred souls, and when we met at SuperCon in San Jose in 2007, we clicked immediately. When Bill proposed we make me a superhero, it was like I’d waited a lifetime for someone to give me that chance! I’m so lucky to have met Bill.
Morrison: I recall quizzing Jane about her interests shortly after we decided we wanted to do a comic book together. I didn’t know her well at all then, so I asked her what a comic book based on her would be about. She told me about her love of science fiction films, books, and suggested it should take place on another planet and that she should be some sort of space hero. Also, that she really loves robots, and that they should play a big part. That was the genesis of it. From there, we just traded ideas back and forth via e-mail, and eventually we ended up with “Lady Robotika.”
Jane, is your interest in comic books a long-standing thing or a recent development for you? What made you decide that writing a story like “Lady Robotika” was something you wanted to pursue?
Wiedlin: As a geek-girl, my lifelong interest has been sci-fi and fantasy. I wasn’t a big comic book reader, or even a reader of short stories, because I’ve always read so much and so quickly that the stories ended too soon and left me frustrated. When Bill and I became friends, he taught me a lot about the art of comic books and introduced me to graphic novels, which made a big difference for me. Now I’m happy to report that I am fully indoctrinated into the tribe!
What do you find so intriguing about science fiction?
Wiedlin: Some of it is nurture and some of it’s nature. I’m left-handed and my brain has always felt comfortable with both the arts and science. This has served me well as a songwriter, since writing songs is part inspiration and part craftsmanship. The other thing is I grew up in a household full of older siblings, and when “Star Trek” debuted in 1966, our whole family watched it and loved it. It affected me and my personality and choices in life as much as The Beatles did!
Bill, you have plenty of experience working within the comics industry. What makes Jane an ideal collaborator? What skills does she bring to the table that you find fascinating in the comics creation process?
Morrison: I was delighted to discover that Jane is a gifted writer. Everybody who’s ever listened to a radio already knows she’s an incredible songwriter, but she also has an extensive knowledge of science fiction and is very good at dreaming up fantastic story ideas and writing witty dialogue. She’s also very skilled at spotting problems and coming up with solutions. For example, she’ll look at something I wrote from the perspective of a sci-fi fan and say, “This doesn’t make sense. Fans are going to call us on this.” This search and destroy ability allows us to deal with the problem before it gets out there. The last thing I want to do is see the book come out and then have some Comic Book Guy pointing out plot holes.
Jane, what makes Bill a valued collaborator in your eyes?
Wiedlin: First of all, he is the finest artist and writer I know and it’s always best to work with the best! Secondly, he is the kindest person I have ever known, but he isn’t a wimp. This makes me constantly strive to be more like him, and it also made me really want to be both his friend and collaborator.
With Jane’s involvement, there’s obviously a ton of rock to bring to this comic. What are you guys doing to translate that rock-and-roll attitude to “Lady Robotika?” Do you think comics and rock music sort of work hand-in-hand in a way, or was it difficult to bring a rock component given the static nature of a comic?
Wiedlin: I think we have integrated the rock into the story quite naturally. I’m recording a whole bunch of rock music inspired by “Lady Robotika.” When we release our graphic novel, after the sixth chapter of the comic book, we’ll have a special package that includes the music!
Morrison: One of the things I love about the medium of comics is that it’s very limited in terms of sound and motion. We have to work extra hard to create the illusion of those things on a static two-dimensional page. When it works, it’s really rewarding. It’s like magic! In translating “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” to comics, my job has always been about convincing the reader that they have just seen a TV episode. I want them to hear the voices, sound effects and music, and see the animation, or at least believe they have.
We’re fortunate with “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” because most of our readers are so familiar with the shows that they can hear and imagine the stuff that we can’t actually provide in the comics, but the couple of scenes in “Lady Robotika” where Jane is performing are really challenging because we’re asking the reader to imagine she’s singing and playing songs they’ve never heard before. I know that whenever I read a story where someone is singing a song that I’ve never heard, or that may not even exist in real life, I always make up what it sounds like in my head, and the tune I come up with is always lame. Of course, the music Jane is recording for the graphic novel version will allow the reader to fill in that blank and actually hear the fantastic songs she sings in the comic.
