EARTH ABIDES: Guggenheim Talks "Resurrection"

"War of the Worlds," H.G. Wells' classic novel about Martians invading London, hit stores in 1897 and ever since then, stories of alien armadas attacking Earth have captured the imaginations of audiences worldwide. Generally, these tales begin with an apocalyptic alien assault. After some time, humanity usually manages to fight back and kick the invaders off the planet. But what does mankind do when the alien aggressors are gone? Starting this November, "Resurrection," a new ongoing series from Oni Press and writer Marc Guggenheim and artist Dave Dumeer, will answer just that question. CBR News spoke with Guggenheim about the new series.

"Resurrection" is an idea Guggenheim's had for some time. "A lot of times I get stories and ideas out of the questions I'm just asking myself as a fan," Guggenheim told CBR News. "The question I'd always ask myself after watching any alien invasion movie was, 'Okay. Now what?' That question is what drives 'Resurrection' and lead me to think about the next chapter in those stories because I'm fascinated by the world that's left behind after the aliens leave. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there's an awful lot of interesting questions and interesting stories to tell in that post invasion world."

The Portland-based Oni Press is the natural home for "Resurrection," says Guggenheim. "I sat down with Eric Gitter who works for Oni's production arm. We were just talking and I threw out a lot of ideas and 'Resurrection' was the one he cottoned to," Guggenheim explained. "I've always wanted to get this series off the ground but with the right people and under the right circumstances. Oni is an amazing company. I've always liked the type of books they publish and 'Resurrection' seemed to fit very nicely within that body of work."

"Resurrection" is set in a world very much like our own -- except an alien race dubbed "The Bugs" invaded and attacked. "It's been about 10 years since the aliens invaded," Guggenheim said. "The book picks up right after the aliens have left the planet."

When mankind tried to repel the Bugs' assault on Earth, their efforts ultimately proved futile. "[Humans] started fighting back with conventional weapons and that wasn't working," Guggenheim said. "Then we moved to more extreme measures. [Those didn't] work. Then, eventually, we just got our asses kicked and it became an occupation."

In the opening pages of "Resurrection" #1, a group of human survivors discover the Bugs have, mysteriously, left Earth. We meet one of the series' protagonists, Sara, a mother on her way to meet her son. Towards the end of the issue, readers are introduced to the book's other main character, the enigmatic Ben. "These are the two people that we'll be focusing on," Guggenheim said. "The book features a large ensemble cast but Ben and Sara are the ones we'll see the majority of the plot unfold through. The book does make liberal use of subplots, though, and those subplots tend to focus on other characters. I think part of the fun of reading the book will be, 'Okay, when are we going to start seeing these subplots and various characters collide?' In issue #2, we introduce even more supporting characters. I don't want the book to become unwieldy in terms of the number of characters readers have to track but at the same time I do want to give it an epic scope.'

Another character readers meet in "Resurrection" #1 is the President of the United States. "While he was designing the character, I told Dave [Dumeer] to basically do Karl Rove and I kind of try to write him as Karl Rove," Guggenheim said. "I don't want to spoil too much of who that character is and even what gets revealed in the first issue but suffice to say whenever there is an invasion , as a matter of history, there are people who find it to be very good for them; people who thrived and benefited from the occupation. Fortunes got reversed and power shifted. This character sort of embodies those themes and concepts."

It may sound like the President is a shady character, but the morality and actions of all the "Resurrection" characters will be more grey-hued than black or white. "I'm trying to write all the characters from the perspective of real people," Guggenheim explained. "This is who this person is and that's who that person is.   It's left up to the readers to decide if those people are good or bad. I would consider Ben a good guy but I very consciously chose his first appearance and introduction to involve murder because this is a book that dwells in grey.

"One of the advantages doing a book that's not a superhero book is that you don't have an obligation to define your characters as superheroes and supervillains," Guggenheim continued.   "So, hopefully who's a villain and who's a hero will be something that readers can debate and hopefully see those perspectives change over time."

One relationship that's bound to get readers of "Resurrection" talking – if not debating

is that of the captive Bug named Spock and his female keeper. "That's actually one of the more fun relationships, because what we'll discover in the first issue is that relationship appears to go back more than 10 years," Guggenheim explained. "There's a very odd intimacy there that's been a lot of fun for me to write and there are all sorts of issues of conscience that are at the heart of that relationship."

