Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your time-travel comic book series, Planet of the Nerds, through AHOY Comics! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Paul Constant: Thanks so much! Planet of the Nerds is my first full-length comic series, and I’m really excited for people to read it. It’s an action/comedy miniseries about what happens when three popular high school jocks from the 1980s are accidentally frozen and thawed out in 2019. They’re horrified to discover that nerds rule the world—computers are everywhere, a TV show based on a series of fantasy novels is the biggest thing on television, and the multiplexes are wall-to-wall superhero movies. The jocks set out to restore what they believe to be the natural pecking order, with nerds on the bottom and jocks at the top.
I was inspired to write Planet of the Nerds because I grew up in a time when being a nerd was supposed to be something shameful. Comics and video games and Dungeons & Dragons were supposedly kid’s entertainment - disposable junk to be cast aside when you reached adulthood. That’s obviously no longer true, and I was curious what would happen when we pushed the old rules from the 1980s up against the modern day.
BD: Although Planet of the Nerds is your first headlined comic book title, you’ve worked with AHOY in the past on various backup stories and have worked previously as a political journalist. What can you share with us about your experience in transitioning to writing for comics, and what makes AHOY Comics such a great home for your work?
PC: I’ve had a lot of professional writing gigs in my life—I’ve been a book and movie reviewer and a ghost writer and a political reporter—but I’ve always wanted to write comics. I taught myself how to read on comics, and no art makes me as happy as a good comic.
I wrote some minicomics back in high school, but my artist friends all stopped drawing and started doing other things, and a comics writer without an artist is about as useful as a fork at a soup convention. So, I focused my writing on other areas. That’s when I first heard about AHOY.
AHOY Comics publishes adult-oriented comics with a strong sense of humor, and that was exactly what I always wanted to write. One of my comic-writing heroes is Steve Gerber, the great satirist who is probably best known for creating Howard the Duck. I think Gerber would love AHOY’s mission, and that makes me really happy. Tom Peyer, the editor at AHOY, has helped me learn my craft through writing backup stories in books with some of the country’s top talents—we’re talking Jamal Igle, Stuart Moore, Ann Nocenti, Grant Morrison, and many more—and it’s been even more fun than I ever hoped it would be.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with artists Alan Robinson, Randy Elliott, and David Nakayama?
PC: I wrote the first issue of Planet of the Nerds before we found an artist, but the minute that Tom suggested Alan Robinson, everything clicked into place. Alan really cares about the details; he’s a genius at facial expressions, body language, and items like clothing and interior decoration that other artists tend to gloss over. Alan is exceptionally gifted at the small scope—he can capture the nuance of someone’s interior thoughts in just a couple lines—but he’s a master of broad, slapstick comedy, too. Seeing his work reminded me of the feeling I had the first time I saw Kevin Maguire’s art back in the late 1980s—the sense that the characters are actors on the page, not just puppets to be shoved around—and his talent forced me to elevate my writing game.
Randy is drawing all of the backup stories in Nerds which tell important stories from the lives of our main characters. Alan helped me understand who the characters are, and Randy helped me discover their motivations and their histories. And David is, I think, one of the best cover artists at work in the field today, and the work he’s done on Planet of the Nerds is a perfect example of why. He creates gorgeous, high-concept movie posters that somehow perfectly reflect the core events and themes of the work.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from the series?
PC: The nice thing about reading is that it’s so personal, and no two reading journeys are the same. So, I can’t wait to see what people bring away from this book. I expect to be surprised and delighted at what people find, and how they interpret and respond to the comic.
That said, I do hope to start a conversation with my readers about the labels we give ourselves and each other, and how they affect our lives as we grow up. Not every jock is evil, and not every nerd is an innocent victim. And there’s always room to grow and to learn about yourself and change yourself into something better and more complex.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
PC: The team at AHOY would like me to play things a little close to the vest—the rule is they extract one tooth for every spoiler I accidentally drop—but exciting things are in store! I’ve got a multi-part story coming up with an artist who’s got kind of a magical realism vibe that I’m really digging, and I’m teaming up with an artist who has been on my favorites list since I first encountered their art in Sandman, and I’m reteaming with an artist I’ve already worked with that goes to some very dark places in American history. All will be revealed soon!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about (and pre-order) Planet of the Nerds?
PC: Thank you so much for reading this interview and for even considering this book. I know comics can be a pricey habit, and it’s weird to ask you to order a book before you’ve seen anything more than a handful of pages, but like every AHOY Comic so far, this book is stuffed with story and art and all sorts of extras, so you’ll get your money’s worth.
I can promise you that I poured a lot of myself into this story, and I think that people who, like me, were crushed by that nerd/jock dynamic in high school will find some sort of catharsis in this story—or at least a new way to think about things.
Additionally, this book is a beautiful package. I’ve already praised the artists, but I’m telling you again—these folks are some of your new favorites. And I haven’t even mentioned the colors by Felipe Sobreiro, which I honestly believe are setting a new standard for storytelling through color palettes. You’ve never seen a comic quite like this one.