Future - Q&A w/Tom Woodman and Rupert Smissen - Indie Engine


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Future - Q&A w/Tom Woodman and Rupert Smissen

"Murray Mielniczuk, the last astronaut, is dying. So is Earth.

In a last-ditch attempt to prevent both catastrophes, Murray and her wife Kay are shot forward through time to find a cure, rewrite the future, and prevent humanity’s imminent self-destruction. But crash-landing on a barren future Earth, they find themselves with no help, no ship, and no way home."


(W) Tom Woodman - (A) Rupert Smissen

Future is a character-driven sci-fi story about love, hopelessness, and which one ultimately wins, a conflict embodied in the two lead characters, Kay and Murray. Aimed at a 16+ audience, the complex themes are off-set by an upbeat gallows humor.

The Indie Engine has had the opportunity (through our buds over at Lyonsden Comic Shop) to have a Q&A with the creators of the FUTURE graphic novel.  Currently funding over at Unbound.com this project has all of the makings to be a classic story presenting an eternal struggle that all people face at least once, if not multiple times in their lives.  Both Love and Hopelessness are driving factors that can either undo or resolve an individual.  More often than not these driving forces also either free one's self or confines it.  The power in these two vessels is immense.  Conquering the fear and mastering the strength in both is ultimately what decides our fate.  Future examines how the cast of this timeless back and forth (love, hopelessness, and the human element) and how they all interact in the struggle.  It isn't just about the people, but how the concepts themselves pay off of and fight with each other.  This conflict in Future is well thought out and presented in a universally relatable fashion on two fronts (the personal struggle as well as that of the future of Earth and oblivion).

The writing is not only on par with what you'll find at (insert your idea of top end comics here), but the artwork is as well.  I was floored when looking over the images from this project.  There are both dynamic and intricate pieces to the visuals that enhance this story ten fold.  The outset is dark and bleak.  It's hopeless and the art reflects that.  There's love and hope though, and if you're paying attention you'll see the nods in the pictures that emphasize that.  On top of this, what is portrayed within the pages is very real.  There isn't smoke and mirrors hiding things and there's no misrepresentation of truth with the characters.  The entire presentation is built to convey the themes and truth behind them.

This book gives us some things that are very hard to find in the comic medium.  Rather than force common themes to fix an issue, Future expertly uses the apocalyptic end of the Earth in conjunction with terminal sickness in order to drive the themes that the book is actually about.  Future also gives us representation (the main characters are married women) without feeling as though it is done 'just because' or to try and score points.  Their presence, relationship, and story all feel right and work synergistically with how the themes are addressed.  It's usually in the death and destruction that the brightest of lights shines.  Future shines this light with an intensity and sincerity that mainstream comics only ever hope to do.

Check out the entire 1st chapter here!

... and now, some words from the creators!

So where did this concept come from? - Was it a response to something you see in society?

[The sci-fi concept came from wanting to take two people who were terrified of what the future held and putting them in it. That meant time travel. As for why I wanted to talk about the future – the word ‘future’ used to be aspirational, now it’s something to fear. It’s climate change and nationalism and nuclear bombs. But that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy; if we feel beaten we get scared, we get defensive, selfish. So the book’s about the promise of a future and making that a good thing again, and how that starts with making a choice against some ugly odds. This was a heavy first answer.]

It was heavy, but that's what creates the sincerity in the work.  This is why the relationship in the characters feels natural and the promise of a 'character driven' tale is delivered upon.

Was there a singular event in your life(lives)?
[This is even heavier. I’d been paralyzed by feeling ineffectual, like a lot of us, and then suddenly one of my closest friends died. I realized how little my feeling miserable and defeated had done for anyone. I’d been waiting for the facts to change before I did, when it had to be the other way around – and now I sound like a budget motivational speaker.]

Not at all.  One of the traps of emotions is the singular hole we find ourselves in.  "Getting lost in emotion" is a very real thing.  Feeling what you do isn't the issue, but rather, the inability to see how you act (or don't) when in your feelings is what effects others.

There are several strong themes with this story. Was the aim to have the story drive the concepts? - As you developed and got further into things did the concepts end up driving where the story went?

[Yes! It was always about holding onto that hope, but it took a bit longer for that to be threaded into the narrative itself, and for me to have the confidence to whittle down to what is mostly a two-hander and know that it encompasses huge questions and themes.]

This absolutely comes across!  At their heart, the themes addressed here (and the one central conflict) DO drive narratives on their own.  It's refreshing that this story let's them drive as opposed to trying to force them into pushing a narrative that doesn't fit them.

