"Guarding The Globe" With Benito Cereno

As "Guarding The Globe" is a team book about some of the greatest superheroes that the Invincible Universe has to offer, it's only fitting that the book itself has a similarly top-notch creative team behind it. "Globe" creator Robert Kirkman is joined on the upcoming Image Comics miniseries by co-writer Benito Cereno, the same writer responsible for the "Invincible Presents: Atom Eve" and "Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode" miniseries.

"Aside from being a creative writer who comes up with all kinds of good ideas and being extremely talented, Benito also seems to know more about the Invincible Universe than I do," Kirkman told CBR News of Cereno's "Globe" credentials. "He's often the guy I call and ask, 'So, this guy has a dad, right? What's his dad's name? What issue does he appear in? I don't remember!' He's kind of my go to guy as far as encyclopedic knowledge of the Invincible Universe. He's perfect for this because the series will span the entire universe and feature a lot of different characters that have appeared in 'Invincible' over the years."

To learn more, CBR spoke with Cereno about his upcoming work on "Guarding The Globe" and what fans can expect from the series, his collaboration process with Kirkman and what he thinks makes the Invincible Universe so darn cool.

CBR News: Benito, can you talk a bit about how the "Guarding The Globe" miniseries developed - specifically, how did you get involved with the project?

Benito Cereno: Robert has wanted to do a Guardians of the Globe series for a long time; he's just been waiting on the right moment for it. I think with the currently ongoing "Viltrumite War" story in "Invincible" with Mark off the planet for most of a year's worth of stories, Robert figured now would be an opportune time to have a series that focused on what's happening on Earth while Mark is away. So sometime last year, Robert comes to me and says, "Convince me to co-write a Guardians of the Globe book with you." And I replied, "Well, it's an ideal situation for you: if people like the book, you'll get all the credit, and if they don't like it, I'll get all the blame." And he said, "Sold!"

Just kidding! Robert did approach me that way, though, and after talking it out, we decided the time was ripe and that Robert needed even more things to do, and a year later, here we are.

As much as you're able to say, what's the basic premise for the miniseries? What are readers diving into when they pick this book up?

As I mentioned, the series will focus on the events on Earth while Mark "Invincible" Grayson is off in space getting his guts ventilated. The biggest problem facing the earth's premier superhero team is that their ranks have been vastly depleted. Readers of "Invincible" have seen the events of recent issues devastate the roster of the Guardians - Rex Splode and Darkwing sacrificing themselves during the Invincible War, Immortal and Dupli-Kate retiring to settle down and start a family. If those losses weren't enough, those who have read "Invincible" #71 know that the team has lost two more members due to circumstances beyond their control.

What that leaves us with is basically four people trying to protect the entire world. So this series focuses on the efforts of Cecil Stedman, director of the Global Defense Agency and the driving force behind the Guardians, and the remaining team members to bulk up the ranks of the team and help the world feel safe and protected again. At the same time, we see some of the machinations of The Order, an international crime organization, starting to come to fruition, taking advantage of the lessened numbers in the Guardians. So the question is whether or not the team can get it together in order to stop the plans of the mysterious leader of The Order.

We've already seen a few members of the Guardians lineup through teasers: Brit, Yeti, Bulletproof, Outrun and Kaboomerang. What can you tell us about these guys? Are they sort of the central heroes of this miniseries?

Brit and Bulletproof are two of the remaining members of the team as we see them in the aftermath of "Invincible" #71, together with Black Samson and Shapesmith. Brit has the most experience as a hero and adventurer, so he was relatively recently made the leader of the team, but the others have spent the most time as members of the team. Black Samson especially, since he is the only surviving member of the original Guardians lineup, becomes something of the emotional and inspirational center of the team.

Yeti, Outrun, and Kaboomerang are three of the new recruits we'll see joining the team over the course of the miniseries. We'll see some of the experience of joining such a prestigious team from the perspective of the new guys as they have to jump in head first into the experience of saving the world - or, you know, guarding the globe! Each one, as well as the other new members who have not yet been revealed, will bring something new to the table in terms of their experiences and skill sets. Hopefully readers will be able to find favorites from both the old members and the new.

You mentioned Black Samson and Shapesmith. Will we be seeing other traditional Guardians and other characters in the Invincible Universe popping up as well? How about brand new characters beyond the ones we've met through the teasers? This is Robert's universe, of course, but how much creative input and freedom are you and artist Ransom Getty getting in the creation of these new characters?

