Welcome to “Trade Waiting,” a series where we wait ’till comic book arcs are collected in trade format so that we can study and analyze the story on a whole. We will focus on character arcs, plot points, thematic content and things along those lines. We will only look at the material collected in a trade and not take overall continuity into consideration.
A mysterious object crashes onto Earth, taking out a large portion of the Great Wall of China. Adam Archer, a superpowered being, is sent by the U.S. Government to investigate.
Once in China, Adam confronts a monstrous alien dog. The two battle, and, while this occurs, we are treated to a flashback that reveals Adam’s origins. It seems he was on a failed space mission to Mars where he accidentally triggered a machine that sent him forward in time. Once there, the Cosmic Collective imbued him with powers.
Back in the present, Adam realizes that the monster dog isn’t fighting back. He bites Adam, not enough to hurt him, but enough to prove this point. Just then, Basil Cronus appears to capture the space dog.
Basil defeats Adam and dumps him into the Marianas Trench. Basil is then visited, via holographic, by another villain, Friedrich Nicklehead, who does not seem to have clear motives. Basil then takes the alien dog and siphons out the creature’s blood to use it to get high.
Adam has another flashback, this time of the Greater Cosmic Collective teaching him how to use his powers. In the present, he uses them to break free of the trench and is then somehow able to hone in on the captured alien. As Adam confronts Basil, the dog breaks free and starts speaking English. The space dog takes out Basil, and Basil makes a blind teleport to escape being captured.
While Adam and the dog return to New York, the government gets a distress call from Crashman, the world’s most famous hero. Archer’s government contact asks Adam’s sister, Neela, to have Adam look into it. She decides to investigate the matter alone.
Once back in New York, the alien space dog reveals that his English name is Maxim and that he has come to help Adam fulfill his destiny. It seems that Cosmic Collective set up machines across the galaxy that would further evolve species when the time was right. Maxim also reveals that both he and Adam are evolved versions of their species and that soon more would show up.
The U.S. government then checks in with Adam to see how the rescue mission is going. It is realized that Neela made the rescue attempt alone. Adam goes to save both her and Crashman. In doing so, he faces off against Discordia, a crazy dominatrix villain.
Once freed, Crashman captures Discordia and a public trial is held. She is found guilty and before the sentence is given, her head mysteriously explodes.
The most noticeable thing about GØDLAND is how every aspect of it, the art, pacing, dialogue, characters and everything else all come together to create a Jack Kirby-esque genre setting.
“Kirby IS a genre,” Joe Casey said. “It has to do with a lot more than his drawing style. It’s a way of telling stories. Some might call it “widescreen” comics, but that word tends to evoke a different thing these days. For those of us who know the history of comics, when you say “Kirby”, you’re evoking a feel, an approach to the material, a style of storytelling.”
Another thing that Casey does well throughout the trade is constantly playing with reader’s expectations. This is first seen when Maxim crashes to earth. He appears to be a horrible monster, but is actually a peaceful creature that has come to help Adam.
Almost right after this reveal, Casey plays with expectations again with Basil Cronus. Basil appears to be the standard villain bent on world domination, but really he’s just a junkie looking to get high.
“That’s the kind of story I wanted to tell,” Casey said. “Something that struck me as maybe a little more original than your typical “world domination” plot. I like writing characters with their own, original motivations. If it plays with readers’ expectations, then I see that as a dilemma for readers who are simply trained to expect the “same ol’ thing” every time. Most comic books tend to reinforce that predictability, don’t they? I’d prefer a readership that’s constantly open to the unexpected.”
The characters are one of the strongest aspects of GØDLAND. Most of which seem to have been sprung off a classic cliché but then taken in an original direction. The above mentioned Basil searching for the ultimate high is a perfect example of that.
“Well, isn’t that how most characters begin?” Casey said. “You start with a broad idea and then chip away at the stone to make it more and more unique as time goes on. For me, the subversion of character types is something I’ve always done in my work, and GØDLAND is no exception.”
Out of everyone from the main cast, it is Adam’s sister Neela Archer who has the most completed character arc in this first collection.
From page two, Neela has a bitter tone at being seen in her brother’s shadow. It is clear she does not want to be considered any less than her superpowered brother and even embarks on a solo mission to prove she’s just as good as him.
