Upon the incredible response to its The X-Files: Origins young adult comic series from last summer, San Diego-based IDW Publishing just announced the continuing adventures of young Mulder and Scully as they become mired in more mysteries in the upcoming The X-Files: Origins - Dog Days of Summer.
The first title featuring the younger versions of the FBI agents had a teenage Fox Mulder examining strange occurrences on the island of Martha's Vineyard while, across the continent, a 13-year-old Dana Scully delved into the shocking death of her teacher. A pair of tie-in novels, Devil's Advocate and Agent of Chaos, were published this year covering some of the same territory.
In today's presentation at Seattle's Emerald City Comic-Con, IDW gave new details on the four-issue miniseries which brings back the creative team of writers Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith with art by Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell and chronicles the foundation years of the future agents during the Swingin' '70s.
Here's the official solicitation synopsis:
Before the FBI, before the X-Files, they were just two teenagers in search of the truth. On Martha's Vineyard, a strange encounter with a deaf girl sends 13-year-old Fox Mulder on the hunt for a mysterious signal. While in San Diego, young Dana Scully looks into a plane crash somehow tied to the man she helped put in jail. Two kids, two mysteries, one conspiracy that threatens the future of humanity.
Check out our exclusive chat with Jody Houser and Matthew Dow Smith on exploring the early years of these iconic characters, the tricks of writing for the YA market and what we can expect in the misadventures of teenage Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Then dive into our four-cover peek at the first issue in the gallery below and tell us if you'll abduct a copy when IDW's X-Files: Origins - Dog Days of Summer #1 lands in June.
Can you give us a quick tour of the storyline we'll follow in this second X-Files: Origins series?
Matthew Dow Smith (MDS): We’re picking up a week after the events of the first series -- well, a week later for Mulder in 1973 and a week later for Scully in 1977 -- and they're both still processing what happened to them.
Jody Houser (JH): Fox is still very much focused on the strange events of last week and how the answers that they got aren't entirely satisfactory. He's still suspicious of what the Oceanic Institute is up to and what befell the pilot he and his friends saved. But a whole new set of questions arise when he saves a girl from being hit by a car -- a girl who seems to be mesmerized by something no one else can see or hear.
MDS: Meanwhile, Scully is still struggling with her faith and the age-old question of why God lets terrible things happen to good people when there's a horrible plane crash in downtown San Diego. That crash sets off a whole new set of questions, not just about her belief system, but about a conspiracy that involves the Naval base her father is in charge of, a scientist with connections to Mulder's past and a Naval officer named Williams who seems to be working for a very familiar chain-smoking gentleman.
How is the YA market different from the adult-angled issues and what are some of the restrictions and freedoms?
MDS: On the practical side, I don't think I really do anything different. I maybe downplay some of the violence and avoid anything too gory, but I tend to downplay violence and gore in everything else I do, since they don’t particularly interest me as a reader or as a creator. But I do think the YA market is more open to stories like this, which are maybe a little more about character and don't necessarily have to have a male lead running around punching or shooting. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
JH: My writing tends to naturally skew more YA ... Faith became very much an all-ages/YA-oriented title mostly by accident. The majority of the comics have been for younger audiences, with the obvious exception of Mother Panic. Aside from watching the language, violence and overt sexual references, I pretty much write the same for younger audiences as I do older. Kids are smart and they don't need to be written down to.
What were some of the challenges or obstacles in this latest volume of X-Files: Origins in keeping the material fresh?
MDS: The same challenges any X-Files story has: trying to find the right balance between a one-off story that's complete in its own right but still ties into a larger narrative. There's a much bigger story we're building here, but at the same time we want a reader to be able to just pick up the first issue of Series 2 [Dog Days of Summer] and be able to read it all on its own. Though we would of course love it if they bought Series 1, too. No, seriously … buy Series 1. It's in trade paperback soon and we're very proud of it.
