The release last week of the Fear Agent (Dark Horse) one-shot, Tales of the Fear Agent: Twelve Steps in One, motivated me to contact Rick Remender for a brief email interview. The use of alcohol and/or alcoholism in fiction is something that’s captured my attention since my days of studying novelist John Cheever and poet John Berryman back in college. So, not surprisingly, that’s an area of discussion that this interview touched upon, as well as potential movie prospects and a teaser of work to come.
Tim O’Shea (TOS): How did this one-shot come about? And why do it as a one-shot, rather than a multi-issue miniseries?
Rick Remender (RR): If you look in the inside front cover you’ll see the ongoing Fear Agent numbering never stopped. This one-shot is in fact issue #16 of the series. It’s a great standalone that tells us where Heath was at two years after he left Earth at the end of the last arc.
TOS: Given Heath’s affinity for drinking, the title of the story involving 12 steps–is that a reference to some alien version of rehab or (judging by Dark Horse’s preview) an attempted intervention?
RR: It’s a title from my favorite line in the issue. Heath is drunk and forced to jump out of his ship in deep space and the experiences immediately sobers him up like twelve steps in one.
TOS: The advance info on the one-shot mentions “Heath Huston, alien exterminator, stumbles upon a corrupt and immoral alien race using religion as a justification to drain a sun of the energies that sustain it” Is there any real world equivalent in particular that you’re satirizing in terms of the “race using religion as a justification…”?
RR: The villains in this issue look remarkably like the current fanatical neo-con regime that runs our country. It’s probably a coincidence though. 😉 I like to have a point of message beyond just the fun high-adventure, a bit of subtext in my books. If you think W and his ink are good ol’ down home folk doin’ good work, you shouldn’t read this issue.
TOS: How much of an influence do the old EC comics have on Fear Agent–are there any particular creators from that era that you really enjoyed?
RR: The staples, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Wally Wood… All of my books are EC inspired on some level. Fear Agent for sure.
TOS: At least as this story opens, you have a lead character who fully admits he’s struggling with depression. The most appealing character to many writers and readers is the deeply flawed and tragic figure, understandably. But how hard is to create engaging and fun stories with a character like Heath?
RR: They write themselves. It’s a joy. Heath’s everything I like in a character, he’s a human who does his best to do good while fighting with his own self-destructive impulses and predilections towards substance abuse. He’s the open wound, all damage exposed to the universe like a raw nerve, who does his best not to slide into a depressive stupor and let his life dissolve out of control. His job is Alien Exterminator so you mix the two and you have nothing but fun.
RR: There is some big movie stuff going on but nothing I’m allowed to talk about. Dark Horse have been very supportive and amazing to us just as Image have been. The industry is lucky to have these companies making ground breaking comics by the people who own and love them. DH and Image nurture creator owned comics, we work on books that are our babies and the books drip with the creator’s love. Literally. Dripping. It’s gross.
TOS: Unlike some creators who will not let other writers tell stories with their creator-owned properties, you seem to really enjoy letting other people take the Fear Agent universe for a spin. How odd is it to see the different directions other writers take your characters?
RR: It’s mostly been great. Having talented friends doesn’t hurt. It’s nice to see how other writers react to the set up, where their brains take Heath and how they’d have him react to craziness they cook up. I’ll only ever let anyone else write shorts for the Tales of the Fear Agent back ups so it’s never like handing over the ongoing adventures to someone else. That would be very hard for me to do. Impossible actually.
TOS: Other than a back-up tale, am I correct in thinking that this is the first time Strange Girl collaborator Eric Nguyen has worked with you on Fear Agent? How hard was it to shift gears, given that you’re used to working with him on a different set of characters?
RR:It wasn’t. Eric and I are a well oiled (boing!) comic machine at this point. We know how to work together, we’ve done almost a dozen books together. In fact we have a new series at Dark Horse called Gigantic that we’ll be doing in 2008.