During the Vertigo New Blood panel at C2E2 2012, the publisher announced a number of new series in the pipeline for the future — including “Collider,” a new ongoing series by “The Exterminators” writer Simon Oliver and “Polly and the Pirates” artist Robbi Rodriguez hitting stores this fall. Described by Vertigo Comics Senior Editor Will Dennis as “the A-Team with quantum physics,” “Collider” focuses on Federal Bureau of Physics agent Adam Hardy, who solves everyday problems in a world where physics and its laws became much more unpredictable. During the course of the series, Hardy solves cases and reconnects with his past, which involves his father, a deceased research scientist.
CBR News spoke with Oliver and Rodriguez about “Collider,” the background of a world that defies the laws of physics, the motivation and design of protagonist Adam Hardy, and the structure of the series when it hits in the fall.
CBR News: Simon, tell us about “Collider” — what’s the premise here and how does it develop through the series you have planned?
Simon Oliver: “Collider” is set in a present-day world that on first impressions is very similar to our own, but we soon discover that the big difference is that a few years prior physics and the laws of physics started to become a little more unpredictable.
The thing is, people do what they do always do. After a few years this new natural phenomenon just became as much a part of our everyday life as everything else we take for granted. Now, in addition to listening to weather and traffic reports in the morning there are updates on potential physics problems, like your usual freeway off-ramp being closed due to a wormhole, so they’re directing traffic on a detour.
What about FBP agent and protagonist Adam Hardy? Who is he and what’s his motivation as “Collider” develops?
Oliver: So when this all went down, the government stepped in and setup the Federal Bureau of Physics, the FBP. Call 911 and one of the questions you get asked if it’s a physics related incident.
Adam Hardy is one of many agents — sounds glamorous, but often the jobs they get called out on are only slightly more exciting than filling regular potholes.
But Adam’s father was a research scientist, one of the guys from the old days, who died before Adam really knew him, so a big part of the story is Adam reconnecting with his past as the very nature of their work starts to shift.
Is there anything you can tell us about his partner and his mysterious agenda?
Oliver: No, you’ll have to read the first arc to find out. But just like our world the question of whether the government should provide physics services or the industry should be opened up to private businesses and insurance companies becomes an issue that will change the industry.
Robbi, tell us how you got involved in “Collider.”
Robbi Rodriguez: The project came to me when [editor] Mark Doyle and I were talking about potential projects to bring me into the Vertigo Fold back at last year’s New York Comic Con. He sent me the pitch on the day before I headed out that weekend. At first, I was hesitant just due to fact that I haven’t done an ongoing since “Maintenance” and it’s a huge commitment. I think I gave them every reason to pass me up for the gig with the ideas. But the office seemed to really dig the ideas I wanted to toss in. In my ten years in the biz, I never really had the type of support. I’m really shocked and grateful for the team behind Simon, [colorist] Rico Renzi, and I.
How did you go about designing protagonist Adam Hardy for “Collider?” Were there any major design elements you were keen to include?
Rodriguez: When I design for all my creators, I tend to just let them talk to me and then I work out the form. From the start, Adam was Middle-Eastern. I wanted to make the cast as diverse as possible. Other than that, the features were far more interesting to draw than say, square-jawed Batman. He just had to look like someone you’d see walking down the street. It adds to the story arc Adam has as well to the angle of the book I want to tell.
What kinds of visual challenges have you run into so far while working on “Collider?”
Rodriguez: It’s making what are essentially mathematical equations in visually interesting visuals. It’s one of the reasons why I lobbied to get Rico on board as colors play large part in selling these elements of the story, so I wouldn’t expect any earth tones.
Simon, a physics book is certainly a unique concept in comics — what drove you to explore the physics aspect of this world and why do you think it’s a good fit for the comics medium?
Oliver: Because it’s such a crazy, beyond belief subject with so much material to use. From the big obvious parallel universe stories, down to quantum entanglement. And believe me, you read enough about quantum physics you start to realize that it would be hard to come up with something quite as out-there.
