Xombi was an awesome, albeit annoyingly short lived series from the 90′s about a guy who’s infected with a nanotechnological virus that constantly regenerates his body, granting him immortality (potentially). Luckily for us, the creator John Rozum is back, and Xombi is better than ever! Issue 2 is released tomorrow, Wednesday the 27th April and along with Frazer Irving’s art, it’s a must buy. We had the chance to ask the creator some questions about his work… which is nice.
Good Comic Books | It’s brilliant that Xombi is back, how did it come about, years after the original series ended?
This was really the case of the fans making their voices heard. In the intervening fifteen years since the end of Xombi’s original run, more people have contacted me about that series than any other project I’ve ever been involved with. Apparently, DC has been bombarded with requests to bring it back as well, which is why out of all the likely candidates from Milestone’s stock of characters it wasn’t Icon or Hardware that wound up being the first ongoing series in the DC universe, but Xombi. Xombi was also seen as a way to mine the weird supernatural realm of the DCU using a character that was very unlike any other existing character at DC.
GCB | Is the material for the latest series of Xombi completely new, or have you had the next chapter of David Kim’s story planned since the last chapter ended all those years ago? The first issue is crammed full of so many awesome concepts…
For the most part, the storyline that encompasses the first six-issue arc of the new series is all new material that had not been part of my long range plan. I do have a long range plan for the characters and series as a whole which made jumping back into it very easy to do. I decided though that for the first story I really wanted to start with something that served as a good entry point and really conveyed the overall feel of the series of a whole. The storylines that I’d already envisioned, but was unable to get to in the original run all failed to meet my needs for one reason or another, typically because of their length or where they needed to fit in chronologically with David Kim’s development as a character, or because the overriding mood of these stories was either too strong in one regard whether that was humor, horror, romance, or adventure. I needed something that was a more equally balanced blend.
I began by listing everything I felt a new reader, unfamiliar with the character and the original series, would need to learn as we went to understand what the series was about; who David Kim was, what the overall tone of the series would be like, and so forth. Once I had that list, I also started to think about what I wanted to include to reward readers of the old series, such as including familiar supporting characters like Nun of the Above and Catholic Girl.
From there it was just a matter of figuring out where I wanted David’s character to end up developmentally by the end of the storyline and fabricating a storyline would best serve that purpose. A few of the details that fill the story were things I’d been wanting to get to while I was writing Xombi in the mid-1990s but never had the opportunity because the series came to a sudden end. It was really gratifying to finally get to that “none of your business line,” or the scene with the paintings that opened the first issue and to even do so in the same context I’d always planned for them. There won’t be the same abundance of weird concepts in each of the successive five issues of this storyline, as the story begins moving forward, but I try to make sure there are at least a couple new moments of wonder in each issue.
Those strange concepts have always been a central aspect of Xombi, and are often what readers remember the most. I like that people tend to react positively to them because I feel that comics as a whole, and the superhero genre in particular, really could use an infusion of far out imaginative ideas rather than weigh themselves down so much with trying to make themselves plausible in terms of existing in the same real world that their readers and creators inhabit.
GCB | Stan Lee famously has that cliched story of a spider crawling on the wall as the inspiration for Spider-Man, do you remember the catalyst for the creation of David Kim and his nanotechnological virus?
There was never a “eureka!” moment, though everything that became the original series, including most of my long range plans, fell together in about an afternoon. When Dwayne McDuffie asked me to write Xombi, he had already worked out a brief overview of the series and who Xombi was. This version was very different from what the series ended up being and I have Dwayne to thank for that as well. The origin story was very different as was David’s motivation. Xombi was more of a revenge driven, Punisher-type of series with a vigilante who went after drug dealers and couldn’t be killed no matter what anyone did to him.
At some point in my developing this material I realized that after a few issues it was quickly going to become something where the focus would be finding new gimmicky ways to physically damage Xombi so we could watch him regenerate to kill the people who injured him. I thought this would get stale for me and for the reader. Rather than replace me, or tell me “too bad,” Dwayne told me to just keep the premise about someone who couldn’t die no matter what happened to him, and to do whatever else I wanted with it and to make it something I wanted to write. So, I did.
It all came together very quickly. Everything from the origin story to the supporting cast to future stories I still haven’t told all fell into place in one sitting. I had been reading about nanotechnology as well as some articles about various means of attempting to grow replacement organs so that donor organs would no longer be much of an issue, and that fed into his origin. Extrapolating on all of the projected positive uses and negative concerns of where nanotechnology might lead really fueled much of the long range plans I had for the series and what was going to happen with David Kim. Everything just fell into place very easily. The actual issues seemed to write themselves. I never wrote a second draft of any issue in the original run, except the last issue and that was simply because material had to be cut and altered once we knew it would be the last issue.
GCB | Will there be many references to the original series to come and should I start looking out for the issues?
