NYCC: IDW's Chris Ryall Reveals "Infestation 2"

In early 2011, IDW Publishing's first major crossover event "Infestation" saw the universes of "Transformers," "G.I. Joe," "Star Trek," and "Ghostbusters" overrun with vampires from the publisher's home-grown continuity. Eventually, the forces of IDW's CVO -- Covert Vampiric Operations -- were able to save the multiverse, but their actions have invited an even greater threat: Lovecraft's Old Ones, a race of wicked gods once kept at bay but now free to roam time and space.

In the lead up to New York Comic Con, IDW announced "Infestation 2," which like its predecessor will be a two-issue miniseries bookending several tie-in miniseries and one-shots. The core series is written by Duane Swierczynski with art by David Messina; Chuck Dixon and Guidi Guidi team for "Infestation 2: Transformers," which returns to the "Heart of Steel" time line; "Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons: Eberron" is by "Eberron" novelist Paul Crilley with art by Valerio Schiti; "Infestation 2: Team-Up," featuring "Groom Lake's" Archibald and Batboy from "Weekly World News," is written by Chris Ryall with art by Alan Robinson; Tristan Jones and Mark Torres join for "Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles;" Mike Raicht and Valentine de Landro enlist for "Infestation 2: G.I. Joe;" and Swierczynski and Stuart Sayger round things out with "Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night."

Comic Book Resources spoke with IDW's Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall about the evolution of the "Infestation" events, choosing properties to cross over, and how to have a bit of fun with it all.

CBR News: Chris, first I'd like to talk a little about how you feel the first "Infestation" event worked out. That was trying something new for IDW in being a crossover, but it was also quite novel in what you were crossing over and all.

Chris Ryall: Yeah, we worked on it for a year, and there was all this skepticism about how it might work. Once it got going, it turned out that every single issue that was tied in with "Infestation" completely sold out in the first week. So it worked much better than I think we even expected or hoped.

From there, we did sort of a bridging story, the "Infestation: Outbreak" miniseries, the last issue of which just came out this week. It continued that original story and laid some groundwork for what's coming up in the next one. We've set them up as standalone stories, so you don't have to read all of them to know what's what. But if you are reading them all together, it tells a bigger story and paints a bigger picture of what's to come.

Being that it was all so new that first time around, are there any lessons you're taking from producing "Infestation" as you move forward with the sequel?

We learned how to do this, how to tell a story that is connected to all these different properties but not necessarily involving them all in the same book. And all the usual trial and error when you're doing a big event that you've never done before. The other good thing about that, having never done it before, some of the licensors weren't entirely sure what we had in mind so we had to keep all the characters separate. Now that we can show them what we did and show them how it succeeded before, now we're able to cross over some of the characters and have the properties meet up.

You mentioned the "Infestation: Outbreak" miniseries that's going on now. Prior to that and the first "Infestation," some of the IDW characters hadn't appeared in some time. Does having the "Outbreak" series to launch from affect your approach to the sequel?

It does in that the "Outbreak" miniseries involved our vampire team called CVO and it brought in some characters from my book, "Groom Lake," and those characters all play roles in "Infestation 2." CVO is sort of the entry point to the big event. They are the ones that first discover that Lovecraft's demons are real and are breaking through the dimensional barrier. From there, it reaches into the Turtles' world, and Transformers, all of the others.

What can you tell us about how the overall story with the Lovecraftian demons unfolds?

In the first "Infestation," the one [Dan] Abnett and [Andy] Lanning wrote, they essentially did away with magic in the IDW universe. So where we went from there is, all these magic barriers that were keeping out the bad things from our world have now fallen. The Lovecraft monsters, all those demons and everything, have been proved to be real, and previously they had been blocked from entering our universe. Now, without any magical barriers or safeguards against them, they've basically been able to traverse time and space, and not only enter the CVO world but also the worlds of the Transformers, and G.I. Joe, and many of the other properties.

