Tobin Looks to "Falling Skies"

Debuting last Sunday on TNT, the post-alien-invasion drama "Falling Skies" finds a group of survivors banding together into a militia to combat the enemy's overwhelming power and help each other survive in a world overrun by hostile beings. The Steven Spielberg-produced series stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, a former history teacher who finds himself in a leadership role as he searches, with two of his sons, for his third abducted child.

Even before the first episode had yet to air, some fans already glimpsed several of Tom Mason's adventures -- over the last several weeks, Dark Horse has published four-page web comics written by Paul Tobin with art by Juan Ferreyra that serve as prelude to the television series. Those strips, plus new content, appear in a trade paperback collection, in stores now.

Tobin -- who is best known as writer of the all-ages "Marvel Adventures" titles and "Spider-Girl" but has a few darker titles like "Predators" under his belt, as well -- spoke with CBR News about "Falling Skies," digital serialization and moving ever forward.

CBR News: Paul, how would you describe the premise of "Falling Skies?"

Paul Tobin: It starts right out in the aftermath of an alien invasion, viewed through the surviving members of the Mason family, a father and three boys. Unfortunately, the war is not going well, so humanity's defenses are very much on the retreat -- or, in most cases, obliterated. It's a tale of two fights for survival: the Mason family's survival, and humanity as a whole.

What can you tell us about the story you're telling in the comics? How does it fit into early episodes?

One of the fun aspects of this project (and the television series as well) is that it is relentlessly forward. There are no flashbacks. Because of that, with the television series starting in the middle of the action, we've used the comic book as a set-up for what happened before, establishing some of the characters you'll see in the series. We chose a spot and then moved forward (always forward!!) right up until the moment where the television series begins.

"Falling Skies" just debuted, but did you get to take an early look at the first episode?

I'd seen the first episode. Months and months ago, actually. Sometime last fall, maybe September. Very entertaining. I was quite surprised at how put together it was,with the special effects in place, etc. Some really fantastic emotion and action -- well worth watching several times, even past my need to get the characters down.

What sort of access did you have to things that will be happening during the first season to help you write your script?

Conference calls. Scripts. The first episode. I talked to Noah Wyle and Moon Bloodgood at a convention. Pretty much short of everything except actual alien contact. Which, considering how nasty they are, that's cool!

The artist for "Falling Skies" is Juan Ferreyra. How does his style complement the world of Falling Skies and the stories you're telling?

He was fantastic! Juan did a great job of character likeness, without them feeling flat or lifeless. And he really brought the alien menace and chaos to the fore. I loved working with him!

Some of the material in the trade has been previously serialized as a web comic. Was it a challenge writing for the four-page-per-issue serial format?

It was, but a fun challenge. It allowed me to have several "punch points," really stacking the action. And my experience with the "Marvel Adventures" titles (which are all done-in-one comics) pre-loaded me with quick a few tricks of the trade for moving action quickly along.

I know you're also serializing "Gingerbread Girl" with your wife, Colleen Coover, on Top Shelf 2.0, and though that project and this one could otherwise not be more different, what do you see as the advantages of offering a story online, in small chunks, for free before releasing a print edition?

Honestly, each installment works as an advertisement for the finished project, building anticipation. We'll lose some sales to the "already read it" crowd, but gain far more in the "I keep hearing about this!" category.

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