Tantimedh Puts The Fun Back In Sci-Fi With "La Muse"

In today's entertainment, it seems we can't get enough of aliens…and fragging them with the Hammer of Dawn, or going postal with Master Chief. Video games, television and most novels seem to warn us of the dangers that extraterrestrial visitors present to us. Even comic books from Marvel and DC warn us of the danger - in "Annihilation" our cosmic heroes must protect the universe from an evil alien threat, while in "52," Earth's heroes have been confronted with swarms of not-so-nice ETs. So, we at CBR News have to ask: when did aliens get so mean and not fun?

Big Head Press and writer Adi Tantimedh ("JLA: Age Of Wonder") have decided to buck the trend, serializing their new sci-fi/humor series "La Muse" online, starting January 29th . CBR News caught up with Tantimedh to learn about why he chose the genre, the unusual publication format and just what "La Muse" is all about.

"'La Muse' is a comedy about a girl with god-like abilities who emerges in the world and decides to save it - whether anyone likes it or not," Tantimedh told CBR News. "She's like that. She also becomes the biggest celebrity in the world. Her more straitlaced sister is desperate to keep her under control, as well as keep the world from finding out the two of them are the children of aliens.

"Of course, our heroine's campaign to save the world doesn't sit well with the governments and big businesses who benefit from the world being the way it is, so she becomes a threat that needs to be eliminated."

Since "La Muse" deals with the politics of life, it should come as no surprise that the series will feature a diverse cast of characters. From the alien heroines to their entourage, expect to see a little bit of everything in "La Muse," Tantimedh explained, adding that "sparks will fly" when the characters are all thrown together. "The two main characters are Susan and Libby la Muse, a pair of sisters in their twenties with very different personalities and approaches to life. Suffice to say, they're like oil and water, but being family, they're joined at the hip, especially when they're the only offspring of a pair of aliens from another universe who had decided to live as humans on Earth as an experiment until they got bored and departed, leaving the two sisters to find their own way as adults in the world. Libby has chosen to live as a human, while Susan happily embraces the abilities her alien heritage gives her.

"Libby works as an agent in one of Hollywood's most powerful agencies, dealing with actors' egos, ruthless deal-making and a mortgage on a nice house in the Hollywood Hills.

"Susan is a total rebel and a political activist who's been campaigning for the environment, human rights, women's rights and an end to poverty and Third World debt. She's also quite impulsive, egotistical and hedonistic. She's an idealist who's losing patience with all the corruption and exploitation, and decides to use her abilities to bring about the change that governments and corporations are slow to affect.

"Of course, Susan's coming out turns Libby's world upside-down, especially when her boss orders her to sign Susan as a client.

"There's Tim Moaney, Libby's boyfriend who becomes Susan's publicist. He becomes pretty much in thrall to Susan's charisma and glamour, and he's a very good publicist, adept at putting a spin on Susan's public shenanigans. He loves the world of celebrities, and to him, Susan is the ultimate celebrity, like Angelina Jolie and Paris Hilton combined into a single package. As you might expect, his relationship with Libby comes under a lot of strain.

"Another prominent character is Jack Venkow, a grizzled and ruthless spymaster who has been tasked with taking down Susan. His mission is to find out exactly who and what she is, where her abilities come from, and destroy her, both figuratively and literally. He needs to destroy her public image so that she doesn't become a martyr for leftists, and he also needs to find a way to kill her because she's a clear and present danger to America and the world.

"Then there are the various characters who orbit around Susan and Libby, like Susan's various lovers, Libby's A-list clients, and people like Todd Bergerson, a filmmaker and wannabe player who's responsible for Susan's fame, since he videotaped her foiling a suicide bomber and the tape got aired around the world. He's now resentful that Susan has become famous while he remains a struggling artist. And Naomi Pinney, a journalist and gossip writer who hates Susan and wants to bring her down."

While many superheroes' origins can be traced back to science fiction, it's important to note that pure science-fiction comic books are few and far between in the North American comic book market. Sci-fi comics are a hard sell to many fans, but Tantimedh doesn't mind the challenge. "Part of the problem Science Fiction has is that it's become ghetto-ized as something that's retro, old-fashioned and stodgy, when ironically the world around us has become a lot like what Science Fiction predicted with computers that can fit in your hands, nanotechnology and the threat of Global Warming," said Tantimedh. "There's a general sense that the world has overtaken Science Fiction, which isn't necessarily true. I think Science Fiction still offers things that other genres don't, which is to explore certain political, social and technological questions.

