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Interview: Colleen Douglas Presents 'Vic Argas Species Negotiator'

Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen

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Black Futures Month continues at PREVIEWSworld!

Throughout February we've been highlighting the Black creative minds behind our beloved medium. Previously, we've revisited the horror anthology SHOOK!and hung out with horror mangaka Gigi Murakami. Now we're going to triple down on the horror vibes with writer Colleen Douglas

In the following interview, Colleen hangs out with PREVIEWSworld to unpack the intricate ins and outs of her sci-fi/horror book from Advent Comics. This is Vic Argas Species Negotiator...

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Let’s start off with what this story is about. Tell me more about the story behind Species Negotiator.

The short answer to this is really two-fold: the first is, at its core, Vic Argas Species Negotiator is about identity and survival. The second, stems from my time as a guest visiting Congo Zaire (today Democratic Republic of the Congo) and witnessing the beginnings of a revolution that would ultimately topple its then-leader. Vic is centered around these themes of self-discovery, the struggle to maintain one's sense of self in challenging circumstances, and the lengths individuals will go to to survive physically, emotionally, or psychologically. It focuses on the complexities of nature versus artificial conditioning, the resilience it demands, and the search for meaning in the face of adversity, leading to profound transformations as they confront obstacles and navigate the sometimes harsh realities of their environments; tapping into universal themes of human experience, and the quest for self-understanding.

I visited Zaire at a time when it was in that “indiscernible space” between a regime that had been in place for more than three decades and one that was newly formed, inciting exciting future possibilities for the direction of the country. One such possibility surrounded the change of the currency at the time from Nouveau Zaire (New Zaire) to Franc Congolais (Congolese Franc) and its perceived meaning to the people of the country. [That change granted] the leadership an opportunity to cement their position, [but] ended in disaster when the regime not only alienated the people by literally adopting a language of its choice (Swahili) to grace the new currency rather than one widely spoken by the people (Lingala). To compound the mistake, leadership instilled an army of child soldiers armed with AK47s who only spoke Swahili, to police its streets.

I left the country for Cote D’Ivoire escorted by an armed motorcade. On my way out I witnessed public outrage. I saw the new currency being burned in streets lined with child soldiers holding AK47s in their hands. Three years later, the leader of that regime -- who was very afraid of assassination from outside -- was killed in his own home in a private office, surrounded no doubt by faces that were familiar to him.

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Is this more horror or sci-fi?

Vic is my interpretation of a sci-fi/horror mash-up somehwere between Blade Runner and Dune. In the sense that it explores the impact of forced colonisation (which has its own horrors) on a genetically manipulated species. What happens when the unforeseen changes the status quo, e.g. an intervention by nature that gives the subjugated nation a chance to evolve beyond expectation and control and the opportunity to reverse its fortunes? To me, the premise is fascinating and offers a lot of room for exploration around predestined rules and unexpected interference. Themes of fate versus free will, the unpredictability of nature, and the resilience of individuals faced with unforeseen challenges.

In such a narrative, characters may find themselves navigating a carefully constructed environment where certain outcomes are expected or even enforced by societal norms, technological systems, or other governing structures. These predestined rules could dictate everything from career paths to personal relationships, shaping the lives of the characters in profound ways. The Laird Crimson character would be an example to this.

However, the introduction of unexpected interference, such as the forces of nature or the unpredictable twists of evolution, can disrupt these established patterns and force characters to confront the limitations of their predetermined reality. This interference could manifest as natural disasters, unforeseen mutations, or the emergence of new environmental factors that challenge the status quo and push characters to adapt to survive.

As characters grapple with these disruptions, they may be forced to re-evaluate their understanding of themselves and their place in the world. Themes of identity come into play as individuals confront the unexpected and are compelled to forge new paths forward in the face of uncertainty. Ultimately, stories that explore the intersection of predestined rules and unexpected interference offer a compelling exploration of resilience, the pursuit of agency in the face of adversity, and the enduring quest for self-discovery amidst a world that is constantly in flux.

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What made you want to set this story on Hancox?

Setting a story in any environment offers a unique and compelling backdrop that enhances the themes of identity and survival in the face of unexpected interference...

Uncharted Territory: represents the frontier of exploration and settlement. It's a planet with vast, unexplored landscapes and the potential for new discoveries. This sense of uncharted territory can mirror the unknown aspects of the characters' own identities and the challenges they face in navigating their environments.

Harsh Environment: Hancox is an inhospitable environment with extreme temperatures, a thin atmosphere, and radiation exposure. Surviving requires ingenuity, resourcefulness, and resilience. The harsh conditions can serve as a metaphor for the challenges characters face in their journeys, highlighting the struggle to adapt and thrive in the face of adversity.