Since they're able to traverse time and space, it's not all present-day for these stories. The Transformers story, we were actually able to do something fun. One of the first things we did when we got the Transformers license in 2006, I wanted to do these series of miniseries called "Evolutions," which were basically like Transformers Elseworlds. The first one we did was with Chuck Dixon, set back in the 1800s, and was sort of a steampunk take on Transformers. Then that turned out to be the only one of those series that we ever did, for various reasons. But now we're able to go revisit that. I've had people asking me for five straight years, are we ever gonna see that version of those characters again, we really like what you did. And up until now, I've always had to say no, but now we've found a way to bring them back, as well. So it's nice that something people have been wanting for the last half-decade is now able to surface again.

Cool. Looking at the main bad guys again briefly, had IDW done Lovecraft books before?

We actually are -- we just started, the first issue comes out this month. "The Dunwich Horror." A lot of people have taken the public domain Lovecraft stuff, done their own takes on it, but we actually have the official Lovecraft property through Arkham House. We're doing "Dunwhich Horror," "Hound," some others, and we're a nice prose collection of a lot of the Lovecraft stories with Menton Mathews doing chapter illustrations. That's all officially just starting for us this month.

Great. I'm also hoping you can talk a bit about the selection of licenses you're using this time around -- you mentioned "Transformers," I know there's "30 Days of Night," "TMNT," "Dungeons and Dragons," "G.I. Joe," Batboy from "Weekly World News."

We wanted to include "Transformers" and "G.I. Joe" again because not only are they big properties for us, but like I say, we settled on a new approach to "Transformers" to do something different. We're relaunching "Transformers" in their own series in January, and I didn't want to affect that relaunch, so being able to go back and revisit the "Hearts of Steel" universe was a great way to give fans what they're asking for but also not interfere with the new continuity we're establishing. We actually found a way to make this continuity real, so it's not just an Elseworlds thing, it's set in the past.

From there, we wanted "G.I. Joe" because we certainly wanted the ninjas. And with having "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," we thought, if we could cross over the Turtles with Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow, that could be a lot of fun. So that will happen. And Turtles are a blast. They fit with fun stories, they fit with big action stories -- this is all of those things.

We wanted to involve "D&D," but not necessarily the main "Dungeons and Dragons" world, because once you get into ancient fantasy stuff it starts to make less sense. But they have this campaign setting called "Eberron," which is basically like a private eye in the "D&D" world. We were able to fit that timeline perfectly with the Lovecraft story. And that will be the first time the "Eberron" campaign has shown up in comics, so this is a fun way to launch things there.

With "30 Days of Night," we thought, it's kind of fun to explore the idea of, in the "30 Days" world, the vampires are the bad guys, and what happens when they become not as bad as the main bad guys. Are we actually sympathetic toward them? That sort of stuff. And the fact that Duane Swierczynski was writing not only the main "Infestation 2" book but also "30 Days," that gave us a nice tie in to what he has in mind here, too.

And then, because we do all these books bi-weekly, we noticed in February there's actually five Wednesdays next year. It's sort of a fluky thing because it's a leap year. So for February 29, we thought, well, we should do something there, and we should do something that's not just a straight tie-in. So we're taking my "Groom Lake" character Archibald, who is a grey alien, and Batboy from "Weekly World News," and they basically meet up at a bar. It's basically a humorous look at big crossovers and big events, and they give their take on all these sort of event comics.

And you're writing that one?

I'm writing that one, yeah.

There's an image on the cover of Danger Girl -- is she going to be a part of this?

Yeah, we were going to do her own ["Infestation 2"] series, but we're actually doing a new "Danger Girl" series in the Spring, too, so we didn't want to conflict with that. She'll be part of the storyline but not have her own spinoff book attached to the "Infestation" event.

So there's the Batboy one-shot, and the rest are two-issue miniseries like last time...

Yeah, except for "30 Days of Night," that's also a one-shot.

