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AICN COMICS Q&@:What happens if a blackout occurs during Orson Welles' WAR OF THE WORLDS?Lyzard asks THE BROADCAST's Eric Hobbs!

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Q’s by Lyzard!

@’s by THE BROADCAST writer Eric Hobbs!

Hello, Lyzard here. This October 30th is the 72nd anniversary of Orson Welles’ radio broadcast of H.G. Wells WAR OF THE WORLDS. Eric Hobbs’ first graphic novel, THE BROADCAST from NBM Comics Lit, is a thriller about a rural Indiana town that loses power halfway through this radio play, having never learned the infamous broadcast is a hoax. You can find AICN’s review of the graphic novel here.
LYZARD: What attracted you to telling this story?

ERIC HOBBS (EH): It was a chance to tell an alien invasion story without aliens. Who isn't going to jump at that?! No, I'm always looking for a high concept story to tell and this is about the best high concept I've come up with. People immediately get it when you tell them THE BROADCAST is about a small farm town that loses power halfway through Orson Welles' WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast. There's always this spark in a fan's eye when I tell him about the book for the first time. He doesn't know what it's about just yet, but he understands that that's a situation that can go in a lot of different directions.
Also, I'm a big fan of Romero's zombie movies, and if you look at them, there's always more to them than the flesh-eating monsters chasing people down. I wanted to write something like that -- a disaster story that focused more on the people's reaction to the disaster than the disaster itself. What better way to do that than with a disaster readers know from the jump isn't something to be afraid of at all? I think it's a lot scarier to realize a group might turn against one another when there's no real reason to do so. If they wait the night out, they'll get word the "alien invasion" is a hoax. But they have to make it through the night first.

LYZARD: Have you read H.G. Wells' “War of the Worlds”? If so, what do you think of the many adaptations of the classic story?

EH: I've read it, although it's been a while. Every adaptation is different, I guess. I wasn't a fan of the Spielberg-Cruise movie when it came out, but that was largely bitterness on my part. That came out right around the time I started pitching THE BROADCAST, and I couldn't get anyone to read it because of that movie. And yeah, people were actually telling me that. This is a story that can't be pitched without using the words WAR OF THE WORLDS, and the minute those words came out of my mouth everyone threw up their hands and said, "Not me!" No one wanted to be in competition with those guys. I actually caught it on cable the other day and thought it was pretty good. It isn't perfect, by any means, but there's some really risky storytelling in that movie, I think. It grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go. I'm a big fan of the original movie, it came out in 1953 I think. Honestly, I think every alien invasion movie or TV show or novel owes a debt of gratitude to that book, though. It paved the way for everything that's come since, not just the straight adaptations, but stuff like INDEPENDENCE DAY and V and SIGNS -- we're all following in H.G. Wells’ footsteps.

LYZARD: How did you get involved with artist Noel Tuazon?

EH: Noel worked on a book called ELK'S RUN that I really enjoyed. That came out right around the time I was taking comics seriously as a writer, and it really inspired me. It was a book that was outside the box as a comic. It wasn't a superhero book. It wasn't horror or sci-fi. It was just this high concept, character driven thriller that didn't feel like anything else on the stand. It was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to write.
Anyway, a friend suggested Noel, but I wasn't immediately sold on him even though I was a huge fan of that book. As much as I liked his art, I wasn't sure it was the right style for THE BROADCAST. Well, then I started poking around on his website and found a single illustration he had done that was a character sketch he had done while developing a book called TUMOR. It was a completely different style than he used on ELK'S RUN, and I thought it was perfect for this book. Somehow I convinced him to come onboard, and just like that, I was working with a Harvey-nominated artist.

LYZARD: Did you have any input on the artistic style of the graphic novel?

EH: Not really. All I really did was point to that one character sketch and asked if we could do a whole book in that style. When he said yes, we got the ball rolling from there.

LYZARD: What is your writing process?

EH: I'm all over the map, really. I write a lot of drafts. I'm usually on my fourth or fifth draft before I even think to send it out to someone.
Also, I've gotten in the habit of writing a story from beginning to end in screenplay format before breaking it down into pages-and-panels for the comic. For me, I need those characters to be fully realized and the story structure to be in place before I even start thinking about how it will appear on the page. I'm not good enough to do all that at the same time.

LYZARD: How long was the process of creating the comic, then how long did it take to find a publisher?

