Science and science fiction collide in BOOM! Studios comic Venus – Entertainment Weekly
What do you get when you blend fantasy and science fiction adventure with science of the real world? Venus, a new mini-series from BOOM! Studios written by Rick Loverd (Beserker). In addition to writing, Loverd has a unique credential to his name: he happens to be the Program Director of the Science & Entertainment Exchange, a program that consults on some of the biggest Hollywood projects (Iron Man 2, Tron: Legacy, Star Trek: Into Darkness, Big Hero 6) in order to ensure scientific accuracy. EW spoke to Loverd about marrying science fiction and real-life science, how that contributed to his creative process, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You have a unique perspective putting this comic together, in that you can make it as wild and sci-fi as possible, but you also have your background of what’s scientifically plausible from your work with the Science & Entertainment Exchange. What was that creative process like, when you put Venus together?
RICK LOVERD: I’m fortunate in that my job requires me to meet interesting people every day. The Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Sciences that connects Hollywood professionals to science consultants on feature films, TV shows, and video games. If you’re not able to write full time for whatever reason and you love writing, finding a job that keeps you inspired daily is a great strategy. The creative process on Venus and my process in general, not surprisingly, is pretty research intensive. I love to meet and engage with new people so, for me, I prefer to sit down with a field expert from a place like NASA, JPL, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic, and ask direct preplanned questions. In-person interviews allow you to ask the specific questions: “My characters just crash-landed with a fusion reactor, what specifically would be the concern? Could it blow up? Would it melt down? What would the meltdown look like?”
The story is science fiction but it’s also a very specific survival tale, and there’s a very human aspect to it – the crew brings with them all their baggage. It really feels like a humanized story rather than just a story about people who crash on a planet, and I love that. Was that part of the appeal of storytelling?
First, thank you! It’s easy in a harder sci-fi concept to get lost in a technically interesting idea and give your characters the short shrift. That’s short-sighted thinking if you’re world building. Every project I develop has to have a life beyond the first story and good characters form the bedrock for ongoing drama. Think about the five or six most difficult people with whom you have to conduct your daily affairs, those people who you try to avoid if at all possible. Now make them unfathomably attractive in your mind and imagine that you’re thrown into an extreme survival situation with them. This is my favorite playground for creative storytelling.
What made Venus the right choice to set your story there? Was there something specific that you found while researching?
I was reading up on planetary science when I stumbled upon something I’d never heard before: A couple of billion years ago, Venus and Earth were likely sister planets, with similar climates. When you consider that today Venus hosts hellacious temperatures capable of melting lead, it’s astounding that once upon a time it may have been quite temperate. What happened? The most probable answer is that Venus fell victim to runaway volcanism, belching untold tons of noxious chemicals into the atmosphere. What’s terrifying is that the runaway greenhouse effect in its atmosphere could very much be a cautionary tale for Earth. This is what I find most fascinating about it. Here at home, all of humanity is participating in a massive uncontrolled experiment when we throw mass quantities of methane and carbon dioxide into the sky every day. No one knows whether or not we are capable of the sort of drastic downfall that scorched Venus, but the temperature keeps getting higher, the storms keep getting bigger, and the ocean keeps getting more acidic.
Can you talk a little bit about the collaboration with your creative team, Filip and Huang? From the issues I’ve seen, there’s a definite connection between you.
Filip’s a story wizard. From the time he edited my last comic, Berserker, he and I have wanted to find a project together. It’s a wonderful feeling as a writer to have someone capable and smart to help you whenever you drive your story into a ditch. Filip and I developed Venus together after pitching dozens of ideas back and forth over the years. I wish we could have fully co-written the story. As it was, we collaborated quite a bit and it wouldn’t be nearly as good without his considerable input. When BOOM! asked me for my thoughts on artists for Venus, I felt strongly that a mostly male team (Jasmine Amiri’s editing notes helped majorly shape the piece at each step) telling a story centered around a female protagonist would benefit greatly from a female artist. Huang Danlan perfectly captures Pauline’s strength, decisiveness, self-doubt, and femininity. Pauline reminds me of the women at the center of my life, and Huang brought her to life on the page.
Between television (shows like The 100) and movies (like The Martian), survival stories are a really big thing in entertainment right now. What made you feel like this was the right time to bring this story to comics?
Humanity is at an interesting crossroads at the moment. Your parents might remember the moon landing, however only our machines have conquered Mars and flown beyond. I strongly believe that our species needs to send people to deep space; we must once again become explorers—it’s a fundamental part of our humanity. It’s been more than a century since America had a frontier as part of our identity. I’ve heard it argued before that the NFL rose out of a male need for Americans to have some conduit through which to define their masculinity once “the west was won.” It’s possible that survival tales and full-contact sports remind us that our ancestors lived in a world with much higher stakes than our modern ease-of-use existence. Maybe we need something to remind us of this lost part of our psyche as we watch The Revenant from a reclining theater seat with a small-batch beer in a glass shaped like a teardrop.
BOOM! Studios has some unique and wonderful properties…what made it the right platform for you to tell your story?
I love writing comics. It’s a format that allows for unfettered creativity, massive scale, and unlimited special-effects budgets. Science fiction in particular sounds expensive whenever it’s pitched as a screenplay. It’s much easier to fulfill your true authorial vision in a sci-fi comic than it is in other media. I particularly appreciate the freedom I have to tell a story at scale. Within the universe of comic book publishers, BOOM! was an obvious choice on the merits of its team. And I’m looking at you Eric, Jasmine, Ross, Filip, Mel, and Stephen.
I know you tried to make this story as real as possible, so did you learn anything new while putting this together?
The most surprising thing I’ve learned recently is that there is currently a place in Venus’ upper atmosphere that has the same pressure as Earth, meaning it’s feasible that we may one day park a probe there without having to specially reinforce its hull to take the punishing crunch of the surface. Perhaps even one day there may be a manned mission to that place. I’d like to see us send someone there.
What do you hope readers take away from this story?
If the readers simply enjoy the story, find it satisfying, and want to see more happen in this comic world, that would be a thrill. If five or 10 years from now a young woman walks up to me on the floor at Comic-Con and tells me that Pauline and Alejandra helped push her to consider pursuing a career in engineering, I will die happy.