The new Top Cow series Eclipse is set in a world where the greatest threat to humanity is the sun itself. Humans flee the daylight hours or risk being burned alive by the harsh radiation.
We got a chance to speak with creators Zack Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano to discuss their artistic influences, the moral message of the comic, and more.
BIC: I was wondering first if you could both tell us a little bit about yourselves, your background in comics, and how you came to work with one another?
Zack Kaplan (ZK): I’m just a video game, film/TV and comic book nerd who grew up in the cornfields of the Midwest and the swamps of Northern Florida. I went to school to be a writer, and I’ve written in other mediums, but I always dreamed of writing in comics. I’ve been reading comics all my life. For a while, I pitched several ideas, but Matt Hawkins, writer of Think Tank, Symmetry and President at Top Cow, responded to the idea of a world where the sun burns you alive. He wanted to do it, and so Eclipse was born. We immediately began our search for an artist who could bring this moody and gritty science fiction world to life, and our search ended when we found the super talented Giovanni!
Giovanni Timpano (GT): I’ve started to work on comic books in a professional way about 5 to 6 years ago, first with indie comic books but then with well-known characters such as The Spider, The Phantom and Captain Action for Moonstone. I drew part of the Mr. T graphic novel (yes, that Mr. T) and The Grimm Fairy Tales series for Zenescope. Those were my first works. Then I drew the G.I. Joe for IDW, The Shadow, Justice Inc., Green Hornet and Lone Ranger for Dynamite, Hellraisers for BOOM! and now I’m collaborating with Top Cow on Eclipse and on the Cyberforce series. With Top Cow, it all started simply showing my portfolio to the editors, and months later they made the decision with Zack to chose me to be the artist of this fantastic project.
BIC: While reading this comic I was really interested in the man vs. nature concept. It seems as if for this first issue the main antagonist is the sun. I was wondering why this theme was chosen, and what is it about these sorts of scenarios that are so compelling?
ZK: Yes, we were both very fascinated by the concept of man’s environment turning on him. And the sun, which we all think of as a life-giving force, something that would always be generous and inspiring, for that sun to suddenly turn on us in deadly fashion, well, there’s just something primal about that idea. Our hero, Bax, is still trying to cope with that reality every day, unwilling to simply accept this new status quo. And you know, I initially came up with the idea when I experienced an empty neighborhood at sunrise and thought how surreal it was to have streets of sunlight void of life. The theme of man vs nature is intrinsic to a story about the sun becoming deadly, although I will also say, the sun is not the only monster or antagonist in this story.
GT: As the artist I like to focus on how visually fascinating and challenging it was to create and draw situations based on this particular (and deathly) earth situation. It’s not just a matter of “okay, the sun kills so let’s remain in the shadows,” Zack studied situations in the series where the sun is basically used as a weapon, and I had the duty to put it on paper, which was not simple, considering how unique those situations are, but at the end the result is amazing.
The thing is that there are thousands of ways to create incredible scenes, in terms of action, that cannot be compared to anything seen before. This killer sun was not simply a background thing, it plays his role during the book and does actions as well as the characters. Zack basically wrote a thriller story, but the actions of the characters are always done considering this particular scenario, in a bad and in a good way.
BIC: Giovanni, when I was looking at your art style I was really a fan of what I saw. I felt like you offered a lot of detail and your line work was pretty and clean. In some of the opening panels we had these large groups of people all crowded together and I thought I could see hints of Moebius in these scenes. The way you could fill space with detail was impressive. I was wondering if he had an influence on your art, and if he didn’t who did?
GT: He totally had an influence on Eclipse. I’ll tell you more. The day Top Cow asked me to be the artist of Eclipse, a sci-fi series, I had no doubt. I said to myself: “Now, I’m gonna study Moebius.” It was a precise artistic choice, because before Eclipse, Moebius and his style had nothing to do with my influences. Everything happened because of Eclipse. I put aside my superheroes and noir influences that I had used prior in books like The Shadow, Justice Inc. etc. and I started to work on a more clean and fine style, cutting the solid blacks and the big ink brush strokes, and pointing on thin fine lines of pens, filling the page with tiny details. Other than Moebius, another natural influence for this work was Geoff Darrow.
BIC: Zack this comic is very post-apocalyptic. Despite there not being zombies in this book, the scarcity of people has a very “28-Days-Later” feel when the main character is working during the daylight hours. I was wondering where do you draw inspiration? What sort of stories inspired you in your writing?
ZK: Oh man. I mean, I’ve always loved science fiction. Close Encounters. 12 Monkeys. 2001. Star Wars! I think any visual that depicts a city void of life during the day will feel reminiscent of 28 Days Later or earlier touchstones like Omega Man. But when I started to develop the world of Eclipse, I knew it was a hybrid of post-apocalyptic and dystopian future. It was tricky to find other hybrids. But I was looking to other stories for character also. Eclipse is a story of the promise or redemption in the face of horror, so that’s Blade Runner or Mad Max, some of my favorite stories! Thematically, I often come back to The Walking Dead, and Eclipse has a similar theme about survival in a harsh environment where the implicit horror (zombies or deadly sunlight) is not the true danger, but man and man’s violent and self-serving nature is.