EH: It depends on how much time an artist can dedicate to a project. Noel is known for being very fast, but THE BROADCAST took him a few years to finish -- mostly because he was doing other projects alongside this one.
Finding a publisher took a loooooong time. I didn't have a lot of connections in the industry when I started pitching the project around so I was just sending it to editors blind. I would send a few out, wait for the rejections to come in -- then send out a couple more. Getting that first deal is so much work, creating the book is really pretty easy in comparison.

LYZARD: What are some of your influences, in and outside of comics?

EH: Oh, man. There's too many to name, really.
Recently, I was a huge fan of LOST. Borderline obsessive. But...
Stephen King, Mark Twain, Brian Vaughan, JJ Abrams, Aaron Sorkin, Stephen Spielberg, Rod Serling, Jeff Lemire, Joe Hill, Martin Scorcese, Ray Bradbury, those new books from Darwyn Cooke -- I've been treating those like textbooks more than comics. I'm really geeking out on DEXTER and MAD MEN right now. Somehow I missed both these when they started so I've been catching up with them on DVD.
I don't know. I could go on and on. There's really no rhyme or reason to the list. Whether it’s comics, movies or TV -- if it's a genre story that's character-driven, I'm usually going to get behind it and find something to take away. Also, if you've written something that both entertains and has something to say, chances are your work is somewhere on my list too.

LYZARD: What do you see as the future for the comic industry?

EH: That's being talked about a lot these days. We're in a real state of flux as digital comics become a little more mainstream and comics sales keep going down. Print comics are never going to go away, but monthly comics might. I think you'll start seeing a transition, especially in the indie ranks, where digital comics replace the monthly comics we're seeing now and a book goes straight to a trade paperback if it's going to see print.
I also think you'll start seeing some of the big publishers create books that are designed more and more for the book market than the comic shop. I'm a comic creator, but I don't really know what's going on in the books at Marvel and DC. That's a problem. If I walk into a Barnes & Noble I don't know what books I can pick up because most of them weren't written to be bought like that -- they're written as 22-page episodes in one long, extended story that been going on for years. I can go into Best Buy and I know that if I buy “Spiderman 2” on DVD, I don't need to have seen the first one to understand what is going on. That isn't true of comics, but it should be.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with a series of books. But if we want new readers to start buying comics again, well, as an industry we'll have to make some changes and take some chances. We need more books that are paced like novels or movies. That's a structure people already understand. And we need to create more books that have a beginning, middle and end. Sure, you can have the characters evolve throughout a series -- but you can't expect someone new to pick up a book if they need to know key plot points from a series that was published ten years ago.
Long story short, you're going to see some big changes.

LYZARD: How hard (or easy) was it for you to break into the comic book world?

EH: To a large extent I'm still breaking in. I've got my foot in the door, and that helps -- but it's not like I have editors knocking down my door. I don't think I'm on Marvel or DC's radar quite yet. THE BROADCAST has been getting great reviews, which helps, but I really feel like my work is just beginning. If you aren't careful the door will close on you quickly. I don't know which is harder, fighting to get in -- or fighting to stay in.

LYZARD: When did you first fall in love with comics? What are some of your favorite books and/or characters?

EH: I didn't pick up my first comic until I was something like twenty-four years old, which is kind of crazy.
I was working in a restaurant at the time and befriended a guy there who was trying to make it as an artist. Anyway, one day we get to talking and realize that we'd make a pretty good team. The only problem? I'd never opened a comic in my life. So he comes in the next day with a copy of WATCHMEN, DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and an old beat-up copy of the DARK PHOENIX saga. It was all over for me after that.

LYZARD: What would be your dream comic book job?

EH: Well, again, I'm something of an anomaly because I didn't grow up reading comics so I don't have this laundry list of characters that I've dreamed to write since I was six years old. I think I have a pretty interesting take on Superman if that opportunity ever presents itself. Hopefully, it will.
Really, though, I'm trying to make sure I don't get too far ahead of myself. It's exciting to have a book that's so well-received, but I don't want to assume that means publishers will start throwing buckets of cash at me to offer my take of their most iconic characters. If it comes, it comes. But right now, my dream project is the one I'm lucky enough to be working on right now.

LYZARD: Are there any other projects of yours you’d like to discuss?

