Interview conducted by Charles Webb
Charles Webb: Could you give our readers a quick rundown on Oblivion?
Arvid Nelson: Not only can I, I will! In 2031, alien “Scavengers” sterilized the Earth and nearly wiped us out. But we fled to a giant orbiting space station and smashed the invaders. Now, thirty years later, the last remnants of the Scavs are cut off, dug into the crust of the planet. Jak and Vika are one of many two person teams monitoring and repairing drones hunting the aliens down. One day something falls out of the sky that turns their world upside down. More than that, I dare not say!
Webb: How did the project and your collaboration with director Joe Kosinski come about?
Nelson: I’ve known Barry Levine, the mastermind behind Radical Publishing, for a long time. He was the first person to show interest in adapting Rex Mundi, a comic of mine, into a film. Nine years later, Rex Mundi is finished and the adaptation is still humming along. Radical asked if I’d like to work on Oblivion, and how could I say no?
Webb: Your hero, Jak — what’s his life like before he finds the pod? And after?
Nelson: Jak’s work puts his life in constant danger. But it’s a grind, too. There’s not a lot of variation. The pod changes everything. His life gets even more dangerous because of the pod, but it also offers him a way out of the endless tedium.
Webb: What were some of the inspirations for the project?
Nelson: Oblivion reminds me a lot of 1960s science fiction — Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, and 2001, to name a few. But I think it’s and new and different, too. It’s definitely hard science fiction, something I don’t see enough of these days.
Webb: A lot of apocalyptic fiction seems to be dealing with environmental disasters but Oblivion appears to be returning to the idea of Earth becoming a nuclear wasteland. What went behind that choice?
Nelson: This story is all about playing with expectations. I love the idea of the humans being the invaders and the aliens hiding out on the Earth. Usually post-apocalyptic science fiction is a sort of morality tale; humans have brought the destruction on themselves. That’s not the case with Oblivion.
Webb: So I think the big question is: why was the illustrated novel approach the best one for Oblivion?
Nelson: To tell this story in comics would take years, literally. Doing it in prose, with all those beautiful paintings from Andrée, gives the best of both worlds — the illustrations to crack open your head, and the directness of writing. I love children’s books like The Polar Express. That’s what Oblivion is, but for adults.
Webb: What was the collaborative process like working with artist Andrée Wallin?
Nelson: Andrée is, in a word, awesome. His drawings were incredibly inspirational for me as I wrote.
Webb: The illustrations are mostly going to be landscape renderings, right?
Nelson: Yeah, I think that’s where Andrée’s genius really shines brightest. But there will be plenty of great action shots, too.
Webb: To what degree can you speak about the recently-announced film from Disney? Has there been any movement on it in terms of casting, etc?
Nelson: Hah, that’s really not my area of expertise. I’m just trying to make the story the best it can be.
Webb: The book’s coming out next summer. Between now and then do you have some other projects you can tease for our readers?
Nelson: My first run on Queen Sonja is ending soon, and I’ll be starting a new story arc in issue sixteen. Excited for that, and also for an adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars novels — both through Dynamite Comics. In my spare time, I’m also working on my own novel, The Wolf Mage, which is based on Celtic and Norse mythology. And my love of heavy metal music.
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