BIC: This question is for both of you. It is hinted that the protagonist of this comic may have had a somewhat heroic past. He comes off as being a tough guy, who is working a job that maybe is beneath his potential. In some ways this reminds me of Korben Dallas from the “5th Element.” I was wondering though what is it about tough men that is so appealing, and do you think there is certain amount of machismo that modern storytelling is lacking nowadays?
ZK: Well, we definitely wanted to make Bax a tough guy. He’s a man of few words. He’s a man who intimidates with a look. He’s a cynical bastard. And so yeah, that’s Korben Dallas or Rick Deckard. But let’s think about where that machismo comes from. It’s not for a desire to be powerful. Guys like that are protecting themselves from pain. When someone experiences tragedy, one option they have is to harden themselves. Care less next time. Don’t get emotional. Look out for themselves. That’s why these tough guys are usually hiding in society in menial jobs and small apartments. And perhaps the lack of macho men or tough guys in today’s stories has something to do with modern ideas about how a guy is supposed to act. Being in touch with your emotions and understanding your fellow man seems to be pretty in these days! But for me, Bax raised fascinating questions about the men we ask to protect our society. Bax was a firefighter. He protected his city during the Flare cataclysm. And he suffered because of it. This is every soldier we send to war. This is a cop on our streets. When we ask men to make sacrifices for us, what does it do to their spirits?
GT: Well, I’m 37 and I grew up with characters like Riggs from Lethal Weapon, McClane from Die Hard, Hallenbeck from The Last Boyscout, Deckard from Blade Runner and Solo from Star Wars. I really don’t care how the main characters act today in terms of emotions. As a man, an Italian man, machismo is never enough.
BIC: Giovanni, in some sort of sick twisted way, some of my favorite images in this comic were the burnt and melted bodies that happened as a result of the sun. These images were horrifying, but amazingly detailed. I was wondering what were some of your favorite things to draw in this particular issue?
GT: Well, I’m glad that the burnt and melted bodies hit you, because for me it was important to be realistic without falling in the splatter trap. And to be so realistic, I needed to work with realistic references, which in this case meant photos of real burnt bodies, without special FX. Which was not fun!
ZK: Yikes, now I feel bad that you had such a gruesome task!
GF: But I wanted to do it for the sake of the realism. However, the burnt bodies were not my favorite part. The pages and panels with the crowds, where we introduce this world, both on the surface and under the surface of the earth, those were my favorite part. For me, all those tiny people had a role in Eclipse. It was not simply a crowd. All of them for me had a story behind, and considering the time I spent drawing each one. And I know that the readers will not spend the same time looking at all of them, but this is the kind of things you do for love. And also working on the Icemen suits was incredibly fun, I love all the wrinkles on them!
ZK: Can I just say, this is what is so awesome about working with a great artist like Giovanni! He loves what he does, and he is willing to put his sweat and blood into his work. I had a great team for Eclipse. Besty Gonia, Ryan Cady and Bryan Hill are amazing editors, and Betsy Gonia and Chris Northrop just rocked the colors. Even the letters done by Troy Peteri are so perfect. It’s just a great book!
BIC: Zack, while reading this comic I felt as if there was a political message about global climate change as a subtext for the story. I was wondering if I was reading this right or if this story is completely apolitical for you?
ZK: Jared, these questions are deep! For me, this story had to transcend politics. But what it is about is our connection to our planet and our environment. And absolutely we take for granted our world. We’ve come to accept the concept of droughts or floods or crazy storms, but what if one day our children couldn’t go outside because the sun was too dangerous. If that idea doesn’t shake you, then I don’t know what will. The story is 100% about how precious our world is. And it’s gonna suck if we have to go underground during the day or wear suits to go outside. So, I would take it as a true compliment if someone read Eclipse and said it made them think about the exquisite value of their environment.
BIC: I was wondering if you could give us a hint on what to expect in the next issue?
ZK: If the first issue is the slow burn (no pun intended) that lets you step through the door of Eclipse and take the world all in, then the second issue is the doors closing and the train chugging out of the station, and by the end of the second book, we’re going at top speed. This is not just a science fiction story, it’s an action thriller. We’ve got a killer going around murdering people in the sunlight. The first issue is about Bax going from someone hiding in that menial job and small apartment to someone who’s willing to take on this killer, but the second issue puts him to the task. It’s Bax vs Killer. The other thing we get to see in the second issue is the heart of the story, and that’s between Bax and the teenage girl he is charged with tasking, Cielo. And we even learn a little bit about our hero’s past and his demons. Man, now that I think about it, this book doesn’t waste much time getting going! So, I would say if any of this interests you, Eclipse is a new series, so call your local comic book stores and PRE-ORDER your copy of Eclipse Issue #1! And follow Gio and I on social media, Twitter and Instagram, for more from the world of Eclipse!
GT: Issue #2 is one of those books where everything happens. There are some hints about Bax’s past, emotional moments, revelations, action and what I was talking about, those extreme sun situations which are unique and never seen in comic books before. And what a final scene!
BIC: Hey guys thanks for taking the time to speak to us, and I can’t wait to read the future issues.