BOOM! Month marches on at TFAW.com, as we bring you our exclusive interview with Chris Roberson! If you’ve browsed our site lately, you know he’s got a lot going on. One of his most exciting titles right now is Stan Lee’s Starborn.
TFAW.com: Hi Chris, thanks for chatting with us.
Chris Roberson: Always happy to talk about myself!
TFAW.com: What’s it like getting in on the ground floor of a bonafide new Stan Lee comic?
Roberson: Are you kidding? It’s amazing, it’s astounding, it’s spectacular!
Sorry about that, I slipped into bombast for a moment, no doubt inspired by Stan. Seriously, though, it has truly been an amazing experience from the beginning. When I was growing up, Stan Lee was “Mr. Presents” behind some of my favorite comics (and the voice of the narrator on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, to boot!), so the chance to work with him on a project like this was really once-in-a-lifetime.
TFAW.com: How hands on is Stan Lee? What does you collaborative process look like?
Roberson: I’ve actually been really surprised at the level of involvement that Stan Lee has had, since day one. When the project was first explained to me last year, I suspected that Stan would be fairly hands off, and that maybe it would just be someone in his office rubber-stamping things. But in actual fact, Stan has been very involved from the very beginning. It was at the point that Mark Waid was calling me at home to give me Stan’s notes on the first issue of Starborn (Mark Waid, calling me, to tell me what Stan Lee thought about my story) that I knew there weren’t going to be any rubber stamps here.
TFAW.com: Stan has, of course, created some of the most iconic comic book superheroes ever. What is it about his characters that resonate so strongly with readers?
Roberson: This will sound like a hoary old cliché, but it’s true: Stan’s characters resonate because they are human. They inhabit a real world, and they have real-world problems and concerns.
Of course, these days characters with real-world problems and concerns are a dime a dozen, and it’s easy to find stories set in the real world. But it’s important to remember that Stan was doing it way before most of us were even born, and he’s forgotten more about characterization than most will ever learn (but he probably remembers more about characterization than most of us will ever learn, too!).
TFAW.com: I’ve definitely always loved the wish-fulfillment aspect of his characters, and that’s certainly present in Starborn. Here, Benjamin is introduced as a wannabe fantasy writer stuck in a dead-end job–but it turns out he’s actually an alien from another planet who has been writing about his memories the entire time, and now he must return to save his home planet. Isn’t that what everyone secretly wishes–that their ordinary lives are lies, and they have a greater destiny?
Roberson: Or if they don’t wish that now, they almost certainly did when they were younger. What kid doesn’t dream that they have some secret destiny, just waiting to be uncovered?
TFAW.com: In issue #1, Benajmin is crushed after being rejected by a publisher. It seems like he was pretty naive about the publishing industry–already planning for a sequel after sending off his first script to his first publisher. Is that pretty true to life, even in the days of the Internet?
Roberson: I am definitely drawing on my own experiences in Starborn, but as much from the early days of abject failure as from my years as a science fiction novelist. I’m always amused when people point out that Benjamin’s naivety about the publishing process is just so unbelievable in Starborn #1, since of course no aspiring writer in reality could ever be so naïve. Speaking for myself and for dozens of my friends who went through the same experiences, I can say, “Yep, they sure could be that naïve, and frequently are.”
TFAW.com: How do you envision the character of Tara Takamoto evolving? Clearly, in Benjamin’s mind, she’s a love interest. She seems pretty cold and all-business, however. Has spending 20-odd years on Earth changed her at all?
Roberson: Spending a lifetime (well, Ben’s lifetime, at least) on Earth has changed Tara, but perhaps not in the ways you might think. There are reasons why she seems cold and businesslike, but they have more to do with her life before she came to Earth, and her relationship with Benjamin’s family. That’s something we’ll be exploring quite a bit as the series unfolds.
TFAW.com: Does Tara see Benjamin as a friend at all, or merely a responsibility?
Roberson: Wait and see!
TFAW.com: Benjamin’s stories are a lot like those of another writer, Kirk Allen, before Benjamin was even born. Will we receive any hints about what the connection might be?
Roberson: By the end of the second arc, we’ll have learned a lot more about Kirk Allen (though there will still be a secret or two about him left to be revealed).
TFAW.com: Allen’s stories are darker and more depressing than Benjamin’s–can you give us any hints as to why?
Roberson: There are two sides to every story, and the history of the Human Civilization is no exception. Or to put it another way, the glory and grandeur of a star-spanning empire might look very different if you aren’t on the winning side . . .
TFAW.com: Who is the Pride?
Roberson: The Pride is the informal name for the “Beastmen,” the fiercest warriors and most skillful hunters in all of the Civilization. In other words, they are an entire planet of badasses.
TFAW.com: You’re currently writing several comics, including Superman, Cinderella: Fables Are Forever, and iZombie. How do you juggle so many titles at once–especially those that are so different?
Roberson: It actually makes it easier, since this way I never get burned out. I can work on Superman for a week, then go and do a week on iZombie, and so on. And the whole time that the front of my brain is working away at whichever title I’m doing that week, I’ve got ideas bubbling away on the backburner for all of the scripts coming up. Last year I tried writing batches of scripts at a time, doing a handful of Cinderella scripts and then a bunch of iZombie and so on. But I found that the work suffered for it, and in the end I had to go back and rewrite the later scripts a lot before I was happy with them. Switching mental channels every few days allows me to keep fresh. And considering that I spent the better part of the past decade writing prose novels, where a single project could take months to complete, if not longer, the luxury of working on things a week at a time seems like bliss to me.
TFAW.com: What’s it like working with BOOM! Studios?
Roberson: Why? What have you heard? I didn’t say anything about them, honest!
That is . . . *ahem.*
Working with BOOM! Studios has been one of the most rewarding creative experiences of my career thus far. They make great comics, and their staff is friendly and courteous, and would never, never dream of shackling their creators into small, cramped, unlit rooms with only bread and water for sustenance, with the promise of release waiting them only after they have all of their scripts and pages turned in on time.
(*How was that, Matt? Can I get out now? Please?! I promise I’ll turn my next script in on time, honest!*)
TFAW.com: What other BOOM! titles are you enjoying right now?
Roberson: I’ve been following Mark Waid’s grim little superhero universe since day one, with Irredeemable and Incorruptible (and Peter Krause’s work on the former has been stellar since page one!). And lately, I’ve been loving the work that Kurt Busiek, Daryl Gregory, Scott Godlewski, and Damian Couceiro have been doing on Dracula: The Company of Monsters, and I recommend that anyone who hasn’t yet checked out that book do so immediately. And, of course, there are all of the fantastic titles from BOOM!’s kids line, in particular things like Ian Brill’s fantastic Darkwing Duck title.
TFAW.com: Where do you see Starborn in the next year or two?
Roberson: I hope to see it listed in Diamond Previews every month, on the shelf in stores across the country, and clutched in the hands of customers as they pay for their purchases and take them home to read!
We want to thank Chris Roberson for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about Starborn. He’s a class act. What have you thought of Starborn so far? Where do you think it’s going? We want to hear what you have to say–post your comments below.