Cornell Seeks Truth in "Saucer Country"

Who knew Paul Cornell had the kind of clout to land a big-time celebrity plug from none other than Victoria Beckham for "Saucer Country," his just-announced creator-owned project from Vertigo Comics, but the proof is in the pudding.

Announced at New York Comic Con, Cornell and artist Ryan Kelly ("The New York Five") will team on a project the multiple Hugo-nominated writer describes as "West Wing" does "The X-Files."

The series debuts in 2012 and follows the exploits of Arcadia Alvarado, the Governor of New Mexico, who, on the eve of announcing her canidacy for President of the United States, is abducted by aliens.

At least she thinks she was. She's not exactly sure what happened and "Saucer Country" will delve into how she and her confidantes seek the truth while Cornell and Kelly examine the real-life mythology and lore that permeates UFO sightings, alien conspiracies and the greater realm of abduction phenomenon.

CBR News connected with Cornell, who is concurrently writing "Stormwatch" and "Demon Knights" as part of DC Comics' New 52, to see if the British writer is a believer like Fox Mulder when it comes to the truth being out there or skews towards the skeptic like Dana Scully.

CBR News: Which real-life American president, past or present, do you think would best handle an alien encounter? And more importantly, why?

Paul Cornell: Well, it was Jimmy Carter who went on record as having seen a UFO, but I like to think that FDR would have shown the right spirit in the face of the strange. He had a blend of vision and conservatism that would have made sure that he trod very gently in the presence of the unknown.

Is "Saucer Country" something you have been developing for some time or did you just have a Eureka moment?

It's been on my mind, in one way or another, for literally decades. It came together in discussions with former Vertigo editor Pornsak Pichetshote. The key thing is that it's politicians, not the military or some sort of special team, that become involved with UFO mythology, so this isn't about firefights and a standard "alien invasion." It's much more about the mythology itself, and how that myth has been shaped by, and actually done its part in shaping, America.

You have a long history writing science fiction for television, comics and novels. Do you also have a love for political shows like "West Wing" and "State of Play" or are you more of a political news junkie?

Both. I think politics is very infrequently dealt with in any sort of realistic way by the popular media. Indeed, what's shown is often ridiculous. "West Wing" was a brilliant exception to that.

What's the Latina governor of New Mexico's secret origin? And specifically, what are her thoughts on illegal aliens?

Arcadia Alvarado is a Democrat, the daughter of one of New Mexico's most prominent political fixers, with a husband who's on his way to being an ex-husband but who she's still friends with in a complicated way, and who wouldn't, despite him being kind of a loser, want to damage her chances of election. She's trying to find a way to say she thinks illegal entry across the border isn't the big deal some people see it as. She's asked a lot about her views on "aliens." She's a hard, decisive person, who believes "a thing is what it is," which leads her, when she wakes, to remember, mistily, being "abducted by aliens" to make some hard choices about whether or not she still wants to run for President.

The announcement on Graphic Content teased your leading lady would receive help from her dedicated staff and a rag-tag collection of UFO "experts." Can you share some details on some of the other players in "Saucer Country?"

Arcadia takes a handful of trusted members of her own staff, and a Republican campaign consultant, Chloe, who's my voice for the witty, hard truths in this book, and adds to them Professor Joshua Kidd, a professor of modern folklore at Harvard who's initially a believer in the reality of certain aspects of the UFO myth, but that gets more nuanced quite quickly. Kidd isn't sure if he's suffering from some kind of mental illness, and is haunted by, well, you'll see. Her husband, Michael, also comes awkwardly along for the ride.

What's your own take on conspiracies, specifically but not necessarily, of the alien variety? Do you think government keeps things from us? And if you don't believe, do you think President Obama or Prime Minister Cameron would fess up if they knew we weren't alone?

I don't believe that governments known much more about aliens and UFOs than we do. And I don't think they actually care very much. Their intelligence services, on the other hand, I think do have a lot to do with UFO mythology, in all sorts of ways. I believe there's a reality behind this incredibly varied and layered mythology, but I don't think anyone knows what it is. I'm sympathetic to those who've observed and experienced impossible things. I actually think any government that achieved genuine alien contact would shout about the fact from the rooftops. It'd give them an immediate advantage in world affairs.

What roles will media-based characters, for example the Perry Whites and Jimmy Olsens of the world, play in your series and what are your thoughts on the roles real-life mainstream media outlets versus bloggers and Twitterati play in our own lives? Will these views be shared within "Saucer Country?"

I think the media generally treat UFO mythology cynically and offhandedly, and these days don't particularly care about the truth of it or otherwise. They will play a part here, though.

In the past, American TV shows such as "The Event" and "Invasion" have misfired, in part, because the aliens took too long to manifest. Will we see your aliens early and often or is there a slow burn to the reveal?

We see them early. But whether they're "my aliens" or "aliens" or whatever they are is the whole subject of the series. Arcadia isn't sure what happened to her. We'll be seeing a lot of strange things as Arcadia and her team goes out into the world to work out what the truth is, each arc being about some other aspect of the lore. Between arcs, we'll be doing one-off, 'true story' issues with different artists, as we started with in the short in "Strange Adventures" #1.

Speaking of the reveal, how did you team-up with Ryan Kelly and does he draw a pretty mean alien?

Ryan was suggested to me, and being a huge fan of his work, I jumped at the chance. The book is initially set in New Mexico, and is very much about that aerospace state, and his ability to suggest place is like no other. I've asked him to scare me, and he has.

I hate to ask this before the series has even begun, but do you know how "Saucer Country" ends? And how many issues do you foresee the story running?

I have an ending in mind, but I don't know how long it'll take to get there. I have a lot of stories from UFO lore that I want to tell.

As a DC exclusive writer, you are knee deep in writing two series for the New 52. How do you manage your time leaping from a creator-owned project like "Saucer Country" to heavy continuity story-telling in "Demon Knights" and "Stormwatch?" Do you have a preference?

Well, they're each a holiday from the other. I'm doing a lot of other things at the same time too, like a novel coming out next year, so it's just a question of enjoying variety in my work.

"Saucer Country" abducts store shelves in 2012.

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