Bill, you’re working on the art alongside Tone Rodriguez. What’s the collaboration like between you and Tone?
Morrison: I love working solo, writing and drawing my own stories, but I also have a blast collaborating with talented people and seeing things happen that I would never think of or be able to do on my own. I’ve had to reset my brain a little bit on “Lady Robotika,” though, because I had originally planned to draw and ink everything myself and I had a vision for how I wanted it to look. But I realized eventually that with my schedule at Bongo, I could only do so much, and the book just wasn’t getting done fast enough. I’m pretty quick with the bigfoot stuff, but semi-realism takes me a lot longer.
Jane and I both love Tone’s work, and we asked him to help out with penciling. I inked some of Tone’s pages, and I also brought Dan Davis in to do some inking on Tone’s pencils as well as mine. Now, I view our little group as sort the equivalent of a band, and it’s fun inviting other people to help us out and see what cool things they add to the mix. In the pages Tone drew, he had to design the Herronian aliens and the interiors of their space ship, and it was very cool and exciting to see what he came up with.
What’s the process like when incorporating Jane and her ideas for the visual side of the comic?
Morrison: Jane has given a lot of input into the look of the book, but I would actually like to have her more involved in the art, and I think she will be in subsequent issues. It’s such a personal thing, and the more input she gives us, the more authentic it’ll be. There hasn’t always been time to show her every design and every page and to get her feedback prior to color – sometimes our schedules just don’t allow for it. But when I do send her stuff for approval and feedback, it’s always very helpful. She has a super-keen eye and will let me know if something isn’t working. It’s probably not a well-known fact, but Jane went to design school before she became a rock star!
Jane, I’ve read reports that there could be a “Lady Robotika” musical at some point. Can you talk a bit about how you developed the idea and what you would like to do with it?
Wiedlin: I was on a plane and the idea hit me like a lightning bolt. I didn’t have any paper with me, so I sketched out the whole space opera on an airplane barf bag! It was a very serendipitous moment. I realized I already had almost every song I needed to tell the story and it all fell into place in a matter of moments. My biggest wish in my life now, other than hoping people will like our book, is that we get this musical onto the stage!
The “Lady Robotika” universe is a big place and we want to take it everywhere, from the comic book to music, from the Space Opera to action figures, a TV show and even a movie. I haven’t had so much fun with a project in years!
Morrison: Because of Jane’s authentic geek-girl/rock chick attitude and influence, I predict that upon reading “Lady Robotika,” geeks and rockers will unite at last under her banner, submitting themselves to her supreme will. “Lady Robotika” will go far beyond a humble comic book series. It will become a way of life, and her legions of followers will demand to have every aspect of their beings inculcated by their beloved queen. There will be “Lady Robotika” music, movies, television programs, toys, electronics, collectible idols, food items, bed sheets, even bath products! Actually, we already have a Lady Robotika ShakyGlobe app launching soon for the iPhone – it’s a start!
Final thoughts, guys – for any reader that’s on the fence about picking up “Lady Robotika,” why do you think they should invest in the series?
Wiedlin: We’ve got gorgeous artwork, a classic tale, a sassy and sexy heroine, and lots of companion pieces coming, like a full-length CD of music inspired by “Lady Robotika.” I hope most readers are already a fan of Bill’s or a fan of mine, but maybe even people that aren’t yet will check it out. We hope comic book fans will take a chance and pick up our first issue. There’s a lot more where that came from!
Morrison: I have one parting word of advice, and this is from a world class procrastinator: Image prints only as many copies as are ordered through Diamond, so please don’t count on showing up at your local comic book emporium on July 14 and finding a copy of the first issue. Get there and order one or several copies today! The final cut off for orders is this Thursday, June 24, so there’s still time – you can thank me later!
“Lady Robotika” #1, co-written by Jane Wiedlin and Bill Morrison with art from Morrison and Tone Rodriguez, hits comic book stores on July 14, 2010.