Today, the company revealed exclusively to Comic Book Resources that writer Christopher Sebela — who’s working with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick on the next volume of “Ghost” — will join the revived line inspired by the sci-fi film legends by writing a new “AvP” series. The short name for “Alien Versus Predator” isn’t just a piggyback of the action films of the same name. The original concept of combining the Xenomorph monsters with the musclebound hunters came in the pages of Dark Horse’s ’90s take on the characters, so Sebela’s work on the incoming franchise (which also includes writer Joshua Williamson on a “Predators” project) will bring the projects full circle.
CBR News chatted with Sebela about his Dark Horse work, starting with the November launch of the “Ghost” ongoing which teams Sebela and DeConnick with artist Ryan Sook for more adventures of the gun-totting spectral heroine as she faces off against her arch enemy Dr. October. Then, Sebela details his work so far on “AvP” from the many influences on the battles style to the role humanity will play as the film aliens continue their years-long battle against each other.
CBR News: Chris, let’s start with your most current Dark Horse gig: co-writing the new volume of “Ghost” with Kelly Sue DeConnick. Readers may have already seen some of that collaboration in the pages of “Captain Marvel.” What’s that partnership like in a practical storytelling sense, and what about the process of writing with Kelly Sue is different when Ghost comes into play?
Chris Sebela: Our collaboration process is super casual, I think because we’ve spent so much time in the past talking about writing — about our own books and stuff we’re stuck on — that applying that line of thought to one book was just a pretty simple flip of the switch. With “Captain Marvel,” the plots for those issues as well as a half dozen issues down the line were already established, and it’s so much Kelly Sue’s book that I just tried to contribute without getting the way is the best way to describe it.
With “Ghost,” we both started together with the same wide-open map that was left after the first miniseries, and we decided which way to go together. It’s very much our book at this point. Our process is the same, we just sit around and talk it out, kick e-mails back and forth, hide away in our offices and write our drafts and when we can’t agree on anything, we just leg-wrestle it out until someone cries uncle.
The first volume of this new “Ghost” book took the lead character’s mysterious quality to a new level by having her be totally unaware of who she is at the start. Where is she at in her journey when this series begins, and what’s the main drive of her story between worlds like this time around?
It’s a few months later and Elisa Cameron has embraced being Ghost, strapped herself to this mission to kill every Demon that’s been stashed away in Chicago, because it’s the Demons’ fault she is where she is and this is easier than trying to stop and think about everything she’s lost. But revenge and violence can only take you, like, halfway to enlightenment, and that’s where our story starts, with Elisa trying to get the rest of the way as she starts digging into who she used to be and whether she’s still that person anymore. And if she’s not, who the hell is she after being bounced to hell and back?
Of course, with a character that doesn’t know herself, fake TV ghost hunter Tommy has become an integral part of the series. What does his serial-killer storyline this time out get to explore if he’s not spending all his time being the point of view character for Ghost’s world?
I think my favorite part of Kelly Sue and Phil Noto’s miniseries was this building of a family around Ghost, whether Elisa wanted one or not. Elisa isn’t interesting in a vacuum, she needs people to bounce off of, to help her and to get in her way, it’s all part of her process of learning to be part of the world. Tommy and Vaughn and Caroline are all she has keeping her tethered to any hope that there’s more to her now than just a superpowered urban legend. All of them are points of view into her world, only they’re helping to expand her view, and she’s expanding theirs, much to their horror (or delight, in Tommy’s case). Once you’ve seen the ugly bits all hidden away, it opens the door to a lot more, and all of them are starting to deal with that fact in different ways.
On the conflict front, this series is reintroducing former Ghost arch villain Dr. October. How have you guys discussed her role this time out as being unique from the original comics, and what does her view of Ghost reveal about her own character over the course of this arc?
Everything we’re doing in this series of “Ghost” is trying to be unique from the original comics. Neither of us were interested in coming in and doing a greatest hits recap, so Dr. October, while familiar, is as wholly new as Elisa and everyone else. She and Ghost aren’t too far off from one another, except that while Elisa was a reporter and was used to the random awfulness of the world, October was a scientist, she believed in a world that made complete quantifiable sense and what happens when your faith is completely shattered?
Dr. October is a bit of mystery, even to us, and that’s part of the fun of writing her. She’s unpredictable and certifiably insane and has the king of demons as a roommate in her body, so she’s about as wild as a wild card can get. We’ll get more into the nuts and bolts of October and what’s been happening since the Mayor died and she ran off with his Demon, but it’s safe to say she’s going to be taking a wildly different approach than his business-like takeover method.
And Ryan Sook is drawing. That’s quite an artist to be able to collaborate with, and his stuff seems a great fit with the tone for the series established by Phil Noto. What’s been the most revelatory aspect of seeing how he interprets the story?
