Mankind’s fascination with what lies beyond Earth has sparked countless ideas, stories, and epiphanies. Other exotic worlds lie just out of our reach, but are all easily explored in our imaginations… or in the panels of a comic book. There are plenty of galaxy-spanning series to be found on today’s shelves. But what if it was our world being explored for the first time? Perhaps by a stranded Doctor fallen from the stars into the inviting mystery of Patience, Washington. Such is the premise of Peter Hogan’s Resident Alien. Viewing our own world as alien is an incredibly intriguing perspective writer Peter Hogan has been exploring with artist Steve Parkhouse in their Dark Horse title since 2013. This week marks the debut of their fourth Resident Alien mini-series entitled, The Man With No Name. Recently we discussed everything from Resident Alien’s latest debut to the state of modern Science Fiction.
BIC: How does it feel to be releasing the fourth limited series for Resident Alien?
Peter: Good! We always hoped it’d have a long life, and it’s nice that it’s working out that way. My own feeling is that the story gets better as it goes along, and hopefully readers feel the same.
BIC: How has the staggered release of Resident Alien helped your writing process and the comic overall?
Peter: I think if we’d been under pressure to produce it more quickly it actually wouldn’t have been as good. The fact that we’ve had more time to do it has allowed me to mull things over for longer, and revise and polish it more, and I’m sure that’s upped the quality. That’s my perspective, anyway. Steve probably still feels we’re rushing him!
BIC: Considering you’ve been collaborating for almost 20 years now, how is working with Steve on the art? Has the unique schedule affected your collaborative process?
Peter: Not really. Steve and I basically just trust each other to get on with it. The schedule allows Steve to do his own lettering and coloring as well, which I think makes him happier and also makes for a better comic.
BIC: What were your initial influences for the series? Have any other works influenced you since you began work on the comic?
Peter: Not since we started, no. This all came about because Steve wanted to do a story about aliens – and I think we both felt we wanted to do something where the alien wasn’t the villain, or a monster, because that had been done to death for decades. So I found myself thinking about The Man Who Fell To Earth, and the old “My Favorite Martian” TV show – both of which are basically stories about aliens who got stuck here and just want to go home again. That said, I actively avoided watching either of those again for a very long while. The only other real influence is that I’ll occasionally read a few old-fashioned thrillers to get myself in the mood for writing that aspect of the story.
BIC: Most of today’s stories are about normal and everyday characters being introduced to crazy new worlds. Why did you choose to introduce an alien to our own world?
Peter: Well, all those crazy new worlds are really just mirrors of our own. If you look at ancient mythology, most of those old stories took place right here, rather than up in Asgard or Mount Olympus or wherever. I think Earth is one of the most magical places you could possibly imagine, and humanity’s an absolute bottomless pit of weirdness. In our story Harry’s kind of fascinated by humanity, and finds us all really interesting. And we are !
BIC: How many of these limited series do you have planned for Resident Alien? Have you started thinking about the next installment?
Peter: Well, I’m in no hurry to bring Resident Alien to an end anytime soon, because I’m having too much fun with it. I finished writing the fifth series a couple of months ago, and I pretty much know what I want to do with the sixth one. Beyond that I know bits of what will happen in the bigger story, and I’ll work out the rest as we go along.
BIC: As a veteran of several comic genres, what do you think about modern Fantasy and Science Fiction stories?
Peter: I think it’s really hard to do anything that relies on technology these days, because that’s all changing so fast that it’s impossible to predict. But there’s plenty of other things you can do – and fantasy is as old as time and endlessly versatile. Fantasy’s not just Tolkien or George Martin. Mythology’s fantasy, the Arabian Nights is fantasy, fairy tale is fantasy. Superheroes are fantasy.
BIC: What are your thoughts on the current state of creator-owned comics?
Peter: On the one hand I think it’s fantastic that there’s so much more on the racks to choose from than just superheroes these days, but there’s no denying that superheroes still dominate the market, and I see no real sign of that ending. Retailers only have that much money to spend on their stock, and they’re going to buy the superhero stuff first, because that’s what they know sells. So the space for everything else is limited. It’s changing, but only very slowly.
BIC: What can we expect next from you?
Peter: The unexpected! Which is another way of saying I have no idea. Right now I’m talking to lots of publishers about lots of projects, but I have no idea which ones will get off the ground, or in what order. I think I’m going to be doing a very weird book with Hunt Emerson, but we’re still thrashing out the details.
BIC: And finally, what are you currently reading?
Peter: In terms of comics, I tend to buy trades rather than monthly stuff, but let’s see … Providence, Saga, whatever else looks interesting. I really enjoyed Mike Baron’s Badger reboot, I want to track down a copy of Black Hammer because Dean Ormston’s art looks just incredible, and I’m really looking forward to seeing Gerard Way’s Young Animal stuff.
In terms of books it’s always a mix of non-fiction and fiction, whatever I stumble across. I used to live in a bookshop, so that tells you a lot.
Big thanks to Peter for taking the time to talk shop. You can find Dark Horse’s latest release, Resident Alien: The Man With No Name #1, on comic shelves now.