Undertow Writer Steve Orlando Talks "The Osama bin Laden of Atlantis"


Coming on February 19, Image Comics will launch Undertow, a new series that follows a group of fugitives from Atlantis seeking respite and a life on the surface world. Written by Upstate New York native Steve Orlando, the book will be drawn by Siberian artist Artyom Trakahanov, who is likely one of the only people who can understand Syracuse's brutal weather and never-ending snow (that joke works better on a week when the rest of the country isn't plunged into a polar vortex, but what are you going to do?). Orlando joined ComicBook.com to discuss the upcoming series. ComicBook.com: Alright, so this is an Image book and you don't have an army of PR men at your disposal. What's the elevator pitch for your series? Steve Orlando: In short, it's a reverse Atlantis story. It's an Atlantis story without the Atlantis. I was going back over some stuff about 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and I decided I was going to do 20,000 Leagues Above the Sea. So it's about Atlantean explorers, exploring and pioneering the surface world in a watertight airship as a way to escape the corruption and consumerism and evil that's in Atlantis. The reason we can have that is in this story, unlike your Aquamans and your Namors, this depiction of Atlantis is completely modern. It's like those seahorse rides and those medieval times were 500 or 1,000 years ago for them. So now they're just as technologically advanced as we are and in many ways they're just as corrupt and self-centered as we are--and maybe a little bit more. So for people who want to escape that, our lead character Redum Anshargal is the answer. He'll let you join his society if you're willing to risk your life for freedom, which is essentially the crux of the book. Freedom is not the same thing as safety so in order to escape Atlantis, these people have to live in essentially the most dangerous place in the world, which is where there's no water. And finding that happen is sort of what our characters are all about. ComicBook.com: How political is the book? It seems like there's a lot of allusions that can be made here. Orlando: It's an adventure book first and foremost. When I talk about things like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, that sort of tackles politics. Certainly there is talk and you see what's going on in Atlantis; you see the excess, you see the one-party system. But just like you had Nemo in that book, who has a political background and is a fugitive, the book is really about the characters and their lives outside of that. So you certainly see what's going on in Atlantis and you see what drives the characters to want to escape it. Our other main character comes from a very wealthy family. His family have basicall planned his entire life including his trophy wife marriage and so he wants to get out of that terribly--enough so that first he enlists in the Army to sort of embarrass them by getting a blue collar job--but then it's an even better opportunity when "Oh, my gosh, they can think I'm a traitor? This is fantastic." People are wanting to get out; it's sort of like the millennial deluge in some ways, which--I'm 28 so I see that type of thing myself. Some people are totally fine being floated along and if bad things are happening and they're not seeing it then it's not that big a deal. Other people want to make their own way. So there's definitely a political background, but as with most of my work, there's plenty of punching. It is an adventure book; there's huge monsters, Ray Harryhausen types. I like fighting big monsters; I like putting the danger back in exploration. So all of that is sort of a structure for why these people are doing what they're doing. We visit Atlantis and the closest thing you'll see to a political undertone is that with our lead character Redum Anshargal, we see that he's pretty heroic but of course everyone in Atlantis thinks that he's a murdering terrorist. So there are a lot of plays on expectations with who people think he is. Everybody recognizes him and in a lot of ways he's the Osama bin Laden of Atlantis, except in this case it's all bulls--t. This just scratches the surface of our conversation with Undertow writer Steve Orlando. Check back on Friday for the full interview, along with a review of the first issue.