I know last time around, part of the fun and challenge was figuring out how a vampire story might fit into something like "Transformers" or "G.I. Joe," or whatever the genre of the licensed property. Did you find a new set of challenges trying to work Lovecraftian horror into this new set?

That was part of our selection process, as well, looking at what makes sense with Lovecraft. Turtles, like I say, you can take an action-oriented tactic and approach it that way. "30 Days of Night," the horror elements meshed well. And then, with "Transformers," setting it back in the 1800s we found a way to make it work with the real Lovecraft, as well. Same with the D&D campaign. They were all selected for that reason, they fit within our idea of the story we want to tell. It's a darker tone than before, but it's still very much in that "G.I. Joe" action-adventure storyline. They all made sense. The only one that didn't make sense didn't make sense on purpose, and that's the "Weekly World News" one with Batboy, which was intended to be a humorous sort of piss-take on the idea of big events.

I'd also love to hear a bit about the creative teams, how you chose them and what each of them bring to their stories.

I wanted Duane because I really like his novels and he tells good, dark crime stories that have a little black humor in them, and I like the comics he's written. I thought he'd be able to take all these ridiculous elements that we were throwing at him -- me saying, "ok, we want our CVO team, Lovecraft demons, and all these licensed properties mixed up, and find a way to make that work" -- and go. So I knew it had to be somebody who could approach things in a unique way, and Duane seemed like that guy. And when we talked to him about it he jumped right at it. He seemed perfect for that. And David Messina was very excited to come back, he drew the first "Infestation" and "Outbreak" miniseries for us, so he wanted to keep going.

For "Transformers," Chuck Dixon and Guido Guidi were the ones who did the original "Hearts of Steel" miniseries for us. And just like the fans, for the last five years they've been asking to come back, so they're both excited to revisit that world too.

Mike Raicht is the writer on "G.I. Joe," and he did the "G.I. Joe: Infestation" book for us last time and did a really nice job, so he's back for more, with Valentine de Landro, who was one of the "X-Factor" artists -- our Senior Editor John Barber used to work on "X-Factor" at Marvel, he's bringing Valentine to us. Alan Robinson and I were the team on the "Weekly World News" book, and I created "Groom Lake," as well, so it made sense to pair us up on that one-shot.

On Turtles, Tristan Jones is a guy who's written Turtles in the past and a lot of fans have been requesting him to do more. With Kevin Eastman working on the main book, there wasn't really room for him there, but there was certainly room to fit him here. And Mark Torres, his artist, was my artist on a "Zombies vs. Robots" series and he did a really good job there. So it seemed like a nice fit on this book.

Paul Crilley writes the "D&D: Eberron" novels, so he's perfect for that. He knows that world and knows those characters, and can nicely bring them into comic books for the first time. The artist is Valerio Schiti. He is the artist on the first framing sequence of the first "Infestation" issue, the part that features Lovecraft. We liked what he did there, so he's going to continue that on into this two-issue arc.

Anything else you'd like to add about "Infestation 2?"

That's about it. It was basically us trying to do what we did before but do it in a bigger way, a different way, and raise the stakes and raise the properties and raise the titles involved all around. I think with all the creators we've got involved in this thing, we're able to do just that.

"Infestation 2" #1 ($3.99, 32 pages, full color) will be available in stores on January 25, 2012.

"Infestation 2: Transformers" #1 and #2 will be in stores on February 1 and 15, 2012, respectively.

"Infestation 2: Dungeons & Dragons: Eberron" #1 and #2 will be in stores on February 8 and 22, 2012, respectively.

"Infestation 2: Team-Up" will be in stores on February 29, 2012.

"Infestation 2: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" #1 and #2 will be in stores on March 7 and 21, 2012, respectively.

"Infestation 2: G.I. Joe" #1 and #2 will be in stores on March 14 and 28, 2012, respectively.

"Infestation 2: 30 Days of Night" will be in stores on April 4, 2012.

"Infestation 2" #2 will be available in stores on April 11, 2012.

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