The truth is out there.
And, unlike a certain sci-fi TV show from the 90s, in the case of the October-debuting Image Comics’ “Xenoholics,” readers will actually get to see what that truth is. The series, written by Joshua Williamson and drawn by Seth Damoose, revolves around a self-help group that fully believes in aliens; many think they’ve been abducted while others believe in different alien conspiracies — but not everyone’s telling the truth.
“Xenoholics” starts off small with a group of believers and gets bigger and more widespread as events unfold that will either prove or disprove the actual existence of extraterrestrials. And guess what? They’re real. CBR News spoke with Williamson about how he combined an old story with a new one to come up with his new series, the perks of working with Damoose and his hope to put out a comic that is unlike anything else out there.
“[Seth] did a book called ‘I Hate Gallant Girl,’ and I really liked his art for that,” Williamson said of the origins of his artistic partnership. “I live in Portland and so does [Shadowland publisher] Jim Valentino. I talked to Jim and he showed me some of the pages [Seth] was turning in, and I thought they were really cool. The colors were nice, it was really animated and he could tell a story with facial expressions. So, I started emailing him and telling Jim I wanted to work with Seth. I met him at C2E2 for the first time, and we hit it off. We sat there at the booth, together, watching the booth for Jim and started talking about comics. I was surprised at the stuff he was into. I thought we’d do an all ages book or something, something really cartoony and then we started talking about ‘X-Files’ and aliens. Then we talked about ‘Fight Club.’ ‘Fight Club”s a great movie, but I think one of the best parts of that movie is the scene at the self-help group.”
In Williamson’s head, the idea of a self-help group combined itself with an alien story he had created many years before. The two stories complimented each other well and “Xenoholics” was born.
“One of the main characters is a guy named Kyle,” Williamson told CBR. “Kyle is a mystery; he doesn’t really share what happened to him with the group. The whole idea of this book is a self-help group like Alcoholics Anonymous for people who believe in aliens or believe they were abducted. They’re trying to prove that they were abducted. Originally, the first script I wrote — I wrote this five or six years ago — I wrote this script starring a guy named Kyle who is obsessed with aliens. It was kind of weak to be honest. Then something happens, there’s a two-page spread in the script, then Kyle freaks out and he’s dealing with the idea that aliens are real. [In the new version,] the character of Kyle is pretty much the same guy, I just made him a little older. In the original script, he was probably in his late teens and now he’s in his mid 20s. The two-page spread actually made it into the issue. It was funny, because I just cut and pasted that spread’s description into the script — it’s exactly the same thing.”
Kyle will be joined by an eclectic group of his fellow xenoholics, including a country redneck named Bob, a somewhat annoying soccer mom type and a former professional fighter.
“This idea of ‘what if aliens are real and [these people] believe they were abducted,’ people don’t understand it. They’re not lying, in their minds,” Williamson said. “Then, something happens. This event happens and the whole world has to accept the possibility that they might not be crazy. It really is a big mystery. All of the characters in the book, we don’t know — I know, but the readers won’t know at first — who is telling the truth and who is lying.”
The story will not just stay put in the self-help group, but will eventually turn into a country-spanning journey between Kyle and Bob as they search for the truth about aliens.
“The closest thing we have to a country bumpkin character is Bob,” Williamson said. “I almost took him out, but Seth wound up really liking him a lot. His perspective on things turned out to be a lot cleaner. Bob is the guy coming into this world for the first time, and he doesn’t know about any of this stuff. It’s a whole subculture dealing with aliens. Bob wasn’t aware of how weird it really was. On the journey to figure stuff out, he starts to see how weird it is. It’s kind of a redneck, white trash version of ‘Contact’ mixed with ‘Preacher,’ because ‘Preacher’ was a travel book and this is like that, with them on the road meeting other people who tie into the alien subculture.”
While Williamson has the series mapped out to a certain extent, the writer appreciates the freedom that working for a company like Image offers if new ideas pop into his or Damoose’s heads.
“I have themes planned out and storyarcs and themes for each issue,” Williamson said. “The first five issues essentially tell you a little bit about each character. Each character gets an issue with flashbacks [like ‘Lost’ showing their abduction experiences]. I want to keep that theme going for later ones, so issue #6 through #10 are the bad guys’ flashbacks. The first five issues set up this world, the second deals with different kinds of aliens. Then #11 through #15 are all about a ‘War of the Worlds’-type thing. The first ten issues are pretty tight, but I can do my own thing.
“I didn’t want to skimp on the aliens, like with ‘X-Files’ where you don’t know if aliens are real,” Williamson continued. “You get to see [them] pretty quick. I want to make sure you actually get to see the aliens. With issue #20, I want to say, ‘Here it is, here’s the end and here’s everything.’ I’m not skimping on anything — it’s the whole story and everyone is happy. I want to make sure everything I put out there is solved by the end. All the major mysteries will be solved by issue 15, then wind down from there. Issue 19 will be one long fight scene, essentially, then 20 is like, ‘Here’s the end!’ I’m just hoping we can do that. I think it’s different.
In the past, Williamson has worked for Marvel and DC on books like “Superman/Batman” and “Incredible Hulk,” but he’s finding that he genuinely appreciates the freedom and creativity that publishing through Image is allowing him.
“At Image, people are more open to playing around with storytelling,” Williamson said. “I’ve worked on books at DC and I’ve worked on books at Marvel, and I’ve tried to get away with certain types of storytelling tricks. I was one of Bendis’ students at PSU, and if you read ‘Powers’ and ‘Scarlet,’ there are a lot of comic book tricks. I would try to do them at Marvel and DC, and they would say it wouldn’t work. With ‘Xenoholics,’ I got to do a lot of those kind of things and play around with them. I’m going to do something different.”