EH: AWAKENINGS. It's been a long road on that one, but it's finally going to be finished up and collected by Arcana in the first part of the new year. When I'm at a convention I always tell people that it's a cross between MINORITY REPORT and THE HOWLING. That usually gets a raised eyebrow or two. It's about a New York detective who’s on the trail of a gruesome serial killer only to find himself on the run when every lead points to the one person he never would have suspected -- himself. However, as he fights to clear his name he discovers a supernatural presence behind the killings and begins to realize he might be the lead suspect for a very good reason.
Also, I have an all-ages series that is getting a lot of interest from publishers. I think we'll have that set up pretty soon. That's my passion project right now, but it's probably too soon to start talking about it just yet.

LYZARD: The graphic novel THE BROADCAST is available for purchase now. You can find more information on Eric Hobbs’ website which also features a 21-page preview of the comic, the original Orson Welles radio play, and a link to Amazon to purchase the book. Thanks to Mr. Hobbs for participating in this interview.

Lyzard is actually Lyz Reblin, a film student at Chapman University. Lyz’s love for comics stems from an internship at Dark Horse Entertainment as a freshman, which may explain why some of her favorite comic book writers are Gerard Way and Steve Niles. You can find her on Facebook, but only if you follow her band: Castle Town Convicts (possibly a Zelda reference?).

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G


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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 29, 2010, 8:55 a.m. CST

    Check the title. Orson *Welles and H. G. *Wells

    by Batguy

    Spelling is good.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 9:02 a.m. CST

    Danke.

    by Ambush Bug

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Alls Wells that ends Welles

    by Rocco Curioso

    In retrospect, I feel bad for ol' Orson. To gradually decline from auteur extraordinare to wine pitchman; that's GOTTA suck. Same thing happened to Coppola.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 11:39 a.m. CST

    It's really sad that you didn't see it in a real theater

    by UltraTron

    when it happened. Sitting in the perfect seat looking up at that tall screen. When cruise finally takes one of the fuckers down soon after we realize they're fucking eating us- people were cheering. It was the first time in the movie where we give em something to think about.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 11:42 a.m. CST

    Up till that point we're just being worked.

    by UltraTron

    What fucking perfect movie. Now it would be really great if someone made welles version into a movie. Someday. The one set in Victorian London

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 12:13 p.m. CST

    Sorry, @Ambush Bug.

    by Batguy

    I thought it was worth mentioning.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 12:15 p.m. CST

    @Rocco

    by Batguy

    Don't forget that his final acting gig was Transformers: The Movie (1986). Unicronnnn....

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 1:09 p.m. CST

    Welles vs. Coppola

    by Eric_Hobbs

    I'd never thought about it, but that's actually a really great comparison. Thanks for reading, guys!

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 1:15 p.m. CST

    Most awesome narration career highlights:

    by UltraTron

    In this order- Night Gallery(Zone's color sequel series. My god it's the new Twilight Zone only in the freakish new world of 70s color stock and with an extreme horror slant), StarTrek The Motion Picture preview narration(As epic as a preview narration has even been- listen to the lust in his voice for Persis Kumbata), Unicron(he finally gets to do Darth Vader a number and he cracks it out of the park) History of the World Part 1(where is 2? Is Mel still alive? Is Gene Wilder kicking? Time to team these 2 back up for the curtain call. Everyone knows wilder wrote his best movies and it all went to hell after they split). After those it's between maybe Vikings and Rikki-tikki-Tavi but there's so many I couldn't tell ya

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 1:41 p.m. CST

    See, this intersting.

    by phifty2

    You take something iconic, that's been done many times before, but add a creative twist and make a new story out of it. Looks good.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 4:43 p.m. CST

    Heard nothing but good things about this

    by kungfuhustler84

    Unfortunately the LCS does not have it. maybe I will check barnes and noble

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 5:30 p.m. CST

    LOL -- "The best high concept I've come up with"

