Generation Zero or, as I’ve come to fondly call them, the Murder Kids, have been a team that has had an on and off focus in the Valiant Universe since they debuted in “Harbinger Wars”. Between “Death of a Renegade” and “Armor Hunters” they have been stepping more and more out of the shadows. Now, they are finally ready to take center stage in their own ongoing series. We spoke with series writer, Fred Van Lente, about what is to come for these teen soldiers and the weirdness in the world they’ll encounter.
In addition, after the interview, scroll down for an exclusive first look at the series’ first three pages of line art from series artist Francis Portela.
“Generation Zero” has been a group in Valiant I’ve been waiting to see get a book. But for those not in the know & curious: What is Generation Zero and –more importantly- what is Generation Zero to you?
Fred Van Lente: Generation Zero is a mysterious group of human weapons raised by a military contractor. Upon reaching their teenage years, they escaped captivity and are now roaming the countryside helping fellow teens out of their problems, mostly with explosions and attitude. They are teenage delinquent superheroes without adult supervision, or scruples.
As you discussed at the Valiant Summit, the book is taking place in a town called Rook, Michigan. What can you tell us about this location and its impact going forward?
FVL: Rook is a town in Michigan that is sort of modeled after a place like Flint, which after struggling for some time, had then been taken over by an emergency manager from the state. Miraculously, it turned into a high-tech hub overnight. A young girl named Keisha Sherman wants to know why, particularly because it seems to have resulted in the death of her beloved boyfriend. So she’s brought in Generation Zero to solve the case, but their methods are … shall we say … unpredictable?
Generation Zero has always been a large group, but you’re going to be more focused. What can you tell us about the members you’re focusing on and how you see them?
FVL: I’m introducing a lot of new characters along with Rook, so that necessitated me pairing down the Gen Zero roster a bit. You still have the group’s driven leader, Cronus, and his no-nonsense lieutenant, Telic. Animalia, who considers herself the Wolverine of the group even though her power is transforming into adorable cartoon animals, remains a fan favorite. Cloud, a kind of dreamy telepath, is their communications specialist — she rounds out the core group. The creepy Zygos Twins are still with us, knowing more than anyone really has a right to about everything.
But the new member, Gamete the Super Fetus, will be the breakout character find of 2016, I think. She is a psychic fetus. She’s not inclined to leave her sadly brain-dead mother, whom she controls with her mind. Gamete’s mom is the token adult in the group.
For me, ever since Generation Zero was introduced in “Harbinger Wars”, there has always been an underlying thread talking about abuse and PTSD since these kids were so manipulated by Project Rising Spirit. How would you say such treatment will impact the story going forward?
FVL: What you’ll see in this book is that. Kind of like the hyper-militarization of the police force in America, these kids are hyper-militarized super-powered teens who want to apply a military solution to everything. Which you know, isn’t always the way to go, and it results in big smoking craters. Keisha, who brought them in, may be the one to help them see that maybe blowing things up and killing lots of people shouldn’t, you know, be the go-to situation 100% of the time.
It is no secret that representation on the page has become more important than it has ever been. This is especially true in light of the harrowing events in Orlando. Young adulthood has always been a time of discovering who your true self is, especially in the LGBQT+ community. Basically, my question is, how much do you take this into consideration when crafting the story?Continued below
FVL: A lot. I think that what makes the teenage experience unique is that you’re on the precipice of leaving your parents’ home and making your own way in the world, and you may not have a fully formed self yet with which do that yet. It’s kind of like jumping out an airplane and realizing you forgot the chute. That’s where a lot of fear and excitement, and the drama of the high school experience, comes from. That’s kind of part of the meaning of the subtitle of the first arc, WE ARE THE FUTURE. All time, the future is both simultaneously rushing right at us and over us before we know it. It’s that kind of insanity of hyper-reality I’m really looking for in this book.
You’re joining forces with a long-time cohort, Francis Portela on art duties (him having just come off the recent “Faith” mini-series) with Andrew Dalhouse on coloring. How has the collaboration process work been between you three in creating some of the tech and weirdness we’ll see in Rook?
FVL: I’m so excited to work with Francis, paired with Andrew, to create a whole new world for this book, which he’s doing with such talent and gusto. It’s really quite amazing, as I hope you’ll see in the art with this interview. I really hope this book catapults him to super-star status: It’s what he deserves.
“Generation Zero” seems to be a very different book from “Archer & Armstrong” and “Ivar, Timewalker” and even “Legends of the Geomancer”. What is the kind of tone you set out for as you write?
FVL: Archie meets The Authority. That’s my tagline, and I’m stickin’ too it!
Any other teasers you may want to give out for our readers?
FVL: Beware the Cornermen. Hang blankets over any ninety-degree angles in your room. You’ll see what I mean when you read the issue…
“Generation Zero” #1 will be on sale August 24th.