If you haven’t heard of Tom Scioli, you’re obviously new to this site. I’ve been plugging his self-published series The Myth of 8-Opus since it won the Xeric Grant Award in 2000. This year, he has two high-profile series from Image Comics: Freedom Force, based on the popular computer game, is on shelves now. Godland, a new ongoing series with writer Joe Casey, is coming out in June. I e-mailed questions to Tom because I totally know him!
Let’s get the obvious questions out of the way: What is “Godland” about?
Astronaut Adam Archer finds himself thrust into a larger cosmic community of enlightened aliens when he trips a trigger device in a cave beneath the surface of Mars. He becomes Earth’s guardian/representative as different aliens come out of the woodwork.
Joe Casey has said each issue will be a stand-alone story that’s part of a larger epic. How will you achieve this? Will there be a “story so far” intro page a la Marvel comics?
It’s not so much that each story is self-contained. It’s more like so much cool stuff happens in each issue, that you feel like you’re really getting your money’s worth. I don’t know if there’s going to be a story-so-far page or not. Seems like a good idea, although I never read those.
Do you prefer this format of every issue being a complete story, or the popular multi-part, decompressed storytelling style?
There are comics I like that fall into both categories. I always liked multi-part stories. I enjoy entering a story in the middle of the action. That’s how every cool comic I’ve ever discovered was. I can’t really name any comic where I started reading with issue 1.
How much input do you have in regards to the story and writing?
Most of my major story input was at the beginning of the process, the brainstorming, putting all the big ideas in a pile. That was pretty feverish, lots of ideas thrown back-and-forth. At this point, Joe sends me the plots, and I draw ’em. He leaves me a fair amount of room to play around in. Occasionally he gives specific instructions about how many panels a given action should cover. It’s always a treat reading Joe’s plots. His final scripts are really amazing, too. He’s got a great ear for dialogue.
Is there any more pressure on this series than your previous work? I mean, you’re working with JOE CASEY; his name alone will bring a lot of readers to the series; readers who haven’t read Freedom Force or 8-Opus.
Oh yeah, It’ll definitely be a larger audience than I’ve had before. It’s a lot less pressure than 8-Opus, though. I’m a one-man-band on the 8-Opus material; I write it and I draw it. I have to deal with printers and all that.
How well has Freedom Force sold? Is there talk of a sequel, or an adaptation of the new Freedom Force game?
Freedom Force has been doing really well. The second issue sold out entirely. I have agreed to continue drawing it beyond the first six issues. It hasn’t been determined yet what exactly would be in the follow-up. Adapting the game sequel would be most likely, with some added twists. Also maybe doing short “Tales of Asgard” style backups with the origins of the characters whose back-stories weren’t covered in the first series.
Comics are filled with characters claiming to be gods or possessing divine powers. The Watcher is all-seeing, Eternity is the embodiment of creation, the Endless are avatars of 7 universal forces, etc. Are comics continuing the ancient tradition of defining the forces of nature that gave birth to pagan religions and polytheism? Have creators been trying to “put a face” on those forces and powers now ascribed to the single God?
Yeah, totally. Kirby said that’s what he was trying to do with the Surfer and Galactus.
Do you think there is a humanist/liberal bias in comic books? Does the constant triumph of super-powered mortals over divine entities belie an anti-religion agenda? Or is this a natural extension of the zeitgeist that produced Nietzsche’s Overman, Seigel & Schuster’s Superman, and nearly all superheroes?
I’d say that would vary greatly from author to author. I’d say that all the best superheroes are drenched in religious symbolism. The triumphant super-powered mortals are often stand-ins for divinity. Superman is the kindly guardian angel.
And now to totally blow your mind, fish or cut bait?!
Seriously, Godland is scheduled to be an ongoing series. Will you still have time to write/draw/publish 8-Opus?
It’s been difficult. Since I took on Freedom Force and Godland, I haven’t been able to draw a single page of 8-Opus. Hopefully I’ll get fast enough that I’ll be able to shoehorn it in. I’ve got a lifetime of 8-Opus stories left to tell.
It’s been five years since you launched 8-Opus. Looking back, is there anything in those early issues you want to change or improve?
There’s always room for improvement and elaboration in artwork. You just kind of pick an arbitrary point to stop drawing.
Best case scenario: Godland sells 100,000 copies a month. You’re stinking rich. What drug are you addicted to?
Windsor Newton Drawing ink.
Worst case scenario: Godland tanks. Readers riot, and burn down shops. Erik Larsen charges you for the cost of printing the unsold copies. You’re bankrupt and living on the street. What does your cardboard sign say?
I doubt it will come to that.
Godland #1 will be available for ordering from Image Comics, beginning in April. The first issue comes out in June. Freedom Force #1-3 can still be found in shops that haven’t sold out of them. The Myth of 8-Opus comics and graphic novels can be ordered at www.geocities.com/sciolit.
*Expression used by Myron Cope, aged announcer for the Pittsburgh Steelers.