    by Big Dumb Ape

    I'm going to be nice and wish Mr. Hobbs well with his book and all that. On the other hand, I have to say I laughed out loud when he said "I'm always looking for a high concept story to tell and this is about the best high concept I've come up with."<p>Well, I hate to break this news flash to you, Mr. Hobbs, but you're LATE to the party and hardly the first to mine this territory -- let alone "come up with" this "high concept".<p>JUST FOR THE RECORD...35 years ago and back in 1975 (yes, I'm part of the older group of AICN talkbackers here), John Ritter -- yes, he of THREE'S COMPANY FAME -- co-starred in a hit ABC TV movie of the week (back when the networks made those kind of things) that was called THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA. The plot? From IMDB: "True story: Orson Welles puts on a radio version of an H.G. Wells novel, and people who miss the beginning think Martians are invading the Earth."<p>In fact, this will probably come as a shock to Hobbs, but in the movie John Ritter played a character named Walter Wingate who -- yes -- was a farmer who lived out in the boonies, along with his father (played by Michael Constantine), who then hear the start of the broadcast and react to it, but miss its conclusion. This sets their story arc in motion where they are running around their farm trying to figure out "what to do" and then (as I recall) they eventually take flight in their beat-up farm truck to race off and save Ritter's farm girlfriend while arming themselves and looking for martians to fight.<p>Meanwhile, the movie also starred the late, great Vic Morrow -- yes, he of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE fame -- where we saw the events of the radio broadcast playing out through the eyes of a man living in the city, who likewise doesn't hear the ending, so we now see how "city folk" freaked out and reacted as well.<p>The movie was great, and its definitely worth seeing. It was directed by Joseph Sargent, known for his wide range of TV work from GUNSMOKE to THE MAN FROM UNCLE to cult favorite THE INVADERS (the original Roy Thinnes version). In terms of film, Sargent also directed the genre classic COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT and the not-so-classic JAWS: THE REVENGE.<p>The movie also gets 4 stars from the screenwriting side. The original screen story and script was by Nicholas Meyeer -- yes, he of STAR TREK movie fame, as well as TIME AFTER TIME and THE DAY AFTER.<p>Anyway, as I said, I want to be polite and congratulate Mr. Hobbs on getting his comic published and all that. But speaking as an older geek, I just wish some of these younger up-and-coming people would stop declaring they've "come up" with a particular idea as if it was something startlingly original, when in fact...if they had a true sense of geek genre history...they'd know some of these concepts had already been mined before.<p>So, it's good that he's REVISITING an idea and putting his OWN TAKE on it, but he should also recognize that he isn't the first person to set his foot on this particular moon.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 7:46 p.m. CST

    by Eric_Hobbs

    @kungfu -- The book's available on Amazon for $10 if you're wanting to give it a try. @ Big Dumb -- You're right. I should have taken a minute to talk about the moment I learned about the movie you referenced. I was about halfway through the process of writing when I learned there was an old TV movie that took place on that night, and it really knocked the wind out of my sails for a while. It happens. The best you can do is take a look at your work and make sure you've got an original take on the events your depicting and go from there.

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 8:07 p.m. CST

    @ Eric Hobbs...

    by Big Dumb Ape

    Eric, no prob. I actually apologize if my post sounded a bit too critical. That's why I tried to preface things by wishing you well up front.<p>Speaking as a writer myself (who's even had ties to comics as well), I can totally appreciate what you probably went through to bring THE BROADCAST to life. Trust me, I know how tough it can be to have an idea, to spend endless hours whipping it into shape, and then (as you noted in the interview) to go around pitching it -- all the while hoping that someone else will see something special in it, the same way you do.<p>In fact, on a complimentary note, despite any issues of your "concept" being similar to the movie I cited, it still comes down to what YOU bring to the story with your own takes and twists. And frankly, I'd rather check out THE BROADCAST than most of the comic crap being pounded out these days because most superhero stuff has lost my interest in a "been there, done that" sort of way.<p>So, if nothing else, I salute you for trying to do something different and trying to bring something fresh to the table. So best wishes and congrats to you again!

  • Oct. 29, 2010, 10:16 p.m. CST

    Hmmmmm.

    by phifty2

    This TB seems terse. Anybody want to get together, even in this TB, and exchange some ideas?

  • Oct. 30, 2010, 10:01 a.m. CST

    by TDavis

    I' assuming that for $10 you get a book with finished art, not the sketches seen in the article.

  • Oct. 30, 2010, 10:10 a.m. CST

    True I was always freaked when the dad was

    by UltraTron

    gonna shoot his family rather than let the Martians get em. Just cops with flashlights I think it was. If anyone's thinking about doing a movie about a cute super chick with a cute chick sidekick that both work for a magazine- that's been done with Electro Woman and Dyna Girl. I hope I just saved someone from getting halfway through their superchick screenplay and going- aww nuts I thought I was original.

  • Oct. 30, 2010, 10:48 a.m. CST

    I was about to post

    by phifty2

    "shouldn't it be ElectrA woman." then decided to do some research and see if this was real and it is, and it is Electra.

  • Oct. 30, 2010, 11 a.m. CST

    TDavis

    by Lyzard

    The art style you see in the article is the style of the comic. If you read the review, you'll get my opinion on whether or not they work.

  • Oct. 30, 2010, 11:34 a.m. CST

    Need my ginko.

    by UltraTron