There are just a few, but everything that you need to know is provided with them. I like to think that for people who read the original series the references to moments from that run will trigger memories of the stories that contained them, providing for a richer reading experience. Having said that though, I was very careful to make sure that a new reader, who’d never heard of Xombi before reading the new series could jump in and feel like they could follow things without too much trouble.
GCB | How much will David Kim play in the wider DCU? Will he be featured in any of the upcoming cross-over events like Flashpoint?
Issue #2 should give a pretty good sense of how I plan to incorporate David Kim into the DCU. When I initially created Xombi, one of the things I liked about it was that in many ways it wasn’t at all a superhero series, but it still had enough of the trappings of the superhero genre that I felt that I could still tell superhero stories within it. Over time, I’ve decide that that’s really true insofar as the element of the superhero genre that includes fantastic adventures and people transformed by the gaining of unusual abilities, but not so much other aspects of it.
By the time the first costumed superheroes guest starred in a two-issue crossover arc in the latter half of the original series, I realized that costumed superheroes, no matter how close a match they might be to the sensibilities of Xombi, seemed jarring when included. No one in Xombi really has a superhero name except for the Nuns and Catholic Girl, and no one wears a costume, excepting in the broadest sense, the Nuns and Catholic Girl. When I wrote the issue of Brave and the Bold in which David Kim met the Spectre, it still seemed like an incompatible mix. It would be like seeing the crew of the Enterprise from Star Trek appearing in a Star Wars movie. It might seem like a cool idea that could work, and there are similarities between the two properties, but there’s something about the aesthetic and overall feel of the two properties that would make this feel unnatural.
With the new series I gave it thought and not only could I not imagine Superman guest starring in Xombi, I couldn’t even imagine the Doom Patrol, or Deadman. The Phantom Stranger or Zatanna, possibly, but only if there were a compelling reason to include them because it would not only make the story stronger, but add to the characters involved. I wouldn’t do it just for fun. My original plans for the next two storylines originally involved costumed heroes and villains, but once I started to preparing for them, I decided it no longer really fit. The villains in the second story will be replaced by something else, and the third story might just be done away with altogether. I have made up a supervillain team that will appear in Xombi, but it’s completely unlike any super villain team ever seen before.
I still intend to make it clear that David Kim occupies the same universe as DC’s most popular characters. David Kim, as a scientist appeared in an issue of Hardware, and that felt okay. One of the supporting characters from Hardware was also a supporting character in Xombi and that felt very natural. In the DCU David Kim could very easily have an adventure in Gotham City. He could even end up interacting with Commissioner Gordon, Bruce Wayne or René Montoya, but he wouldn’t wind up interacting with Batman or the Question, just as I could vacation in Washington, D.C. and never meet President Obama. I think this is okay, and it seems that the majority of readers who have given an opinion on this would prefer if Xombi occupied its own pocket of the DCU without participating in crossovers or joining the Justice League.
GCB | When you knew Frazer Irving was going to be the artist on Xombi, did you begin seeing his art in your head when writing the scripts? And if so… was it weird?
Well, weird is relative. When I began putting together material to form a storyline I began a mental list of artists whom I thought would best serve the story in terms of what the tone and setting would be, and because I’m a very character oriented writer, someone who was capable of a good range of expression and different physical types. The more work I did, the shorter that list became, until suddenly something clicked and I began seeing things in my head with Frazer’s art in mind, and he became the only choice. He was also editor, Rachel Gluckstern’s top choice, and thankfully Frazer said “yes” when he was asked to join forces.
I’ve been a fan of Frazer’s artwork since I first laid eyes on it, so I knew that Xombi was going to at least look beautiful, but never in my wildest imaginings, could I have imagined how extraordinary it was going to look when it was finished. Frazer has really been an incredible gift to this project and he makes me want to write my scripts better just so they can rise to the quality of his work. When we started this, he asked a lot of questions and really wanted to understand who all the characters were and what their relationships were to one another so that he could make them individuals, with distinct performances. This really warmed my heart because these characters were all dear to me, and making them dear to the reader is important.
Looking at what he did with them just shows how all that preparation work paid off. You really get a sense of who everyone is and how they relate to one another just by the body language he gave them alone. Look at the sequence where we’re introduced to the nuns and Catholic Girl, and you can immediately see what the personalities of those characters are just by how they stand.
His layouts, storytelling and sense of color are also extraordinary. Even before I saw the finished pages for the first issue, his ability gave me the confidence to let more of the storytelling become his responsibility. The two mirrored pages in Chet’s apartment in the first issue were so breathtaking in the way he conveyed the location and the passage of time in such an unexpected creative manner that was so different from the traditional separate panel instruction I gave him that I told him to feel free to cut loose with more of that type of thinking wherever he saw fit. This has really been an ideal collaboration, and Frazer hasn’t failed to pleasantly surprise me yet. I’m consistently astonished by his work each time I see it.
GCB | Do you have any other writing projects on the horizon? I have very fond memories of your work on the Topps X-Files comics. If you got the chance, would you write more Mulder and Scully… Please?