"In order for Science Fiction comics to succeed, they have to be as compelling to read as superhero comics. People have to want to read them. They have to show us things we won't find in other books. And they have to hit you in the gut more than just the brain.

"'La Muse' is a Science Fiction story, but it doesn't get bogged down in the techno-speak, which tends to be the biggest problem with most SF. It's a character-driven comedy where the SF elements will keep emerging until the picture just gets bigger and bigger. It's meant to be accessible to anyone, not just comics fans."

And while "La Muse" may be solidly in the realm of sci-fi, Tantimedh has rooted his story in a realistic world designed to resemble the world we live in as close as possible, in a fictional way naturally. "It's a world where not everything is black and white, dominated by the media, market forces and an obsession with fame and celebrity, of brand names and money. It should be recognizable as the world you see outside your window or when you turn on the TV, if on the hyperreal side. That's the only way the story can work."

From the preview pages seen with this article, it seems that "La Muse" has a bit of everything in it - politics, philosophical debate, action and suspense, to name a few. Tantimedh explained, "All those elements are certainly present in the book, but it's primarily a Comedy. That's the umbrella I want to bring it all under, because I'm tired of all stories with big ideas and issues that come across as terribly earnest and joyless. Good comedy and satire are things I find missing from a lot of the US comics out there right now."

Besides the comedy, a large aspect of "La Muse" seems to be the emergence of Susan as a force for good in the world - a savior of sorts. In today's crazy world, some have said how much they believe the world needs such a figure and the scribe doesn't disagree. "Obviously, the world wants and needs heroes, someone to come along and take responsibility for them, to save them and tell them what to do and everything will be all right," said Tantimedh. "I've always thought that need to defer to a kind of parental surrogate was dangerous. The more chaotic and uncertain a time, the greater the yearning for a hero. You'd think people would be better off if they took responsibility for their own lives and worked together rather than give their trust to a single mythic figure who may not be quite so trustworthy.

"'La Muse' questions the notion of the hero. I want the reader to decide whether what Susan does is really such a good thing. In the eyes of certain people, she's the most terrifying thing on Earth, and they might have a point. It also looks at the behind-the-scenes making of a celebrity or heroic figure and the difference the image has to the reality. There are always things about the so-called hero that are kept secret from the public."

While Tantimedh hasn't led the life of an alien, he did admit that some nuances in "La Muse" can be traced to his own life experiences. "It's the old adage 'write what you know,' so I'm just having fun writing about characters who work in the media and show business, and catching their attitudes and speech patterns. None of the characters are based on real people per se - I certainly don't know anyone who had group sex with neo-Nazis - but there are certain in-jokes and situations I've written that only a very small number of people will get, like the idea that Susan and Naomi went to my alma mater Bennington College, and the two of them do behave like people who have came out of there.

"Otherwise, readers will be able to spot references, veiled or otherwise, to loads of real events since 2001, namely a War on Terror world, starvation in Africa... anyone who's watched the news, opened a newspaper or entertainment magazine or listened to a talkshow or podcast will recognize the world in the book."

As mentioned earlier, "La Muse" will be serialized on the web, something often discussed by publishers but rarely implemented. "Serializing the story on the web means it has a longer shelf-life than a monthly book, and anyone with an internet connection can read it for free at anytime," Tantimedh said of the benefits. "There's no time constraint or sell-by date for getting to the story. It also saves on the cost of printing a monthly book, which is a major consideration in the current marketplace, where new floppies not published by Marvel or DC have a very tough time breaking even.

"Serializing on the web means we don't have to worry about that at all. You stand a chance of getting more readers than most floppies, and it can make people aware of the project for when the complete story is published as a physical great novel once the story is complete."

Illustrating "La Muse" is Hugo Petrus, a new name to many, but someone who Tantimedh believes will make a big impact with this project. "I found Hugo via Alex de Campi (writer of 'Smoke', 'Kat & Mouse' and 'Agent Boo') after they worked together on a story for Dark Horse. Alex put me in touch with his agent, and we discussed which project Hugo would be best for. Apart from drawing beautiful women, Hugo has a great ability to show the characters' personalities through their body language and facial expressions, not to mention a sense of humour that meshes with mine. He has a great sense of the absurd."

"La Muse" will begin web publication January 29 th on the Big Head Press Web site.

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