Groom for Two

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There are certain elements that everyone is familiar with when it comes to UFOs. Area 51, government conspiracies, stoic agents in dark suits and of course, anal probes. IDW boldly takes a fresh look at all these elements and more in their new four issue mini-series entitled Groom Lake. Named after the real base under the titular location, it is an equal mix of quirky characters including hicks, aliens and non-nonsense Feds, with a spattering of gore and humour thrown in for good measure. Writer (and IDW Editor In Chief) Chris Ryall and Ben Templesmith (Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse) kindly discuss their new collaboration.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Have you always been interested in UFOs and alien abductions, or are they just the basis for a good story?

CHRIS RYALL: Both, really. It's always been a fascination of mine, back to elementary school when I first got a Scholastic book of UFO sightings that told stories like the Betty and Barney Hill abduction (which took place in the same location, and featured some of the same details, as  the opening scene in issue #1. Although near as I can tell, neither Betty nor Barney had a dog fused to their genitals like the poor sap in our comic. From what I've read, Portsmouth, NH seems to be a real hotbed of UFO activity). There were also some Gold Key UFO comic reprints that helped foster the interest, the Project UFO TV series, and probably Bigfoot being an alien robot on The Six Million Dollar Man that lodged permanently in my head, too. But I do think beyond just being an interest of mine that there're some great stories to be had with this material, too. I just tried to find an interesting take on the whole idea of conspiracy theories and alien visitations and all that.

BF: How much are you playing with somewhat accepted beliefs regarding Area 51 and how much are you creating from scratch?

CR: I tried to base everything in the book on presumed "real" reports, and use them as jumping-off points. So you can read the book and know nothing at all about UFO lore, but if you do know any of this stuff, you might get a little more out of it. Things like the black mailbox, Archibald's name, a closer look at the outskirts of the base and one of the conspiracy theorists watching the sky in the third issue and even a reference to a drink tasting like Pine-Sol in issue #2 are all oft-reported things in the UFO community.

I will say, I went to the MUFON message boards to talk about this book and was just slammed mercilessly, so some segments of the UFO community don't seem to have much of a sense of humor...

BF: Will the other issues be this funny?

CR: I tried to strike a balance with the whole thing so it's not just a goof. But it's fun to write funny dialogue and these characters and situations do lend themselves well to some humor. Issue #2 gets more into the characters, and we meet some other aliens, whereas issue #3 is  more of a chase/fight scene, and then it all comes to a head in issue # 4. But I try to keep good bleak humor throughout. It's impossible not  to have that with someone like Ben Templesmith along for the ride.

BF: What do you hope readers will get from the series?

CR: Hopefully they find it as enjoyable and humorous as you did, but they'll also get what I think is an interesting take on aliens and why they're here. And no matter what, they'll also get 88 pages of kick- ass Templesmith art, pinups in the back from other artists, and what I  hope is as much fun to read as it is for me to write.

BF: How did you come up with the UFO report at the back of the first issue?

CR: That's a real report, y'know. A few decades ago, when Project Blue Book was in existence and investigating UFO sightings, they had these actual sighting reports they made people fill out. I found this one in reading up on a sighting that former President Jimmy Carter once had, back before he became President. He stopped talking about it after he got elected to that office, but before that, he evidently talked about his sighting quite a bit. I found his original report and re-created the form for the first issue. You know, as a public service to anyone who might a) see a UFO while reading this comic and b) only have a pen on them and no ability to, like, Twitter about what they say. They can record the details the old-fashioned way.

I thought it was a cool thing to come across, that form, to see how seriously they once treated sightings. And, of course, in the Groom Lake comic, not only is Project Blue Book back in existence and checking out/shutting down sightings, but  they're also backed up by Project BLACK Book, an organization you  really, really don't want to ever meet. As people can see for themselves in the series, starting on March 18 when issue #1 hits.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Archibald appears to look like the typical short, bug-eyed alien. Was he always going to look like that, or did you experiment with his appearance initially?

BEN TEMPLESMITH: Naw, the only thing I ever tried to tamper with was the size of head and shape of the eyes...he's pretty much always been the rather traditional alien "grey" look. 

BF: Will we be seeing different aliens in the coming issues?

BT: Yes. Some very fun ones too. Also some that are incredibly easy to draw! I mean...blobs...blobs!

BF: The book has a real texture to it that seems rooted in the desert. What was your approach to the visuals of Groom Lake?

BT: I guess now that I've seen a bit of Nevada, Arizona and California I have a bit better sense of the desert out here... I never did before back in Australia. I tried to just make everything a little washed out. There's bits of ziptone in many places too. Just trying to change it up a little and make GL slightly distinct. Different projects always require slightly different feels...well at least I try. It's not Wormwood or 30 Days of Night or Fell so I definitely approach it slightly differently.

BF: What’s the most disgusting scene in the series?

BT: I'm hoping it'll be Archibald's wardrobe.

Groom Lake goes on sale March 18 from IDW priced $3.99


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