Marc Guggenheim‘s latest project has been from “Nowhere” to nowhere and back again. Originally announced in 2008, Guggenheim’s sci-fi epic “Nowhere Man” will finally see the light of day later this year, courtesy of Liquid Comics. The series, illustrated by Jeevan J. Kang and set in a future world in which humanity has been infected with a techno-virus that allows a super computer to detect violent or criminal intentions, follows the adventures of the one man who is immune. Comic Book Resources spoke with Guggenheim about the series’ journey, its unique blend of familiar tropes and the titular Nowhere Man’s evolving ethical dilemmas.
“Nowhere Man” began life at Virgin Comics, a publisher which saw success with titles like “Snake Woman” and “Guy Richie’s Gamekeeper,” and at the time Hugh Jackman was attached as a co-writer and possible star of a movie adaptation. Virgin Comics — part of the Richard Branson empire — ultimately went under, but several of the principle players reconstituted the publishing operation as Liquid Comics. “A few months ago, the guys behind Liquid asked if I’d be interested in revisiting the project,” Guggenheim told CBR News. “Since I’d already written two issues by the time Virgin went down, it seemed like a good idea to come back to it and finish the story.”
As to the story itself, “The world is near-future, and it’s somewhat of a utopian society because all forms of aggression and crime and violence have been eliminated entirely by virtue of this Big Brother-like creation, the Overmind,” Guggenheim explained. The Overmind is “immediately aware if you’re even thinking of punching someone in the face, and can dispatch police to stop you from going through on your crimes. It’s basically like the ultimate PATROIT Act, the ultimate Big Brother. As a result, everyone is peaceful but not everyone is free.”
“Nowhere Man” combines elements of “Minority Report” and “A Clockwork Orange” with current events into what Guggenheim described as “a different stew.” “What’s exciting about this project is, it deals with a lot of familiar science fiction tropes — the idea of a Big Brother society, the idea of a police force that can prevent crimes before they happen,” the writer revealed. “Obviously there will be the moral ambiguities of, well, is this the kind of society we want to see stopped? How bad is this, really? We’re telling what I think is a different kind of story. The whole series sort of proves the theory that you can take these science fiction conventions but mix them in a new and different way.”
But given the Big Brother scenario of “Nowhere Man,” how is rebellion even possible? “There’s a group of rebels that exists off the grid, but they have to stay on this one island, this one pocket of, let’s call it ‘private thought,'” Guggenheim said. “And the series deals with this guy Nathan, who’s the one person on the planet who’s been born without the gene that makes him detectable the Overmind. He’s the one person who can walk around freely, throughout the entire world.
“One of the big emotional hooks of the story is that he’s raised in isolation on the island, with this one group of people, but once he leaves the island he is completely on his own,” the writer continued. “He is very much a fish out of water because he has to enter into this society that he’s never seen before. So there’s also an element of a stranger in a strange land to the book, which is really interesting because, to me, one of the fun things to do is take these tropes and turn them on their head. The standard trope is, there’s a society that’s very authoritarian and we’re just going to take it down, and there won’t be any sort of moral ambiguity or questions about it along the way. But you take this guy who’s been literally bred for one purpose, and that’s to dismantle this society that he’s never even been a part of. As the story progresses, the stakes and what he’s going to be required to do in order to achieve this objective that he was literally created for become harder and harder.
“In many ways, the story’s metaphor about what it means to have free will is dramatized in this one character and the choices he has to make. The closer he gets to his objective, the more morally conflicted he’s going to become.”
In other words, Nathan may be biologically immune to the Overmind’s probing eye, but that does not necessarily mean he’s on board with bringing down the society. “What’s cool about this character is that he’s been indoctrinated by this splinter society to believe that this is his mission, and the righteousness of his mission,” Guggenheim said. “He’s set upon the world to do this one very specific thing. How do you overcome the — I don’t want to call it ‘brainwashing’ — but the conditioning of your childhood? At what point do you exercise your own independent thought and shrug off the way you’ve been brought up, to decide your own version of right and wrong?”
Beyond the oppressive system itself and the Nathan’s inner struggles, “Nowhere Man” will see its hero facing off against a “super police force,” which Guggenheim said “will be personified by a female super-cop who will become both an antagonist for Nathan and his love interest.”
“Her name is Alexis,” Guggenheim teased. “It’ll be interesting to see how their attitudes about this perfect society change and shift throughout the story. They both sort of affect each other’s life.”
The artist for “Nowhere Man” is Jeevan J. Kang, whose previous work includes “7 Brothers” for Virgin and writing and illustrating “Spider-Man India.” Guggenheim described Kang as having “a really cool sense of design” that will benefit the series’ futuristic environment. “There’s a whole world that has to be created here, this version of the future,” the writer said. “I’m trying to push him to create a version that is relatable and grounded in what could happen, but at the same time is different from versions of the future, both utopian and dystopian, that we’ve seen in comic books and movies. I think what he brings to it is, his story sense is very nice and very keen, but his design sense is really interesting and different and helps make the book unique.”
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