G. Willow Wilson is the writer and co-creator of Kamala Khan and was recently announced as Wonder Woman’s next writer. Recently, she also announced a new sci-fi series, Invisible Kingdom. A collaboration with ODY-C‘s Christian Ward, Invisible Kingdom follows a “young religious acolyte” and a “hard-bitten freighter pilot” as they plumb the depths of a galactic conspiracy involving “the Renunciation, the system’s dominant religion, and Lux, the all-consuming mega-corporation that controls society.”
Recently, the Beat sat down with G. Willow Wilson to discuss the inspiration and themes behind her new series.
Jessica Dunlap: At the Berger Books panel, you said that you actually come up with the idea for Invisible Kingdom a couple of years ago when you were working at Vertigo.
G. Willow Wilson: It was a while ago. I mean it would’ve been, my gosh, almost 10 years ago. I had been working on Air at Vertigo, and that was kind of wrapping up. Back then there was a lot of change happening, DC was kind of re-organizing and it wasn’t clear what was going to happen at Vertigo. Some of the editors that I had been working with were moving on to other things and different parts of the company. I’d been very loosely discussing the prototype of this series with Pornsak Pichetshote, who at that time was Karen’s assistant editor. But then he left, and I put the idea on the shelf and it sat there for years and years. Karen said, hey, I’m launching a new line of books at Dark Horse, Berger Books, if you’ve ever got anything bumping around that you think might make a good series, let me know. I said, as a matter of fact, there’s something that I really wanted to do back at Vertigo when we were all there, and what a happy coincidence this is. It really does feel like coming full circle, and it’s a thrill to be working with Karen again. I’m happy that fate intervenes.
Dunlap: What was the inspiration for the original story?
GWW: I think it was several things. I’d always wanted to do a space opera type story with alien life forms that have certain things in common with us and other things not. I wanted a space to explore very big questions in an epic comic book format, questions about the difference between faith and religion, about the way in which the things that we buy come to define who we are. This is very much a story that I think – even though it’s set in a galaxy far, far away – people will be able to relate to on a lot of levels, because it does tie into a lot of the things that we’re talking about right now in the wider culture. But also it’s beautiful. Christian Ward, who has just won an Eisner for Black Bolt, is a genius. It’s just spectacular looking. It’s very surreal. We both are huge Miyazaki fans and that influence is very, very clear in Christian’s art. So there’s just a lot of fun space opera, big chase through space kinds of stuff. It’s a lot of fun.
Dunlap: What is it like working and collaborating with Christian Ward, since he lives so far away?
GWW: You know, thanks to the miracle of technology we’ve been able to have many face-to-face discussions over Skype about this book. What I really enjoy about working with Christian is that conceptually his art is so strong. He’s not just bringing in pencils and inks and colors. It’s the whole package. And he brings to that very clear storytelling ideas. Oftentimes I will make a suggestion like, “OK, well, let’s have this space monastery up on a hill,” and he’ll say something like, “What if it moved around? And could, like, chase people?” And I would say, “Brilliant! I’m putting it in the script.” He is just a wonderful person to collaborate with. He has fantastic ideas. This is truly our baby together, and the story has changed to accommodate some of his really interesting design ideas. That’s the way I love to work. He really brings something special. It’s great we can be 10 hours apart, and yet hop on Twitter DMs or on Skype and talk to each other in real time and bat ideas back and forth. It’s been a lot of fun.
Dunlap: You’ve said that the two main characters are both women?
GWW: They are, not in the mammalian sense that we think because they are both aliens, but yes they’re both women. Griffs is a very simple freighter pilot. She’s got custody of her younger brother, and she’s just trying to put in a hard day’s work and make a living and keep her head down. Ves is a very young, kind of innocent, religious acolyte who enters this monastery, not realizing all of the machinations that are going on behind the scenes. She has to make some very difficult decisions about what to do next that challenge her faith and she gets drawn into this very big adventure. Because they both discover this conspiracy separately, they’re drawn together by this knowledge that neither of them wanted. Even though they are very different, their destinies are intertwined.
Dunlap: Is it a mini series or ongoing?
GWW: Right now we have planned it as sort of a maxi series. Book One will be five issues, Book Two will be five issues, and Book Three will be five issues, so it’s functionally 15 issues but it will be split up into three trade paperbacks ultimately.
Dunlap: You tend to have a lot of religious influence in your books, so are we going to see that also in this new series?
GWW: In a very different way, because obviously here I’m not talking about Islam or any kind of existing religion that is practiced by human beings. This is much more abstract. This is kind of a philosophical lens through which to view the fault lines between faith and religion in a more general way, as opposed to through the specific lens of a real religion. We’re kind of pulling from Star Wars and from Dune, who take this very removed look at philosophies that may have certain similarities with things that we know here on Earth but are very much sci-fi creations. They really have their own resonance and their own meaning and their own set of rules. It’s a balance between storytelling stuff that’s just kind of fun and cool and philosophical stuff that will have meaning to actual people living in the real world.
Dunlap: Your fanbase for Ms. Marvel is a lot of young girls. How mindful of that are you when you move on to a new property like this?
GWW: You know I am mindful of the fact that that audience has very specific needs. I have to say, over the course of the past five years since Ms. Marvel launched, having that audience and that sense of tremendous connection and responsibility and frankly love has changed the way that I think. It’s changed the way that I am at conventions and just sort of in my public life, because I really don’t want to leave anybody behind. I want the things that I do to be accessible to those readers and to stay with them as they grow up. I like to think of some of the great YA storytellers who have come before and done similar things, on a much grander scale obviously. I’m thinking of J.K. Rowling and the way that she’s so masterfully showed the adolescence and early adulthood of Harry Potter and how her readers grew up with that character. I do try to think about Tolkien and Rowling and – not to compare myself to them in terms of quality – but just in terms of the way that they were mindful of the fact that when you are writing for a truly general audience, that includes people who are very young and very old and everything in between. That does kind of shift how you tell the story…but I really do want to make these things accessible to as wide an audience as possible.