When she fails at her mission she breaks down and accuses Adam of ruining her life. She was supposed to be on the next space mission, but after the accident of Adam’s trip, the U.S. space program was put on hold. At the end of the trade, Neela approaches a private consortium who is funding a space project.
Not only is Neela a strong female character, but so are her two sisters, Angie and Stella. Angie is a grunge rocker with seemingly no aspirations. She has a massive chip on her shoulder and seems more annoyed than anything else towards her brother’s new powers. Stella comes off as the most emotionally mature member of the Archer family. She offers a stability that Adam doesn’t have anywhere else.
“Strong female characters — ones that aren’t visually exploitive in nature — are rare in superhero comic books,” Casey said. “Having three multi-dimensional female characters so prominent in the series wasn’t necessarily a conscious response to that, but they certainly stand out in comparison. But, I think they’re as flawed and complex as any character… which is how it should be.”
With the males, both Adam and Maxim fall into classic Joseph Campbell archetypes. Adam is clearly the reluctant hero while Maxim is the mentor. Though Casey says these types of philosophies are ones that are naturally embedded into anyone who “creates / writes / draws” superhero characters.
“Adam Archer, in particular, is turning out to be a much deeper, more complex character than anyone — including me — ever anticipated,” Casey said. “But, as a creator, that kind of exploration and discovery is part of the fun.”
Fleshing out the characters more and fitting in with the overall genre/tone of the piece is the very stylized dialogue. At times, it has a classic old school feel to it, while in other cases it sounds completely modern. It all seems to fit together without ever feeling out of place.
“It was very much an organic process,” Casey said. “Mainly because the way we work — I write a loose plot, Tom breaks down the pages and draws it, I come in and script from the art — I’m able to bring a real improvisational feel to the scripting. Because of that, it comes out very fresh and spontaneous. It fits the tone of the book and it’s turned out to be the most enjoyable part of the process for me, which I think is reflected in the overall tone of the book.”
Humor is apparent through all of GØDLAND. However, there are specific incidents where the story offers a satirical view of the media in American society. For instance, the world’s most famous superhero, Crashman, does car commercials. Another example is jurors finding an evil villain guilty in a matter of minutes but deciding to wait a few days before announcing it so that they can have book deals.
“I tend to inject satire into almost everything I do,” Casey said. “It’s become automatic for me as a writer. I just can’t seem to help myself. I think it adds another dimension to the stories and to the writing. I try not to be too heavy-handed with it.”
Moving past the specific plot points of this first trade collection, Casey has done a decent job at setting up story lines to come. At one point, Maxim warns Adam that other species would seek him out. He says the reason for this is that every race is set up to be given powers to join the Greater Cosmic Collective, but that not all the species will want to peacefully.
“I don’t write anything in “arcs” anymore,” Casey said. “I think it’s been done to death. You’ll notice that ‘HELLO, COSMIC!’ doesn’t really end the way most trade paperback collections end, because the monthly isn’t written with ‘end points’ in mind. The ‘Part 1 of Whatever’ mentality has been so played out, so abused, that I swore to myself that I’d stay away from the idea of a ‘story arc’ as much as possible in my work.”
Throughout GØDLAND there is an ongoing theme involving individualism versus being part of a team / collective / whatever-you-want-to-call-it, but, since this is only the beginning of the story, it is unclear as to where Casey is going with this theme.
“Sometimes the real theme of a series isn’t meant to exist completely on the surface of things,” Casey said. “I think you’re on the right track with the things you mentioned, but it’s not my job to spell out things so explicitly for the reader. GØDLAND is meant to exist as entertainment first. The idea of connectivity is a theme we all deal with in our lives, it’s a universal theme that I find holds a lot of resonance because you can inject it into all sorts of fictional scenarios. But I would never want that to get in the way of the good time we want readers to have with GØDLAND.”
The final thing to consider about this first trade collection is the name of the series, GØDLAND. The title was never specifically mentioned in the trade, but it seems clear that it is related to the ongoing theme and most likely refers to the universe in which the series takes place.
“GØDLAND the title basically comes from this… I never understand why more comic books aren’t titled like books or movies,” Casey said. “There’s this cliché where the title generally has to be the main character’s name or the team’s name. Understandable, because 90% of the time the best title for a series IS the character’s name. But it’s not the only way to approach these things. We wanted a title that was all-encompassing, one that described the characters, their world, and the style of comic book we’re creating. GØDLAND fits the bit perfectly.”