We will definitely be seeing tons of characters both significant and tangential from the Invincible Universe appearing in this series, and not only characters from "Invincible," but also from "Brit," "Tech Jacket," "Capes" and "Astounding Wolf-Man." The previews and solicitations already released show appearances by such characters as Robert's favorite, Donald Ferguson, and Tether Tyrant. Issue #2 has its main action in Atlantis, so we'll see Aquarus, as well as my favorite villain, Octoboss. Cecil, of course, is a major character, and I hope we'll be able to squeeze in other GDA characters like Ms. Popper as well. And if anyone manages to survive the finale of "Astounding Wolf-Man," I wouldn't be surprised to see them pop up sooner or later.

As far as character creation goes, this is, as you said, Robert's universe, so all the new characters getting introduced into the series were created by Robert and "Invincible" co-creator Cory Walker, which helps give them that nice sheen of authenticity. However, it is a collaborative process, and there is a difference between a concept in a sketchbook and a character in action on the page. So while characters such as Yeti and Kaboomerang were created by Robert and Cory, most of the story pages on which they actually appear so far have been written by me, and all of them drawn by Ransom, and so we get to elaborate and embellish on what was given to us in that way.

The main bad guys of this miniseries are The Order, as you've mentioned. Elaborate a bit - who are these people?

The Order is actually a group we've seen before in the pages of "Invincible." They're the international crime syndicate that the rocky-skinned criminal Titan found himself grandfathered into when he took over domestic organized crime from super-powered mob boss Machine Head way back in "Invincible" #19. Since then, we've seen Titan and his right-hand man Isotope resisting the yoke of subservience that they didn't realize they were putting on themselves by taking over Machine Head's operations, which has led to several conflicts with The Order's main enforcer, Mr. Liu, an older man who can project his soul in the shape of a dragon. Other members we've seen are Mr. Liu's beefy bodyguard and Multi-Paul, Dupli-Kate's less scrupulous twin brother. But there are obviously way more members yet to be revealed, including the mysterious man who's pulling the strings, essentially the man in charge of all the world's crime.

So in a way, they're kind of like a super-powered mob. But in another, more different way, they're kind of like the Guardians themselves, except that they do crimes instead of stopping them. And with the earth's strongest hero off-planet and the premier super-team's strength lower than it's ever been, will anyone be able to stop them?

We've pretty much only seen the Guardians in relation to Mark Grayson's adventures within the pages of "Invincible." Even if they've gone off on their own tangents, those adventures still tie in directly to someone else's comic book. How do you feel these characters stand on their own now that they're fully in the spotlight? In your opinion, what is it that makes these characters worthy of their very own title?

One of the things I hope to accomplish with this series more than anything else is not only to establish more of a standalone identity for the members of the Guardians, but to really cement their place as the number one squadron of ass-kickers and lifesavers on planet earth. One of the main downsides of the Guardians having previously appeared only as supporting characters for Invincible is that nearly the only time we see them is when they need or seem to need Mark's help. This, I feel, has the unfortunate side effect of making the team seem somewhat ineffective, which I don't think is the case at all. You don't get promoted to the big leagues by being terrible at your job - usually.

So what I want, what I really want, is by the end of the series, if aliens are invading, blowing up buildings, vaporizing innocent civilians and generally making life unsafe for democracy, and suddenly one of the ships is blown up by an exploding boomerang, or one of the aliens is knocked out by a rocket-boosted punch, that everyone, characters and readers both, lean back, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, "No. I'm not worried. The Guardians are here, and we're saved."

But in addition to that, I really want us all to get a chance to meet these characters more intimately, many of whom we know very little about so far. Each character has a very interesting personality that plays off the others in a way to give the team that family dynamic you used to get more often in super-team books. I guess it's kind of like if Brit is your grizzled, hard-bitten, kind of scary war vet grandpa, Samson is the nice dad who would sneak you pizza in your room after your mom yelled at you, Bulletproof is the cool uncle you wanted to be like because he always seemed to be having fun, and Shapesmith is the, you know, the other uncle who you hoped would never pick you up at school in front of your friends. And that makes all the new recruits like the kids in one way or the other, whether they're surly teenagers or naïve pre-adolescents or whatever. I think everyone will get a chance to see what they're really about completely apart from what they've read in "Invincible." I kind of want people to go, "Forget that Invincible guy. I want to read about Shapesmith every month." If that happens, I think we'll have done it right.

You're hardly a stranger to working with Robert's characters, having written some "Invincible Presents" stories in the past. What do you enjoy so much about playing around in this world? Why do you think these characters and these stories and all of these elements are so compelling and enjoyable for you?