JH: I think Matthew covered it pretty well. It's a balancing act to keep the foundation you've already built while not making the new arc too dependent on what happened before. Also, make sure you introduce everyone by name again, although that's really something you should do each issue if you can. Every issue is someone's first, whether it says #1 on the cover or not.
Which of the two main characters do you relate to most, and why?
JH: Scully was my hero when I watched the show as a kid and still is. She's a person driven by logic and a need for scientific facts -- but not to the point where she closes herself off from all the possibilities out there. Balancing skepticism with a willingness to explore new possibilities is something we should all try to do.
MDS: Scully. Hands down. Because she's the coolest. She's smart, she's easily exasperated, and intensely, undeniably competent. While I might not be all -- or any -- of those things, I certainly aspire to those. Except for the exasperated thing. I get exasperated pretty easily already.
How do the separate locations of Martha's Vineyard and San Diego play into the story and how are the two future FBI agents defined and formed by these environments?
JH: Martha's Vineyard provides the perfect "one crazy summer" setting for Fox and his friends to explore. I've always loved those stories, even now as an adult. I think we all wish we could have spent a summer solving mysteries and looking for aliens (or saving the town or stopping inter-dimensional villains or etc). This summer is the first after Fox's sister disappeared and it really unlocks his curiosity and nose for conspiracies.
MDS: I think of her time in San Diego as Scully's wilderness years, both geographically and spiritually. She's cut off from everything and everyone she knows and is beginning to figure out that she's a little different from other kids and even from her other family members. I'm not sure if that's something she would have learned if she'd stayed in Annapolis. Maybe she would have, but I think having to move to San Diego forced her to figure those things out a lot faster.
Chris Fenoglio and Corin Howell are back on the art duties again after their sharp work on last year's four-issue debut run. What do they bring to the table and how does their style and tone match up with the subject matter?
MDS: Yeah, they're fantastic and I'm so glad they came book for another series! Chris is just so great with the little subtle comedy elements and Corin really has an eye for the horror elements that we slip in here and there. We definitely wanted a look for the book that would be accessible to a younger audience without losing the emotional storytelling and the two of them just nail that perfectly.
JH: Both Chris and Corin are amazing, and they have styles that really work for any age of readers. I almost feel bad about all the bikes we make them draw, but let's be real. Bikes are essential for these stories.
Was X-Files creator and writer Chris Carter involved in these latest stories?
MDS: Carter approves EVERYTHING, though he and the teams at 1013 Productions and Fox have given us so much freedom to explore these early years of the characters. I don't think there's anything they've ever said no to, though Jody and I work incredibly hard to make sure we don't give them anything that doesn't fit into the established canon of the show or what we already know about the characters.
JH: I think both Matthew and I are so focused on tying things as perfectly into continuity as we can that it really helps. But yes, the amount of freedom we've been given is amazing.
Did last year's popular X-Files revival on TV influence these early years of Mulder and Scully tales and do you believe they would translate well to the small screen?
JH: I think seeing these characters on the other side of the time spectrum can only give us additional perspective on how the events they deal with have shaped and continue to shape their lives and personalities. As for the small screen, I think Stranger Things proved that weird period horror shows focused on kids can do pretty well.
MDS: Carter upended the mythology that runs through the entire show in the revival, so in planning out the story, we did our best to make sure everything fits with what we now know about the aliens and the Syndicate. What Lt. Williams is doing in 1973 at the Oceanographic Institute and what Capt. Williams is doing at Miramar Naval Air Station in 1977 certainly plays into that, but in true X-Files fashion, there's a bit of mystery there that we're slowly unfolding through these stories.
What can we expect with the two precocious teens after this summer run ends?
MDS: I could tell stories about young Mulder and Scully all day. They're great characters at a really interesting point in their lives, just starting to develop into the people we see in the show, and it's so much fun to explore that. We definitely have plans for them, as long as the audience wants more!
JH: Pretend I'm humming the X-Files theme right now.