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October 06, 2013

‘FBP’ 4 preview: Simon Oliver on not going the ‘Men in Black’ route

Posted in: Comics

fbp 4 1 FBP 4 preview: Simon Oliver on not going the Men in Black route

"FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics" No. 4, Page 1. The issue is written by Simon Oliver, drawn by Oliver's co-creator Robbi Rodriguez, and colored by Rico Renzi. (Vertigo)

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"FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics" began as "Collider." The title changed after No. 1 because of a separate graphic novel with the same name. (Nathan Fox / Vertigo)

Imagine gravity failing at an L.A. high school, or a sort of soap-bubble mini-universe where falling things smush instead of splat appearing over the city. Now imagine such events are no surprises, but everyday events – like traffic accidents – and there’s an agency a 911 call away whose job it is to fix things.

Welcome to co-creators Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez’s ongoing Vertigo series “FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics,” which follows young Agent Adam Hardy, who has found himself dealing with that gravity deficiency and then that “bubbleverse” in the first three issues.

Adam joined the FBP after growing up without his father, who never returned from chasing quantum tornadoes. Lately, he’s seen his understanding of things thrown a few more curves, not only with the strange physics of the little city in the sky but with his mentor and partner Jay, under orders from a mysterious outside party, trying to kill him (lucky for Adam, bullets don’t travel so well in the bubbleverse). Not that he didn’t already have enough to worry about: He’s trying to get a trapped controversial corporate CEO and himself safely back on solid ground before the bubbleverse bursts.

That’s where No. 4, out Wednesday, picks up. Hero Complex readers get an exclusive look at the first five pages of the issue, written by Oliver (“The Exterminators”) and drawn by Rodriguez (“Maintenance”), plus Nathan Fox’s cover, in the gallery above or in larger versions via the links below

Cover | Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5

Oliver, who was born in Britain but has lived in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years, spoke with Hero Complex by phone Wednesday about how the series developed, what’s coming up, the book’s eye-catching look, and how the FBP would fare in a government shutdown.

Hero Complex: In something like the TV show “Fringe,” there’s an effort made to keep these sort of events very hush-hush. Can you talk about your decision to take a different approach here?

Simon Oliver: It was definitely a conscious decision very early on in the process. I looked at kind of going both ways, keeping it secret or going public with it, and I felt like a lot of TV shows and movies and stuff have always gone the kind of “Men in Black” route where these things exist but it’s always kept hush-hush. I felt it would be more interesting to come at the angle that, yes, these things happen and they’ve been incorporated into our everyday lives. The human race is very good at incorporating things and moving on, and just getting on with the day-to-day things after the initial shock has worn off.

HC: There’s some fun detail in the first issue in grounding readers in this world, with the floating Marshall High students being miffed at being roped back down. Can you talk about your approach to world-building?

Cover art for "FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics" No. 2 is by Nathan Fox. (Vertigo)

Cover art for “FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics” No. 2 is by Nathan Fox. (Vertigo)

SO: Once I’d made that decision to go public with this whole thing, I just started to think of ways that it would be incorporated into our lives, so things like with that initial gag of having the school kids floating was kind of a good starting point. The fact that it was part of, you know, you dial 9-1-1 and “physics” becomes another option on the list.

Later on, as we’re getting deeper into the story, we get into the private versus public … the idea that at the beginning the government kind of took care of these things and then as the story progresses we bring in the more private insurance type angle of taking care of physics problems. So we really tried in every part of people’s lives to incorporate it into the story.

HC: In the first couple of issues, we saw that Adam has something of a slacker streak. But now with the betrayal in the bubbleverse, that would seem to mean he’s going to have to grow up pretty quick.

SO: Yeah, I think he’s carrying a lot of baggage as we get into it. We’ve got No. 4 coming out, which starts to elaborate more on his background and his father, who we met in the first issue in flashback. It was a conscious decision to hit the ground running and get straight into the action, and then toward the end of 4 and then 5, I dial it back a little bit to start expanding on the characters and explaining how they got there. But definitely at the beginning he’s a slacker, and then … he’s forced to confront what’s going on in front of him and become more proactive in his life.

HC: And the next arc has him investigating what happened to his father, correct?

SO: Yes. No. 4 wraps up the bubbleverse story and then pushes us into what happened to his father, which will be No. 5 and will start expand on his character and build that up a little bit.

HC: Can you talk about your art team, not only Robbi Rodriguez on pencils, but really Rico Renzi’s color work and some really distinctive covers from Nathan Fox?

SO: I know, isn’t it great? The art team on this is really knocking it out of the park. The coloring is something that really makes the book stand out. … This is very much a collaborative effort. The color palette they’ve gone for is something that was jointly decided upon.

"FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics" began as "Collider." The title changed after No. 1 because of a separate graphic novel with the same name. (Nathan Fox / Vertigo)

“FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics” began as “Collider.” The title changed after No. 1 because of a separate graphic novel with the same name. (Nathan Fox / Vertigo)

From the beginning of seeing it, I was like, “Well, it’s pink,” you know, with the first cover. And then going down to Comic-Con, you see a million comic books in every different size, shape, variety and color, but there’s something about that book that really makes it jump off the shelf. It really doesn’t pull any punches at all in terms of the art, and it feels very –  everything about it – feels like it’s very now, for want of a better phrase. It feels like a very current book. It doesn’t feel like it’s something that could have been done five or 10 years ago. And, yeah, it looks great.

I’ve just been going over No. 8, I just got the pencils for that. He’s really coming into his own on this book, Robbi. It’s really something. And it’s hard, though. Doing a book like this is hard, I think, for the art team because you’re often, in terms of the script and the stories, asking the artist to visually depict things which are a step outside the ordinary, and you’re asking them to do it in ways that haven’t been seen before, to come at things at different angles. An example I’ve used in the past, it’s like if I go to Robbi and say, “Hey, we need to create another dimension,” I’m then asking the artist to visualize something which is hard to even comprehend. How do you draw a fourth dimension? How do you draw a Tesseract cube? These things are incredibly hard. He’s doing a great job of taking the art work to that next level.

HC: Has physics been a long-term interest to you? Are there any books or individuals’ work that stand out in developing that interest, or any pop-culture stories you think had some bearing?

SO: Not really. Sometimes yes, in other things I’ve done, yeah, definitely. There’s something I’m developing at the moment that’s definitely taking some cues from other things…. We’d been bouncing ideas around, me and Mark Doyle, the editor, for a new book – and then various things that we’d gone through, nothing was sticking. Then one day, it was around the time of the Joplin, Mo., tornado … and it suddenly hit me, “Wow, wouldn’t that be crazy if that was caused by quantum physics? What if it was a quantum tornado? And what if that was a part of our lives?” I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in Tornado Alley and have these things for a few months a year ripping through. … This came very much from reading the news.

HC: These last couple days, have you been thinking about what would happen to the Federal Bureau of Physics in a government shutdown?

SO: [Laughs] Actually, I haven’t…. They might be considered an essential agency and maybe made to work for nothing like a lot of those people are having to do. But they definitely fall into that. As the story progresses, they are getting gradually defunded, and a lot of the stuff I’m dealing with now is – the arc I’m writing at the moment deals with the closing of a research facility – so they’re definitely dealing with very similar kind of issues to the kind of issues that federal agencies have to deal with.

— Blake Hennon | @BlakeHennon | @LATHeroComplex


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