Image Comics announced at NYCC this morning the next book I’ll be drawing, called The Surface, which means so can I! Written by the visionary volcano Ales Kot – the acclaimed writer of this year’s Wild Children – The Surface concerns civilization gone wrong, the promise of freedom, desperate dreamers, city-ships, commandos, robots, and the transforming, if surprising, realities of reality itself.
The interview below is from CBR. The art’s from me.
Moving over to “The Surface,” what can you tell us about the three hackers that star in the series?
Mark comes from one of the wealthiest families in the US. He created a mobile phone app that saves thousands of lives every year before he was fourteen years old. The app is connected to tsunami warning systems all over the world. It starts producing an alarm every time a tsunami wave threatens to endanger areas designated by the phone’s user. Mark is well-composed and a little bit cocky. If you look at the picture, he’s the guy in front.
Nasia worked with mute children since she was seventeen, and programmed software that transcribes their internal processes into language. This open-source software was widely modified and is now used in a variety of fields, including military. In fact, even Mark’s father’s company uses it. She also used to write a column for “VICE” when she was a teenager on the run.
Gomez is a strange mess of a man, he’s a bit of a distanced weirdo who’d love to be perceived as a leader, but often sabotages himself. He also likes urban beekeeping and ramen.
All three of them are very open-minded people, or they at least initially seem that way. They decide to leave the US because laws inspired by real-life laws like NDAA have made it near-impossible to enjoy living there. A disintegration of once-common truths and values makes facts and dreams seem almost meaningless. It’s the current culture in the US brought to an even stronger extreme. “1984” won’t likely happen, but as Michio Kaku says in his fascinating “The World in 2030” talk, “Brave New World” eventually might. The future we establish in “The Surface” is a combination of that approach, “Idiocracy” and people who are trying to change the world for the better by lifehacking — by creating resilient communities, by being good and empathetic to one another.
Here I come mentioning “Brave New World” again, it’s clear that the book is a huge influence on my thinking. I read it for the first time when I was about fifteen, and I haven’t been the same since. Aldous Huxley’s entire body of work is fascinating.
The Surface sounds like a pretty wild place, how do the hackers hear about it and why do they want to find it?
The Surface is the worst kept secret in the world. Almost everyone has heard about it, but no one ever found it. It is said that The Surface morphs and changes its position quite often.
Mark, Gomez and Nasia want to find The Surface because they see it — some consciously, some subconsciously — as a way to escape their own problems, at least for a while. It’s escapism. It’s about the journey, not about the destination, or so they think. They don’t really expect to find the place, because it sounds like a myth, like something no-one has ever discovered. Imagine the surprise when Mark, Gomez and Nasia discover the place where everything changes in sync with their imaginations. You can ride that wave, or you can try to act like you’re not responsible for it. The choice is for each one of us to make alone.
It sounds like finding The Surface might not be all it’s cracked up to be for them. What kind of challenges do they run into once they find the place?
The problems will be two-fold. Just like with life, they will emerge from the outside as well as from within, both almost at the same time. Spoiling what they will be would be just mean. There will be action: robots, humans, and many other species and things will collide in many a different fashion, and you can expect many ways of problem-solving: running, jumping, thinking, punching, feeling, combining, refining, using science, using blunt objects, using imagination…
That city-ship you see in the teaser image is definitely a part of the coming storm. There are old wounds and lies and fears that will come back to haunt the protagonists. Beings with unclear purpose appear. Humans driven by trauma make their play. Also coming: ronin of uncertain origin, bonobos and more.
I loved the way films like “Inception” or “District 9” created fast-paced stories that still made you think and feel things. With “The Surface,” we want to achieve a similar effect, but instead of going overboard with the “future is a grim and horrible place” scenario, we want to explore a future that’s much more complex than that. What if Moebius worked on “Inception” or “District 9?” That’s my way of looking at this.
How did you hook up with Langdon Foss and what made him the right guy for “The Surface?”
I sent him a pleasant e-mail. He responded with grace and genuine curiosity. I loved Langdon’s art from the first time I saw it in the promo materials for “Get Jiro,” the graphic novel Langdon did with Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose and all the other people in their stunning team. We started talking, realized we vibed on a very similar human/post-human wavelength, and talked stories long enough to be 100% sure that we’re compatible not only as people, but also as creators. Then we met in San Diego this year, had an amazing time hanging out, agreed to do some ridiculous things there next year — and then Langdon turned in the first piece, the one that’s posted with this interview. I had high hopes, and what Langdon created exceeded them. He’s a great human being, and a responsible, smart, uniquely creative artist. There’s no creator in this world I’d rather make “The Surface” with.
Image Comics will release “Zero” #1 in May 2013 with “The Surface” to follow later in the year.