Jeff Lemire talks 'Descender,' your new sci-fi obsession
Descender (comic book)
Your new sci-fi obsession is here, and its name is Descender. A brand-new comic book series from the acclaimed team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen, Descender is a gorgeous, moody story about a future where a lonely robot boy searches for a home in a galaxy that hates and fears him. While comics fans are eagerly awaiting Descender solely based on the strength of its creative team, it’s also a story that those less well-versed in comics might want to check out—Sony recently bought the film rights to Descender, a full month before the first issue even hit stands.
Recently, writer Jeff Lemire sat down with EW to talk about Descender and the themes the series will explore—everything from our relationship to technology and cultural intolerance to the problem with sc-fi action. Here’s your chance to get on board with what might be the next big-screen blockbuster.
Jeff Lemire is a pretty big fan of Star Wars, but he’s got a bit of a problem with its influence on sci-fi over the past 30-odd years.
“I think when science fiction is at its worst, it’s just spaceships flying around shooting at each other,” says Lemire. “There has to be a lot more going on than that … science fiction is about exploring new worlds and new ideas, not about ray guns and action, necessarily.”
Of course, Descender doen’t lack for action. Action just takes a back seat. “The science fiction I gravitate towards is a little less action driven, a little more intellectually driven or emotionally driven stuff,” says Lemire, before citing the Star Wars problem. “It’s where they really took space opera and turned it into big action-adventure storytelling. Not that I don’t love Star Wars, because I do—but we’ve seen 35 years of imitators since then.”
Instead, Lemire and Nguyen are taking their cues from works like 2001: A Space Odyssey, choosing to focus on the grandeur and awe of the unknown filtered through the wonder of discovering it all through the eyes of a boy-like robot named TIM-21. TIM is similar to Haly Joel Osmont’s character in A.I: Artificial Intelligence—a lifelike, nearly human android built to be a companion to humans. TIM is completely unaware of a secret he carries inside of him, a secret that makes him the most wanted being in the galaxy.
It’s Lemire’s hope that TIM will come to represent humanity’s relationship with technology, both the great hope in all the good it can do for us and the great fear of what it might become. “TIM really does embody both hope and fear,” says Lemire. “As a parent, I look at my own son, and that hope and fear is right there. All the hope I have for him and his future, but also the fear of what he might have to deal with.”
Making life even more difficult for TIM is the fact that the galaxy already hates and fears all robots, thanks to a cataclysmic event in which a robot was responsible for mass genocide.
“It’s not hard to look at our own world and draw parallels between 9/11, for example, and how Muslims are viewed or treated by North American culture since then,” says Lemire, who is no stranger to using his work as a venue for exploring social anxieties. “Just to see the way fear can breed hatred and intolerance for people who aren’t the same as us, and that’s certainly part of what’s at the heart of Descender.”
The other part? A hope to make readers feel real wonder.
“When you’re a child, everything is big and everything’s a mystery and everything’s just beyond your grasp, and you’re slowly understanding things,” says Lemire. “Hopefully it creates that sense of mystery and awe, and you’re discovering things and seeing the world through TIM’s eyes.”
Take a peek at that world with a few preview pages below. Descender #1 is on sale Wednesday, March 4.