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Ten questions with Arvid Nelson

Well hello there. Not only can I review an Arvid Nelson comic before it comes out, but I can get some answers from the man himself about his work! Won’t that be fun?

Nelson, of course, is the writer of Rex Mundi, the final issue of which arrives in stores today. Readers who don’t just skip the posts that are listed with my name know that I freakin’ love Rex Mundi – it’s been my favorite comic ever since it debuted, and although I’m grumpy it’s ending, I’m really happy that I can read the whole saga now. Nelson also writes Zero Killer, which first arrived in July 2007 but has been on a bit of a hiatus recently. I reviewed the series yesterday, in case you’re interested. He’s also writing Thulsa Doom from Dynamite Entertainment. (Oh, and I should point out that he wrote Kull for Dark Horse, but I didn’t get that in single issues and the trade hasn’t come out yet, so I couldn’t ask him any questions about that. Sorry!)

I apologize in advance for the quality of the questions I asked Nelson. I’m a neophyte at interviewing people, so I can never think of good queries. Don’t blame the interviewee!

1. Zero Killer is back on the stands after a long delay. Can you discuss why it was delayed so long?

Alas, it’s just the nature of collaboration! Things only happen as fast as the slowest process in the chain. I finished writing Zero Killer a while ago, so if it had been up to me, there wouldn’t have been a delay. And it’s a shame, too, I know it’s really going to hurt us. I can’t imagine trying to follow a TV series like Lost if they suddenly stopped making it for two years. I only hope people will give us a second chance. I know Zero Killer is worth it.

2. Are there any plans for a sequel? The ending is a bit ambiguous, so it could go either way – we can be satisfied with it and fill in some blanks, or you’re just setting us up for another series.

Oh, definitely. I have another six issues planned out. They’ll get much deeper into the some of the mysterious stuff I left hanging. But! it all depends on the sales of this first series. Dark Horse is doing a trade paperback, for which I’m very grateful. I’m hopeful.

3. I noticed that there’s quite a bit that is left a bit unexplored, like the status of women in the new society. You bring it up subtly and have a bit in the main story about it, but a lot seems to be going on in the “newspaper” segments at the end of the book. Is this something you deliberately left vague, or is it something you plan to delve into more in a sequel?

I’ll explore all of this stuff in the next series, if it happens. It’ll be more cyberpunk story than post-apocalyptic. Actually, it’s more “biopunk” because a lot of the technologies the second series deals with are genetic and biomedical.

4. You seem to dig alternate history. As a history major, I certainly appreciate that. Where’s that come from? Is there anything deep about it, or does it just let you illuminate themes present in our world (JOCOM as a stand-in for the Bush Administration, for instance) that you want to highlight?

Right. I mean, Zero Killer is more of an alternate present than an alternate history. The truth is, guys like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld – they’ve all be lurking around the periphery of American foreign policy for decades. I had the idea for Zero Killer during the aftermath of 9-11. I live in New York. I started watching the news religiously. Dick Cheney, in particular, kept bragging about how safe he was right after the attacks, because “they had done lots of preparation for a nuclear war during the Cold War.” That pissed me off. If there’d been a nuclear war, people like him would have burrowed into secret underground bunkers, while all of us – who footed the bill for those bunkers – would’ve been left to the fires. Left, right, blue, red – it doesn’t matter. It’s not a partisan thing. I’m confident people like Dick Cheney will go down in history as villains. I’m not afraid to take a stand on that.

5. Rex Mundi is wrapping up. Can you go into how you feel about finishing such a major project that has taken up so much of your life for the past decade or so?

I got together with EricJ, the original artist for Rex Mundi, in 1999. So it’s ten years! I’m enormously proud of it, not just for myself, but for everyone who worked on it. I think we all accomplished something special. But whatever its merits, however much Rex Mundi does or does not suck, we finished it. That means something.

6. I was always wondering about the move from Image to Dark Horse. What happened to facilitate the move?

You know, it just seemed to make a lot of sense. Dark Horse is co-producing the film. At Image, I was basically self publishing, and I just couldn’t hack it anymore. That’s why I admire guys like Robert Kirkman so much. Who knows? I’d love to go back there some day, now that I know a little more about what I’m doing. It was painful to go, but Dark Horse has been really good to me, too.

7. Is there any news about the Rex Mundi movie?

Nothing I can talk about publicly, no. It kills me, because there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on behind the scenes. I can definitely say with a lot of confidence that things are moving right along. I hope we’ll have some exciting news soon. When we do, I’ll be shouting it out far and wide!

8. How much research did you (and continued to do as the series went along) about Rex Mundi? I’ve always been impressed with the historical details of the world you created, and I was just wondering how much you read to get things “right?” I still say you mean Clovis I and not Clovis II. Care to comment?

Alas, there are inconsistencies in any book, movie or comic you read. It’s just part of being human, I guess! I do the best I can with historical details, and I apologize for any mistakes. Sometimes I change things around deliberately, but I always try to let the reader know in those cases. [I'd like to point out that I should apologize for this question. I was being a bit snotty, and it wasn't fair to Nelson. I appreciate the fact that he didn't tell me to jump in a lake.]

9. I see you’re coming out with Thulsa Doom for Dynamite. Dark Horse has been doing all the Conan stuff, so seeing it from Dynamite is kind of interesting. How much Robert E. Howard did you read to prepare, or is it all you?

A lot of the story comes from me, but the guys at Dynamite had a clear vision for it right from the outset. The character of Thulsa Doom everyone’s familiar with is more a creation of the guys behind the 1982 Conan movie. That’s the character I’m writing about. The story itself takes place in a period of time in the Conan mythology that Howard didn’t write very much about – right after the fall of Atlantis. It’s exciting for me, there’s a lot of creative latitude. But we’re trying to stay true to the spirit of Robert E. Howard, that’s the goal.

10. Finally, what else do you have coming up, now that Rex Mundi is done and Zero Killer is mostly completed (at least your part)? And when will we get two HUGE REX MUNDI Omnibuses, one with the Image stuff and one with the Dark Horse stuff? I would totally buy both of those!

Thanks, Greg! Two sales, at least – you and me. I really hope we get to do a Rex Mundi omnibus, too. We’ll see what happens with the movie, and with sales of the comic itself. That will be the deciding factor, I think. Two cheers for capitalism!

Aside from that, I do have some other projects coming up, but I can’t talk about them yet. One thing I can talk about, because it’s all my own, is a novel I’m working on. A fantasy novel, inspired by my love of Celtic and Scandinavian folklore. And heavy metal music. It’s very exciting and scary to be diving into a new medium!

How’s that for deep, insightful questions! I’m like Mike Wallace, man! I’d like to thank Arvid Nelson for putting up with my questions and being such a good sport about them. I’d also like to point out that both Zero Killer #4 and Rex Mundi #19 (the final issue) are out today. I’ve already read Zero Killer, so I’m not as jazzed about that, but man! I’m looking forward to reading Rex Mundi. It’s freakin’ awesome. You know it’s true!

One Comment

I’m a far worse interviewer, Greg. Trust me. I have the restraining orders to prove it!

Good piece.

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