The truth is out there. And it’s also in shops and online this week, with the debut of Xenoholics from Image Comics. Written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Seth Damoose, it’s the story of a support group for people who believe they were abducted my aliens. Xenoholics is laugh outloud funny, but has a smart and subtle hint of tension throughout its first issue – imagine if you were abducted by aliens and nobody believed you? The first issue also happens to have a fantastic final page that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in any alien story, comic or film. You’ll have to read it to see what I’m talking about, though.
Joshua Williamson was kind enough to talk to Biff Bam Pop via email about Xenoholics, working with Seth Damoose and much more.
Andy Burns: Congrats on the first issue of Xenoholics! It goes without saying, it’s one of the most unique comics I’ve read in a long time. Where did the idea come from?
Joshua Williamson: My own obsession with aliens and how people believe in them. Since I was a kid I always found the idea of people from space to be interesting and wanted to try something different with the concept. It always seems that people have the same general concepts when it comes to the genre, but I thought… what if we saw this from a different angle? The “What happened after Fire in the Sky?” angle. When an alien themed episode of X-Files ended, we never really saw how it effected the lives of the people involved.
You watch Independence Day and there is that scene with the people in L.A. that are excited to see the aliens. I wanted to tell their story. For every person who is afraid of the idea of aliens, there are tons more really excited by the prospect. It’s a small subculture, with different ideas and beliefs.
One of my goals with this book was to write a black humor mystery within the alien genre that hadn’t been done before. The Alien Abductee support group was something I’d never seen before. And proving what happened to them so they can get their lives back was a challenge I wanted to show.
Andy Burns: I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the very first page gives us a fairly huge clue as to which way the story could be going – tell me, why the decision to tease issue 5 right off the bat?
Joshua Williamson: Again, I wanted to do something different but also give the reader a clear idea of where the book was heading. A bit of a shock to hopefully grab them and keep their interest. But also, I really wanted to make sure that we showed aliens right off the bat.
Andy Burns: There’s quite a few characters that get introduced in the first issue – the members of the support group, specifically – which of the group would you say is closest to you at the moment?
Joshua Williamson: Kyle… haha. Probably. Sometimes. I’m a bit of each really. I sort of side with all their takes on the situation depending on my mood. I can’t give it away just yet because it would ruin one of the surprises of issue one, but there is something fairly obvious that I share in common with Kyle.
Andy Burns: Could you tell me how you wound up working with Seth Damoose on Xenoholics?
Joshua Williamson: The first time I saw Seth’s work was online a few years ago and then on Shadowline’s I Hate Gallant Girl mini series. I was instantly a fan, so I brought it up to Jim Valentino a few times that I wanted to work with Seth. Jim did a few email introductions, and then at C2E2 2010, Seth and I got to sit down and chat about what we were both looking to do. As soon as I mentioned aliens, Seth was intrigued. I sent him every bit of story note and script page that I had and we started going back and forth on the story and the characters. Seth has been great and amazing to work with. He brings so much energy to the book. With each issue it gets better and better. Hopefully people love his art as much as I do.
Andy Burns: What sort of research did you do before writing the title, if any – did you read up on alien abduction cases or Area 51 (there’s a great book about Area 51 by Annie Jacobsen that came out a few months ago)?
Joshua Williamson: Lots of reading research, checking out books, documentaries, and online reports. Because I’ve always been interested in the subject matter it felt like I’ve been researching this book my whole life. I went to Roswell back when I was a teen on the anniversary of the Roswell UFO landing. It was a crazy weekend, like a big alien themed festival. We drove right up to Area 51. The energy there and seeing and talking with the people who were obsessed with the lore and mythology of aliens was the best research I did.
Andy Burns: In Xenoholics we meet two characters – Xander Hall, who claims to have been abducted by aliens, and non-believer Doctor Robert Maze. Which side of the coin do you fall on when it comes to the “are we alone” debate?
Joshua Williamson: I’m a bit of both, really. I don’t think we’re alone, but I also don’t think we know what’s out there. However, when it comes to Xander Hall and Robert Maze… you never quite know if they are telling the truth. What you see might not be the whole truth. It’s part of the mystery of the book that you’ll have to keep reading to see.
Andy Burns: What sort of hints can you give as to what we’ll see in upcoming issues?
Joshua Williamson: Well, first I can tell you that in issue two they visit an alien sex fetish club. In future issues there are lots of aliens, and more weird stuff. The infamous Men in White and their white helicopters, Body Snatchers, Cthulhu, drugs made from alien blood, and remember… it’s a mystery, so a lot of things may not be what they seem.
Andy Burns: Aside from Xenoholics, what else are you currently working on?
Joshua Williamson: Uncharted is a 6 issue mini series based off the extremely popular Playstation 3 video game coming out from DC. Sketch Monsters is an all ages hardcover coming out very soon from ONI Press. Savage Sword #3 from Dark Horse just came out, and features a gritty noir short story that I loved writing. And a creator owned crime horror book that should be out next year. Also a giant OGN series with ONI that will be out… some day. A few other things that are just way too early to talk about.
Andy Burns: Final question – is there anything you’re currently reading that Biff Bam Pop! readers should check out?
Joshua Williamson: Aw, man. I read a lot. Last of the Greats by Josh Hale Fialkov is out. My tastes are a bit all over the place, but the things I really enjoy every month are Scaled, American Vampire, Unwritten, Sixth Gun, BPRD, Hellboy, Punisher MAX, Daredevil, Severed, Chew, Brilliant. Our Love Is Real was great. Amazing Spider-Man is my favorite Marvel book every month. I read a lot of Vertigo, ONI and IDW and Dark Horse. BOOM! did these awesome Life and Times of Uncle Scrooge collections as well. Oh, you know what is a great book I just discovered… Locke and Key. IDW puts out the amazing hardcover collections that can’t be missed.
Thanks so much to Joshua Williamson for talking to Biff Bam Pop! and to Sarah deLaine from Image Comics for making it possible. Xenoholics #1 is in stores and available online at comiXology now. Find Joshua online at thejoshuawilliamson.com.