Top Cow has become a home for really good science fiction comics and that continues with the new series Eclipse from Zack Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano. The series focuses on a very different Earth after a cataclysmic event and how humans continue to survive. I talked with Kaplan about the new series this week.
DAN WICKLINE: One of the key elements to science fiction is the setting and we learn that things are very different in Eclipse. It feels like we are in the near future. How far into the future are we? How has the world changed and will we find out what caused the change… not the event but what caused the event?
ZACK KAPLAN: Eclipse takes place only ten years after this mysterious solar event has occurred, but what caused that event will remain a mystery. The people of this new future will never truly know what happened to the sun and why it suddenly turned on us. But isn't that scarier? It's unexplained. We can't make sense of it. I think that makes the premise far more horrific. All we know is this precious life-giving force that nurtured us for as long as we remember has turned on us, and now sunlight burns us alive. But there is a killer that is going around murdering people by holding them down in the deadly sun rays, and then he walks away unscathed, and we are going to slowly discover the truth about how he avoids the sunlight and where he came from. And that's going to be a great reveal, believe me!
DW: Second key element is a strong, somewhat mysterious lead and you have that with David Baxter. We get the idea that he's something special but that he's pushing against it. What can you tell us about Baxter and why does he have so many dogs?
ZK: Well, how can you not like a guy who lives with a bunch of stray dogs? It's just a gimme for a story. Give the guy some dogs, and readers will like the guy, right? But our hero David Baxter, aka Bax, is just the kind of guy that prefers dogs to people. He is something special, or was, rather: he was a hero. He was a firefighter who helped save the city during this solar cataclysm that killed so many. And because of his heroism, he suffered his own tragedies. So he's given up on helping people, in fact, he's given up on connection at all. He's a man of few words now, working as an Iceman, and these guys are like maintenance men who put on these suits that allows them to go outside for limited periods, so that they can fix things in the city. So while the rest of the city is hiding in the shadows and living a nocturnal existence, Bax is actually working in the day and sleeping at night, the way it used to be done.
DW: How did the idea for Eclipse come about? Was there a single thought or image that sparked the story?
ZK: If you've ever stayed up all night, and sunrise hit, and you found the streets still empty of people, then you know the feeling. It's a surreal experience to be out in the sunlight and normal life seems to have stopped. You feel isolated, disconnected, but it's daytime. Where is everyone? Why aren't they up yet? Are they hiding? What would they be hiding from? It's just you and the sun out here? Could the sun be dangerous and that's why everyone is hiding? That was the germination that led to a world in which the sunlight was deadly. It came from being up one morning with a sunrise and empty streets. When I pitched the idea to Matt Hawkins and Top Cow Productions, I think that world was the thing that hooked them into doing this story. And I have to thank them for seeing the value in it. Because, of course, there's a message in all of it about the preciousness of our environment and how tragic it would be to lose our world to the point where we couldn't go outside anymore without severe protective gear.
DW: When doing science fiction comics, the look becomes another key element. What are some of the effects that the different environment has had on the look of the art? Was there a lot of discussion about how the world looks now after the event?
ZK: The artist, Giovanni Timpano, and I spent a lot of time talking about the world. We talked out particulars about how sunlight burns people. We discussed the infrastructure and the look of the city. We talked about the tone and mood of the book, and the best way to achieve a gritty, grounded feel to the science fiction elements. It was unique because it's futuristic, but it's not, because it's only a few years in the future. It's post-apocalyptic, but it's not, because there's a surviving city. It was a unique hybrid of sci-fi genres. One of the best things about collaborating with artists is you conceive of something, but then you hand it off, and now they conceive of it too, and it's similar and different from your vision all at the same time. Gio is a super talented guy and he was inspired to draw from Moebius to capture the lines and feel for the book. And our Colorists, Betsy Gonia and Chris Northrop, do a great job of adding the right colors and tone to Giovanni's visuals.
DW: Stripping aside the science fiction elements, what is the story at the core of the series? Are we looking at a murder mystery or is it bigger than that?
ZK: The initial story is this: a killer has emerged and he's targeted the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Nick Brandt, a man who used to be Bax's firefighting partner, and a man who has made New York City what it is now. Nick has security, but he needs someone comfortable moving around during the daylight to help get this killer. He calls in a reluctant Bax. And so, Bax helps to protect this girl and tries to stop the killer. And the killer is badass. He's using sunlight to burn people. He can go out into the daylight. He's not one to trifle with. So, not only does Bax have to deal with this guy, but Bax also has to decide he wants to give into his heroic tendencies.
DW: What is the long term for Eclipse? Is this a self-contained story or have you created a new universe to play in?
ZK: The first four issues find conclusion, and readers will definitely feel fulfilled by the arc. But of course, there's more mystery to uncover about what's really going on in this new society. There are more challenges to be faced, because in this world, it's not only the sun that is dangerous, but it's also your fellow man. Gio and I have plenty of ideas for where to go in Eclipse, but we've also been living in this world for a long time, so we are currently talking about other projects. But hey, even though the sun goes down, it always rises again. If you get into Eclipse now, you won't be disappointed. If you want to stay in the Eclipse universe, follow Gio and I on social media. And make sure you pre-order your Issue #1 so you don't miss out on Eclipse!