Speculative fiction and science fiction have often questioned the idea of the existence of parallel Earths and parallel universes, operating in their own unique space and time, with varying degrees of similarity. In that same vein, would those alternate Earths have alternate versions of us, shaped and molded by different choices and different world paradigms and schemas?
In The Wrong Earth, the debut series from new comic book publisher AHOY Comics, writer Tom Peyer and artist Jamal Igle throw the lens on that very question, following alternate versions of the same character from Earth-Alpha and Earth-Omega, respectively, as something causes the heroes to switch worlds. Dragonflyman from Earth-Alpha—which, as Igle describes it, functions with a “functional naiveté”—ends up on Dragonfly’s darker, more corrupt Earth-Omega, and vice versa. How this occurrence will affect both those heroes—both of whom have very different crime-fighting sensibilities and methods—and their universes is part of the journey of The Wrong Earth.
Mr. Peyer and Mr. Igle spoke with me recently about the idea behind The Wrong Earth, juggling the tonal differences at work in the series, the launch of AHOY Comics, and what we can expect to see in the book moving forward.
FreakSugar: For readers considering picking up the book, what can you tell us about the conceit of The Wrong Earth?
Tom Peyer: A grim and gritty masked vigilante is forced to switch universes with his campy, crime-fighting counterpart. We follow both heroes as they try to adjust to worlds where even their fellow good guys don’t share their values.
FS: The story so far takes place on two Earths, Alpha and Omega. What can you tell us about those worlds and the superhero counterparts that inhabit them?
Jamal Igle: Earth-Alpha isn’t a place of innocence, per se, but it’s definitely more hopeful. I think there’s, at least for me, a “functional naiveté” at play on their world. Things work on Earth-Alpha “because,” with no secondary thought really given. The good guys are inherently good and the bad guys are more nuisances rather than existential threats. Earth-Omega is more like our world, only darker and harsher. There’s an inherent mistrust laid into Earth-Omega. Everyone is out for themselves.
TP: Earth-Alpha’s Dragonflyman trusts authority, respects his fellow citizens, and believes deep down that every villain can be reformed. Earth-Omega’s Dragonfly thinks authority is corrupt, that the stupidity of the masses enables that corruption and, in the words of the late Wally Wood, “the job of the good guys is to kill the bad guys.”
FS: The first issue is incredibly well-crafted and novel, and there seem to be nods to other superhero traditions. Are there any particular influences that shaped how you approached your tale?
JI: Each Earth has its own unique ecosphere, culturally. Earth-Alpha is filled with concept tech. Things that never made it passed the design stage in the real world. The clothing and vehicles pull from every single era from the 1960’s onward. I did a lot of research to make it feel visually and aesthetically different without mimicking things like Batman: The Animated Series or the comic book series Mr. X. I didn’t want to choose one period and cannibalize it, so I found different settings, vehicles, etc. from different periods to use as a base.
TP: On the writing end, it’s hard to pick out specific influences, beyond a couple of obvious ones I won’t name. There really are so many. I have 1,000 superhero titles from 1938 up to the mid-‘80s giving me cues on Dragonflyman and his world of upstanding heroes and comparatively non-violent villains. 1,000 more titles that came out since portray a misunderstood killer of homicidal maniacs in an unfair world. I should clarify that we’re not arguing one is better than the other; our only goal is to mix the two up and see what happens.
FS: As always, Jamal, your linework is stunning and just a feast for the eyes. As the book shifts tonally between two worlds, what was the collaboration process like to decide on the look of the series and each Earth?
JI: First, Thank you for the kind words. From the outset, I knew what I wanted to do to make the transition between the two world stand out. I had originally toyed with the idea of trying to make Earth-Alpha a much more animated world, but I decided against it. I decided that it would be more about the layout and the rendering of each world. So Earth-Alpha’s panel layouts and how the story was paced was greatly influenced by people like Carmine Infantino, Don Newton and Neal Adams. That included the palette that Andy [Troy, the series colorist] uses.
