In 2014, writer Jeff Parker (Hulk, Ninjak) and artist Sandy Jarrell (Batman ’66) joined forces to release Meteor Men. The series focused on the young Alden Baylor, who after watching the “largest meteor shower in human history,” becomes embroiled in an intergalactic struggle, with mankind at the very center of the conflict.
Now, some seven-plus years later, the duo have reunited for an expanded edition of the popular series. Due out in February 2022 via Oni Press, this new collection features “20 new pages of story and art interspersed with the original pages.” For more insight into the project, we touched base with Parker and Jarrell via email, where they spoke about the goal of the expansion, why the story still matters these days, their collaborative process, and much more.
Following the Q&A, enjoy some exclusive art (courtesy of Oni Press) from the expanded edition!
AIPT: How would you describe this book to someone who missed out on it the first time?
Jeff Parker: Meteor Men is a graphic novel about the end of the world we understand. The title and logo treatment evoke an “Alien Invasion” story, but our version is really in the area of Evolution- it’s about a new species arriving to fill an ecological niche, pushing out the dominant species- us. At the center of our story is a teenager, Alden Baylor, who’s already been forced to deal with profound changes in his life and has a strange connection to one of the new Arrivals.
AIPT: What can you tell me about the new story and art that’s added? Why did you decide to do this “add-on” right now?
JP: Oni Press offered us the opportunity to go bigger that wasn’t there the first go-round. We had a few scenes we’d discussed that the book worked fine without, but now putting them in really fleshes out the world of Meteor Men.
AIPT: What does this material do in terms of adding or expanding the story (without spoiling too much, obviously)? And what about the look and feel of the book?
JP: The new scenes are gorgeous. Sandy does some particularly amazing things with color in them that are impressive. One of the scenes uses all double-page spreads and more fluid storytelling to get across the perspective of the aliens’ life.
Sandy Jarrell: We gain insight into the aliens, Alden, and Maya. It all adds depth, and improves the story. I’m glad we had the space.
AIPT: Expanding on that last question, is there a new moment or tidbit from the added pages that you like the most or that feels most important somehow?
JP: Alden has a romantic interest with his schoolmate Maya, and we had a perfect place to let them have a relaxed impromptu date- a full day together where they get to be young adults not worrying about the monumental crisis going on around them. That calm before the storm makes everything that happens after so much more potent, it makes you very aware of how special normal life is when forces come together to change everything.
SJ: Oh man, The Date. The whole scene. I knew before it was written that it’d be great, it’s the sort of character thing that Parker really excels at. It’s so sweet, and adds to the story more than I imagined it would. And my expectations were high!
AIPT: Is the collaborative process between writer and artist different or new this time around?
JP: No, I still write full script and tweak things to match any cool changes or ideas Sandy comes up with. He was the one to immediately bring up that we had the chance to do The Date this time. He was always perfect for drawing this- we both have teenage kids ourselves, but Sandy seems able to remember what it’s like to be a teenager better than most people I know. Watch the way he makes them interact and move and behave in general. You get a sense of their inner life even when they’re not speaking. This is important because teens are so often presented as caricatures in fiction, or idealized by the memories of the creators. The cast all feel very real here, and it grounds a story that has some wilder sci-fi concepts at play. That dynamic is what makes it all work
SJ: The process was exactly the same, yep! Parker’s such a visual thinker that his scripts are a real joy to draw, and if I ever change anything it’s more an accident than a conscious decision.
AIPT: What are the challenges and opportunities of adding new bits/elements to a story that’s seven-plus years by now?
JP: Surprisingly, it wasn’t challenging at all- we had to alter very little existing dialogue to make it fit together. I’ve always been proud of the story and am even more so now. When you have a solid framework, it lends itself to building on.
SJ: The biggest challenge for me was trying to match the art style in a book that was drawn so long ago. We started work in 2011, so there’s 10 year old art in there- it’s my first paid, professional work. Matching the old ended up being so challenging that I just gave up and got to work. So now the book has analog dip-pen and brush pages bumping up against shiny new all-digital ones. The challenge now is on the reader, to pretend everything matches!
AIPT: Could this story be more relevant now given the, um, state of the world? Or has your connection with the material/story changed at all?
JP: That’s a great point, because many readers are probably going to assume we made it all in the context of the world at this moment, since the focus is on the imminent change/possible end of civilization. We were aware of environmental threats then too, but now they’re inescapable. I won’t spell out the themes and issues of the book because I want readers to find their own conclusions, but we don’t provide any easy answers for our situation, which is why I think it rings true.
AIPT: Why should anyone pick up the newly-expanded Meteor Men?
JP: If you’re at all interested in a possible way First Contact with a strange new life-form might play out, you should read Meteor Men. This is a story that acknowledges that young adults have a big say in how the future is going to happen and I hope you find some universal truths in the novel. As I asked readers before, please resist the impulse to flip ahead and get a sense of what happens towards the end, because there are some big reveals that are better experienced as you reach them.
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