The Broadcast: Interview With Writer Eric Hobbs

To go along with my Broadcast contest, giving away a copy of the graphic novel, that ends today, writer Eric Hobbs was kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. The Broadcast, by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon and published by NBM, tells how four families in a rural Indiana town react to hearing Orson Welles’ WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast on October 30, 1938. Halfway through, the town loses power, so they miss the revelation the events were fictional.

The Broadcast cover
The Broadcast
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Eric, what spurred the plot idea?

So many stories are born out of a “What If?” scenario. That’s what happened here. I can still remember the moment I first listened to the Orson Welles broadcast, and I — quite literally — felt the hair go up on my arms as story ideas started running through my mind. What if there was a group of people out there that never got word the “alien invasion” they’d heard about was a hoax? What would happen? How would they react? I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go with it, but I knew that it was a special idea, something people would immediately be interested in. I’d never had an idea hit me quite like this one did, and truthfully, I haven’t had one since.

How long did you work on the story? Any significant bumps along the way?

It took me a long time to get the story right. There were a lot of starts and stops along the way because I really wanted to make sure I did the story justice. There were a few times I started writing and realized forty or fifty pages in that I just wasn’t ready yet. Once I finally got hold of the story, it took me about five or six months to get a final draft done. For Noel, it was a few years to get this thing finished.

As for bumps along the way? There was one pretty significant one. I originally planned to quote some of Orson’s play within the pages of the book and didn’t look to clear the rights until Noel and I had finished. I naively thought it would be a pretty easy process, only to find out that securing those rights was going to be a lot harder than I thought. That was a scary time because, quite honestly, I didn’t know if the book would work without the quotes. It required some creative solutions to work through that, but I think the book is better for it.

Do you think panic from the broadcast was widespread, or has the effect been exaggerated into an urban legend over the years?

They say more than a million people were fooled by the broadcast. That seems pretty high, so it makes you wonder. But Orson did such a great job presenting the story. If you look up radio news broadcasts from that era and then listen to Orson’s play — there’s no difference in the production at all. The news bulletins in THE WAR OF THE WORLDS sound just like the news bulletins that were reporting Hitler’s activity overseas.

Also, I think it’s easy for us to look back and say that we wouldn’t have been duped like so many people were. The radio was their only real means for getting up-to-date news. It was their version of CNN. How would we react if Anderson Cooper was reporting from the crash landing of a spaceship? It’s easy to say we might be skeptical, but I had this conversation with someone else recently. I think there are a lot of entertainers that are passing for newsmen these days, and some of them are scaring the hell out of people. The only difference is — these folks are serious. At least when Orson was done, he was nice enough to jump out of the bushes and say, “Boo!” Know what I mean?

How did you come to work with Noel Tuazon?

I was working with someone who had collaborated with Noel in the past, and he recommended him. At first, I wasn’t sure he was going to be a good fit, but I saw a style he was using in a few illustrations on his website and thought that if he could bring that style to THE BROADCAST it was going to be a perfect collaboration. I wanted someone who could give the book the look and feel of an old black-and-white movie from the 30s, and that’s exactly what Noel did.

What was your collaborative process?

I gave him a few scenes at a time, and we went from there. He didn’t give me any real notes, but he definitely helped me to find better ways to tell the story. There were so many times when he came back with a better way to let a scene unfold. Sometimes he would add a few panels to make things a little more clear. Sometimes he changed the “camera angle” to make things feel a little more dynamic. Even though I was writing and he was drawing, it felt like a true collaboration to me. Hopefully, he feels the same.

What else are you working on?

I’ve got a book coming out from Arcana called AWAKENINGS. It collects a mini-series that I self published a few years back but couldn’t see through to the end because … well, because I’d run out of money. It’s a book that was very well reviewed and built up a nice little following when I moved it online a little while back. The first issue is still up on my website, and I invite everyone to check that out. I think everyone will agree that it’s a real grabber.

Other than that, right now my focus is on a pretty ambitious all-ages series I’m working on called THE LIBRARIAN. There’s a lot of talk these days that we need to make comics for kids so that we can grow the industry, but when you take an all-ages book to publishers, a lot of them shy away from it, because they’re not sure how to go about selling it. I understand that, but someone has to get out there and lead the way. And don’t get me wrong, there are some really good kids books. AMULET at Scholastic is awesome. So is BONE. We just need more. I think I’ve got an idea that will not only get kids into comics but might go a long way to getting them excited about reading in general. That’s the plan, at least. The project’s getting some interest, so hopefully I’ll have something to announce on that soon.

Tying into the contest, what was your favorite Halloween costume?

Oh, man! Last year, my family and I created a butcher’s shop in my garage for the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. I dressed as a crazed butcher who had murdered his family and was selling their meat. It was great! I had a grill where I was cooking hands and feet. There were racks of ribs and body bags hanging from the ceiling. Bones were scattered across the floor. There was blood everywhere. One of my kids was up on the butcher table, ready to be sawed up. My youngest was in a cage screaming for help because she was next. Fog was creeping along the floor, and we had sound effects you wouldn’t believe. We had so much fun, and everyone in the neighborhood loved it. There were kids that know us very well that wouldn’t come inside because they were scared. And now, everyone expects us to do something this year too. We’ve only got a couple days, but we’re going to come up with something. I think it’s become a Hobbs family tradition.


3 Responses to “The Broadcast: Interview With Writer Eric Hobbs”

  1. Interview on The Broadcast : NBM Blog Says:

    [...] writer of the acclaimed new release The Broadcast, is interviewed by Joanna Draper Carlson on Comics Worth Reading. Share and [...]

  2. Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Creators | Johanna Draper Carlson chats with Eric Hobbs, writer of NMB’s The Broadcast. [Comics Worth Reading] [...]

  3. Good Comics at the Comic Shop April 16 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] wanted to like Family Ties (NBM, $13.99) by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon, the team behind The Broadcast, but I couldn’t follow the art at key points. It’s a great concept — a version of […]

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