George Bailey's Nightmare: Chaykin talks "City Of Tomorrow"

The futuristic city of Columbia was an idyllic refuge from the outside world. Advanced animatronic robots waited on the lucky citizens of this utopian community. The citizens of Colombia believed they were free from crime, until a virus turned the selfless robotic servants of Colombia into criminal masterminds and they turned Colombia into a hellhole. Now the son of Colombia's creator has come back to the community and hopes to take back the night from the robotic criminals. This is the premise of Howard Chaykin's new six-issue / Wildstorm mini-series "City of Tomorrow" and CBR News caught up with Chaykin to chat about the book.

Chaykin said that "City of Tomorrow" was influenced and inspired by a number of sources. "That classic Hollywood short form would be it's 'The Untouchables meets 'West World' at Epcot," Chaykin told CBR News. "I wanted to do a completely and totally created community that went to complete hell and the only guy who can save it is the disaffected son of the guy who built it. He comes home thinking he's got a place to hide out and kind of comes in to a bigger hellhole than what he left behind. It's a story about fathers and sons, to a great extent, because he and his dad do not get along. It's also about a guy who has been unlucky in love who actually finds love and romance in this context."

The prodigal son that returns to Colombia is Tucker Foyle, the son of the city's creator. "Tucker, when we first meet him, is an apple cheeked 12-year old who turns into a completely obnoxious 16-year old punk, disappears and when we see him again he's a fairly hard-boiled Navy Special Ops officer, who has translated all that rage he had as a kid into basically becoming a killing machine and by various circumstances, which are plot driven and character driven, he ends up at home in Colombia and reunites with dad."

Tucker's father is Eli Foyle. "His dad is sort of a visionary cross between Bill Gates, Ross Perot and Walt Disney with the best and worst aspects of those guys," Chaykin explained.

Tucker's mom was often involved in the father-son conflict. "His mom was sort of a pawn between him and his father," Chaykin continued. "So there's all sorts of familial bizarreities going on."

The advanced robots Eli Foyle created, as municipal servants for Colombia, looked and behaved like they came out of a Norman Rockwell painting until a virus alters them. "They're artificially intelligent," Chaykin explained. "They have lives and souls. As a result of unforeseen circumstances, they are perverted and become criminals. What you've got is a war between two criminal families, both of which are fronted by robot brothers, the Zero brothers. Our hero finds himself caught in the middle of that war. What happened is the town has gone from being a haven for All-American family life to a sort of place main landers come over to, to this artificial island, looking for cheap thrills and fun. Tucker, our hero has taken it upon himself to take back the night. It's become a science fiction version of George Bailey's nightmare in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' He has to bring it back to where George Bailey was in the first place."

Chaykin is especially proud of one of the robotic characters Tucker encounters in Colombia. "I'm really particularly high on one of the villains whose name is Francis X. Machina. When we first meet him he's a police officer and when we meet him again he's become the mob's enforcer. He's a very complex robotic figure. R2D2 he ain't. He's based on a number of people that I grew up with including a cousin of mine that was a bit 'mobbed up.'"

Tucker Foyle returns to the robotic crime plagued Colombia alone and unfortunately his life and past follow him there, said Chaykin. "That's what issue two is about. Issue three is about becoming a part of the landscape and enhancing and tightening the connections that we've seen him make in issue two."

City of Tomorrow still contains some of Chaykin's trademark sci-fi style satire, but tone wise it's a little different than his usual stories. "There is definite romance," said Chaykin. "There is some ironic comedy. It's a little darker than I normally do. I've chosen not to do a hero who is a particularly wise cracking fellow. He's got a jaundiced view on the world based on his own personal experiences. That doesn't leave him open for the kind of snide cracks that a lot of my heroes throw around. Again, he does open up under the influence of this romance that evolves."

The romance that brings Tucker out of his shell involves two women. "Ultimately he finds himself caught in a romantic triangle," Chaykin explained "Between a woman named Theresa Flat who is perfectly human, but has real affinities for the robotic, and a robot woman named Ash Wednesday."

"City of Tomorrow" is a complete and self contained six issue mini series, but Chaykin does have definite plans for a sequel. "The first six do tell a complete story without fail," he said. "It definitely has a coherent conclusion, but the coherent conclusion leaves plenty of room open for a sequel. Because what ultimately happens is a small part of the world is taken and there is more world to be seen."

The main theme of "City of Tomorrow" is community. It's about working with your neighbors to preserve your community and that there is no perfect community free from crime. "I'm a great believer in social engineering and social behavior," Chaykin said. "I was involved in a political and social movement that died in the early 1990s called Communitarism and I have a profound belief in this and these things all enter into the book. Also, beyond all the thematic stuff it also has lots of guns, lots of action, cool cars, cool looking people and a hero whose hardboiled and lives a life of major disappointment who finally opens up and blossoms under the romantic influence of a very surprising character."

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