Posted February 12, 2015 at 04:25 pm
Welcome to another Weekly Mailbag! Where our Patrons ask questions and then, as if by an ancient and nameless magic, they get answers. Let's get to it!

Hi guys,

How important are current events to ideas for future volumes?



You may have noticed that almost all of our stories are historical. All of Volumes 2 through 5, then 7, and 9. Even the “present” parts of Volume 1 technically take place in 2005 or 2006 even though they were published in 2007 and 2008. Only Volumes 6, 8, and soon 10 take place firmly in the present. Generally the same day or week of their first issue’s release.

Weird, right? Did we do that on purpose? Yes! It’s dangerous as hell to work in the present when one of the central conceits of your ongoing story is that it closely mirrors the real world. Regular comic book production schedules make this difficult enough. You’ve got to have scripts done like four to six months before publication. A lot can happen in that time! And it’s even worse with Atomic Robo because I like to stay one volume ahead of Scott. That means any “present” storyline is written at least a year in advance. 

As a result, we have to structure “present” storylines so they can acknowledge reality and feel current, but they’ve also got to be agnostic enough about how reality intersects with the story that we aren’t completely derailed by unforeseen events.

We’ve found it especially helpful to tell “fast” stories in the present. That is, adventures that go from start to finish within one week.

Volume 6 happens in a few days. Volume 8 is probably 48 - 60 hours max. There’s a couple parts in Volume 10 where we have to jump a month ahead, so that’s got me a little worried. There’s also one huge plot point that seems increasingly less plausible as certain international events unfold. But it should be manageable with a little dialog magic no matter how things play out -- there’s that agnosticism, re: how we emphasize our stories’ intersections with reality.

Doing these “fast” stories keeps the action buzzing along so something interesting is always happening. But it also minimizes our window for getting screwed by current events. Yeah, it may take five months for a storyline to unfold to the audience one issue at a time, but if the whole thing takes place within the the first week of that first month, then it doesn’t matter if no one in the comic talks about The Big News That Everyone Should Be Talking About that happened during Months 2 - 5 because it hasn’t happened for the characters yet.

Then we dive back into the past with the next storyline so we can come back to the present following that one a year or two later. Doing this is just fun for us so we don’t get too bored with any one era. But, secretly, it also helps us to manage the problem of The Big News That Everyone Should Be Talking About. It lets our readers dip into the lives of these characters, so it feels more natural to catch them between these moments of our current history.

Is there anything fluffier than a cloud?

Just kittens.

If Atomic Robo were to be made into an animated series/film, who would be your first pick to voice Robo? Or Dr. Dinosaur? Or Jenkins? Or any of the other Action Scientists of Tesladyne?

Pat C.

It took us a while to figure out Robo’s voice. But Scott and I settled on Ron Livingston. It probably sounds like an odd choice, but think about it. Office Space had a great script and cast, but the whole film depends on the subtlety of Ron’s comedic ability, both as a straight man and as the joke guy. His performances in Band of Brothers and Boardwalk Empire (among others) proved that he can bring the world weariness, and most importantly do it without getting maudlin about it.

And that’s what you need for Robo. Someone who can knock out a snappy line without overselling it, and someone who can experience an intense loneliness without falling prey to it.

Doctor Dinosaur, I don’t know. But it should feel like Mark Hammill’s Joker doing an impression of Cobra Commander.

Jenkins. That’s tough. He’s got to sound like a bad ass without overdoing it or sounding like every Generic Space Marine With Stubble video game protag. Clint Eastwood is too old and weird. If Liam Neeson could turn off the accent, that might work.
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