For ten years, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s “Atomic Robo” has blazed the trail for high-adventure, good-time, sci-fi comics. Appearing both online and in print from IDW Publishing, Robo’s met dozens of outrageous and memorable characters, each of whom have potentially dozens of stories of their own to reveal. This April, Clevinger, Wegener, and IDW team up with Lo Baker of Aquapunk to bring another of Robo’s allies to the printed page in the high-flying, dogfighting, madcap “Real Science Adventures: The Flying She-Devils.”
First introduced in “Atomic Robo and the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific,” the She-Devils are a cadre of women pilots operating during the aftermath of World War II. Their debut spotlight finds them pursued by fanatical skyraider Mad Jack after they conspire to liberate a Sunderland patrol bomber from his possession. Baker’s vertiginous aerial escapades match Clevinger’s rapid fire dialogue to take readers on a six-issue thrill ride above the Pacific Ocean.
CBR: Brian, how soon after they first appeared in “Atomic Robo” did you start wanting to tell more stories about the Flying She-Devils?
Brian Clevinger: Immediately! Both because Rocket Powered Lady Air Pirates as a concept begs for more and more stories, and because we put them in a specific time and place filled with adventure hooks by recasting the Pacific Ocean as a kind of all-new wild west.
For people who missed their debut, can you give a short-version of the Flying She-Devils’ mission?
These women served the Allies in World War Two as pilots, engineers, mechanics, nurses, etc. and when the war was over, they decided to stay in the Pacific to make new lives for themselves. But it’s a new life surrounded by other pirates, mercenaries, and warlords.
“Real Science Adventures” wears a lot of classic adventure strip influence on its sleeve. Were there any particular inspirations you were channelling?
While there are tons of aeronautical pulp adventure comics, I always thought of the She-Devils as a Western that just happens to occur in a different time and place. Which is to say, the fact that they fly takes a backseat to the sheer lawlessness that surrounds our heroes and how/why they push against it. Oddly enough, this means “She-Devils” tracks closer to a wuxia story than flying ace comics.
The other major influence appears to be the chase. The opening arc is basically one very long chase sequence with lots of aerial action. Was that a specific choice, or was there a notable inspiration?
The She-Devils are very much an air and sea version of “Mad Max.” Does that make them Mad Maxine? But just like those movies you’ve got someone committed to justice in the face of chaos or corruption and overwhelming odds. The She-Devils and Max have two choices. Respond to the lawlessness, or give up and let the environment kill you. It lets you explore how and when and why these heroes choose to act when nothing matters but surviving for the next three seconds.
How long have the She-Devils’ adventures been appearing online? Do you plan to continue their adventures for the foreseeable future?
Oh, wow. I hadn’t thought of that! We put the first page online almost exactly one year ago!
There’s no explicit plan for more She-Devils stories, but that’s what I used to say before we made this one! Part of the advantage of how they’re situated in the overall Robo mythos is that it only takes a spark of an idea and suddenly you’ve got another six issues of adventures for them. So, yeah, nothing specific in mind, but She-Devils have already proven they can’t be kept them grounded for long.
Most of the stories have already appeared online before moving to print with IDW. Do you find much crossover between the webcomics audience and the print audience? In talking to other creators, there seems to be a divide and was wondering if you’ve noticed that or had any thoughts on it.
So, we dumped all our comics archives online back in 2015. Our new content goes online too, and I’d say about 95% of that is in advance of the print editions. Our data suggests there is no net crossover.
Obviously, there are those people who choose to throw money at “Atomic Robo” every way they can. The Patreon, the Kickstarters, the print issues, the collections, the comiXology versions. Lord knows we could use more of ‘em! And there are some folks who read it online for free without ever spending a nickel. That’s fine too! Hell, that’s why it’s online in the first place. You can read our stuff without any barriers and then decide for yourself if, when, and how to throw some money at us.
But almost everyone who supports us in some way chooses one of those options and sticks to it exclusively. Common wisdom suggests these different revenue streams ought to cannibalize one another, or at the very least detract from print sales, but in practice each one serves a different kind of customer who has no interest in the other options. Together they add up to two guys doing independent comics as their full time jobs. Which is pretty crazy. The fact that we’re starting our twelfth series (fifteenth if you count “RSA”) is simply unheard of.
Will there be material in the print versions that hasn’t appeared online?
There’s material that hasn’t appeared yet…but is going online with one page added every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as of March 6th. It’s an all-new story about the Sparrow infiltrating a secret Nazi “wonder weapon” facility. Spoiler: things will explode.
Anything to tease for “Real Science Adventures” after the She-Devils and Sparrow stories?
I just wrapped up the scripts for our next RSA series. It’s tentatively titled “The History of Everything” but that might change before it comes out. Either way, it takes place way back in the eleventh century right on the cusp of the First Crusade starting up. Our heroes are attempting to break into the most secure facility in the known world, The Imperial Library of Constantinople.
The research and writing for this thing was a real hoot and we can’t wait to share it with you. Should be available later this year!
In addition to “Real Science Adventures” and “Atomic Robo,” do you have anything else in the works?
I’ve got a few things in mind but nothing concrete just yet. The great thing about “Atomic Robo” and our ability to expand upon its setting with “Real Science Adventures” is that we’re able to build one giant world of filled with adventures of just about any genre. We’ve got heists, Weird War 2 stuff, Tesla, Wild West, Cold War spy action, deep dark conspiracies, a talking dinosaur, rockmen of Hollow Earth, kaiju, and on and on.
And that sounds like a wacky pastiche of random sci-fi tropes, but we welded it all together into a coherent whole with a robot at the center of it.