This December sees cartoonist/animator Yehudi Mercado returning to BOOM! Studios imprint Archaia for a new six-issue miniseries, a sci-fi adventure titled “Rocket Salvage.” CBR has the exclusive first details and interview with Mercado.
In “Rocket Salvage”, both Mercado — who wrote and drew Archaia’s 2013 all-ages release “Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out” — and BOOM’s “Imagine Agents” artist Bachan will be heading out into the far reaches of distant space to tell the story of Primo Rocket, a once-famous speeder racer who lost everything after one fateful race. Having put away the helmet forever — or so he thought — he settled down into life working on a rocket salvage yard, with his rebellious clone-grown kids Beta and Zeta, far away from the spotlight.
But trouble is just around the corner for the dysfunctional trio, as Beta and Zeta get themselves involved in big trouble which brings the whole family to the attention of galactic bounty hunters and gangsters — and the only way to save themselves in to work together. CBR News spoke to Mercado about his plans for the series.
CBR News: How would you describe the basic concept of “Rocket Salvage”? What’s the book about?
Yehudi Mercado: “Rocket Salvage” is sci-fi adventure about a family-run salvage operation on a rundown spaceport called Rio Rojo located just off the coast of Earth. Earth is basically an inhospitable trash planet at this point. Rio Rojo is like Mos Eisley mixed with Casablanca: it’s a hive of scum and villainy that has managed to stay out of the thousand-year war between the Republic of Galaxies and the Galactic Republic.
Imagine being stuck in a universe where the Rebel Alliance is just as evil as the Empire.
As your story starts, Primo is retired and living with his family — two cloned children, Beta and Zeta. It all seems very quiet, until they find themselves in a whole new world of trouble. What can readers expect from the first issue?
It’s all about how the life Primo left behind catches up to him. Primo has been raising his family on Rio Rojo, which is the seedy neighborhood of space, but it’s a neutral zone and is supposedly far from the battle — until word gets out that a fabled weapon is hidden somewhere on Rio Rojo.
What defines Primo himself, to your mind? What kind of a person is he as the series begins?
Primo used to be a hot-shot race car driver until a crash not only ended his career, but crippled the entire town. So he carries all that guilt on his massive shoulders. Primo is an old-fashioned guy with a defined sense of right and wrong, but it’s hard to be good when you make a living in the grey area.
When you’re writing a story like this, do you plan out the narrative as a whole before you start — or do you prefer to have a rough idea of where things are headed and see where the characters take you?
I prefer to start with the characters and developing the family dynamics. The original story was meant to be a graphic novel so it had a slower build up to the main adventure. When we switched to a monthly it took a lot of work to make sure everything was set up in 22 pages.
How does the family dynamic play out over the first issue, and the series as a whole? Were you keen to get into that aspect of the book, and have fun bouncing the two kids off their dad, see what happened?
The family is what makes this sci-fi story stand out. Primo is raising a clone of a younger version of himself. Like any parent he needs to make sure Beta makes good decisions, but on the other he knows how dumb he used to be so Beta is going to make the exact same mistakes he did. And Zeta is a super genius, Primo doesn’t know how to deal with keeping her from becoming a mad scientist.
There are stories within stories here — where did the idea of the series begin, for you? Was it with the family dynamic, or with Primo Rocket’s life as a speeder-racer?
It was all tied together. Since Primo was a racer he had a company sponsored harvest clone. After the crash and after the parts were taken from Beta Primo decides to keep the clone and raise it as his son. He’s a salvager, he saves things and doesn’t throw them away.
Is this an all-ages story, aimed at both kids and adults?
Rocket Salvage is fun sci-fi in the vein of “Guardians of the Galaxy”. It should appeal to kids, their older siblings, and their parents. At the heart of the story is the family of mechanics.
How did Bachan come on board the series? What’s the collaborative process been like with him?
I had seen one of the covers of “Imagine Agents” at the comic shop one day and it made me so furious that it was so amazing looking, I wish I could draw like that. So when my editor broached the subject of getting someone else to draw Rocket Salvage and mentioned Bachan was available, I said, “Hell, yeah!”
Do you get involved with parts of the design yourself, being an animator? Do you trade notes on characters, locations, and so on?
Yes, Bachan’s starting point was my original designs for the characters and the world. I did sketches of how I pictured the characters, then he would do an iteration, and then I would expand on it. It was great. I know he was really excited to draw robots and aliens and race cars. Who wouldn’t?
What does Bachan’s style in particular bring to a project like this, do you think? What about his art made him the ideal fit for “Rocket Salvage”?
I don’t like cold and realistic comic book art. Bachan’s style has motion and energy and flies at you. It’s slightly cartoony and stylized while still being very detailed and grounded. It’s the best of both worlds.
It should be mentioned, of course, that there is a Cute Dog on the two covers released by Archaia, and the Internet almost certainly needs more info. What can you tell us about the Cute Dog? Does it have a name?
The dog’s name is Rocco, he’s a Corgi-Jack Russell mix and he has a very interesting story that will be explored later. He’s based on my actual dog named Rocket.
Cute Dogs aside, what have you most enjoyed about writing the series, so far? Do you like to focus on character foremost, or on environment and story?
I love getting the characters in trouble and then having them figure a way out using their skills as mechanics. They’re not super soldiers or Jedi Knights — they’re grease monkeys.
While writing the book, have ideas been coming to you for ways you could expand or continue the story further? Have any ideas begun to form about a second story with this family (assuming they make it out of this story in one piece, of course!)
Yes, this is a world with many, many stories. The thousand-year war doesn’t just end overnight and the end of issue #6 will reveal a character’s new power that will be explored in the second arc… that could help Earth become more hospitable.
What else do you have coming up at the moment? Where can people find you and your work online?
Right now I’m adding content to the “Guardians of the Galaxy” mobile game that I wrote and art directed for Disney Interactive. I’ve been contributing to KaBOOM!’s upcoming “Uncle Grandpa” comic.
I’m working on an all-ages sci-fi book for Oni Press that’s going to be very cool — and then the follow up to “Pantalones, TX”. My site is SuperMercadoComics.com.
“Rocket Salvage” is scheduled to debut from BOOM! Studios’ Archaia imprint this December.