Such is the world of entertainment that new and exciting projects that we all want to talk about the most are the ones that we are not allowed to for the time being. I am working on other comic book projects. One is at DC. Another, is a creator owned all-ages project I’m putting together with Robert Pope, with whom I’ve had a long, happy collaborative relationship on Scooby-Doo for many years. Right now, it’s too early to discuss details. I’m also contributing a page of artwork to the forthcoming Dwayne McDuffie tribute issue of Static.
Outside of comics the third episode of Super Hero Squad that I wrote should be debuting here in the U.S. any time now on Cartoon Network. This episode features a great number of Marvel’s monster characters including Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing and some others.
Under an alias I also co-wrote an episode of the forthcoming Cinemax series Femmes Fatales. Beyond television I’m participating in three gallery shows in the Los Angeles area in late Spring/early Summer. Two are at Gallery 1988. Details will be made known through their website. The third is a Disney Haunted Mansion themed show at Parlour Gallery in Burbank, CA at the end of May.
I’m glad you enjoyed my work on The X-Files. Would I return to it if the opportunity presented itself? I might now that it’s no longer supporting an ongoing television series. I had an excellent relationship with the folks at Ten thirteen Productions who created the television series and was given an incredible amount of trust by them, but ultimately the frustration with writing the comic book was that every story felt like a fill-in story. The comic book wasn’t allowed to develop it’s own mythology, continuity, or bigger picture, so it often felt like I was running in place. Now that there is no television series to take precedence, if I were allowed to develop the characters so that they grew and changed, even a little, and could forward the story I might be interested in going back.
GCB | What or who, has had the biggest influence on your writing? And what inspired you to pursue a career in storytelling?
I can’t say that any one person, or source has had a dominant influence on my writing. Everything I’ve watched, looked at, or read has been absorbed somewhere with some things sticking more than others. I think I’d decided that I wanted to write, or make movies, by the time I was six or seven. There was never really any back-up choice after that. There are three things from my childhood that I recall that seemed to really steer me in this direction.
I took to writing and storytelling almost immediately as a child, even before I could read or write. I was the only child I knew who included continuity in playing with toys. I had a really elaborate continuing episodic science fiction adventure series featuring my plastic soldiers, cowboys, knights and dinosaurs. When the plastic soldier representing my main character disappeared for a few weeks in my sandbox, I felt compelled to explain his disappearance until he was found.
I’ve always been a big reader and remember that when I was about eight or nine years old discovering Jules Verne, by way of the Disney movie of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Jack London at the same time and then writing a lot of material that took place on whaling ships during the 1860s. They were probably my first direct literary influences that I consciously noticed. Before, and since them, it was mainly myths and folklore and classic, and not so classic, horror movies that I’d catch on television. These movies often took on more power simply being only available late at night, where I’d have to carefully set my alarm and sneak out to the living room to watch without waking, or getting caught by, my parents.
I think watching Doctor Who as a child led me to seeing the power that writing could have over other people. It was a great show for me. It was weird. There were monsters and aliens. It was often funny. Jon Pertwee as the Doctor was great. I really liked the idea of U.N.I.T.. To me there were so many things that appealed to me. I was hooked. My baby sitter absolutely hated it. It really creeped her out and she thought it was scary. She let me watch it, but never stayed in the same room. I loved that here was this adult who was afraid of something I liked and found normal. That moment was really empowering for me, and I liked the idea that I could scare someone, an adult, with a story.
The difficulty for me is that my nearest comic book retailer is about an hour’s drive from me, so I’m not seeing as many comic books fresh off the press as I’d like. I enjoy a lot of the work of the Fantagraphics crowd, but they publish new work so infrequently it’s easy for me to catch up. With current ongoing comics I’m continuing to enjoy Hellboy and B.P.R.D., Jonah Hex, and The Unwritten, but my favorite recent series was Knight and Squire by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton. I think that Knight and Squire makes for an excellent companion series to Xombi.
Beyond that, I mostly enjoy reading the classics of yesteryear. I’ve been reading a bunch of the Dell/Gold Key archives that Dark Horse has been publishing such as Turok: Son of Stone, which was my favorite comic as a child, and am really looking forward to the pair of Disney archives coming out later this year through Fantagraphics. I tend to go through periods where I feel like I’m reading a lot of comics, and periods where I’m staying away from them for the most part. Right now I’m leaning more towards the avoidance phase.
GCB | What’s the story about the pair of nuns and the stolen handlebar moustache? I think everyone would like to know…
That’s a story that’s best left untold. It’s too dangerous. There are people who’ve heard it who still haven’t recovered. There’s a hospital in Philadelphia that has a whole wing devoted to those poor unfortunate souls who know that story. Doctor’s there have little hope that they’ll ever be cured.
GCB | Thanks John! All the awesome images shown are from Xombi #2, released on Wednesday 27th April. Buy it, or BE SQUARE.