Interview: Dabb on Atomika

Andrew Dabb is a busy man. Between writing Megacity909 and Mu for Studio Ice/Devil’s Due, and Ghostbusters for 88mph Studios, you’d think his plate was full enough. But starting this March, he teams up with artist Sal Abbinanti for Atomika, “a groundbreaking story of men, supermen and the forces that shape our reality,” set in an alternate future where Russia won the space race, the arms race, and eventually, the inevitable war with the USA, and where technology is God.

I caught up with him online…

Comic Book Commentary: Atomika – the 30-second pitch?
Andrew Dabb: Atomika is an alternate history story. In this timeline, the Soviet Union has basically conquered the world and to show just how powerful they are, they created a living symbol of their might: a man-made god, Atomika. Problem is, how do you control a god? Especially one who might not agree with you all the time, and is petulant and arrogant and, well, a little too human.

CBC: You’re working with Sal Abbinanti on this, who created the concept and is doing the artwork. When it was originally announced, he was the writer, too. How and when did you come onboard?
Dabb: Sal and I actually talked about this idea about five years ago, but it never really came together. When things finally clicked he did plan to write it himself, but I don’t think he was happy with the way the story was coming out. He had a great broad outline, but between drawing and coordinating the book, he didn’t have the time to get the writing to the level where he wanted it. So he asked me to come in and help out, basically do the detail work to tie his ideas into a solid story.

CBC: Did you change anything when you got involved, or is it his original story as fleshed out by you?
Dabb: I’ve had a hand in working out the plot of the series as well as the text you’ll see on the page, so I feel the story is a collaborative effort. It’s not a case where I’m just doing dialogue or something like that. That said, the main ideas are Sal’s, my touches are in there as well, but his concept was so good I didn’t want to mess with it just to say that the story was all mine. I’m not bringing that much ego to the project.

CBC: A writer without an ego? You’ll never make it in this business! LOL!
Dabb: Well, not without an ego. But I’m more than happy to listen to an artist’s ideas. That’s what collaboration is.

CBC: Abbinanti said something I found interesting in an interview awhile back: “You can kind of see the same true here in the US today – technology has replaced religion completely.” Do you agree with that? Is that kind of concept going to fly in the red states?
Dabb: I don’t think technology has replaced religion completely. But it does play a key role in our lives and, to be honest, a lot of us wouldn’t survive without it. To that end, it has more control over us than we might think. Not in a Blade Runner, sci-fi way, but in a very real, very low-key way. If you’ve ever had your hard drive crash or power go out when you’re in the middle of writing something without saving, you know what I mean.

CBC: Or when you’re surfing the internet instead of getting your work done! Very true.
Dabb: Sure, we’ve ceded control of parts of our lives to technology. That gives it power. It might not exercise that power with any sort of will, but that doesn’t mean it can’t at times seem almost malicious.

CBC: What influences do you draw from for a story like this? What kind of research did you have to do?
Dabb: I have degrees in history and anthropology, with a focus on ancient cultures, so to me the main source of inspiration has been mythology; Greek and Norse myths, primarily. Stories that dealt with deities but didn’t romanticize them. Stories where the most powerful guy in the room (Hercules, for example) was also the most screwed up. That’s sort of the sensibility I’m trying to bring to this book: what if you were given total power and made the idol of billions, how would it affect you? Chances are you wouldn’t end up that well-adjusted. You wouldn’t be Superman.

CBC: Is Atomika the anti-Superman then? The epitome of “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely?”
Dabb: He’s not the anti-Superman, per se, because that brings up a lot of subtext we don’t really deal with (or want to), but he has, to some extent, been corrupted by his power. The story spans almost sixty years, and you could say that early on he’s a bit of a petulant teenager who matures over time. Into what, I’m not going to say. But it should be an interesting ride.

CBC: It’s a 12-issue maxi-series, correct? Published by? Speakeasy? Mercury?
Dabb: It’s a 12 issue maxi-series. Mercury Comics is putting it together, but it will come out through Speakeasy.

CBC: Monthly or bi-monthly? And have you finished writing it?
Dabb: Monthly, though there will likely be a one month gap after issue #6, during which time the first trade will come out. Three issues are written and two are fully drawn. I expect to have #4 done in a couple of weeks, so we’re pretty well on schedule.

CBC: You also write Ghostbusters, MegaCity909 and MU (or is it Mu?). Is the sci-fi/fantasy angle a coincidence?
Dabb: Well, you know, one thing leads to another in this business. Some people look at GB or Megacity, which are sci-fi, and get it in their heads that you’re a “sci-fi guy,” and look at you for books like that. Others see Mu and think I’m a “fantasy guy.” But, really, I don’t see myself as one or the other. I’m just trying to tell good stories, no matter what the subject or genre.

CBC: These are all work-for-hire gigs, correct? Are you itching to work on your own projects? Anything in the pipeline?
Dabb: Atomika, Megacity909, Mu and Ghostbusters are work for hire, yes. I do have some creator-owned things coming out, specifically the 5-issue mini-series Vaistron from Slave Labor Graphics later this year, and a few other things as well. I try and mix it up.

CBC: Any interest in tackling the men-in-tights for the Big Two?
Dabb: It depends on the situation. I have done a book for DC, Happydale: Devils in the Desert which came out through Vertigo in 1999, so I know what the experience is like. And I’ve pitched around to various editors at both companies over the years, so if a project came about I think I could do well or have success with, I’d probably take it. But I have no burning desire to write for either of them really. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing now working for smaller companies. I’m not writing these books as a tryout, hoping someone hands me Wolverine.

CBC: What’s been your favorite project so far? If you never wrote another comic, which would you want singled out as being the one you were remembered for?
Dabb: Honestly, the project that still has the biggest place in my heart was never even in print. It’s a web-comic series I did called Slices that ran on Opi8.com from 2001-2002. A series of 52 three-page shorts (one a week for a year) drawn by various artists. I put it together and could pretty much do whatever I wanted in it. Not every story was a classic, but they were all important to me in one way or another. I love the books I’m doing now and am very proud of them, but Slices was all me. For better or worse.

CBC: Is it still online?
Dabb: It’s still on Opi8.com, yes, and I’m re-running the shorts on my site as well, two or three a week.

CBC: What’s the most exciting development or trend you see in the comics industry right now?
Dabb: Probably the internationalization of the product. You have Asian and European talent and books thriving here in the US, and you have US books and talent doing well in Europe (and Asia, to a lesser extent). That cross-pollination can only be good for the industry, both from a creative and commercial standpoint.

CBC: Good point. Thanks for your time and good luck with Atomika and your other projects.

Andrew Dabb‘s past credits include HAPPYDALE: DEVILS IN THE DESERT from DC/Vertigo and GHOSTBUSTERS: LEGION from 88mph Studios. He is currently scripting MEGACITY909 and MU for Devil’s Due/Studio Ice, ATOMIKA for Speakeasy, and VAISTRON for Slave Labor Graphics.

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