Was there a clear cut ending to the story or did it end organically was the book was written?
[The ending was revamped a few times – it always ended the same way-ish, but there was a whole extra section we considered. We realized we were drifting off-focus, into epilogue, maybe into blatantly saying ‘this is the point’ rather than trusting the reader to understand. But I’ve been an editor for years and I know that in just about every case, trimming it down makes it a stronger book. You’ll see.]

That seems fair.  The best stories tend to be one that has had a marriage of "this was the original aim/perceived endpoint, and along the way it was clear that how it actually ended up was the way to go."  It is very easy to bury what would otherwise be a stellar tale by making it fit rigid points, lines it doesn't want to.

Of the themes in this book did you feel the need to focus on one or just let them all play together? - Did you aim to address any of them specifically or were they just the products of the story being told?
[All the themes are, as becomes obvious whenever I try to talk about any one of them, interweaved. I am an incredible master-storyteller, I’ll take my Eisner now, thank you.  From page 1, which was helpfully the first image that appeared in my head, Murray’s personal physical/mental health and future are interwoven with the future of the planet, and it all goes from there. That’s a lovely thing about a shorter creator-owned work – the entire world of the story can be molded to what you want to say, and you’re not beholden to anyone’s continuity or backstory or whatnot. And anything that doesn’t tell the story and serve the themes gets cut. Except for some extraneous jokes tagged on.]

HA! Yes, cast the ballot now folks!  Truthfully though that opening page IS excellent.  It is a very powerful piece of art, of the imitation of life that art has (I think I got that right).  

Is there a certain theme that you hope the reader would take away from the book?
[Don’t give up. Any more detail would bring us into massive spoiler territory, but don’t give up, because giving up is worse than losing. The visuals are wonderful.]

They absolutely are.  I cannot express enough just how good this book is visually.

How did Rupert end up as the artist?
[We’d been joint best men at a friend’s wedding, and our best man’s speeches involved a watercolour reinterpretation of a photo of the very drunk groom, naked, with only a Roman gladius for modesty. Naturally, the project went from there.]

Naturally.  This is phenomenal.  A backstory fitting of comic-dom lore decades down the road.

Did you have the look of things envisioned already or were you “finding” that as you were finding an artist?
[I wanted a quite down-to-earth, clear look, mixed with the ability for sudden massive celestial beauty. Sorry, Rupert. I think I was going with the idea of grounding the story, having Kay and Murray as realistic anchors in a strange world.]

Coming onto the project did you have an idea of the style you wanted to bring or did the story tell you what it would be?
[Future is actually my first foray into full colour comics. I work frequently as a storyboard artist, and wanted to bring the clarity and efficiency of that field to this project, putting storytelling first. I've enjoyed being able to spend time developing characters and more elaborate visuals, and having a collaborative working relationship with Tom has been a proper breath of fresh air, allowing me to go beyond being strictly a pencil jockey and contribute far more to the look and feel of Future.] (Rupert)

Wow, first full comic?  This is insanely impressive given that tidbit.  The storytelling aspect comes through loud and clear.  Given what we see in the preview and first full chapter, it's my opinion that you do more books ... many more.

Overall, where was the importance of the visuals: that they looked good or that the look was what represented the story?
[The only things we’ve back and forthed have been on this topic – Tom having overthought things to death, whether a detail will be clear enough, whether the readers will ‘get it’. Luckily, Rupert is the calm one of us two, and he just makes it work beautifully every time, until I end up nodding feverishly.]

The trust comes out in the story, that's for sure.  I love that you were at that level of concern for what you were wanting to portray though.  Being invested, truly, makes all the difference in the world.

Any reason for Unbound as opposed to other crowd funding options?
[We wanted to be working with a team who knew when we were going off-course, and who could then help get the book out into stores when it was complete. Unbound also meant we’d get to work with Lizzie Kaye (Titan Comics, SelfMadeHero), who is a huge help to us at every stage of the project.]

A working relationship already in hand certainly helps.  Didn't know that about Unbound (the help getting out into stores bit) so that's a good nugget to put in the back pocket.

Why the Graphic Novel route?
[Well, the publisher, Unbound, only work on single-volume graphic novels. The great thing about that is we don’t have to worry about cancellation, monthly sales, forced cliffhangers, page limits – we can do what’s best for the story at every turn. We have however just released the first chapter (equivalent to issue 1) digitally, so please give it a look and share it around!]

Ah, well then yes, graphic novel it is.  The first chapter is linked right before the Q&A folks!

I would like to thank Tom and Rupert for their time and for the opportunity to get a deeper look into this project.  As stated, FUTURE is currently funding on UNBOUND.COM (link at beginning of article).  Go check the project out.  This is a fantastic dive into deep emotional states and attachments.  We've all got the human condition.  We've also the capacity to thrive despite it.  It is in our capacity to overcome and have our stories tell OUR truth regardless of how it ends.


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