If the Hernandez Brothers never created another thing beyond "Love and Rockets" they'd still be considered independent comic book royalty for years and years to come. And yet two-thirds of the creative genius behind the Kirby, Harvey and Inkpot award-winning series are at it again this summer with the highly anticipated "Citizen Rex" from Dark Horse Comics.
Written by Mario and Gilbert Hernandez, the latter is handling art duties on the six-issue miniseries that is set 50 years in the future.
An anti-robot movement is all the rage in the pages of "Citizen Rex," largely because the most famous robot in the world, namely CTZ-RX, was deactivated after a series of headline-grabbing scandals and misdemeanors. All the while, body modification is where it's at and prosthetic limbs have become hot, black-market items.
Enter Sergio Bauntin. Also known by his online avatar, Bloggo, Bauntin is a gossip columnist and while his regular beats include the mob and the city's mysterious investigators, the Truth Takers when he catches wind that CTZ-RX may be back in town, his entire existence comes crashing down into a world of violence and intrigue.
What does it all mean? What's CTZ-RX doing back on the scene? And what's up with that monolithic black box sitting in the middle of the city? CBR News checked in Los Bros. Hernandez and got the scoop, Bloggo-style.
CBR: How long has this idea of "Citizen Rex" been gestating?
Mario Hernandez: The original ideas for C-Rex go back at least 15 or so years. I'd jotted down a bunch of notes and sketches and they lay around in the ever growing ideas pile. I'd come across it once in awhile and add stuff. It originally was a more serious story and involved more robot characters and less humans actually.
What can you share with us about the story of "Citizen Rex?"
MH: The story is set in a large South American metropolis. Old school-style robots do most of the drudge work and a lot are companions, maids, secretaries and such. Our human hero, Sergio Bauntin, is a popular blogger who writes a column, "The 3 o'clock," under the name Bloggo, specializing in trashing the powers that be, social elites plus debunking urban legends and local rumors. He and his robot companion/secretary have been looking into the mysterious appearance of a large stone block sitting in an industrial area. This coincides with the rumors that the first humanoid robot, CTZ-RX-1, is prowling the streets once again after being deactivated some years before. Add in some gangsters, crazy scientists, crazy artists and Sergio's weird family. Mix well with the new fad of prosthetic designer limbs and away we go.
"Citizen Rex" is set in the future. How near or far?
MH: It's set about 50 years into the future, with flying cars, stuff like that.
Coming into the series, what do we need to know about Sergio Bauntin?
MH: Just that he's a child of privilege, trying to make it on his own in the big city. He still has Hazel, the companion nanny robot that he got as a kid. Hazel still has remnants of kid stickers on her legs.
And what about CTZ-RX?
MH: Because he was created to be autonomous, he is genius level, but because some of his software was supposed to be temporary, he's a bit confused.
There is certainly a message being delivered in "Citizen Rex."
MH: It's basically about how humans exploit technologies for whatever gain they can squeeze out of them. Most everyone in the story has a reason for exploiting Rex and each other.
In building a larger universe and mythos as you do in your comic books, how do you develop characters? Do the characters come first or the adventure and then you need to create players to tell the story?
MH: The fun part about doing this particular series was that I had only a bare bones beginning and as I expanded on it, characters just popped up and some were created as I went along. Not something I would recommend to aspiring storytellers. I am a great fan of Charles Dickens' works, especially the incredible names he would give his characters. In this case, I had been going through a huge Latin music obsession and named some of the characters accordingly. Just giving the characters weird names helps in developing their personalities and traits.
The story itself developed through my encountering robot stories that seemed to come at me from all sides, movies, TV, books. It helped me to eliminate most of the obvious cliches and move the story to what I think is an original and unexpected finish.
Gilbert, can you speak about "Citizen Rex" artistically? Are you trying something different or trying to generate a certain feel through the style you have chosen?
Gilbert Hernandez: The style I've chosen is one I've used for this type of story before. It simply gives me room to use my imagination for creating the visuals of the world of "Citizen Rex."
MH: I'd just like to add that seeing Gilbert's artwork helped at times to inspire changes in mood, structure and story direction when I got stuck or got bogged down.
The project is quite different from "Love and Rockets" and yet could easily, at least tangibly, be connected to that universe. What are the differences and similarities?
MH: The story started as a one shot for "Love and Rockets" actually, but the boys were getting away from the science fiction story aspects and going into their incredible "Human" phase of "Love and Rockets."
GH: For me, I only know how to tell a story my way, so there's little effort in trying to do someone else's vision. All of my comics look like they're for "Love and Rockets" because they come from the same place - my nutty brain.
Androids, or at least robots, have long been explored in fiction and science fiction. What makes the topic so compelling?
MH: I just like the whole idea of robots, always have. To me, they're free of the constraints of race, religion and societal mores that hamstring humans, and of course they piss people off.
GH: I just like drawing them and I've noticed over the years that if over here you draw a human asking for spare change and over there you draw a robot asking for spare change, chances are the average comic book reader will prefer the robot version.
Who's your favorite android or robot?
MH: Robby in "Forbidden Planet," then the Robot "Lost in Space."
GH: Does Iron Man count? No. Okay, up against the wall I'd have to say Astroboy.
You actually reference the Tin Man early in the series. Were you big fans of "The Wizard of Oz" growing up?
MH: I watched it every time it was on, once a year for many years. Tin Man was a name that just popped into my head when I wrote the character.
GH: It would be hard to find a lover of comics and films that wasn't influenced by that film.
Would either of you like to have your own android or robot? Why?
MH: Sure, but I'd get even fatter.
GH: That's a loaded question.
Should sales and acclaim warrant it, are there more stories to tell of the world of "Citizen Rex?"
MH: Yeah, I still have enough stuff for a sequel or prequel. I had to leave a bunch of sub-plots and fun dialogue out. You'd think six issues would be enough, you know?
"Citizen Rex" #1, written by Mario and Gilbert Hernandez with art by Gilbert Hernandez, goes on sale July 8 from Dark Horse.