cloudburst: a sudden very heavy fall of rain
Or, in this case, a 64-page OGN from Image Comics in June by co-writers Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti with Christopher Shy and Eliseu Gouveia providing the art.
Get ready your popcorns, put on your Cowboy hat, suit up your Star Trek uniform, take along your Star Wars action figures and spaceships as we chatted up Gray and Palmiotti for a look into the world of Cloudburst.
Newsarama: In a nutshell, what is Cloudburst? We know this is not about rainfall…
Justin Gray: An experimental weather machine. A colony transport filled with thousands of families. And a troop of psychotic war veterans hired by an interplanetary corporation all set to take control of an abandoned planet. The only problem is... it's not abandoned...
Cloudburst is a popcorn movie, a throwback to the fun sci-fi/horror matinees involving a former prison world, corporate espionage, monsters, easy sex and desperadoes. A beautiful scientist named Lauren Moore has created Cloudburst, a weather machine that can manufacture rain on arid planets. Lauren has the corporate sponsorship to test this machine and if it’s successful it will change human colonization forever. Unfortunately she picked the wrong world to test her machine. As usual we don’t stick with one specific genre. There’s tons of action, rough language and violence as well as romance and a dash of western.
Jimmy Palmiotti: It’s in the tradition of some cool sci-fi films with twists thrown in here and there. Totally something that is a bit different than our other work on titles like The Monolith and Hawkman.
JG: In the winter of 2001, Jimmy and I were talking about how much we like popcorn movies, you know the sort of big budget feature that you walk into knowing it’s going to be a fun two hours where you forget about everything happening on the outside. From that idea, we wrote Cloudburst as a screenplay, but we got side tracked with a number of other projects and put it on the back burner for about a year. The project is so much fun we couldn’t leave it alone for too long and since we had it broken down in screenplay format we decided we’d condense it from 120 pages to 62 and put it out as an OGN.
JP: This project is one big experiment for all of us in a number of ways. Once again we are putting our money where our mouth is and doing a project that we believe in and working with people that we feel will be the next big thing in publishing and the art form. The story was all Justin’s, but I managed to get in my two cents here and there and I think, like when we both work together, the sum of our work winds up being a whole different monster then when we started. In the case of Cloudburst, it worked out just fine.
NRAMA: What gave birth to the world of Cloudburst?
JG: Well, like I said, we wanted to create a Wild West space and monster story that would be entertaining to read. We’d been working on projects with deep subtext, social commentary and layered plot lines that focused entirely on character development. With Cloudburst, we took a few genres we loved and mixed them together for the fun of it.
JP: The other inspiration was the lack of this kind of book on the shelves. Why is it that all anyone can do these days is just superhero stuff? I look at one particular comic company and wonder when enough is going to be enough. Nothing is new except the teams on the books. Where are all the genre related books these days and especially…where is the sci–fi? Think about it…when a science fiction movie comes out…even if it may be a bad one, we run to see it. Why? Because it will always offer us a glimpse of something we have never seen before. For me, I have seen all these superhero books to death and need a break. For me, Cloudburst is that break.
NRAMA: So, besides Lauren, who are the players in the story?
JG: Lauren Moore is the scientific mind and body behind Cloudburst. Frank Tusk, Lauren’s ex-husband is the hardened war veteran now working corporate security. Will Arkan is the desert ghost and orphaned son of a soldier and criminal…a sort of Pale Rider in space. Aww, sh!t, there I did the Jaws with Paws thing.
NRAMA: What kind of a world are these people living in?
JG: A very dangerous one where you can’t trust anyone.
JP: A world that is just being uncovered layer by layer by people who think they know what they are doing. It’s the universal “I know what is good for you” scenario taken to another planet and forced upon it. As we all know that has a way of biting you in the ass.
NRAMA: How did the artists get involved in this?
JG: At the time we were working with Christopher Shy on covers for The Resistance, it became clear he was a good fit with the mood and style of Cloudburst. 62 pages was a lot to ask of him at the time, he’d been working on film and print projects so we decided we’d work him into the story in collaboration with another artist. Jimmy was in Portugal when he met Zeu…
JP: Amanda Conner, Neil Gaiman and I were doing a con in Lisbon, Portugal and as usual with most conventions overseas, a number of artist always show me their work, in hopes I can get their stuff seen stateside. Of the bunch, Zeu ‘s work stood out to me for a number of reasons. He had tons of pages; all finished and colored…cool images and excellent, clear storytelling. Something I do not run into too often. Most of the samples I see in the states are of the same three Spider-Man pages, nothing that shows variety or imagination. When I got back stateside, I emailed Zeu and asked him if he would be interested in handling the art chores on this project. I got a firm “yes” and a “when can I start” from him, we wrote up the deal with him and image, and he went to work. He delivered about 5 fully colored pages a week, a work ethic I happen to share with him.
NRAMA: What qualities made them right for the task at hand?
JG: Cloudburst needed to feel like it was taking place on another world and Shy’s palate and cinematic style was a given for establishing the back story. Zeu was a good fit for the over the top action that followed.
JP: For me, storytelling always comes first and both of these artists had a very unique way of representing their talent on the printed page. When you see the book, you can instantly see that they are totally coming from different places and for me, that is the exciting part! With Shy, getting each page was like glimpsing a totally frightening alien world. With Zeu, the character work is his strength, and the element of the unexpected was always there, especially since he would send pencil roughs and the next stage would be straight to finish. That is something we do not see in American comics too often. The whole process was very exciting for us all of us.
NRAMA: If you were to compare this with one other comic or movie or something else, what would it resemble? And why the similarity?
JG: You’ll see inspiration drawn from classic and cult films in the story but the entertainment industry has a funny way of needing to make comparisons for marketing reasons. The example I always use is when producers were pitching Man’s Best Friend they called it “Jaws with Paws”. Yeah, that’s cute but it’s also just a quick way of getting something approved by mixing known commodities. Another thing is you can’t do certain stories without someone making comparisons. You can’t have a group of people trapped on a ship without thinking Alien. You can’t do soldiers and aliens without saying Starship Troopers. So I’d rather let people draw their own conclusions. Is there another comic like Cloudburst? I don’t know, maybe, but I haven’t read one that is.
JP: For me, it’s Pitch Black, Jaws and a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western in outer space all wrapped into one. Oh, and add a sexy dangerous woman to the mix as well.
NRAMA: Why would make this appeal to the general comics community? Why should comics fans check out Cloudburst?
JP: For a number of reasons actually. First, it’s a fun, sexy, wild adventure that has a story that begins and ends in one book. There is no second issue.
Second, the art is amazing. Both Zeu and Shy have three letter names and to me, that alone makes it a stand out book. You will see visuals that are exciting and excellent storytelling.
Third: I always feel that the public wants something different and Cloudburst is just that…something you will not see every day on the rack.
Forth: this is the work of two comic book creators that give a ____ about the buying public, enough so that they took all the money they made from working on another series for a bigger company and invested it right back into the genre! We took a risk and all for the love of the art form.
JG: My answer is much shorter…it’s a fun escapist sci-fi monster book.
Cloudburst, a full color OGN priced at $7.95 goes on sale June 16th, and carries a “Mature Readers Warning” label.