"Invincible" and its related titles are just such cool books, you know? They manage to do basically what I think a modern superhero book should do: they find a way to do something new without forgetting what made all the old comics good. Too many superhero books from the past decade or so - or more, depending on how you look at it - throw the baby out with the bathwater, in my opinion. In trying as hard as they can to not look like "Batman '66" - which, in my opinion, is silly; I'd give a kidney to make something half as awesome - they indiscriminately discard all the things that make superhero comics fun and cool and interesting and that distinguish them from other genres. But "Invincible," I think, manages to retain all that cool stuff: action and melodrama and humor and cool characters with silly names doing cool stuff normal people can't do, and it does all that without feeling retro or outmoded. It looks back without moving backwards. I think that's cool.

You're co-writing this series directly with Robert himself. What's it like working with him? What's the collaboration process like between you guys?

I've known Robert in one form or another for almost ten years now, so it's exactly like working on a project with a good friend, except that good friend is also kind of your boss, so it's got the precise mixture of familiarity and awkward discomfort that comes from that - just kidding!

The collaboration process has kind of a lot of steps, I guess. Basically, it starts with Robert telling me the goals of each issue, what he wants to accomplish. From there, the two of us will discuss possible plot directions, Robert will tell me which scenes he wants me to write, and I'll work up a synopsis or page breakdown for those scenes. Robert will approve or make changes to those notes, and from there I will script those scenes. Robert then goes over those pages and makes whatever changes he thinks are necessary to give it that trademarked Kirkman feel, primarily removing jokes and adding more exposed viscera - kidding, again! Other pages are written by Kirkman whole hog from start to finish. There is no step in the process by which I approve the pages that Robert has written.

"Guarding The Globe" is currently billed as a miniseries. Do you have plans for more stories after this initial run is finished? Would you want to turn it into an ongoing? Basically, what's your vision for how the Guardians should proceed after the sixth issue is wrapped up?

My vision is that the first miniseries is a huge, smashing success so that we can keep doing more of these stories until either all the creators or all the characters are dead. The Invincible Universe, including all related Kirkman titles, is so rich that we could keep mining and adding to the material for years without slowing down. I mean, you guys all want to see more of, say, Damien Darkblood, right? Or, uh, that Superball guy from Capes, right? I think the plan is that as long as the book keeps selling, we'll keep doing miniseries in more or less the "BPRD" model, where we'll do six issues, take a short break, and then come back with six more. Ad infinitum - or nauseam, as the case may be.

The hilarious initial run of Guardians teasers is going to live on as a back-up feature illustrated by Chris Giarrusso. What can you tell us about how these back-up features were first decided upon? What are fans in store for when they read these stories?

The first run of teasers was all Robert's idea. I didn't even know about it until the day before the first one went live; just another one of Robert's deviously clever marketing schemes. But I saw how positively people reacted to the absurd possibility of a team like that existing, and I thought it was too good to waste. At first I thought of ways I could turn that team into a series of backups, but then I figured we should ask someone good at being funny to do it. So I suggested we get Chris G. to do it, and it was the first suggestion I made for this book that Robert didn't balk at, so I thought it must have been a pretty good idea. And so it's going to happen!

As for what will happen, your guess is as good as mine! I actually haven't seen anything Chris has done for the backups other than the teaser image that was released a couple weeks back. I imagine I will be pleasantly surprised. But not too surprised, because, as readers of "G-Man" or "Mini-Marvels" know, Chris G. brings the goods, without fail, every time.

Alright, Benito - final sales pitch. Why should readers pick up "Guarding The Globe?" What are they getting here that they won't get in any other comic book series?

For fans of "Invincible," this is going to be your one shot to know what's going on back on planet Earth while Mark is fighting mustachioed men in space. And following the endings of "Brit" and "Astounding Wolf-Man," this is your only access to the Invincible Universe outside of the main book.

For people who have never read "Invincible," this book is, I am pretty sure, the only place where you can find yetis, Martians and invulnerable senior citizens beating up extraterrestrial cephalopods for the fate of Atlantis. If that kind of stuff rings your bell as much as it does mine, this is the book for you. Also, I can guarantee there will be precisely zero two-page spreads with a hundred panels of characters saying in one or two words that they will or will not be joining the team. In case that's an incentive.

Anything else to add, Benito?

Please buy this book as well as my other comics, including "The Tick: New Series" with Les McClaine from New England Comics, and tell all of your friends to also buy these comics and tell all of their friends to also buy these comics!

"Guarding The Globe" #1, co-written by Robert Kirkman and Benito Cereno and illustrated by Ransom Getty, arrives in comic book stores on August 25, 2010.

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