Stephen Colbert has branded a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor, a minor-league hockey team mascot, and (nearly) a bridge in Hungary. Now, the host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report is flying his geek flag with the Oni Press comic book series Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen.
Tek Jansen, in case you're not a member of the Colbert Nation, is the hero of the sci-fi novel ''Stephen Colbert'' claims to have written, Stephen Colbert's Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure. The real Colbert's credit on the comic is ''Galactic Overlord,'' which translates roughly to co-creator.
Each of the five issues the first of which hits shelves July 11 features two tales. The main serialized story, written by Scarface's John Layman and Hourman's Tom Peyer with art by Scott Chantler (Northwest Passage), follows the intergalactic war Tek sets off when he assassinates a leader of a benevolent alien race called Optiklons. They've offered to give the citizens of Alphalon-7 ''stupefyingly sophisticated technology, capable of permanently eradicating hunger, greed, suffering and unhappiness'' if the Aphalons agree to donate one micro-percentage of their surplus energy reserves to a less fortunate planet. It's easy to understand why Tek doesn't trust the Optiklon: ''Think about it. In a world where everybody's cared for, how could you be treated better than the next guy?''
If that sounds like a Colbert-ian zinger, it should: Colbert went through the script line by line. Says Layman, ''We'd get notes, like 'Oh, you know, I was rereading this on my porch Saturday...' I've had editors who don't pay that close attention. There's quite a bit of back-and-forth because I think Stephen Colbert is a geek.''
Though the serious Report fan admits that he and Peyer initially went in the wrong direction ''We wrote it as if it was Stephen Colbert in space, so he had a robot eagle sidekick and he was going after alien bears'' they ultimately found the sweet spot. ''Tek's got a radioactive robotic monkey sidekick,'' Layman says. ''He's got an evil pet named Meangarr, this giant energy void, that has vowed to kill him if he ever escapes. And then he has girlfriend after girlfriend after girlfriend.'' Tek Jansen fans will be happy to hear that the sci-fi sex god even winds up nude for the first story's final three pages. ''We had him wake up to a ['hot Skeletahn'] alien and he's late and running off to assassinate the Optiklon leader,'' Layman says. ''The artist decided to keep him naked because we never said 'He stops and puts on his clothes.' Suddenly we're getting pages, and here's Tek Jansen's butt and it's funny.'' (Colbert must've agreed; he signs off on the art as well.)
Each issue's secondary tale, written by Jim Massey with art by his Maintenance collaborator Robbi Rodriguez, is an independent, self-contained ''case file'' that forces Tek to go undercover. We phoned Massey for the skinny on his first installment, Horn Like Me!, the line that cracked Colbert up the most, and why he's yet to meet the man in person.
NEXT PAGES: Read details on how the comic came together, then see all seven pages of Horn Like Me! A Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen Case File