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OH NO, ZYGONIANS! The cast of Intergalactic Nemesis finds itself battling an army of sludge-monsters
from outer space.

In a tech-driven, retrofanatical culture such as ours, a creative act as simple as fusing together a few classic mediums can pay enormous aesthetic dividends. That’s what Austin, Texas, dramatist Jason Neulander has discovered with The Intergalactic Nemesis, his sci-fi, big-screen-projected graphic novel staged as a live-audience radio play, which makes a stop along its international tour at the Merrill Auditorium this Thursday, February 27.

Written almost 20 years ago and revised by Neulander in 2007, The Intergalactic Nemesis culls from a variety of 20th-century literary forms to tell a celestial epic set in 1933, wherein a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter named Molly Sloan and her curious team of researchers bounce around — and beyond — the globe to defend Earth against “an invading force of sludge-monsters from outer space” known as the Zygonians.

I spoke with Neulander about the many lives of his graphic novel, which has evolved from a small-time staged reading fit for a coffee shop into the sui generis, three-part dramatic event it is today.

Where did the plot come from? Was it pure imagination? Any real world parallels you’d like to talk about? The plot is pure imagination, but it’s inspired by a whole bunch of “real” fictional things. Sci-fi movies of the ’80s have had a huge impact on the plot. There’s elements of The Terminator, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars; but also, particularly when you get into the nitty-gritties of the script, Golden Age holiday films — Double Indemnity, and Philadelphia Story in particular. It’s also heavily inspired by pulp short story sci-fi of the mid-20th century.

This story has taken a number of different forms. Do you think the stage version of the graphic novel is its fullest realization or are there other places you could go? Well, that’s a two-part question. When we came up with the live graphic novel version, it was so clear that everything that had come before was just a workshop. We originally did it in the mid ’90s, and [Portland actor] Corey [Gagne, who had been living in Austin] was involved in 2000 when I mounted it as an evening-length project. And we only went back to it in 2007 when me and a writer named Chad Nichols did a top-to-bottom overhaul that was tied to doing a stage commercially in New York City. The New York version never happened, but the rewrite did, and that became the basis for what the show is today. Now it’s so fully formed that it’s hard to look back and believe we ever did it as a radio play. As a live experience, I’m good with that, until someone makes a musical version — which I definitely hope happens, but that someone will not be me. My dream is for the trilogy to turn into feature films.

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