“The Stranded” – the first comic book to arrive from the joint venture between SCI FI Channel and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Comics – hit stores on Wednesday, January 23.
With new comic book titles serving as the creative genesis, SCI FIx`z /Virgin Comics is developing projects and original concepts that are being considered across all mediums, including publishing, film, television and gaming.
Mike Carey, the critically acclaimed writer of “X-Men: Legacy” and “Ultimate Fantastic Four,” created “The Stranded” and told CBR News, the book is about a small group of people who suddenly discover that the whole of their past life is a lie, that they’re not who they thought they were and they’re not even related to the people they thought were their families.
“It’s about waking up one morning with a different name, a different personality and a different set of memories,” said Carey.
And you thought you woke up on the wrong side of the bed?
“The background situation is kind of like the Kinderluft in the run up to
World War Two,” explained Carey. “You know how people were worried about the Nazis’ rise to power sent their children away to be brought up elsewhere? Well, the same thing has happened here, more or less. Another world, Standfire, finds itself facing a war it can’t win, and so some of its young people are sent away to Earth and hidden under such deep cover that they don’t even know themselves who they are. But something else follows them, and now it’s killing them one by one.”
And for those without the most up-to-date Standfire “Lonely Planet” guidebook, Carey revealed what he could about the far-off world.
“Standfire is an alien world about which we know very little at first,” teased Carey. “We don’t even know whether it’s in our dimension or a different one, but either way the only practical way of reaching it is through inter-dimensional portals called Skirling tunnels. That’s how the Stranded got here, and that’s how their enemies are now shuttling from world to world as they try to track them down.
“Standfire itself has been either conquered or razed, we don’t know which, but at the time when our main characters left, its downfall was imminent.
“Whatever was attacking them was completely immune to all the weapons they had available to them, although a group of scientists under a man named Zante were trying to develop new weapons. Zante was also responsible for the ‘sleeper cell’ evacuation which sent the Stranded to Earth.”
Carey also shared what he could about one of books “pivotal” characters, Tamree.
“Tamree’s role in all this is pivotal,” said Carey. “Each group of refugees was sent through with an Anchor, a telepath who was responsible for embedding them with Earth families and then monitoring them to make sure they were safe. Tamree is the Anchor for the group that includes all our main characters.
“Now she finds that an assassin, Janus, is working his way methodically through the people she’s meant to protect, chasing them down and murdering them in a way that she’s never encountered before. He turns them into brittle, hollow shells, eaten out from the inside.
“Now Tamree has to decide whether to allow her charges to die or to go against all her orders and instincts and wake them up, give them their real memories back. Along with those memories they’ll regain the combat training that Zante gave them, and the use of biological enhancements, super-powers, in effect, that will help them to survive. But their cover will be blown and the life they’ve known will be effectively ended.”
And with a title like “The Stranded” one can guess what Tamree decides.
Carey cited several sci-fi classics that may have snatched a corner of his mind while he was creating “The Stranded.”
“I love paranoid thrillers, so in a perverse way I think there might have been elements from ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ in my mind as I wrote ‘The Stranded,’ both the original version and the 1970s’ remake with Donald Sutherland,” said Carey. “Obviously this story stands the Body Snatcher situation on its head, because the ‘fake’ humans aren’t the threat, they’re the protagonists. But we’re kind of playing on that same sense of ‘we have met the enemy and he is us,’ the alien hiding inside the human.
“I’d also acknowledge a debt to both ‘Bladerunner’ and ‘Dark City,’ two of my favorite sci-fi movies. In both of those you have a protagonist who has to face aspects of his own nature he didn’t even know was there. It’s a recurring theme, but played so beautifully in both of those movies that they continue to resonate and to have power even on subsequent viewings when you know what’s really going on.”
Currently solicited as a mini-series, Carey hopes to see “The Stranded” proceed in the future as a monthly ongoing.
“That will depend on how it’s received, I guess, but potentially, yes. We’ve certainly got lots of ideas for where we’d like to take the story and what we’d like our core cast to become,” said Carey.
The British writer said he certainly hopes the mythos of “The Stranded” expands because he has lots of stories to tell.
“At the moment I have the seeds of three further arcs in my head, but it’s the sort of format where every story opens up a couple more,” explained Carey. “There are so many possibilities, not least because there are lots of other groups of Stranded out there besides Tamree’s, and other Anchors who will have been watching this situation from a safe distance. It would be cool to bring some of these other groups into the mix.”
Carey, who also fuels Virgin and MySpace’s Coalition Comics project, says working under the SCI FI/Virgin Comics banner is a distinctively “cool” environment.
But when asked to compare the working relationship to that of DC or Marvel, he said that would be difficult to do.
“That’s never a function of the company as a whole, in my experience,” said Carey. “It arises out of the interaction between the creators, the editor and, on a
co-production like this, the people overseeing the project at either end of the chain.
“The dynamic here has been very cool. Stuart Moore is a great editor to work with, very supportive and very pro-active and Virgin and Sci-Fi have both been concerned to give us as much room as possible to define the story and the characters.
“I’m really happy with how things have played out, I’ve had detailed input from Sci-Fi at every stage, and it’s always come in positive and helpful forms.”
As stated earlier, SCI FI/Virgin Comics are, in essence, test driving properties with the idea that some will be spun out into film and TV projects.
This synergized-think tank concept is something Carey finds very exciting.
“I think The Stranded would work beautifully in that format. And yes, it’s been talked about. It has the open-endedness that a good returning series needs, the potential to open up in a lot of surprising and exciting directions,” said Carey.
His previous Virgin project, “Voodoo Child,” has just finished its run and is about to be collected, said Carey.
“That was a fantastic project and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s kind of a crime thriller with supernatural and horror overtones, based on a story concept that Nicolas and Weston Cage produced, and it had a really unique feel to it. Dean Hyrapiet’s art on that book was amazing,” said Carey.
He’s also loving his time online as the story master of Virgin and MySpace’s Coalition Comics project, which is a collaborative comic book produced week by week online.
“Contributors have helped to define the genre, the characters and the art style, and now we’re just starting to post the scripts. It’s been wild, all kinds of fun,” said Carey, who said he has a “couple of more pitches” into Virgin that may be coming in 2008.
“The thing about my Virgin work is that all the projects are very different from each other, and from anything else I’ve done before,” said an enthusiastic Carey. “I really feel like I’m exploring new territory and stretching myself as a writer.”