One of the latest additions to the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse Comics comes from the hearts and hands of two modern masters. The Seeds, by Ann Nocenti and David Aja, is the story of a not-quite-post-apocalyptic America and the not-quite-War-of-the-Worlds alien invasion biting at its heels. One part surreal sci-fi, one part noir-flavored hardboiled grit, the comic is as much a mystery as it is a thriller, and every bit as inventive and unexpected as you, well, as you might expect, considering the source.
Nocenti and Aja sat down with CBR to breakdown some of the finer points of the four-part series' first issue, and give some clues as to just what we might want to be on the lookout for as things move forward. We've got that conversation and a preview of the first issue, set to hit shelves on August 1st.
CBR: Something I noticed in issue one was a theme of repeating motifs. There's the hexagonal designs, the mockingbirds, the different masks -- Can you talk a little about the symbolism you're building into this story? Where it's coming from and what your ideal impact would be?
Ann Nocenti: Part of the fun process of making this comic was finding out which visuals David picked up on for the story. Bees build their homes in hexagon shapes, so that was a natural design for the first page, but then he carried the motif through the story. The mockingbirds mimic what people say, and one of the aliens mimics a TV cartoon about an alien, so there’s that. The birds are also part of a sense that nature is watching us, watching humans. The animals on Farmer Jack’s farm watch their “master.” I don’t think they judge him, but perhaps they sense things he can’t. I was just reading about how deer will walk through a GMO farm and choose instead to munch away in an organic farm. Do they not like GMO plants?
And the masks -- When I was in China, I saw many people wearing masks, some using them not just to filter out the smog, but also as a fashion statement, in the patterns on the cloth. So for a story set at a “tipping point” masks made sense, both for practical and fashion reasons. And then, for those that don’t bother wearing masks, that’s a “why bother” statement, too. But mostly when writing a script for The Seeds I toss out all kinds of visual ideas, then David decides what to run with and what to cut. He decided to put the aliens in gas-masks, and to echo that in the beekeepers suits.
This is definitely a story that isn't necessarily post-apocalyptic, but the world is definitely one that is teetering on the brink of collapse -- or, at the very least, teetering on the brink of some sort of major tectonic shift. Where are you pulling inspiration for your world building here?
Nocenti: I think this story could be set today – it’s not that far into the future. Many scientists think we’ve already hit the “tipping point” of no return, so this story is set at a moment when it dawns on everyone that the planet might not recover. At the same time, scientists are hustling to fix things, and nature watches. I’m just pulling from the world around me for inspiration.
When I was teaching film in Haiti, I worked on films about agronomists. They know their seeds! Then, when I was down there after the earthquake, and Monsanto wanted to give Haiti a “gift” of seeds, the farmers came out and protested and refused that “gift.” I learned about the power of seeds back then. And for the no-drone-zone, it is one of the anxieties of our times, how our tech owns us. So a movement to shake free of the grip of tech is a current one.
Speaking of world building, the aliens -- at least as far as we've seen them -- seem to be...Well, I'd call them very unlike any aliens I've seen in stories like this They seem to have an almost blue collar sort of charm to them. Where did that come from?
Nocenti: Are we going to see more of their culture as the story goes on? In the script, I just described the aliens as “fuck-ups” … I never really liked the way aliens were portrayed in films as either super-evil or super-benevolent. So I thought the aliens would be kinda just like humans. Full of emotions like rage and love. Tender and ornery. I left their design up to David, and I could not be happier with how they look. Especially the boss alien, who David calls "The American Dream" ... he's scary and will get scarier.