Not many comic book series get to launch with an instantly recognizable yet entirely new hero, but when BOOM! Studios distributed a teaser image for “Cold Space” in advance of any other details about the title, fans sat up and took notice. The armored, gun-wielding protagonist of the series bore a striking resemblance to Samuel L. Jackson, an actor known for his distinctive on-screen presence and eminently memorable delivery, and an avowed fan of comics. Soon, of course, it was revealed that Jackson would be co-writing the April-debuting “Cold Space” with his “Afro Samurai” partner-in-crime Eric Calderon, with artist Jeremy Rock rounding out the team. CBR News spoke with Calderon about the book, working in comics and animation, and reuniting with Mr. Jackson.
The series finds an outlaw named Mulberry-“played by” Samuel L. Jackson-stranded on a planet torn by civil war. But rather than pick sides, Mulberry looks to turn the situation to his advantage and profits from the chaos. “‘Cold Space’ is simple because it’s just normal people trying to survive. It’s just the time and place that’s radically different,” Calderon told CBR of the book’s premise. “Mulberry is just a runaway criminal who doesn’t feel like getting taken in by the Galactic police and wants to keep making a buck so he can have some fun and have some cool stuff. When he crash lands on a ghetto space mining moon, he finds that the one small town that exists has two warring entrepreneurs and a third freelance scavenger gang on motorcycle. So, you can already imagine the pinball machine of this set-up making noise when a new hotshot comes into town.”
Asked why he and Jackson chose to develop “Cold Space” as a comic series rather than an animated project or in some other medium, Calderon said, “It was just for a change, really. Sam’s got plenty happening in other mediums, so this was a chance to branch-out and hopefully not take years and years just to get off the ground.
“BOOM! was really perfect for us because they love making comics! There are lots of other publishers who want to rush things straight to some development deal or ‘Variety’ magazine press release about director attachment or studio option,” the writer continued. “First and foremost, BOOM! wants to make great comics and is staffed by people who are freaks about comics. Just like me and Sam!”
Coming from the world of animation, though, Calderon did find a learning curve associated with writing for comics. “I’ve only written screenplays for television and a couple of 8-pagers for comics. So, this is my first full length graphic novel and the first time for Sam, too,” Calderon said. “To be honest, I’m nervous, but Sam is always relaxed! I read some basics: Scott McCloud’s ‘Making Comics’ and Dennis O’Neil’s ‘DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics.’ Then I was lucky enough to collaborate with Mark Waid for a bit on a project where he told me, ‘Kid… You ain’t bad.’
“But basically, I kind of made-up my own format like a lot of writers do I’m told. Also, I tend to stick to classic three-act structure rules and mythological precedent. So far, I’ve been pretty anal about giving exact panel numbers and visual blocking. But I leave that to the artist to take if they want or throw away if they have a better idea. Sam sculpts the overall plots with me. Then, he gives great design and tone ideas along the way. Finally, he knows how to make Mulberry ‘sound’ like him better than anyone.”
On the subject of his previous collaboration with Jackson on “Afro Samurai,” on which Calderon served as a writer and producer, Calderon recounted the accidental nature of their first encounter.
“Like many things in LA, it was a fortunate accident,” he said. “When I first completed producing the test pilot for ‘Afro Samurai,’ I literally made about 50 copies on my laptop, labeled them, and gave them to everyone I knew in the business by hand. Like magic, one day an agent called and told me Sam took the DVD and passed a single message to me. ‘I AM Afro Samurai.’ That was it!”
And getting work with Samuel L. Jackson on another project with “Cold Space?” “I am one lucky Filipino nerd. Let me just say that.”
The success of “Afro Samurai,” which Calderon shepherded from its earliest stages after discovering an obscure toy and at-the-time untranslated Japanese manga, gives him hope for further distinctive animated projects in future. “I guess what I enjoyed the most about Afro’s success is that now we can all point to it and say, ‘See! It’s possible to do cool action animation for adults in the US!’ I just hope we can do more,” Calderon said. “Anyone wanna see a ‘Cold Space’ animation? I do!!!”
Beyond this, though, Calderon was silent about any further plans for “Afro Samurai,” including the long-rumored live-action film. “Sorry, no comment,” Calderon said. “It’s all about ‘Cold Space’ now!”