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Artists Writers & Artisans (AWA) is ready to launch four new books under its Upshot imprint next month, and The Resistance is promising to be one of the top series for the publisher. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and illustrated by Mike Deodato Jr., the series explores a world where a deadly virus is threatening to end mankind, but things suddenly take a different turn for the few survivors.

Straczynski and Deodato chatted with The Beat about their new science fiction book.

Deanna Destito:  What inspired the premise of The Resistance?

J. Michael Straczynski: It stems from an intersection of ideas. It started with Axel Alonso, who wanted to do something with a planetary scope and scale. The problem was finding something that would have that kind of reach that would also lead to the creation of powers. An incident in Shanghai would not necessarily have consequences in Vermont…unless it’s a virus (as we’re now seeing with the coronavirus). I’ve done a ton of research in that area over the years — lots and lots of reference books on pandemics, smallpox in particular — and I’d done a lot of additional research into genetic changes because of my work on Sense8 (which was also a planetary story), and that led into the idea of a genetic-based virus that was sent here from outside for unknown purposes. Is the side-effect of amping up genetic potentiality to create powers unintentional on the part of its designers, or is that a feature not a bug…and if so, to what end? I love questions like that, so ultimately that became the tapestry of our story.

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Destito: The art is very detailed and realistic, especially the close up shots. Was that intentional to make this story even more rooted in what could be our earth?

Straczynski: We definitely wanted a realistic approach, one that could ask: if this happened for real, today, how would we react to it? So Mike Deodato’s art, and the research that went into it, is meant to keep an otherwise fantastical premise grounded in the real world.

Mike Deodato Jr.: Yes, it was intentional. I wanted the reader to feel like he was watching a movie, so I chose the best actors for each part. The amazing colors by Frank Martin Jr. had also a big role on making it look so realistic.

Destito: How much of today’s real life world politics influenced the book?

Straczynski: A fair amount. We wanted to examine the process by which some political figures would attempt to use the fear of the Other to rise to power, or conversely, conceal information from others for their own purposes. The truly weird thing has been watching how reactions to the coronavirus have paralleled almost exactly some of the things we presaged in The Resistance: the hysteria, the conspiracy theories, the withholding of information…the weirdest part was seeing the real virus popping up in roughly the same parts of China that we used in the book.

Destito: So far The Resistance reads more scifi than superhero. Why choose this approach to a powered universe?

Straczynski: That question is exactly the situation that I wanted to explore with the book. Where does the premise for science fiction end, and where does the superhero (or powered) universe begin?  If, say, a story about a billionaire funding the production of massively powerful exosuits that can also fly is SF, why does it become a superhero story when there’s just one and his name is Tony Stark?  If it’s SF for a scientist to build a ship capable of interstellar travel, why does it become a superhero story when he uses that ship to send his son to another world? If we were talking about one character who gets sick and recovers with powers, that would be considered straight-up superhero (or more aptly a superpowered) story; does making it a global story with millions of affected people suddenly make it SF? If so, why? What’s the line of differentiation, and why is it there? That’s one of the questions I want to investigate with the book, because I think the line is far blurrier than it has generally been assumed to be.

Destito:  I’m assuming not every powered person will be on the side of good. Will there be more traditional heroes and villains, or will the lines be blurred?

Straczynski: It’s all about the blur. And what is “the good?” Is it “fighting Evil” or is it looking out after your neighborhood, or just using it to survive? Being an early adopter, I was one of the first people in my group to get a cell phone, which was then a rarity, a technological marvel as stunning in its time as a super-suit. I could make calls from anywhere in the world. What’s the connection between having this new-found ability, and deciding to fight evil? Or become a master criminal? I just wanted to use it to make my life simpler. Most people, I think, would react in similar ways. The notion that they’d instantly put on a costume and take sides is, I think, a trope that needs to be challenged. Some might use it for what they personally consider good reasons…others might go another way, depending on who they were when they got the power…and some might go a third route. Why not use that power to bring beauty into the world? As performance art? As something you would never expect, to see what that looks like in a powered world? I think having all three of those options will give the book, and those set in this universe, a look and feel like nothing else out there.

Destito: Any teasers for future issues?

Straczynski: We will learn more about the process that brought this virus to Earth…which allows some in our story to raise the question as to whether or not those affected by it are entirely operating out of their own free will…we’re introduced to a temp agency that places people with powers and helps them create “identities” in ways that kind of poke fun at some of the tropes of the genre…we see how the governments of the world are trying to deal with this, some more destructively than others…and we see the first stirrings of a worldwide collective to fight not against traditional bad guys but a system of governmental oppression, which leads us to defining what exactly the Resistance is, and what those involved stand for…and what they won’t stand for anymore.

The Resistance #1 hits comic shops on March 18.

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