Interview: Jeff Loveness on BOOM! Studios’ Strange Skies Over East Berlin

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1


Jeff Loveness has written for TV shows including Rick & Morty and Jimmy Kimmel Live. He has also written comics including Groot, World Reader, and Judas. Now he brings you a gripping tale of aliens and Cold War intrigue in Strange Skies Over East Berlin from BOOM! Studios.

Westfield: Where did the idea of Strange Skies Over East Berlin come from?

Jeff Loveness: I’ve always been a huge fan of Cold War intrigue – like John Le Carre novels or The Lives of Others. And I also love Cold War sci-fi, especially the more bleak, atmospheric stuff Solaris and Stalker from Tarkovsky. I thought it would be fun to fuse those atmospheres together and throw some paranoid body-horror like Alien or The Thing into the mix and see what came out. Comics allow you to swirl so many genres and emotions together, and I think we’ve got something really cool for people.

It’s also about secrets and the power of truth and guilt. We’re living in a time where truth is fundamentally broken, and I’m not sure how we recover from this. But the Cold War was also a time of deep, deep division. Truth and Secrets were absolute currently. So if I was a spy, I can’t imagine a worse nightmare than running across an alien threat that could enter your mind and turn all your secrets against you. Suddenly, your flags and walls don’t matter so much anymore. It’s a story about both sides of the Cold War realizing just how utterly useless and broken they’ve become in the shadow of a much larger threat.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 1

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 1


Westfield: What can you tell us about the spy Herring?

Loveness: Herring is an American spy within the Iron Curtain, posing as a member of the East German secret police – or STASI. He’s a spy trapped within a world of spies. And when an alien threat comes down and starts unleashing everyone’s secrets and trauma, Herring finds himself in the most dangerous position possible. He needs to get to the bottom of what the GDR and Soviets have found… but also keep himself hidden and alive against this telepathic force he can’t defend against. It’s a really fun dichotomy.

And as he gets closer and closer to his goal, we’ll start to learn more about Herring and the deep secrets he’s been trying to bury – even from himself. He’s a good vessel to explore American sin and hubris – both during the Cold War and today. Plus there’s an Inspector Javert type Stasi man after him, who is absolutely one of my favorite people to write. I love Javert types. Not sure why. That probably says something revealing about me.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 2

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 2


Westfield: While this is a fantastic story, it is rooted in a real time and place. How much research did you do for the series?

Loveness: Tons. I read several books on Cold War Germany and the Soviet Union, traveled to Berlin to get some firsthand historical research – especially on The Stasi. Also watched some documentaries and German films to get a better sense of the ambience of the time. The story is by no means a historical account, but I wanted it to feel authentic and human. It’s a truly fascinating time in history. East Germany was one of the most harsh security states in the world… but it’s also shocking how familiar yet slightly different so much of it feels. Back then, men would come into your home and bug everything for the state… but now we pay Amazon to put a smart speaker in our home that records everything for them so hundreds of outside companies can harvest our information… and I guess we’re fine with that as long as it can also tell us the weather. Things change. Things stay the same.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 3

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1 Preview page 3


Westfield: What was fun or challenging about creating a new alien species?

Loveness: I can’t say too much… but part of the fun of horror and sci-fi is letting the mystery be greater than the facts. We don’t know a ton about the Alien in Alien or The Thing in The Thing. So our characters should know even less than we do. Ha! Maybe that’s a cheat, but I liked writing the alien presence as something unknowable. They operate on a completely different spectrum than we do. They’ve evolved to be thought based. So we are open books to them. All of our secrets and lies are laid bare in brutal detail, and we have to deal with the fact that we are no longer the dominant species in the fight. Our spies are holding onto the world they know… and it doesn’t matter anymore. Perhaps it never did.

Westfield: You’re working with artist Lisandro Estherren on the book. What can you tell us about your collaboration?

Loveness: Lisandro is a miracle worker. He’s brought such a distinct look to this book. Parts of it look like a watercolor painting. Parts of it remind me of a European-style comic. He’s elevated the story in ways I couldn’t imagine. And just wait until you see his creature design. The man is brilliant.

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #2


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Loveness: I love challenging myself with every new original comic I write. World Reader was an existential space opera. Judas was a dark religious epic. This is a cerebral Cold War sci-fi thriller. And for all the high concept stuff, it’s actually a rather intimate story about guilt, forgiveness, and empathy – especially for people who may not deserve it. I really love what Lisandro has been cooking up. The art is going to be beautiful and horrifying. If you love sad men in rooms, trying to save themselves from being broken by the overwhelming brutality of absolute truth – give this a look!

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