One of the most fun aspects of attending San Diego Comic-Con is that it gives you the chance to learn about a whole lot of comic books that you might never have heard of. So I had a great time meeting Sean Dulaney, who’s the writer of a very silly science fiction comic called 51 Delta. Come read this interview and see if you agree with me that this wacky comic seems well worth checking out.
Jason Sacks:I’m here with Sean Dulaney, the writer of a new book called 51 Delta from Arcana Comics. Tell us what the book’s about.
Sean Dulaney: The quick and dirty version -– well not that dirty –- it’s basically Hogan’s Heroes at Area 51. The aliens, of course, are kept at Area 51 for their own protection and not to worry the general population. But while they’ve been there, this particular hangar full of aliens have been acting up, raising all kinds of hell around the base, trying to get out. And it turns out that’s a distraction, because they’ve created an underground railroad for other aliens whose worlds have been invaded, underneath the base without the Air Force’s knowledge.
The professor that’s helped them, he’s been kidnapped by the alien invaders, so it’s basically up to the aliens and the son of the professor, who’s been shanghaied by the Air Force, to try to (1) find the professor and (2) protect the Earth from these invaders.
Of course, we’ve got a wide assortment of aliens in the delta hangar:
- There’s Gil, who’s basically the ringleader. Imagine Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory that has to live with a bubble of water over his head.
- There’s Misty, who was the first alien the professor encountered, as just a formless ball of gas, who’s now taken the form of a beautiful naked woman.
- Then you have Clicker, who’s probably the smallest members, but he’s also one of the trickiest ones to write for because he could not actually speak. He could only communicate with little bits of dialogue that he’s picked up from television and radio that he picked up with his antenna. Which also raises a bit of a problem when they try to find a way to disguise themselves electronically, because the antennae cause interference.
Like I said, the best way to describe it is like Hogan’s Heroes at Area 51 because they’re trying to get off-base, they’re trying to fight the enemy, and have fun while they’re doing it.
Sacks: They hit a few obstacles along the way, it looks like, but it seems fun to watch them work through the obstacles.
Dulaney: Yes, and also you have to realize that the professor in question that’s been helping the aliens, he’s a bit of a geek himself. So there are a lot of little Easter eggs for comic book fans, starting with the main human character’s name, which is Kirby Simon.
The Earth names for the other aliens -– the joke is that the professor, brilliant as he is, isn’t the most original with the name. That’s why your water man is named Gil, your giant stone creature is named Dusty.
Sacks: He’s the one that jumps out at me first. The giant stone creature, the Easter Island guy.
Dulaney: He’s also a functioning alcoholic. Luckily he’s too large to fit behind the wheel of the General’s car.
But yeah, it’s been a fun book. The response has been great. We hit most stores in April. It’s still trickling out though Diamond. But the response has been great. We’ve done OK through Comixology. The book’s been available since November there. So far the response has been very good, which makes me feel great. Before this, Ryan Sergeant, the artist and I have been working on Drea, Queen off Thieves for Digital Webbing. This was a bit of a departure for us from doing the heavy fantasy stuff with Drea.
It was just, let’s just go all-out, have fun, just poke fun at all the science fiction conventions, all the comic book clichés, and just run with it.
Sacks: That’s a different set of muscles, too.
Dulaney: Yes, very much so. It’s like when you go from “Snow White Meets Robin Hood” to a modern-day sci-fi comedy. It’s very different.
Sacks: How do you find the perception of the fantasy versus the comedy book? How are they received in the marketplace?
Dulaney: Well, that’s just it. It’s hard to tell because you’re doing what is essentially small press. People, I think, have been a little bit more embracing of the sci-fi elements. We’ve been using the tag line “Hogan’s Heroes at Area 51.” And for as long as that show’s not been on the air, that clicks with people immediately.
Sacks: The reruns are still on!
Dulaney: I think especially right now, people are really hungry for good sci-fi. It’s like with fantasy, how many times can you redo Tolkien? I think that’s what a lot of fantasy has been. You’re either redoing Conan or you’re redoing Lord of the Rings. I think there has been a certain bit of burnout on that, so people are really hungry for decent sci-fi again.
Sacks: And silly sci-fi. Ain’t nothing wrong with silly sci-fi.
Dulaney: Oh no. As I said to another person awhile back, one of the biggest influences on this has beenJustice League International, the “bwah-ha –ha” years, because everyone focuses on how silly it got, but there was some strong storytelling lying underneath all the Booster and Beetle jokes. You try to have some quality story underneath all the comedy.
I love Ryan Sergeant’s artwork. It’s very much like Kevin Maguire’s material. He’s a huge Art Adams fan, that was a big influence on him. If we can get him to go to conventions, he’s going to really take off, I think. He’s still sort of lying in the underground where not many people have discovered his stuff yet. He’s part of that Digital Webbing group that Chris Kirby was part of, Ryan Ottley was part of, John Whelan, that first wave of Digital Webbing people.
Sacks: They’ve had nice breakouts.
Dulaney: We’re hoping this book really continues to take off.
Sacks: Anything else you want the readers of my site to know about you or your book?
Dulaney: I’m working for a project for AAM/Markosia, and hopefully we’ll have some more details on that by New York Comic Con. And check out 51 Delta. Either ask for it in stores or find it in the Arcana app at Comixology.