Interview: With 'The Surrogates,' Robert Venditti Opens a New 'Case File' at Top Shelf

This week marks the release of The Surrogates: Case Files #1, from writer Robert Venditti and artist Brett Weldele from publisher Top Shelf Comix as a 25-page digital exclusive. Many of you will remember the basic premise of the series: in The Surrogates universe, scientists and big business have perfected technology that allows people to transfer their consciousness into artificial bodies. No one has to look old or unattractive (if you can get one of the top-notch bodies out there).

It also means that actual murders are a rare occurrence, and when they do happen, the cops have to find a perpetrator who likely wasn't even there in the flesh. That's what rookie detective Harry Greer will find out as we open Case Files #1 as he works his first murder case alongside veteran cop Ray Townsend.

We spoke with Robert Venditti, co-creator of The Homeland Directive (my review) about returning to The Surrogates, high-tech murder, and catch up on his work over in X-O Manowar.

MTV Geek: Why did you want to return to the universe of The Surrogates?

Robert Venditti: I love the characters and the world. It’s a concept that lends itself to an endless amount of storytelling possibilities, and I don’t want to leave anything on the table. It also gives me the chance to work with Brett Weldele again, which is always a good thing.

Geek: Tell us a little about rookie detective Harry Greer. How does he react to working his first murder case?

Venditti: Harvey left the events of The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone feeling a bit overconfident. He’s a freshly minted detective when we meet him in Case Files #1, but his experience as a street cop has him thinking his new job is going to be easy. It only takes him a couple of pages to realize how much of a novice he is, though, and his new partner, veteran detective Ray Townsend, won’t be letting him forget it any time soon.

Geek: Could you give our readers a sense of what the world is like in Case Files #1? It bridges the first and second story arcs, correct?

Venditti: Correct. We’re picking up right where we left off at the end of Flesh and Bone, so the world is still acclimating itself to the introduction of surrogate technology. Naturally, part of that acclimation involves the areas of law enforcement and crime—whenever new technology pops up, new crime pops up as well. Case Files isn’t just going to be stories about people perverting surrogate technology for their own criminal ends, however. It’s more about how technology effects society and can lead to unexpected outcomes. Greer and Townsend are put in a position where they have to adapt their investigative skills to circumstances that no one could have anticipated.

Geek: What's the appeal of writing murder mysteries in this particular world?

Venditti: It’s a world that on the surface looks very much like our own, but beneath that surface lies something quite different. Because of surrogate technology, people are discovering new reasons to kill each other and new ways to go about it. The basic tenets of crime—means, motive, and opportunity—have been completely redefined. As a writer, it’s always interesting to put characters in situations where they have a difficult time finding their bearings.

Geek: Any characters we should keep our eyes peeled for?

Venditti: There will be several characters readers will recognize from the earlier books. Harvey’s wife is a mainstay, and Vince McEvoy, Harvey’s partner in Flesh and Bone, makes an appearance in Case Files #2. We have big plans for The Prophet, too. He’s always been one of my favorite characters in the series.

Geek: What was the collaboration like with Brett Weldele again? How do you think he's evolved the look of your setting and this world of artificial people over the years?

Venditti: I’ve been a huge fan of Brett’s work from day one, but the way his style has evolved over the years has been amazing to watch. Not just in terms of his line work, but also in his use of color. He’s capturing the moods of the moments beautifully.

Geek: How are things going over in X-O Manowar? We're two issues in, Aric's in the armor. How was it reaching that moment for you?

Venditti: It’s been a great deal of fun. We took a bit of a risk, not putting in Aric in the Manowar armor until the second issue, but we felt it was what the story needed. We had a lot of buildup leading up to that moment, and I’m thankful the fans have responded to it as well as they have. And now that Aric has the armor at his command, he’s pretty much going to lay waste to everything in his path.

Geek: What else are you working on?

Venditti: In addition to X-O Manowar, I’m also writing graphic novel adaptions of several bestselling novels for Disney/Hyperion, including Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians (with Attila Futaki) and The Lost Hero (with Nate Powell), and Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods (with Alina Urusov). I have some other projects in the works, too, but those are still under wraps for now.

The Surrogates: Case Files #1 is available now from Top Shelf. You can also download The Surrogates Vol. 1 and The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone graphic novels for $2.99 through July 8th.

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