‘Not All Robots’ Interview: Mark Russell Asks…Can Humans And Robots Co-Exist?
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
In the year 2056, robots have replaced human beings in the workforce. Naturally, that has caused quite a bit of friction between humans and automatons. Oh, and then it gets worse…
In the following interview, Mark Russell (Flintstones, Fantastic Four: Life Story) talks about NOT ALL ROBOTS, his new series with artist Mike Deodato (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Resistance)! Hitting comic shops today from AWA studios, the new series asks the question: can humans and robots co-exist? Or are we all destined for conflict? Answer carefully. Your smartphone is listening…
PREVIEWSworld: What’s with our collective fascination with killer robots? You’re clearly not alone in your interest in them.
Mark Russell: I think it’s because this is the future we all secretly suspect is waiting for us. Artificial intelligence and the singularity seem like a fait accompli at this point and if we design it to be anything like us, it will probably behave dismissively toward any form of life it regards to be lower on the food chain. Maybe this is why we don’t put any effort into solving the actual problems the human race faces. We feel like we’re at the end so we’ve collectively decided to take a senior skip day.
PREVIEWSworld: So what is NOT ALL ROBOTS?
Mark Russell: The pat answer is that it tells the story of a future when all jobs are held by sentient robots, so the powers that be deal with the fact that no human can get a job by assigning a robot to every human household, to act as their breadwinner. Predictably, this creates a lot of resentment, both on the part of the humans who have to deal with this monster living in their house, and on the part of the robot, who has to support the humans in its care. In a more abstract sense, it’s a loose metaphor for toxic masculinity.
PREVIEWSworld: Tell us about the Walters. Why do we end up reading about their household?
Mark Russell: They are the human family this story follows. They are pretty nervous about having a robot in the house, except for the father, Donny, that is. He feels like maybe he was the house robot before they got an actual robot, so he sympathizes with Razorball, the Walters’ housebot.
PREVIEWSworld: What can you tell us about Razorball?
Mark Russell: Razorball feels like the Walters don’t really care about him and that they’re just biding their time until they can replace him, which is a real possibility because there is a new product, a more human-like line of robots called mandroids that are on the way.
PREVIEWSworld: Is your story decidedly anti-robot or pro-robot? Or somewhere in-between?
Mark Russell: It’s not really either. It’s against reducing people and robots to their economic function. It’s pro-accepting that people (and robots) have value independently of how economically useful they are.
PREVIEWSworld: Any particular reason you chose the year 2056 to kick things off?
Mark Russell: It’s a pretty arbitrary date, but I was thinking forty years after the 2016 election. Forty years after it became incredibly apparent how powerful social media algorithms were as forces shaping human destiny.
PREVIEWSworld: You’ve got Mike Deodato involved? How has the creative process been between you two?
Mark Russell: Mike and I don’t communicate a whole lot, actually. Mostly because his initial designs and his grasp of the world was so good and polished right out of the gate. He’s an incredible artist and I’m really looking forward to people seeing what he’s done with this title.
PREVIEWSworld: In terms of audience, who is NOT ALL ROBOTS for?
Mark Russell: I guess everything I write is written for people like myself. Which is, to say, people who look at the world and wonder how it all went so wrong when it could have been a party for all concerned. People who like science fiction best when it operates as a sort of social metaphor.