Hugo Award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) is enjoying a creative rush of provocative projects over the past few years, like her acclaimed work on Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and her current gig on Wonder Woman with artist Cary Nord.
Now Wilson is setting her talented gaze on the heavens with an ambitious new sci-fi series from Dark Horse Comics titled Invisible Kingdom, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive peek inside the premiere issue along with an illuminating chat with the creative team.
Penned by Wilson and adorned with breathtaking art by Eisner Award-winning illustrator Christian Ward (Black Bolt, ODY-C), Infinite Kingdom's space saga settles into comic shops March 20 carrying Karen Berger's Berger Books imprint.
The intricate plotline is tethered to a remote star system where two women, a young religious acolyte and a world-weary freighter pilot, each discover a vast conspiracy between the leader of the system's major religion and the dominant corporation that manipulates society. On the run and fearing reprisals on both sides, this rebellious pair risks engulfing the planet into total anarchy if they unveil the truth.
Where can readers expect to be transported to in Invisible Kingdom?
G. Willow Wilson: The Invisible Kingdom is a kind of afterlife or realm of the spirit that adherents of the Renunciation—an austere, powerful religious order that holds sway in our little far-flung solar system—attempt to reach through piety and meditation. The idea for this set-up came to me when I was thinking about ways to discuss faith and doubt that don't use the symbols or architecture of real religions here on earth—in other words, a way to ask really pressing questions about the nature of religion without picking on anybody in particular.
Christian Ward: A universe that is wildly unlike ours, yet beats with the same heart. Readers will be transported to many amazing places but will recognize the same heartache, desires, and emotions that our characters will feel along the way. Though this is a huge sci-fi epic, it's grounded in very human emotions.
How is this sci-fi saga different than other projects you've each worked on?
GWW: In this series, Christian and I get to create an entire universe from scratch. It's a very different feeling versus writing a superhero series like Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel, which are set (mostly) in our world. In Invisible Kingdom, we literally re-invent the wheel: new forms of transportation, new species, new ways of thinking—even new forms of reproduction! Yet there are very deliberate nods to our own world and current events, sometimes in a satirical way, sometimes in a serious way. It really does feel like a limitless palette, especially given Christian's genius in coming up with unexpected, surreal landscapes.
CW: My work has always had a sort of "otherness" about it—a sort of intangibility or dreamlike psychedelia. In past projects, I've even capitalized on that element of my work. In ODY-C, my previous sci-fi opera with Matt Fraction at Image Comics, I purposely wanted it to feel ethereal and unreal; here I'm going for the opposite. The challenge for Invisible Kingdom is to create wild, wonderful, and sometimes seemingly impossible worlds, but make them look real and feel lived in by our characters.
Where did you turn to for inspiration in crafting the story, and what's your go-to sci-fi fare in comics, movies, and books?
GWW: I was a Star Trek kid growing up. My parents were very strict about what we could and couldn't watch on television, and Star Trek was one of the few shows they approved of. So I watched Next Generation, DS9, and the first couple of seasons of Voyager as they aired. It really shaped my concept of what good sci-fi looks and feels like. As I got older, I got into anime—Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, all that good stuff. And I think what that drove home is how much human drama you can cram into even the most fantastical, surreal sci-fi or fantasy story.
CW: I grew up reading 2000 AD and Rom, and some of the first films I saw at the cinema as a young lad were Empire Strikes Back and Disney's Black Hole, so science fiction has always appealed.
Willow mentioned both Dune and Cowboy Bebop (my favorite anime series!), so right from the get-go I knew how this book would look. Though Bebop, in particular, feels very contemporary, I wanted Invisible Kingdom to feel timeless, to have a classic feel. More akin to the original Star Wars films. I've been looking at a lot of sci-fi art from the '70s to help me get a grasp on the aesthetics, and focusing on book illustration rather than comics from artists like Chris Foss, Phillippe Bouchet, and Roger Dean. As a child, I'd spend hours looking at their book covers, and the worlds that were depicted always felt so evocative and real. They were so lush. That's the word: lush.
How does the collaboration convey the tone and style of your story and art?
GWW: Christian is an honest-to-god artistic genius, which makes my job easy. I've learned to come up with very broad-stroke ideas for things—like how might we use biological components in this space suit? How does eliminating the need for faster-than-light travel free us up in terms of engineering?—and then let him tinker, rather than art-directing every tiny minutia. It's a true partnership. I'll alter things in the script to accommodate something really cool he's come up with. It's so exciting for me to look at pages as he turns them in—there's a new discovery on each one.
CW: Creator-owned work is always such fantastic soul food. Working with not just Willow but also the legend that is Karen Berger has been everything I've ever wanted in a project like this.
Willow worked really hard and nailed down the details and rules of the Invisible Kingdom universe, with all of its varying worlds and inhabitants. She had such a clear vision; it was hard not to be inspired by her, and it's made bringing the universe to life an absolute pleasure. Just like with Willow and Karen, these are people I'm very excited and happy to spend a couple of years with on this amazing journey Willow has laid out for us.
Strap in for a fantastic cosmic voyage in our exclusive look at Invisible Kingdom #1 in the gallery below, then tell us if you'll accompany Wilson and Ward on this epic adventure when the first issue lands March 20.