I cannot wax Ryan’s car enough, every page he’s turned in has been like Christmas morning. He’s so good and seeing our ideas brought to life by him, occasionally it feels like he’s a mind-reader. There’s that tension of his intense attention to detail and his ability to be really loose and playful with action. Sometimes you describe something horrific in a script and it’s hard to tell if it’ll really come across, but Ryan has taken every bit of dark business we’ve written and made it work in a very real and physical sense, he can impart all sorts of emotions, which is really nice for a book like Ghost where we want to be spooky and dark and brutal, but also have a ribbon of humanity running through it. Ryan can handle it all with ease, so it feels like a perfect fit.
In other news, Dark Horse is gearing up to take advantage of the whole universe of stories shared by “Aliens,” “Predator” and now “Prometheus,” and I hear you’ve been able to work on a team with fellow writers like Joshua Williamson and a group of Dark Horse editors. What was the general experience like of planning these books together, and does your “AvP” serve as a lynchpin of sorts considering it directly uses son many pieces from all sides of the franchise?
We did it in a writer’s room format, with several writers and editors sitting around breaking both the overall story and each books’ individual story. It was my first time working like that, and there’s some adjustments to suddenly being in a room of a dozen people and just tossing your idea out there for everyone to judge, especially for someone used to sitting with headphones on and agonizing over the whole “thinking stuff up” part of the job. It was a little terrifying, to be honest, because of the new working method and because it’s freaking aliens and predators. I got over that pretty quickly, though, and it’s been a lot of fun, seeing how other writers whose stuff I like think about the same things, and seeing how good ideas become so much more recognizable when you’re digging through dozens of suggestions at once.
All the books are interrelated, so my book will be as much a lynchpin as the rest of the books, but I won’t lie and say I’m not excited to get to have gotten the nod to do “AvP” where I can use all these pieces from all these mythologies and both tie them up together and sic them on one another in a satisfyingly vicious story.
From the horrific sci-fi of the “Alien” films to kill or be killed “Predator” movies, what do you think is the theme that unites these characters and concepts? What are the best kinds of stories to tell in this world?
All those movies, even the ones in the same franchise, are all so wildly different in tone and theme from one another, and they’ve been able to explore themes like parenthood and creation and responsibility and even deeply existential fodder about what makes people people and what makes monsters monsters and how thin is the line between those two camps? I think the breadth of the Aliens and Predator movies proves that there’s not just one kind of story you can tell with these worlds, and this new series of books is doing the same thing. We’re telling one overarching story, but with all these different approaches nestled within it.
For me, personally, they’re intrinsically horror movies, mankind realizing that there’s something worse than them out there and it’s just as willing to kill and destroy and conquer as we historically have been. The other half of the horror equivalent comes in trying to fight back against it, to banish our nightmares, when nothing but bad news lays ahead. I’m trying to smash all that together.
The whole Alien Vs. Predator concept and the world-building possibilities it opens were created in the Dark Horse comics where I’m betting a lot of fans would say the idea was done best. Are you drawing on the concepts from those old books in presenting this latest clash of alien archetypes?
I’m a fan of the old “AvP” books. And the movies. I grew up on this stuff. It’s part of my DNA by now. I still own the very first “AvP” issue from 1990, bagged and boarded, so I have a reverence for the old Dark Horse comics. But as a project, we came into the writer’s room looking to start fresh. We’re working off the same template, we definitely want to build a world like those books did, to expand the possibilities and the mythologies of these species and this universe. But I’m not super interested in taking the old concepts and polishing them up for a new audience, I want to take a lifetime of thinking about and being scared of these things and make the best book I can, the kind of story I dreamed about whenever people dangled the idea of Aliens fighting Predators.
I’m not sure if you can say much about your leads at this point, but do you plan on drawing humans into the fray to give the readers someone to see this evolutionary struggle through?
Yeah, I can’t say too much about this, really, but it won’t just be page upon page of Predators and Aliens silently beating the hell out of each other, there has to be something to care about, actual characters in the middle of all this, otherwise I wouldn’t be interested in writing it, much less reading it. Every horror story, every action movie, you need someone to care about, even if they’re not necessarily, people you’d want to hang out with, they’re alive enough for you to see a little bit of what makes them tick and how that drives them to react to a wall of teeth and claws coming at them. We’ve got that in “AvP,” but I think without drifting towards the modern tendency to cram the round peg humans into the square hole spotlight of stories where the draw is something far more interesting and fantastical.
What’s your favorite film from either side of this franchise clash, and how does it most impact what you want to do in the comic?
My favorite of all of them is “Aliens,” just because that was my entry point into the whole Aliens mythology, and managed to combine horror and action and sci-fi in a way where none of those elements seemed out of place or awkward. That movie, tonally, definitely informs what I’m trying to do with “AvP,” where you have these insane skirmishes and then you’re left holding your breath between battles, but you’re still invested in everyone on the mission in one way or another, even if you’re just rooting for them to get their brains punched out by a Xenomorph’s inner mouth.
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the upcoming Aliens and Predator relaunch.