Eclipse: Interview with Zack Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano
Eclipse by writer Zack Kaplan and artist Giovanni Timpano (Lone Ranger) is an upcoming new miniseries from Top Cow. This is Kaplan’s comic book writing debut, which is really exciting! Here’s the premise:
In the near future, a mysterious solar event has transformed the sun’s light into deadly immolating rays, and the world’s few survivors now live in nocturnal cities. But a killer emerges who uses sunlight to burn his victims, and when he targets the daughter of a solar power mogul, it falls to a disillusioned solar engineer to protect her.
All-Comic.com got the chance to ask the creators some questions about the new, thrilling sci-fi comic in stores September 7th, 2016. We can tell you right now, you’ll want to ask your local comic shop to order this one right away! It’s gonna be good.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Thanks for doing this interview. This is an impressive book as of issue #1 and there’s nothing about Eclipse that says, “first-time writer”. Could you start by telling readers about your personal experience and how collaborative it’s been for you? Was this a natural team effort or are readers going to get the results of a lengthy editorial process?
ZACK KAPLAN: Thank you! I’ve written in other mediums, and I had been reading comic books since I was a teenager, so I knew comic books somewhat. However, it certainly was fascinating to explore the world of telling a story in panels. I endeavored to make as polished and entertaining a comic book as I could. Perhaps that is largely due to how easy the collaboration was, and how great all of the artists and editors were that worked on the book. That’s what I love about Top Cow. Matt Hawkins knows that it’s okay to take a chance on new talent if you surround them with the right support system. So a shout out to Ryan Cady, Betsy Gonia and Bryan Hill, three great editors. And then, and here’s a big secret, when you get a great artist, it helps make a great story.
GIOVANNI TIMPANO: It was a surprisingly great experience considering Zack and I were working together for the first time. He and the Top Cow editors had chose me and my art for this amazing book, but before Eclipse, I had only worked on pre-existing licensed characters like The Shadow, G.I.Joe, Doc Savage, for example, where basically there is no need to create anything. So when I started Eclipse, it was a new and exciting challenge to create new characters in a new world.
ZK: But the thing that Gio and I connected on instantly was our love of world building, our excitement for sci-fi and our understanding that every choice we made had to support this story and the character’s emotional journey in it.
GT: And with Zack, everything was pretty easy. He is an amazing writer and an amazing person to work with, and the chemistry that has evolved over time was so perfect, that during the production process, despite the challenge of creating so many new things, and despite that fact that this was his first comic book, it was always an easy-going and positively creative process. And in my career, there have been “easier” books, with more experienced writers, during which I found more difficulties. But with Zack and Eclipse, let’s say it, it was love at first sight.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Mr. Kaplan, you lived in the Philippines for a while and this could be an inspired storyline. Did your time abroad in the Pacific — a typically hot climate — influence Eclipse’s premise in any way? Was there one dreadfully hot day in particular when the idea sprang into your mind?
ZK: Living abroad has definitely expanded my understanding of people and cultures, but this idea came to me more during a feeling of isolation and it happened right here in the United States, at about 5:30 AM or one such morning when I was driving home from a graveyard shift. There is something eerie about seeing neighborhood streets void of any people when the sun is out. That was the seed for the idea. Was there a world in which people would hide from the sun because the sun was that dangerous?
ALL-COMIC.COM: Unfortunately the premise for Eclipse feels all too possible. How much research was done for this comic and to what degree is the story based on real, proven science, if any?
ZK: Oh, I did a ton of research. And there are certainly a lot of strange things that could happen in our sun, Solar Flares and such. And there is fragility to our planet that we ignore way too often. But there was a point where I had to leap from proven science to science fantasy. One could spend all day asking if the planet would even exist if the sun turned so hot and volatile as to melt human flesh. But once you accept it, much like you might accept zombies in The Walking Dead, then it becomes a fascinating concept. Human beings have this natural relationship with the sun, a co-habitative and supportive partnership, so to see the sun turn on us – it’s horrific. And for some reason, human beings are changing the way we think about the environment and we no longer accept that the status quo will remain. It’s very easy to imagine a world where life is hard and the mere experience of going outside offers all sorts of challenges.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Mr. Timpano, you’ve worked on some legendary properties like Lone Ranger and The Shadow. So what’s it like coming in on a fresh, new concept like Eclipse? Challenging, refreshing, refreshingly challenging…?
