Robert Venditti is known by many as the current co-writer of THE FLASH as well as the writer for X-O MANOWAR. When he's not writing comics, he's working on his novels. A new novel geared for the middle school age (but perfectly suitable for older readers as well) was just released last week. Miles Taylor and the Golden Cape: Attack of the Alien Horde focuses on a twelve year old kid getting thrown into the world of superheroes as well as an alien invasion. And you though middle school was tough for you.
We asked Robert some questions about the book to let everyone know more about it. My daughter and I are currently both reading it. She's really digging it.
COMIC VINE: What's your quick sales pitch in describing the story?
ROBERT VENDITTI:Attack of the Alien Horde is Greatest American Hero meets Independence Day, starring a seventh grader. The story follows Miles Taylor, who comes into possession of a cape that transforms him into Gilded, the real-life superhero protector of Atlanta. But the cape doesn’t always work the way Miles wants it to, so he has to figure things out before an army of alien invaders called the Unnd arrives to steal the cape and use it for their own nefarious ends, which includes destroying Earth. It’s your classic origin story, but with a lot of surprises along the way.
CV: How long have you had the idea to write this young adult novel?
VENDITTI: It’s been more than ten years at least. I originally conceived of it as a five-issue comic book series, and I wrote the first issue shortly after Top Shelf gave me the contract for THE SURROGATES. Something about the script just wasn’t working though, so I put the story in a drawer and moved on to other things. Years later when I was working on the graphic novel adaptations of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, my editor, Christian Trimmer, asked if I had any ideas for a children’s story of my own. That’s when it dawned on me that Miles Taylor hadn’t worked before because I’d tried writing it for a grown-up audience. As soon as I thought about it as a story for younger readers, everything clicked.
CV: What's it like putting on a different hat and writing an adventure book suitable for all ages with action and humor compared to writing more intense stories in some of your comics?
VENDITTI: I think you said it exactly right. Most of the stories I’ve written in my career are more intense and intended for older audiences. With each project I take on, though, I want to challenge myself with unfamiliar things—content, format, structure, and so on—so I can hopefully expand my skillset and grow as a writer. This was an opportunity to work not just in a different format, but also for a different audience. Double the challenge.
CV: What made you decide to incorporate actual comic pages into the story illustrated by Dusty Higgins?
VENDITTI: Honestly, I thought it’d be fun. The book is mostly prose, but it contains sixty-five pages of comics. The goal is to combine the interiority and quiet moments that prose does so well with the big action and visual set pieces of comics. So whenever Miles turns into Gilded, the pages switch over to comics. When he takes the cape off, everything goes back to prose.
CV: What was your inspiration for the alien race, the Unnd?
VENDITTI: I enjoy really over-the-top villains. I also wanted them to be mean and scary, and where I grew up in South Florida, alligators are as mean and scary as it gets. So there’s a heavy “alligator” element to their design. But the Unnd have a culture, just like we do. They have moms who pack their lunches, just like we do. The difference is they do all of that while following their leader, Lord Commander Calamity, on his mission to conquer the entire universe. Unfortunately for Miles and the rest of humanity, their next target is Earth.
CV: What would do if you got a cape that gave you superpowers when you were in middle school?
VENDITTI: I’d probably make a lot of the same mistakes Miles does. He gets the cape by chance, and he has no idea how to actually be a superhero. There’s a lot more to it than just flying or lifting cars—there’s knowing which powers to use when, and how to use them in a way that doesn’t destroy a water tower or cause you to crash into a pine tree. And, as Miles does, I’d definitely try to use the cape to impress the girl I liked, or get back at the bully who’s zeroing in on me. And I’d probably experience the same disastrous results.
CV: What message do you have for anyone that is or was bullied in school?
VENDITTI: In the book, Miles has just moved and left behind all his former friends. He’s the new kid in his school, and he gets picked on by the more popular kids. We’ve all been there. Even the bullies have been bullied. If you’re someone who’s having trouble like that, talk about it. Talk to your parents or your grandparents or your older siblings. Talk to a teacher or counselor. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s the bully who’s being the jerk.
CV: Could we possibly see more Miles Taylor books in the future?
VENDITTI: Absolutely. Book Two, Rise of the Robot Army, will be on shelves next summer.
CV: That's great to hear. My daughter is half way through and asked me to ask you if there'd be another.
Be sure to look for MILES TAYLOR AND THE GOLDEN CAPE: ATTACK OF THE ALIEN HORDE from Simon & Schuster books. It's now on sale!