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Interview: Gilbert Hernandez on THE TWILIGHT CHILDREN, His Tropical Mystery Comic

Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke are like chocolate and peanut butter. Two great tastes that taste great together. The fact that these two titans of comics are only now working together for the first time seems crazy to me, but better late than never I suppose. Hernandez and Cooke are bringing their talents to Vertigo Comics for The Twilight Children, a four-issue miniseries the chronicles what happens when a mysterious glowing orb appears in a sleepy, seaside town. With a flawed but deeply human cast of characters, a beautiful tropical aesthetic, and a creepy-cool extraterrestrial mystery, The Twilight Children flips the script on the standard “visitors from outer space” story and shows us how real people would react in an isolated setting.

The Twilight Children_Cv1

Here is the official synopsis:

“When a white orb washes up on the shore of a remote Latin American village, a group of children naturally poke at the strange object to see what it is. The orb explodes, leaving the children completely blind. And when a beautiful young woman who may be an alien is found wandering the seafront, she’s taken in by the townspeople, but soon becomes a person of interest to a quirky pair of undercover CIA agents, and the target of affection for a young scientist. Can they come together to prevent an all-out alien invasion and save the souls in this sleepy, seaside town?”

Though you’ll have to wait until October 14 to read the first issue, I caught up with Gilbert Hernandez to talk about his new mini-series. In our wide-ranging discussion, we covered everything from his creative partnership with Cooke to his childhood inspiration for the series and beyond.

Nerdist: For the uninitiated can you explain what The Twilight Children is about.

Gilbert Hernandez: Without giving too much away, it’s sort of a mystery about why there are these alien forces coming down on this innocent, small fishing village and how the characters react to it. Some of them react to it like it has happened before, and some are seeing this as a new phenomenon, but no one’s sure what it really is. We’re really looking at how the characters react to one another and the mysterious forces that are coming to their island — or seaside village.

N: You mentioned that people are unsure how to react. The storytelling has an almost Rashomon-like quality to it where you’re never quite sure who or what to believe. Was that intentional as a way to keep the reader off-balance?

GH: No, that’s just incompetence as a writer I think. [laughs] I didn’t even consider that, but it actually works that way. It can be looked at literally from that point of view or simply that it’s such a strange phenomenon. Since I was a young person, I always wondered what would it really be like if we had some sort of alien force entering our world. If it actually was a concrete thing showing up on our planet, how would people react. In films, it always turns into a military thing, which makes sense. But here, I’m trying to see how everyday people would react to the change in life on our planet.

N: Without giving too much away, there’s still a government element, but it’s not like an Area 51/martial law-type scenario that you’d see in most movies. It feels very grounded and honest.

GH: Right. That’s how I think it would start out at first. In real life, I don’t know how quickly the military would be involved, especially in an isolated situation like this. People were stunned and confused on 9/11, and that was an insidious literal event. I don’t know how quickly things would happen with something as vague as this when it’s so removed from the outside world.

N: Especially when it’s not immediately perceived as a threat per se.

GH: Exactly.

N: Did the impetus for this story come from that sense of childlike wonderment about how an event like this might unfold?

GH: I discovered this late in my career, but I tend to start my stories from a child’s point of view. Even if it ends up being an adult story for adults, it usually starts with a child’s point of view and I develop from there. With this story, I kind of stayed there in that sense of wonder, at first.

N: Does that child’s point of view let you access a sense of wonder and adventure that wouldn’t necessarily be authentic in an older character?

GH: It would be different. An older character would see things in a more opportunistic way. So what can I get out of this? What rewards can I get out of this? Even older folks, meaning adults, would be completely terrified by it or act upon it with anger. Look at the zombie TV shows we have now — they react with intense fear and confusion or hostile action. There’s nothing wonderful about zombies eating people, but there might be something wonderful about a glowing orb in the ocean.

N: I’ll take a glowing orb over a flesh-eating monster any day of the week.

GH: [laughs] Yeah, at least for about a week. Then you’d get scared of the orb.

N: I’m curious how you intend to fit this entire story into four issues. Are you going to expand it beyond its initial scope? It seems like a pretty sprawling story you’ve set up here.

GH: It pretty much doesn’t get more involved as far as the plot goes; we tend to stay where we are in the first two issues, building towards the inevitable end — which, of course, I can’t tell you about.

N: Rats. I thought I was going to get a sweet exclusive. I was beyond excited when I saw you would be collaborating with Darwyn Cooke on this project. How did that partnership come about and what was the experience like?

GH: It’s actually been too easy. Shelly Bond, our editor over at Vertigo, came up with the idea of putting two different artists together. I come from more of an indie scene and my strengths are more in storytelling and writing, and Darwyn, you know, has his own way of storytelling and writing but he’s stronger in the visual sense. So much stronger than I am there. So working with him was ideal because I knew I could put so much of myself into it and the rest he could take care of because I’m completely aware of his storytelling strengths. So I didn’t get in his way and made sure there was plenty of himself he could put into it, and he has. The work he’s done on these four issues is pretty amazing.

N: Do you find that you prefer collaborating with another creator or do you like to be in control of every aspect?

GH: Normally I like to just do my own comics, like with Love & Rockets and such, but this was an opportunity where I just wanted to let it happen. I don’t often work with collaborators just because I like to do my own stuff, but this was an opportunity to try and tell this kind of story with someone else. Especially since I knew he was a really strong storyteller. I wasn’t worried about the book itself or the promotion; I was thinking that I need to make this really strong while keeping myself out of the way in a way.

N: Shifting gears slightly, music has been a large influence on your work and this comic seems like it’s begging for a soundtrack. What did you listen to while you were creating it and/or what would you recommend listening to while reading it?

GH: You know, that’s a good question. I didn’t think about it. I guess it became sort of a tropical, almost a Caribbean island the way it turned out, so some sort of Caribbean music. [laughs]

Twilight Children #1 is available on October 14 from Vertigo Comics.

Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. You can follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious)

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