Paul Green [PG]: Can you describe the premise of the sequel.
Jeremy Mohler [JM]: Initially, we were planning to expand on the invasion and show how the aliens attacked across the whole world at once. We wanted to show a variety of the different plans of attack the aliens had and tell each of the various stories. However, as we were developing this plan, news came up about the actual Cowboys and Aliens movie and we had to change our plan a bit to feature the main characters only.
PG : How did you become involved in the sequel to Cowboys & Aliens?
JM: Platinum Studios actually contacted me. They had seen my work on my personal content world Baeg Tobar and wanted me to help organize, further create the world for Cowboys and Aliens, and develop a sequel for Cowboys and Aliens.
Alana Joli Abbott [AJA]: Jeremy Mohler, who I’d previously worked with on a fantasy worldbuilding project called Baeg Tobar (which I’m now working on again!) contacted me to ask if I’d like to work on a comics project for Platinum. I was enthusiastic — and I was even more excited when he told me what it was going to be about. Aliens? The Old West? Twisting that old trope of Cowboys and Indians so that they were a team rather than adversaries? I was delighted! Jeremy also wanted us to focus on the actual, real-world history, and I was glad to have a chance to learn more details about an era I’d loved in fiction.
PG: Is the alternate title Cowboys & Aliens: Worlds At War intended to supplant the original Cowboys & Aliens II title?
AJA: Originally, that was going to be the title for the second volume and spinoff, but due to the movie, they decided to just go with “II” and planned to make Worlds at War a completely stand alone, independent project.
PG: Are web comics a viable alternative to printed comic books?
AJA: I think it’s becoming more and more true that they are — but I think it also depends on the purpose of the comics. Guys like R. K. Millholland (Something Positive) manage to bring in enough through donations to make a living on the comic (or, at least, did the last time I checked). Rich Burlew of Order of the Stick has changed the model so that he’s built up his following online and is able to sell tie-ins and books that reprint his online work. I think that second model is the one that’s most likely to be sustained in the long run — people who love your work for free will pay for it so that they can hold it as a print version. Will all the people who love your work buy your product? Probably not. But I suspect it’s a big enough market that it has the potential to pay out for the rock stars of our industry. The rest of us will probably have to keep our day jobs.
JM: Honestly, I hope that the printed comic (or graphic novel) never goes away and I strongly feel that it won’t. But, I have to admit, I am really in love with the idea of web comics. Web comics are cheaper to produce and have the potential for a much wider audience than printed comics. Especially for small press. I think in the next few years as people start to realize this and the quality of web comics starts to catch up with the printed comics, I think a lot of interesting things are going to start to happen.
PG: Do you think the Weird Western genre has a future or is it the final gasps of a dying Western genre?
AJA: Honestly, I think the Western genre is growing and expanding in new and exciting ways, rather than dying off. I know that there are arguments about this in the industry all the time — those of us who work in Weird Westerns think it’s just a natural progression of the exploration of those themes that made us really love Westerns: the frontier, people doing their best with limited resources on the edge of civilization, that sort of thing. The more we can continue making the flavor of the West relevant to a modern audience, especially updating some of the ideas that make old Westerns harder to love (particularly the treatment of Native Americans), the more likely the Western is to thrive in all of its formats.
JM: Oh, definitely. There are always going to be people that love westerns, especially weird, sci-fi, fantasy westerns.
PG: Why was the sequel abandoned after only two chapters were completed?
JM: Actually, the project has been put on hold, not abandoned. We are waiting for the release of the movie to get a little closer and then we’re going to reassess the project and see about starting again.
AJA: Abandoned is such a harsh and sad word. The team was ready to keep going with the comic — I had several more pages written, and I think there was more art in development — when Platinum put us on hiatus. It’s sort of a pipe dream of mine that one day they’ll ask us to come back on and continue working on it (especially with the recent buzz about Robert Downey, Jr. playing Zeke in the film version!). I’d be delighted — but at this juncture, the team has all had to move on to different projects to keep working.
PG: Do you think the proposed Cowboys & Aliens movie project will result in the sequel finding a new audience and lead to completion of the sequel?
AJA: I hope so! We had both Cowboys and Aliens II and another alien invasion story, set in a similar time frame but featuring a big city reporter and the situation in several other countries, in the pipeline. I’d love to get back to both projects.
JM: Yes, I do.
PG: Are there any plans for future work in the Weird Westerns genre?
AJA: I have a short story that I’m quite proud of on submission to SpaceWesterns.com, which I hope someday sees publication. I’m also looking forward to my friend Jeff Duntemann’s Drumlin project, which I may have the chance to work on. (Jeff wrote a brilliant short story, “Drumlin Boiler,” which was published in Asimov’s in April, 2002. It’s one of my all time favorite space western stories, and he’s talked on his web column about the possibility of expanding that world with multiple authors.)
PG: What project are you currently working on?
JM: I’m actually working on several projects at the moment. One is my personal content world, Baeg Tobar, a rather massive fantasy/sci-fi world with comics, novels, short stories, and all manner of other content. I also have several other things in the works, but nothing that I can really show at the moment.
AJA: I’m working on some adventure writing for Wizards of the Coast’s Living Forgotten Realms campaign, book reviews for industry journals, and a serial novel for Baeg Tobar with Max Gladstone (who has a really excellent space Western short story up at SpaceWesterns.com
AJA: That was some of the most fun I had on the series. When we had initially talked about how often we were going to update, we talked about two “art light” projects that wouldn’t require panels. One was the “microcorder” sessions, in which I got to talk about what all of the characters who were journeying into space were thinking about. The other was a column, essentially, of Zeke talking about historical facts, portraying them in his own way. For this, we linked to different sources so people could look into the stories without Zeke’s casual way of talking. I was also very much looking forward to working in some of the history about the Chinese in America, which is one of the topics that I’m glad more weird Western writers are exploring. (Emma Bull did a fabulous job with this in her fantasy Western, Territory.) There are so many stories to mine there! There are these great tales of how people on the fringes of society anyway were the first to be able to look past the things that were strict boundaries for their “civilized” counterparts — white folks who were able to grow and develop friendships across racial (or national, in the case of the Irish) lines. If we do get to go back to it, I’m looking forward to further diversifying the cast as the story progresses (once we get Zeke back to the West and out of Washington, D.C. *g*)
Cowboys & Aliens II is available online at Drunk Duck!
Logo and illustrations copyright © 2009 Platinum Studios, Inc. Interview copyright © 2009 Paul Green. All rights reserved.