When the final frontier proves to be a desolate wasteland, mankind turns its sights toward exploring — and conquering — a different sort of territory: alternate Earths. “Higher Earth,” written and created by Sam Humphries with an artist to be named later, takes place in a universe of interconnected Earths, with many falling under the empire of the titular throne world. The series is ongoing from BOOM! Studios beginning in May.
The announcement of “Higher Earth” follows several other high-profile projects for Humphries, including “Fanboys vs. Zombies” at BOOM! and “John Carter: Gods of Mars” with Marvel; the writer rose to prominence last year with his highly successful self-published one-shot “Our Love is Real” (later reissued by Image Comics) and the third issue of “Sacrifice,” another self-published mini, is on sale now. Comic Book Resources spoke with Humphries about the concept of “Higher Earth,” alternate universes and taking a creator-owned book to BOOM! rather than going it alone.
CBR News: Sam, It sounds like you’re taking the idea of space exploration into a different dimension with “Higher Earth” — rather than exploring the stars, mankind has decided to branch out onto alternate Earths. What made you want to tell this kind of story?
Sam Humphries: To be superficial about it — space is dead. Every time scientists find an Earth-like planet, it is like a hundred light years away. That is too far! It will take too long to get there! And then when we do get there, the atmosphere will be filled with nitrogen or tribbles, and everyone back home who watched that ship take off will be long dead anyway. Cue sad trombone.
There’s an infinite availability of Earth-like planets right next door. The vast majority of them are the perfect size and perfect atmosphere. Some of them may even have the same cable channels we do. They’re just beyond the veil of quantum physics, waiting to be discovered. If we can pierce that veil, then everything changes.
To be pretentious about it, I’ll quote Tarkovskiy’s “Solaris” on space travel: “In this situation genius and mediocrity are equally helpless. We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand the Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man!”
Alright, then. Are these many Earths the sort of “alternate universes” we think of in comics, where each one developed differently, or are they more or less the same until travelers start mucking about with them?
Every timeline is different, some more than others. Some Earths are irreversibly changed by contact with Higher Earth, and the consequences of that contact is something we’ll see a lot of in the book.
What does inter-Earth society look like at this point? Are there a bunch of Earths at war, or are they all dominated by the one dubbed Higher Earth?
There’s one planet that has managed to successfully wage inter-Earth war and colonization, and that’s Higher Earth. It’s an omega-level civilization that sits at the center of over a hundred connected planets. But with an infinite number of Earths come an infinite number of unpredictable possibilities. There are some planets that aren’t too happy about being absorbed into an empire, and the vast majority of Earths remain unknowable properties —
The blurb mentions two major characters: “Heidi, a girl born in garbage” and “Rex, a soldier gone rogue.” Is there anything else you can share about them right now? What does their situation look like before the adventure begins, and what sort of events throw them together?
With a world so vast, I wanted to experience it all through two pairs of human eyes. Rex is a man who has literally fallen from grace. On his way down, he meets up with Heidi, someone who has lived most of her life on the lowest Earths of the empire. For all their differences, they have one thing in common: a need for revenge. Both characters want to chop and slice their way from the bottom to the top, through every Earth in the network, but for different reasons. Where those reasons overlap and where they clash will be one of the focuses of this story.
We’ve also got a teaser image with the tag line “You are illegal on this Earth.” Are we looking at issues of illegal immigration, then?
Higher Earth is an obscenely wealthy civilization built on the backs of a hundred other Earths, and that doesn’t come without a lot of subjugation, and a lot of blowback. They are the 1%, with all the privileges and problems that entails.
What are some influences that have played into “Higher Earth?”
Beyond tons of sci-fi material accrued over a misspent life, samurai films definitely played a part in my thinking on this book. Particularly in Rex and Heidi’s predilection for swords. There’s some in-story reasons for that, but I also loved the idea of taking on an omega-level authoritarian civilization with some cold steel.
Since your self-published success with “Our Love is Real” and “Sacrifice,” this is your first creator-owned book to debut with a publisher. What made you decide to do “Higher Earth” with BOOM! Studios?
I can only self-publish for so long until it drives me bankrupt. I hope to always do a little self-publishing, but “Higher Earth” is a story too big to accomplish on my own. The days of Jeff Smith doing sixty or so issues of “Bone” in the direct market are over. (Even before those days were over, it was almost over for Smith!) The numbers just do not add up. We’re going to take “Higher Earth” to some amazing places, and to do that I need help.
As for BOOM!, I love their hustle. I’ve loved it since our partnerships back in my days at MySpace. They know how to seize opportunities, and have had great success launching new titles (no small feat in this market). We’re both right here in Los Angeles, and I love the whole crew. Special shout-out to my editor Dafna Pleban, who is always pushing to make the book better, even when she’d probably rather abandon me on a trash planet.
You’ve got “Sacrifice,” “John Carter: Gods of Mars,” “Fanboys vs. Zombies,” and now “Higher Earth” on your plate. In short, you’ve already got a very full 2012. Is this it, or can we look forward to more?
My lips are sealed — for now.