At the end of July, a bright-colored, gorgeous romp about physics gone sideways lands in stores courtesy of Vertigo. In “Collider,” writer Simon Oliver (“The Exterminators”) and cartoonist Robbi Rodriguez (“Frankie Get Your Gun”) introduce the notion that although our known laws of physics may not be reliable anymore, hey, at least there’s the Federal Bureau of Physics to take care of the things.
Unshaven, rad goggle-wearing Special Agent Adam Hardy takes “Collider’s” center stage, where he’ll deal with such events like the “Bubbleverse,” the focus of the book’s first arc. Between the hook, the art and the covers, “Collider” appears to have the right mix of sass and swagger to make it pop off the shelves and into your hands. Oliver and Rodriguez spoke to CBR News about their collaboration, why the breaking of physics will never get old and how their comic is unlike anything else DC or Vertigo’s putting out.
CBR News: Simon, tell us about “Collider’s” inception. Where did the idea come from, this fascination with physics, and how did you approach Vertigo about the project?
Simon Oliver: I’d been talking to Mark Doyle, my editor at Vertigo about doing a new monthly. For a while I’ve liked the idea of creating a very normal “world,” a world that’s very much like our own, but you change one thing, just one detail, something that wouldn’t bring everyday life to a halt, but something that after the initial shock wore off we’d do what we do best as a species, adapt to this new paradigm, and get on with living our everyday lives
And in the case of “Collider” that “one thing” I’ve changed is that the basic laws of physics aren’t as reliable or carved in stone as we once thought they were.
When I read the CBR interview with you and Robbi in April of last year, I was intrigued. Then I saw Nathan Fox’s actual cover for the series a month ago, along with Robbi and Rico’s interiors, and now “Collider” has my undivided attention. You mentioned the first arc takes place in the “Bubbleverse” — what does that mean?
Oliver: I’d always been interested in physics, but only when I started researching on the latest ideas did I realize how far physics had taken a step to the left; it was full of theories that only ten years ago [had] been regarded as science.
Anything I could come up with, no matter how crazy, or out-there, somewhere in the real world of physics research existed a theory that was twice as crazy.
For example, I wanted to have a reason that physics was broken, something to keep in the back of my mind that would anchor the stories, so one day I have what I think is a great, original idea. That what’s going down is a result of the fabric of the universe expanding to the point where the fabric has started to stretch and warp to breaking point like raw pizza dough. “Great,” I think. I was so impressed with myself, a week later I read that a scientist has come up with the same theory as a potential reality. It’s just a logical outcome of the universe’s endless expansion.
The Bubbleverse is simplyÂ something I spun off from the latest ideas on hidden dimensions, that the membrane our dimension exists on could produce a small temporary “soap bubble” of a dimension, a clone of a small part of our reality.Â When this happens in our story, a small number of people from our world are accidentally and unknowingly sucked into the Bubbleverse. With the clock ticking and only hours left until the Bubbleverse “pops,” our heroes are sent in on a search and recovery mission.
Special Agent Adam Hardy looks like a blue-collared guy who just happens to have an extraordinary job. What were some of the influences involved in his creation?Â
Oliver: I really wanted the FBP (Federal Bureau of Physics) to be just another agency on the 911 service. No matter how crazy things get, these guys are out there with a job to do, keeping us safe.
Robbi,Â from the few pages I’ve seen, you’re demonstrating an innate ability to make the seemingly mundane have this palpable, kinetic energy. Can you speak to your process in laying out a page, whether it’s an action scene or talking heads?
Robbi Rodriguez: The bulk work on my process is not the lines on the pages — that’s actually the easiest part — but what’s going on underneath those lines. To understand where these characters are coming from and thus knowing how they will and could react to a situation. It’s a method of storytelling. It just comes second nature since writing and drawing my “Frankie, Get Your Gun” webcomic. There is subtext that’s not in the script but that is my intent to not tell the reader what’s going on in someone’s head, but to show it. Once we get further down the line, I hope it’s a reward for the reader who paid attention.
Color looks like it plays a huge part in the series. You mentioned that you actually lobbied to have Rico Renzi on the project. What’s the collaboration like between the two of you?
Rodriguez: [Colorist] Rico [Renzi] and I both have the same mindset when it comes to color and color theory. I can send him a page with a few guides and I know he can take care of the rest. We send each other reference. Something from a flick or cartoon and tweak each other’s work till it’s just right. But for the most part, we stay out of each other’s way. We are not the Paul McCartney and John Lennon team that is Rico and Chris Brunner, but it’s OK to be Wings — I guess.
I wanted to make this look so different from any other Vertigo or DC comic book in general. To the point where I’m either going to get props or fired for it. I was fine with either. I have to give it to Mark Doyle for letting me basically art direct this book. Its one thing I never had in my ten years outside of my own published work, so, I’m taking advantage of it. I hate being called the artist on this book. I mean, really it’s aÂ pretentiousÂ label, and much like the word genius, it means nothing at this point. I like being a member of this funny book unit I’ve assembled with Rico, Nathan Fox and myself. We all make the art andÂ packagingÂ of this book work.
Speaking of collaboration, now that some time has passed since the project was announced, what’s changed and what’s stayed the same in regards to your collaborative process?
Oliver: I’m getting looser with the first drafts of the scripts and trying to bring in Robbi’s input in sooner than I have in past collaborations. Instead of writing a script, emailing it off and getting finished art back weeks or months later, I think we’re getting to the point where it’s a little more back and forth, which is good. It keeps everyone on their toes a little more.
Rodriguez: I feel [for] the most part, the trust is built on my end to run with the ball.Â We are going to start working on the next arc in Marvel style (which I prefer — I hate working from scripts), and with that, you’ll see our ideas gel more and more.
Simon, without giving too much away, what other characters will you be bringing to the fold? And what stakes will they raise in the overall story?
Oliver: We have a new agent named Rosa coming soon. She has an interesting and mysterious back-story that’s is going to bring a great dynamic to the team.
How do you keep something that has become the norm, like the laws of physics becoming unpredictable, fresh and exciting?Â
Oliver: Seriously, with the developments and discoveries currently underway in physics, there is so much raw material to throw the guys into. I can go big, have whole stories set in alternate dimensions, or go beyond small and have an entire arc based around quantum entanglement. As long as there is an emotional element to the story, something to put the team through, something to make the reader care, there’s no limit of possibilities as a writer on this.
Rodriguez: I keep this in mind, science is a punk kid and the law was made to be broken. That’s how you keep it fresh.
Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez’s “Collider” debuts from Vertigo on July 31.