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The Intergalactic Nemesis Strikes Back

The live action graphic novel debuts book two this week

By Richard Whittaker, 4:00PM, Thu. Jun. 7, 2012

The Intergalactic Nemesis Strikes Back

After a pan-galactic trip (well, to the nation's stages) Austin's live action graphic novel The Intergalactic Nemesis lands at home base aka the Long Center. That's fine for show producer Jason Neulander, who was busy before Friday's debut of Book Two: Robot Planet Rising. "I'm in the theater right now," he said, "and that's the place I love to be the most."

The show mixes the best of old-school radio drama, classic pulp action comics and modern AV wizardry, with a cast providing a live performance to projected images of rip-roaring sci-fi adventure. The show began 16 years ago as an experimental piece of 'non-broadcast radio drama' at the old Little City coffee shop on the Drag, and has morphed over time into a real radio drama and comic series, before becoming the cine-audio-theatrical experience it is today. The latest adventures of two-fisted journalist Molly Sloan and her sidekick/researcher Timmy Mendez blast off from where Book One: Target Earth left off. This time there's a lot less Cthulhu and a lot more cybernetics as the daringly animated duo head to Robonovia, the robot planet.

And where did this heady mix of old and new come from? "My influence on this show is Steve Martin's The Jerk," said Neulander. Actually, the real basis was a show he co-wrote with Ray Colgan and Jessica Reisman back in Nemesis' early days at Salvage Vanguard, called Return of the Intergalactic Nemesis. Should be easy, right? After all, Book One was battle-ready and road-tested, its unique blend of live voice-over and foley, digital projection and pulp joy proven. However, converting the old radio-friendly script to this new format was not so simple. "To get it to the level of the first one required a massive overhaul," said Neulander. "That was the toughest pill to swallow, that we would require a two year writing process."

The show has also been through a series of previews, starting earlier this year at Staple! and culminating with a double sneak preview last weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse (cue some last minute tweaking of the visuals and the comedic and dramatic timing.) The newest volume combines with the pulp sensibilities of the original with something Neulander picked up from a recent read of the A Song of Ice and Fire, the books behind Game of Thrones. This time, the action moves away from Molly and into four interwoven plots "Where the audience becomes aware of the big picture, but the characters are not," said Neulander.

The Nemesis crew are used to a bit of hard work and rewrites. It also helped that Neulander had his team assembled (including Richard Linklater's go-to composer Graham Reynolds and one-man foley machine Buzz Moran) plus he didn't have to learn Keynote (the software behind the visuals) again. He said, "In many respects, I feel like when we did Book One at the Long Center and there was the immediate popular support and booking a tour, that made me realize that everything we had done was a long, sporadic workshop, but that the real premier of the project was September 2010. So in that sense, having gone through that long development process, this project was a lot easier."

Did Neulander ever expect the show to be where it is today? "No," he said. "That's the good short answer." He was still reeling a bit from making the pages of today's Wall Street Journal, and that came after an appearance on Conan. He said, "Being in the middle of it, it's really hard to have any perspective. It's really fun, but it's a lot of hard work."

Even with the success to date, Neulander still has those old impresario jitters. He said, "I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Will people come? Will the show do well on the world? Will venues want us back? There's a lot of questions in my mind, and I think they will be answered in another year or two." So far, the signs are good. Book One: Target Earth continues its 2012 tour, with dates across the Mid-West and the East Coast through October. Now Book Two: Robot Planet Rising expands the story and the project into new and unexplored domains. Neulander said, "My goal with this project is to make this sustainable in the long term."

The premier of The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book Two: Robot Planet Rising, Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside, 8pm, June 8. Tickets and information at www.theintergalacticnemesis.com.

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