Readers will get to see Spock's leeper clearly in "Resurrection" #1, but the alien himself appears in shadow, as details about the Bugs will be just one of the many ongoing mysteries in the series. "We'll be teasing and slowly revealing," Guggenheim said. "I don't want to make the mistake of something like 'Lost' and spend too much time teasing and not enough time paying off. So we'll certainly get a chance to pay things off.   Also, there's so much mystery to be uncovered here.   There's what does the alien technology look like? What do the aliens look like? What is their culture like? Why did they leave? Did we kick them off? If we kicked them off how did we do it? There are so many questions   that I   think part of the fun of the book is that hopefully you'll pick up an issue and you'll get a new piece of the puzzle.

"So, eventually we'll get a chance to see the alien in all his glory but that will take place slowly over time," Guggenheim continued. "Dave did a real nice job in the second issue of obscuring the alien in shadows but adding a little more detail. We'll eventually show the full fledged alien but it won't be a case of at first you don't see him and then suddenly you do. There will be all these intervening steps where you get to see him in just ever so greater detail."

Another ongoing mystery of "Resurrection" is the truth behind the shambling, hideously deformed, seemingly insane "Burns," introduced in the first story arc of "Resurrection." "The Burns actually play a very key role in the overall mythology of the book," Guggenheim said. "As such, we'll be seeing a lot more of them but how we see them and under what circumstances you can probably expect to change.

"The point of the opening story arc is to get all the characters on the playing field but to do so in a way where it's not a case of okay now we're introducing this person and then we're introducing that person. We'd rather tell a complete story in addition to putting all our characters on the chessboard. I'm using the story to place them in specific positions so that we can start to play off these characters meeting each other and colliding into one another and not getting along with each other.

"Also, there's a certain learning curve in terms of exposing readers to this post invasion world and setting up all the mysteries," Guggenheim continued. "So the first arc is kind of like the pilot for a TV show in the sense that there is a story with a beginning, middle, and end and it's all about setting up the characters and the situations."

In the opening story arc, Ben and Sara set out for Washington, DC. Along the way they encounter a host of obstacles and adversaries, many of which include their fellow survivors. "One of the central premises of the book is that the biggest problem when the aliens leave is everyone who's left behind," Guggenheim explained. "The aliens left behind a very, very changed world and humans don't often operate with the best intentions under changed circumstances. So that sort of mob mentality if you will provides maybe the single biggest antagonist of the book.

"There's definitely a post-apocalyptic aspect to this story," Guggenheim continued. "It's very much like the book 'The Road' or 'Y: The Last Man' or any zombie story. It's a post-apocalyptic story but there hasn't been an apocalypse. We've just come as close to an apocalypse as we could get. In the first issue we see there are pockets of society that seem to be still functioning and the question is 'How do these pockets relate to other pockets?'"

In the beginning of the series, "Resurrection" will just examine the various still functioning pockets of society in the United States. "My goal ultimately is to explore the rest of the world but for the time being we'll probably stay put in the U.S. until the story motivates us to go elsewhere," Guggenheim said.

In issue #2 of "Resurrection," readers will meet a survivor who was one of the most influential figures in the U.S. before the invasion. "We're going to meet a Bill Gates type," Guggenheim stated. "One of the very first ideas I had after the initial idea years ago was, if I was Bill Gates the first thing I would do once the aliens were gone and it was safe   I would go out and try to get my hands on some of the alien technology that's been left behind. So he's an interesting character in terms of those motives and he's sort of our way into discovering what the alien technology was."

Despite the circumstances, "Resurrection" isn't a purely dark-toned story. "I think anyone familiar with my work knows that there's always a certain degree of humor," Guggenheim said. "It's not slap-sticky humor but there is a wry sensibility in the characters' reactions to things. That's certainly present in this book.

"One of the things that I like about this book is that it can go sort of anywhere," Guggenheim continued. "Because once I've established the broad sweeping landscape, I can focus in on, even if only for a single issue, just a corner of the landscape and in doing so completely play around with tone. So the hope is that the book is a commercial enough success that I can start having fun with the format and the tone and play around with things."

Guggenheim also hopes "Resurrection" is a commercial success because he'd love to be able to tell the entire story he's got planned; the beginning, middle, and eventual end. "The way I write is I like to plan things out in pretty specific detail; I like to know where I'm going and how the story is going to get there but at the same time I really do like to let the story tell itself and I want to be able to listen to my instincts when they tell me, 'Hey, it would be really interesting if you did this or that,'" Guggenheim explained. "So there is an overall mythology. There are answers to all the questions I'm posing and I have a very good idea how I'm going to get to each of those answers but at the same time I'm giving myself freedom to play around with things and maybe reveal answers sooner than expected. Everything will have an answer because unlike television shows like the 'X-Files,' I'm asking people to make a financial investment in the fact that I know what I'm doing   and I have answers to these questions that I'm posing."

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