GT: The last one, refreshingly challenging! What gives you the energy to work through the difficulties of create new characters and new worlds is the very fact that it is challenging: man, you are creating new characters and new worlds! It’s incredibly hard, but you are giving life to something that was once just an idea, but you can touch it, and once it’s done, it will exist forever. That is what gives you the extra energy to do something like this, compared to working on a book like The Green Hornet or the G.I.Joe, where 90% of what you draw already exists. Once I finished the last book of Eclipse, I started a Lone Ranger series, which now feels a little bit more “relaxing”, because I’m playing with characters and places that already exist. But at the same time, I can’t wait to start a new book like Eclipse, where I once again get to build everything in it. I think in a comic book artist’s career, you need to find a balance between the two kinds of works, because both have pros and cons.
ALL-COMIC.COM: It goes without saying that your artwork, which is full of detail and realism, is a crucial element to the storytelling process. Do you ever rely on photo reference for a story like this, and was any of that reference in the script? How much of Eclipse was from your imagination and were you given freedom to elaborate beyond the script as far as layouts and panel arrangements go?
GT: For my vision of Eclipse, I saw everything as extremely dry because of this deadly sun. So I decided to focus on tiny little pen lines rather than big brush ink signs, like I did in The Shadow books. And after I made that decision, the level of detail was increased, because you cannot “hide” things behind artistic brush strokes if you have decided to use fine, thin pens. You have to go until the end.
That’s why, yes, I needed photos to become more accurate on the city views, etc. But at the end the 90% is draw by hand. I’m 37, and in my life, I’ve watched and read several movies, comic books, etc. with post-apocalyptic scenarios, so obviously all these things merged and created my vision of Eclipse, but I did not follow a specific one for Eclipse, and Zack never pushed me in any particular direction. On Eclipse, I was totally free to elaborate the page layout if I found a different way, or to change, cut or add something if I thought there was the need, as long as Zack agreed with the idea. That’s the kind of work that every artist hopes to do.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Eclipse is huge in terms of scale. It’s a big story that deals with a planetary catastrophe, although there are still main characters. Were there any difficulties in developing the bigger picture for the entire population vs. more personal character developments, and how do you balance those aspects of the story so well?
ZK: I decided early on that this was going to be a smaller story with big scope. I knew I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time holding the reader’s hand and walking them through the details of what happened to the sun or to the planet or the world population. I was going to dive into this single city, and the experiences of our hero, Bax, and his challenge of stopping this killer, and his struggles facing his own demons. There was going to be intimate moments with these characters. And the reader would just have to catch up on the world. But I think readers will be left excited to go through the entire series because that’s the only way they are truly going to understand the mystery of how this city and these people have survived. And that in and of itself is an exciting mystery.
GT: Even if the whole world is changed, we were focused on creating New York and its citizens. And it was challenging to re-create this city, because if you show scenes during the day, then you need to give to the readers the feeling of the danger, unsafe and lethal. And the scenes in the darkness had to have the feeling of safety, calm and life. Basically, it’s the contrary of how we live our lives now, where you are afraid to go outside in the dark if there are no lights. So, the creation of the world environments needed to always be consistent with this idea, which wasn’t always easy. But in the end, it gave us the chance to create something unique. On the other hand, the creation of the characters was easier and more classic. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure we spent more time creating the world of Eclipse, and the elements inside it, than on the characters.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Was there any one thing that attracted you to the sci-fi genre in terms of the kinds of movies, books or comics you enjoy?
GT: It’s impossible for me to not mention the Foundation series by Asimov, which I read when I was about twelve. After that incredible experience, I started to explore both sci-fi, such as Blade Runner, Gattaca, District 9, and more fantasy, like the Star Wars saga, which I obviously love. When I think about Eclipse, the Mad Max series also came to my mind, which is very different, but also similar in some ways. Another book series that I love is the War Against The Chtorr saga by David Gerrold.
ZK: I think I’ll just cheat off of Gio, because Blade Runner, Star Wars, Mad Max, maybe adding 2001 and Star Trek, those are all huge influences for me.
