A scientist sets out to prove the existence of and explore alternate dimensions—and ends up discovering the outer limits of reality itself. That’s the basic premise of X-Ray Robot, the new four-issue miniseries by Mike Allred, Laura Allred, and Nate Piekos. Set in Allred’s Madmaniverse, X-Ray Robot introduces readers to Dr. Max Wilding and his team as they attempt to send a robot across the dimensional barrier. Things don’t go according to plan, though—typical science, right?—and soon Max is experiencing hallucinations and weird apocalyptic visions he can’t explain. And if that’s not bad enough, now there’s a robot who claims to be him from the future.
If that sounds trippy as hell, you’re not wrong. Mike Allred crafts an absolutely bananas story that’s reminiscent of some of the best classic sci-fi, and the visuals enhance the craziness of the story at every turn. After reading the first issue of the series, I can’t even begin to imagine what new levels of spectacular insanity awaits in the remaining issues. I was pleased to have the chance to interview Allred about what inspired his work on X-Ray Robot, how and why he made certain character choices, and what readers should know before they pick up the series.
WARNING: There are spoilers ahead for X-Ray Robot #1 and beyond. If you wish to remain unsullied, leave now and come back to this after you’ve read the first issue on March 25th.
Joe Grunenwald: Reading X-Ray Robot feels like watching a ‘50s sci-fi movie. Were there any films or stories that inspired you as you worked on the series?
Mike Allred: Not while working on it. But I could list dozens of movies in the basement of my subconscious.
I’m constantly watching and re-watching new and old sci-fi favorites.
Thinking through all the movies I’ve watched more than once, maybe the early 80s Ken Russell flick ALTERED STATES probably shares the most DNA among my many inspirations and influences.
Grunenwald: How would you describe the series’ main character, Dr. Max Wilding, when we first meet him? What is he hoping to get out of his experiments?
Allred: Max is obsessed with breaking through the secrets of the Universe. But not to the alienation of his family, who he prioritizes. My favorite quality Max has is integrating a love of life with his passion for science.
Grunenwald: There’s a point made early on about questioning reality, what’s real and what’s not, and Max faces that himself in the first issue. Should readers trust everything they’re seeing and reading as this series progresses?
Allred: They absolutely should. That’s Max’s challenge, and what his research is all about. Clarifying what is real.
Grunenwald: I want to ask you about Marnie. When we meet her in the first issue she’s being sexually assaulted by her boss, which is implied to be a regular occurrence. She gets some leverage over her boss because Max witnesses the assault this time, but what is the importance of introducing her in this context? What are readers supposed to gain from this scene?
Allred: It quickly illustrates her strength of character. You’ll find subtle and not so subtle defining moments that round out each character. In the case of Marnie, we meet someone who just wants to utilize her talents on a level playing field. By the way, it’s worth noting that I wrote this a few years ago. So, it’s been surreal to see this not uncommon experience burst into the zeitgeist and given the serious discussion and considerations it very much deserves.
Grunenwald: We later see Marnie kiss Max seemingly out of the blue after the first test. What’s the nature of their relationship? How does Marnie view Max?
Allred: Answering that question is a bit of a SPOILER. But I actually welcome the opportunity to clarify it…You’re seeing an alternate reality. Another dimension where Max has a very intimate relationship with Marnie. In the original reality he has only a very casual professional relationship with her.
Grunenwald: You’ve said this series is part of your Madmaniverse. Are there any specific previous books of yours you would recommend reading to enhance the reading experience of X-Ray Robot?
Allred: Absolutely! All of it! All of my solo creator-owned work exists in the same Universe. Even Red Rocket 7. You’ll find connections throughout. Madman would be the best place to start, then The Atomics, Red Rocket 7, It Girl, Mr. Gum, Spaceman, and so on. X-Ray Robot confirms the interconnectivity as well. In your face!
Grunenwald: If you could transfer your brain and consciousness into a robot body, would you? Why or why not?
Allred: I’m open minded. HAH! Get it?
It would take a lot of convincing, and reassurances. Especially the quality and sensitivity of the body and all that kind of obsessive pickiness.
Ask me again when the opportunity arises.
Published by Dark Horse Comics, X-Ray Robot #1 (of 4) will be available in comic shops and digitally on March 25th, 2020. The Final Order Cutoff date to pre-order the issue is Monday, March 2nd, 2020.