For Earth-Omega, I really wanted to invoke a more modern comics sort of feel, ala Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, David Finch but keep it in my style. The color palette was the biggest part of that decision. I suggested to Andy that he treat it like film color correction, build the color the way Vittorio Storaro did for Apocalypse Now or Dick Tracy.
TP: Jamal’s commitment to this series has been something to see. Every time I think about how hard he works on this I get exhausted and have to lie down.
FS: Without giving too much away, something happens midway through the book where the tones of each Earth bleed into one another. Reading that was fun and I can’t imagine it was anything but a treat to write. How did you tackle that aspect of writing issue 1?
TP: If you’re referring to the heroes swapping universes, that’s OK to talk about. And you’re right, it was a treat to write. Just imagining how the people of one kind of superhero comic would react to the star of another, and vice-versa, made me laugh. The only drawback is, as the plot thickened from one issue to the next, I would honestly mix the heroes up in my head. I’d wonder how I was going to get Dragonflyman out of a particular fix, and then I’d slap my head and realize that, no, it’s Dragonfly who’s in that fix. This happened about a thousand times.
FS: This may be a total misreading, so please knock the ball out of my hand if so, but is there any significance to the Earth designations? Alpha feels pristine and bright, like the Batman ’66 series, while Omega is on the opposite end of the spectrum with grit and darkness. Will we see any Earths in-between those extremes?
TP: Oh, we might. We very well might.
FS: AHOY Comics is launching this fall. What can you tell us about your involvement with the publisher and AHOY in general?
TP: I am what they call the editor-in-chief, which is what editors call themselves when there’s no one around to tell them they can’t. I love that title for one reason, and that reason is of course Perry White. Except you can call me chief. Go ahead. Please. I’m begging you. Call me chief. No one ever does.
Of course, my title is more than merely an excuse to be petty and egotistical. It means I’m involved in all of our titles, to one degree or another. I’m writing two, The Wrong Earth and High Heaven, which is about a guy who dies and goes to heaven, where everything is terrible and everyone hates him. That’s drawn by Greg Scott, who is phenomenal. And I’m editing Edgar Allen Poe’s Snifter of Terror, a funny horror anthology in which a drunken Poe is reduced to introducing stories in a comic book. Stuart Moore is writing and editing Captain Ginger, about a starship run by cats, so I mostly get to be a fan. June Brigman and Roy Richardson are drawing that one.
As you can see from that list, AHOY is about publishing series that are distinct from each other. We’re the opposite of a house style. Except we do want them all to be funny. Not comedies usually, but funny in some way. “Smart, funny, and good looking” was a slogan pitch that didn’t make it. But that’s what we want to be. And we have a strong interest in the back of the book. We’re throwing in short stories, poems, illustrations, articles, humor pieces… anything. They’re comics magazines for people who like to read.
FS: Is there anything you can tease about what we can expect to see moving forward?
JI: You’re going to see just how different the two earths and the two heroes are from each other. Each created its own challenges to try and top, just the level of absolute absurdity. It’s just a fun series and I hope people get a kick out of what we’re doing.
TP: There will be blood. And pink knockout gas!
The Wrong Earth #1 is on sale now from AHOY Comics.
From the official issue description:
AHOY Comics launches with a biting superhero satire! On one world, Dragonflyman and his sidekick Stinger enjoy a life of adventure. On another Earth, the Dragonfly hunts criminal parasites like a lethal exterminator. But what happens when these two heroes change places? By Tom Peyer (Captain Kid, Hourman) and Jamal Igle (Black, Supergirl)!
AND: A “Golden Age” Stinger solo story, by Paul Constant and Frank Cammuso!
Plus: An all-new text story by comics legend Grant Morrison: ‘HUD’ HORNET’S HOLIDAY IN HELL, illustrated by Rob Steen! All this plus a cartoon by Shannon Wheeler!