Scientific Exploration: Hancox is a focal point for scientific exploration and discovery. The characters -- a mix of genetic scientists, engineers, or explorers grappling with questions of identity and purpose -- seek to uncover the planet's secrets and push the boundaries of knowledge. This pursuit of inquiry is a chance to explore themes of curiosity, ambition, and the search for meaning.

Isolation and Alienation: beyond a certain point, Hancox is a desolate and isolated world millions of miles away from home.  

Potential for Unexpected Interference: Hancox is a dynamic and evolving planet, with the potential for unexpected interference from natural phenomena such as dust/rain storms, geological activity, or the discovery of microbial life. These unforeseen events disrupt the characters' carefully laid plans and force them to adapt in unexpected ways, adding layers of complexity to their journey of self-discovery and survival.

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What can you tell us about Vic Argas himself? Why do we follow him through this story?

First off, Vic is a "Krias." An evolved “Rat Man” with a mixture of genetic manipulation consisting of black rat, wolverine, and chlorophyll-laced DNA. This means that he can survive even if his food supply runs low. It forms part of his original design as a supposed “mindless” killing machine to eradicate other species on Hancox. We follow him because his story is really tied to the fate of his “people” (he’s part of a hive mind).  He’s undergone significant transformation and growth over time. Due to his evolution, he has complexity and depth, with layers of experiences, emotions, and motivations. He possesses a kind of wisdom and insight into the perspectives of life and relationships. This lends to his resilience and adaptability to overcome challenges and setbacks. He has strength, courage, and determination, which has an impact on others. His journey intersects with larger thematic concerns and allows for deeper exploration and interpretation of the story's underlying messages.

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Okay. The species. What are we talking about here? Night creatures? Aliens? Hybrids?

All of the characters carry some form of genetic manipulation as they are part of an emerging force called "Ikonuhmi Interplanetary Management."  For example, Gero Nac’Do’s species consists of a simian strain of Hi-Man genealogy.  

His world: Ikhonuhmi Interplanetary - New Agolan Terra.  

His job designation: Evolutionary Design Geneticist. There is already a presupposition of control; everything has a sort of “conformity”.

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Tell us about your collaborators on the book. What made Jesus C. Gan the right artist for the job?

Ah well, Jesus and I came together on this book because he understands “monsters” and “monstrosities”. Neither are the same, he was very good at interpreting the sense of an oppressive environment beyond the surface that permeates Vic. Like the element of danger and unease present in the constant rain fall you will see throughout Vic Argas. He could code my writing from previous short work we did together and a very large project called SILK COTTON (coming out in June from Rosarium Publishing). He understood what I wanted the art to say on the page.

In terms of audience, who would you say Vic Argas Species Negotiator is for?

Vic Argas Species Negotiator may appeal to fans of Moebius’s Long Tomorrow, Tokyo Ghost from Rick Remender, and possibly Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid.

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Vic Argas Species Negotiator hits comic shops starting April 3, 2024. Reserve your copy today at your local comic shop.  

For more from Colleen Douglas be sure to visit her website, Instagram or Twitter.

Keep an eye on PREVIEWSworld.com's TwitterFacebookYouTube, or Instagram for more artist spotlights!

ADVENT COMICS
VIC ARGAS SPECIES NEGOTIATOR #1 CVR A JESUS C GAN
(W) Colleen Douglas (A/CA) Jesus C. Gan
On Hancox, the one to start the negotiation is the one to control how it ends. For Vic Argus Species Negotiator, money is not the sole object, rescuing the client isn't either, He's there for the terms, because on Hancox, you can eat your enemies.
In Shops: Apr 03, 2024
SRP: $4.99
PREVIEWS Page #224

ADVENT COMICS
VIC ARGAS SPECIES NEGOTIATOR #1 CVR B DIEGO GALINDO
(W) Colleen Douglas (A) Jesus C. Gan (CA) Diego Galindo
On Hancox, the one to start the negotiation is the one to control how it ends. For Vic Argus Species Negotiator, money is not the sole object, rescuing the client isn't either, He's there for the terms, because on Hancox, you can eat your enemies.
In Shops: Apr 03, 2024
SRP: $4.99
PREVIEWS Page #224
 

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Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the Consumer Marketing Manager for Diamond Comic Distributors and PREVIEWSworld.com. He is also the writer of comics such as MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalypse '91: Revolution Never Sleeps, O.D.B.: Lyrical Ruckus in the City, and the Glyph Award-nominated Fight of the Century.

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