In the comics business, patience isn't a virtue; it's a survival skill.
Peter Hogan knows this well. He toiled in comics for nearly 20 years before launching his defining hit, Resident Alien, in 2011. It took another decade before the television adaptation would arrive. But on Jan. 27, Resident Alien the TV series will debut on SYFY.
For Hogan, it's a bit of a surreal experience knowing the comic he co-created with artist Steve Parkhouse is now a cable TV series. When we talked with him earlier this month ahead of the show's launch, he seemed more relieved than anything else. "It's really nice that it's happened and it's turned out OK. I mean, after all this time," Hogan says. Resident Alien had been mired in Hollywood development hell almost since Dark Horse published the first mini-series nine years ago. Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson had heard Hogan and Parkhouse's pitch, and after giving some notes, greenlit the comic.
"Right from minute one, Dark Horse thought this thing had legs," Hogan recalls. "That it could make it on TV or as a movie. So they were trying from day one to find a home for this in Hollywood." That led to nearly a decade of frustrating stops and starts in which Hogan would think the project was close to happening ... only for it to fall apart.
"I had various sort of odd conversations with various odd people over the years and then they'd all just go away again," he says. "So it's been very odd. It's been a long, long wait. But Mike Richardson assures me that this was one of the quick ones because it only took nine years or 10 years or whatever it was [laughs]."
The premise of an alien being stranded on Earth isn't a new one. It's practically its own sub-genre in pop culture. But Hogan put a much more mundane spin on it. He wanted Resident Alien to focus not on alien invasion, but alien assimilation. The ongoing tale of our intergalactic refugee, Dr. Harry Vanderspeigle, and his obsession with murder mysteries and his neighbors in Patience, Colorado has become a cult hit among comics readers who eagerly await each new limited series.
Hogan, who is currently working on a sixth Resident Alien limited series, says he's confident fans of the comic will enjoy the TV show, which stars Alan Tudyk as Dr. Harry, despite the changes made to accommodate the transition to television. (You can learn more about the changes made in the journey from script to screen here).
"I mean, they're doing different things. It is very different and there's no denying that. But I don't really mind because it's really good. It's done really well. The whole end product is enjoyable, which is kind of the best you can hope for, really."
Some of the alterations may come as a surprise to some readers of the comic, in particular how they handle the alien's assimilation into small-town life. But those fans should know the writer is fine with the changes. "You're never gonna get a 100 percent faithful adaptation. And in a way, if you did, why bother then? Because that's what the comic is."
He's more concerned with the show finding an audience and getting to stick around beyond the first season. "Showrunner Chris Sheridan and I have talked about storylines that he might use in the second season. And it'll be nice to see those happen," Hogan says. "But like I said, everything is a plus. If we just get a whole bunch of people going out and reading the book, that would be a plus."
Hogan's rather mellow attitude toward what is typically a major career milestone for a comics writer could be a result of his unusual career path. The British writer spent his early years writing about music and editing books for none other than The Who founding member and rock legend Pete Townshend (more on that in a bit). Hogan was nearly 40 when he began writing comics stories for the seminal weekly Brit comic 2000 AD. After an unceremonious exit from that book, Hogan went on to write for DC's Vertigo imprint on Sandman spinoff titles like The Dreaming and the anthology series Sandman Presents, as well as Tom Strong for Alan Moore's America's Best Comics imprint. I always wondered how he never wound up with a run on some of Marvel or DC's hero books. The reason for that was rather surprising.
"Strangely, no. They never called. I worked for Vertigo, and I would've been delighted if the DCU had said, "Come and write this, that, or the other." And they never did. I did one short story, for a Batman giant comic [Batman 80-Page Giant (Vol. 1) #2 in 1999). And that was the only thing I did for DC. I tried to get work at Marvel, and in the end, I did one thing for [them]. It was a Captain America-Nick Fury story set in World War II. It was an okay job. And then Marvel just never returned my calls."
"I would've done the superhero stuff if it had worked out that way. The closest I came was when I ended up doing stuff for Alan Moore's ABC imprint. But the Marvel and DC superheroes just passed me by."
When I asked him which big-name hero he would have liked to tackle for an extended run, Hogan had a few in mind. "I would've liked to have done Doctor Strange. For DC, it would have been very hard to have done, but I would've liked to have done a Superman story that kind of echoed the Silver Age stuff. Similar to Tom Strong and Warren Ellis' Planetary [because they were both] postmodern Silver Age."
Hogan's inability to find steady for-hire work in the early part of the 21st century no doubt aided in the eventual creation of Resident Alien. If he had scored a tenure on a Cap book or a Batman title, who's to say he would have had the time to bring his creator-owned work to life?
Before our conversation wrapped up, I circled back to get a few more details about Hogan's pre-comics work experience as an editor of music books for Pete Townshend's publishing label. Many industry pros have had interesting pre-comics jobs, but editing books for one of rock's most iconic figures? I had to learn more.
"Pete was very hands-off as a boss. He just let me get on with it. But working for him overall was ... yeah, that was an experience," Hogan says of his time overseeing Townshend's Eel Pie Publishing venture. "I mean, Pete's very changeable. He can change his mind in the middle of a sentence. [laughs] But he was a good boss. I had fun working for him."
Hogan began working for the musician in the late '70s, after the death of drummer Keith Moon nearly ended the band. "He had sort of pulled the plug on The Who for about a year or two after that because he was in a mess," he says. "It took him a while to sort himself out. So yeah, I was there for some of that."
One of the big perks of having a rock superstar as a boss? Impromptu and intimate concerts. "One of the things about working for Pete — and we were friends before I worked for him — was he used to do these small acoustic guitar set concerts for friends and family and whatever," Hogan recalls. "So I've seen him do at least half a dozen of those. And they were just staggering."
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