Robbi, “Collider” is a very physical book, using many elements from the science of physics for exploration. How much research into what’s being shown did you have to do and was it difficult bringing these problems to life?
Rodriguez: Tons. I got [Michio] Kaku and [Stephen] Hawking audio books on loop here in the compound, along with lectures that I find on YouTube.
This is a new ongoing series, so what kind of cases can we expect to see Adam Hardy tackle in the series?
Oliver: There will be a big, over-reaching arc to it, but expect to see a lot of monster-of-the-week type cases. The first arc has a gravity failure at a school, followed by the creation of something called a Bubbleverse, a temporary dimension that exists just the other side of our time/space membrane. Those are big action narratives, but they won’t all be like that, I want to get small and more mind-bending at times, the idea I have for quantum entanglement is along those lines.
One of the key things about this world that makes it a little different from the start is that instead of only a small number of people knowing about mysterious world of crazy physics it’s public knowledge, just a part of our everyday like. You might wake up and find entropy is all screwed up in your kitchen and the cat has fallen down a wormhole, but it’s just another thing to deal with, like a leaky faucet, or flat tire.
Simon, comic readers will know you best from “Gen 13” and your previous Vertigo series, “The Exterminators.” How did your previous titles help inform what you’ll be doing with “Collider?”
Oliver: A lot. Doing a monthly you have to eventually figure out how not to write yourself into a corner. “Collider” doesn’t have as many characters or interconnecting character stories as “The Exterminators” did. It will be pretty simple in those terms. I don’t want people to be able to pick it up every month, having forgotten what’s going on. My idea would be that someone who’s never read it before could pick up arc #4, they may not understand a scene here and there that maybe relates to the big story, but they wouldn’t feel too left out.
Robbi, one of your most recent projects was with Ted Nafieh on “Polly and the Pirates” volume two — “Collider” seems like quite a shift in tone from that book — but you’ve also done interiors on “Uncanny X-Force.” With such a versatile portfolio, why do you feel your art style is a good fit for the story Simon is telling?
Rodriguez: Much like “Polly” was a vehicle to work out some personal issues I had at the time, “Collider” served as a vehicle to execute ideas in my head about Sci-Fi. I was always told I had a modern version of classic cartooning and I wanted to a Sci-Fi book for the every day folk. I mean, what caught the eye of Vertigo was my webcomic “Frankie, Get Your Gun” and that’s not targeted at the readership that we know. It’s made for guys I grew up with in projects of Waco, Texas that loved grind house flicks, hip hop, country and punk music and they got it.
I try bringing this to guys like Kurt Vanagon and Michio Kaku and they could just not connect with it. So, I always toyed with the idea to make Bruce Springsteen Sci-Fi. I think that’s one of the themes that excited Vertigo when it came to my end. I wanted this book to be like Vanagon and the Boss wrote a narrative and had Katsuhiro Otomo and Jamie Hewlett served as art directors. Rico and I want this book to look as different from any other title out there that the office puts out — bring that Indie sense to the mainstream crowd. You know, like a Lana Del Rey or something.
Could you take us through your collaborative process? How do you two go from script to full comics page?
Oliver: It’s relatively early days yet, but it’s a pretty simple script, draft, rewrite, on to Robbi situation. So far, take it from me, he’s going to blow some heads with what he’s doing. It’s a very visual book, and when I met with Robbi he made it clear he wanted to really be involved in the process, so as a writer I’m very conscious about giving the space he needs to do his thing, and I have every confidence in him. Right off the bat I realized he’s one of those artists who can take a script, see what makes it tick as a story and make it much better.
As we progress, I can see more conversations and ideas about what we can do, and really push the idea of the book in new directions. That’s what’s so great about an ongoing [series] like this.
Rodriguez: Simon, Mark Doyle and I will talk ideas and set our path. I get the script and really add my notes and ideas when I can physically see it on the page. Then Rico and I will work on the palette. He’s as much of the art team on this book as I am. We get the OK from the office and its starts all over again.
“Collider” arrives this Fall from Simon Oliver, Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi.