Our modern culture is replete with stories about time travel. Usually, the stories involve changing the course of human history by winning a lost war, or by saving a person that was murdered. However, what if the results were more personal? What if nature itself presented mankind with the opportunity to change the life of certain suffering individuals and give them a chance at a better life. In the comic book series presented by Academy Award Nominee Jeremy Renner’s production company, The Combine, The Rift, gives us a new look at time travel. Published by Red 5 Comics and created by Don Handfield and Richard Rayner with art by Leno Carvalho, the series examined what happens when Rifts opened and allowed certain individuals to travel to a different point in time. However, the consequences of them not returning are deadly and a group of government officials along with a librarian and her son race to prevent the unthinkable from happening. With the trade paperback being released this week I had the opportunity to discuss with Don Handfield a little about the deeper meaning behind the Rift and what they have planned for future stories.
Chris Campbell: What was the inspiration for The Rift?
Don Handfield: I think the first spark came when I was sitting in wall to wall traffic on the 405, with planes from LAX flying low overhead and I just started imagining what if a plane landed on the road. And because my grandfather was a test pilot in WWII and I missed him, I thought how much better it would be if he landed on the road and I could see him. That idea very much reminded me of Spielberg’s Amazing Stories which I loved, and also Quantum Leap another great show from my childhood. I grew up reading comic books and was raised by a strong, wonderful, intelligent divorced mother of two, so it makes sense that in writing my first comic, the hero isn’t a person with a cape, but a single mother.
CC: In Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist he writes, “When you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” Is this the sort of the philosophy you have behind The Rift?
DH: There is a bit of that in it, and certainly the idea of The Rift is this interplay between faith and science. I believe one doesn’t necessarily disprove the other, but specifically with the rift phenomena, our heroine comes to believe they are not scientific anomalies, but in fact supernatural occurrences — the hand of God so to speak, but very much in a the way describe. The collective consciousness, healing the pain of existence through connection, all those things that are the good parts of all religions.
CC: What about paradoxes? In the book it is dangerous for something to stay in the present from the past. Doesn’t sending someone back to change the past present an equally dangerous paradox or rewrite history completely?
DH: That’s one of the things about time travel stories that are both really really neat and also can be frustrating. It’s why this story always stays subjective with our main character. Whatever happens to the reality around her, we are always in her shoes so to speak… So that’s the only reality we know, and the one we really want to preserve. We haven’t broached with time changing à la Back to the Future, but in future issues there is time travel for our heroine, but not as soon as one would think. A few other people close to her go back first…
CC: What about psychologically? If you change the events that made you who you are doesn’t it change the future as well? Aren’t you a new person?
DH: That’s one of the premises we plan to explore deeper, particular with Mary Ann. She was this addict, living on the streets, but all that pain and suffering led to her son and her becoming this beautiful person. Pain is our teacher, and to take that away takes away who we are. Part of her (and our own) journey is recognizing this and not trying to change the past, but instead accepting it.
CC: Is the librarian character based on anybody in particular?
DH: My mom was the inspiration for Mary Ann. All of Mary Ann’s good qualities come from her. My mother is a strong, intelligent single mother. The seedier parts of Mary Ann’s back story are fiction — my mom has never done a drug in her life, never lived on the street, and would never tolerate a ‘Jim’ in her life — but the good qualities certainly were inspired by my mom Joanne.
CC: The story was very character based and highly emotional for all the main characters. Did you set out to tell such an emotional story or just a sci-fi story and the emotions were a by product.
DH: We always wanted this series to be more about emotion than time travel. The time travel and the ticking clock just provide a pressure cooker to really get to the emotional catharsis of every episode.
CC: Are the rifts a naturally, spiritually or man made occurring phenomenon?
DH: It’s sort of like the Quantum Slit Experiment. It depends on who is observing and what they believe.
CC: There seems to be a lot more story to tell. What happens next with The Rift?
DH: The next volume sees a bit of a seismic shift in the paradigm as Mary Ann discovers the identity of “The Russian” (which is only revealed in the graphic novel, not the original floppies). It’s an extra page that peels back the true nature of Section 47. This information makes Mary Ann, Cole and Elijah go on the run from Section 47, and in the process of doing so something truly emotional cataclysmic happens to Mary Ann, which changes the course of the series and her life…
CC: It seems like The Rift would make an excellent tv series. Any plans for this in the future?
DH: We actually already have an offer from a major network studio. We are looking for the best partner and the best home and hope to one day be able to put it on the small screen!<
To catch up on The Rift check out the trade paperback collecting the first four issues released this week from Red 5