GT: What I love of those sci-fi stores is seeing how the creators have imagined the ordinary life in the future, and what has changed, in terms of real life, of work, education, and how they handle matters of space colonization, the technologies, etc. I’m less interested in fantastical elements such as whether there are aliens and they fight each other, or do the machines turn against us, or have people invented a time machine. Rather, I find it more fascinating to see how people think ordinary life will change and how it will be in the future.
ZK: I love that stuff too, imagining future worlds and future lifestyles. But for me, science fiction has never simply been just about technology or aliens or a deadly sun. It’s about what makes us human. How we face challenges? I think the think we all love to ask if will we change if our world changes? If an evil empire tried to take over the galaxy, would heroism and hope survive? If we forced engineered clones to do our bidding and we hunted them down when they escaped, would we be able to find humanity and beauty in their souls. But it always starts with that question about the future or technology.
GT: That’s why today it is more difficult to create cool sci-fi stuff than years ago. 40 years ago, writers imagined a science fiction future that is now our realilty, and now we are imagine a new future, but with the level of technology proceeding so fast, perhaps faster than our own imaginations can handle sometimes, sometimes it seems like we can’t even imagine the future. Sometimes today is already the future to me.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Why comics? What steered your career path toward the comic book industry and how did you get in with the folks at Top Cow?
ZK: I found comics in high school, mainly with superheroes like X-Men and Spider-man and maybe some Spawn in there. Then I went to college and I lost comics for a bit, because I didn’t understand how deep the form could be. Then I found them again and I remember it was Warren Ellis. Mind blown. What? You can tell stories like this in comics. It isn’t all tight-wearing superheroes. My appreciation for comics and my bank account have never been the same.
GT: The year was the 1989. The movie was Tim Burton’s Batman. Once I watched that movie, I’ve decided I wanted to be part of that world. Then it was just a matter of practicing and practicing. My work with Top Cow began in typical fashion. I showed my portfolio to the Top Cow Editors, and some months later, they proposed me to work on Eclipse.
ZK: I always loved writing and storytelling. I’ve done it for theatre, film and TV. And I’ve always loved science fiction and loved thrillers. But I always thought it would be so cool to do a comic book. It was always a dream of mine. It was only recently that I decided to make it happen, probably after reading Ellis and Rucka and Kirkman. I began brainstorming ideas, writing out pitches, finally one of them hit. But it also was the idea. Eclipse was the right idea. It landed with Top Cow. Matt Hawkins got the idea and understood just how cool the world with a deadly sun might be. He said he wanted to do Eclipse and we began the work of telling this awesome story. And I got a great artist in Gio, great editors, a killer pair of colorists in Betsy Gonia and Chris Northrop, and awesome letters from Troy Peteri.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Eclipse is a miniseries, but, if the first issue is any proof, it is bound to leave readers wanting more. What can you tell us about your next moves, any plans as of now for either of you? Any chance they involve a follow up series?
ZK: I’ve never been very good at saying no to a horde of excited comic book fans, so if readers are left wanting more…there will be more. But we did go into Eclipse very focused on making these first four issues standalone. It had to be a story that found a rather concrete resolution. There’s plenty of world left to explore, there are mysteries remaining, and our hero, Bax, has only begun what could easily be a long emotional journey towards inner peace. But I think Gio and I have spent a year in Eclipse, so we are setting our sights to other worlds. But I will say the collaboration has been so exciting and fulfilling, Gio and I are already brainstorming and discussing other worlds we can visit together.
GT: We’d love to expand the universe of Eclipse, but it is also our intention to try also something new. As Zack said, we are already brainstorming what to do next, but first we’ll wait to see the response of the readers with Eclipse. Readers are important in these kinds of creator-owned project, and what you learn from them can be crucial.
ALL-COMIC.COM: Thanks again for your time and best of luck with Eclipse. Can’t wait for the series to officially launch this September!
ZK: Thank you! And don’t forget to pre-order your first issue. And follow us on Twitter (@zackkaps and @giotimpano) and Instagram (@GIOVANNI_P_TIMPANO) to keep up with all the exciting Eclipse reveals and shares!
GT: Thanks to you and to the readers!