Unlike his Black Eyed Peas partner Fergie, Will.i.am didn't use the current sabbatical the pop group is on to have a child. But he did collaborate with Brian David Johnson, a "futurist," to produce a project with kids in mind: a three-part graphic novel called "Wizards and Robots," which will be released in March 2014, that has a special focus on science and technology. The two took to New York Comic Con Friday to promote the trilogy, as well as a special edition prequel called "The Hope Algorithm" made exclusively for the convention.
Will.i.am says "inquisitive dreamers" of all ages will enjoy the science fiction fantasy, but that it's really for children in inner cities, a cause already dear to him with his charity i.am.angel.
"No one has told them that they should collaborate in this world," he tells U.S. News. "An inner city kid is not saying, 'I want to be creative in the world of Comic con. I want to be creative in the world of computer science."
"Wizards and Robots" is about a present day battle between wizards from the past and robots from the future. Will.i.am and Johnson first conceived the project when they filmed an interview together two years ago for Intel's The Tomorrow Project, and decided to root it in as much scientific fact as possible. Johnson works as a futurist at Intel, a role he describes as "figuring out how people act and interact with technology."
"Wouldn't it be awesome if the robots are really going to be based on the work that I was doing? What if we made the magic based on quantum physics?" Johnson says, so the two reached out to scientists – roboticists, social scientists, physicists and quantum theorists – to help design both the robots and the wizards.
"First off they would look at us like we were a little crazy. And then we would explain the world and they would get it," Johnson says. "If you were going to do time travel – and there's problems with time travel, but at the quantum level, at the plank level, you can actually do time travel. What would that look like? If that literally happened right here in this room, what would it look like? And then they would get excited about the possibilities."
Will.i.am says that aside from a few big names, he didn't read many comics as a child, but grew to appreciate the genre once he started visiting comic conventions like New York Comic Con.
"I was just really fascinated by this community – appreciating and respecting it," he says. "That's what led me to buying collectibles and comic books. The love and the appreciation for the community came first."
Meanwhile, Johnson, who has a background writing science fiction, describes himself as a "deep deep geek." Will.i.am and Johnson say that the very fact that they were able to come together for "Wizards and Robots" should be inspiring to others.
"So one of the things about 'Wizards and Robots' is that it can change kids minds in that they can see the future, and see futures that are kind of cool." Johnson says. "But part of it is the collaboration, because even early on one of the things Will.i.am said is that this project never should have happened. It's crazy that you've got a futurist and Will.i.am working together and actually working together seamlessly."