Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio teamed up for Non-Humans, a new comic series that takes place in a future world where inanimate objects have come back to life. They've described the book as Blade Runner meets Toy Story, and I found it to be one of the most interesting first issues I've read in recent memory.
If this is the first time you're hearing about Non-Humans, this interview will give you a good introduction to the series. For those who've already picked up the first issue, Glen Brunswick tells me about what we can look forward to in the next issues.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. What inspired the idea of inanimate objects coming back to life in Non-Humans?
Glen Brunswick: The thing that really felt different about our idea of toys and things coming to life is that the toys are born to humans in the same way that babies are born to their mothers--they are actually a product of our DNA. The disease that infects the earth gets inside us and when we imagine something coming to life we actually breath life into that object. A part our our personality, either good or bad, is projected into the toy that then begins a life of it's own. This means that the toys are subject to all the same insecurities we humans experience in life. And some of the toys can be very violent--they have to be hunted down and destroyed before they become a major threat to society.
How did you two end up getting together to this series? What attracted Whilce to the material? Glen, how did you know that Whilce would be the perfect choice to create this new world?
Glen Brunswick: Whilce had done a cover for my last Image series, JERSEY GODS. He did such a great job that I decided to use the cover on the second trade instead. After that, Whilce couldn't get rid of me. I slept on his porch for months until he agreed to work on a new book with me. Three months without a shower can be very convincing.
Whilce Portacio: Ha! Yes, odor can be a powerful inducement. Luckily, along with the odor, Glen had the kind of story every artist hopes for. I waited a long time for a creator-owned idea I could really sink my teeth into. This idea has everthing, great characters, diverse designs, a terrific Sci-Fi hook and the kind of world building that allows me really let my imagination run wild.
Glen Brunswick: I first saw Whilce's work on the classic Heroes Reborn IRON MAN book for Marvel. It struck me that for the first time I really felt that his Iron Man suit could actually exist in the real world. Whilce is constantly thinking about what he can bring to the design that will make it look functional as well as cool. When you've got a Sci-Fi premise, you want an artist that will help suspend the audience's disbeif--that's Whilce strong suit. He was the perfect choice for NON-HUMANS.
In just the first issue, you two have managed to create a rich world, engaging story and introduce us to nearly a dozen characters. Can you tell us a bit about the creative process and how you two were able to successfully accomplish this?
Glen Brunswick: I wrote a draft which I then gave to Whilce. He liked it, but then had an idea for a different opening that we both liked. I took his idea and wrote a new opening scene which worked for us both. A week or two later Whilce had another idea to introduce the world on the first two pages. I liked what he had in mind so I told him just to draw it and I'd fill in the dialogue later. It's been a really organic process for us both. I think we've both really come to trust each other in an effort to just make a greater whole. It's a natural partnership that seems to work well for us both.
Whilce Portacio: I think in the beginning I felt that Glen was being patient and allowing me to voice my ideas. As we got into it I realized that he actually liked a good deal of what I had to contribute creatively. In that way it's been a very nice environment to produce the work. We both have the freedom to express what we feel works and what doesn't.
I find that the world and general setup is very reminiscent of Blade Runner, in a good way. Can you tell us about Detective Oliver Aimes and the world he lives in?
Glen Brunswick: Detective Aimes is hunting a vicious Non-Human serial killer who happens to be a ventriloquist’s puppet that murdered his partner. Aimes has some serious demons that continually fuel his hatred toward the Non-Humans. His new partner, Detective Eden, is a huge supporter of Non-Humans civil rights and will test Aimes patience at every turn. She's also way too young and beautiful to be a detective as far as he is concerned. Aimes’ son is dating a N.H. against his wishes who lives in East L.A. with a Goth doll and a stuffed mechanical dog that has built herself into a full size robot from spare parts. That kind of behavior is quite common among some of the Non-Humans that envy the humans and want to make themselves looks as close to human as possible. This future L.A. is about to explode in a race riot due to the assassination of one of the N.H. leaders. And a hoard of underworld Non-Human mafia type bad guys have their own devious agenda they’re about to unleash. Aimes also has hidden enemies on the police force that would love to bring him to his knees. It’s a character driven thriller with an intense amount of conflict.
Whilce Portacio: And let's not forget Buddy-The-Bear who has become one of my favorite characters. He's Detective Aimes' confidential informant that also happens to be a hip ghetto bear that deals drugs in Plastic Town formally East L.A.
Will the series always follow Oliver or is the plan to jump to new main characters after a story arc wraps up?
Glen Brunswick: Aimes is the focal point for the first arc. We do plan to jump around a bit as we've developed a really rich cast that could go in many different directions.
We're also introduced to Oliver's son and are shown more of a personal look at how the disease affects children growing up and relationships. Is showing the personal side of this world and disease something that is important to you?
Glen Brunswick: The disease that caused this global problem is most prevalent in adolescents. As a result the entire teenage population is required by law to be drugged 24/7 to keep the Non-Human population from spiraling out of control and overwhelming us. As such, I needed a character to fully realize this idea in the book. Aimes' son seemed the natural choice to play this idea out. I think that it's in the nature of most adolescents to rebel. In this world rebellion consists not of taking drugs to upset your parents, but NOT taking them--that's part of the fun we're having here.
Are you interested in tackling the moral and religious implications of such a disease in more detail? I feel like this is a series that could deal with a variety of social topics in the same way The Twilight Zone or the original Star Trek series did.
Glen Brunswick: Whilce actually had wanted me to deal with this aspect more than I had intended. As I got into it we were able to find places that this kind of thing could fit organically without radically altering the story in any way. I think Whilce was right in that it does give our story a bit more depth. For example we had a moment in the script where we are watching a video about the history of the disease and we point out that the Non-Humans actually use this same video in their Churches or places of worship becauce the video is kind of like their bible--their own form of creationism.
The official synopsis mentions that inanimate objects coming back to life is the result of an otherworldly disease brought back to Earth by a NASA. Is providing readers with a look at the origin of this disease something you're interested in?
Glen Brunswick: Issue two deals with how we brought the disease to earth and how it has spread all over the globe. There's more to the origin of the disease that we may touch on later--just not in this first arc.
Is this series planned as a limited or ongoing series? If ongoing, how far out have you mapped the story?
Glen Brunswick: The plan is to see how well the first four issues do and then decide if we should continue. I can tell you that we are very passionate about this project and have spent far too many hours creating this world to just drop it after one story arc. That would not justify all the work we've put into it. Honestly, I'd be surprised if we didn't go at least two or three story arcs further. We're both having the best time, creatively.
This seems like a great concept that would translate to movies, tv, and games very well. Is expanding this world outside of the comic book series something you're very interested in doing?
Glen Brunswick: Do you know someone in the movies or the video games world we can talk to? We're open to cashing out. We're just not willing to sacrifice our integrity unless the amount warrants sacrificing our integrity. We do have our values after all.
Can you provide us with a little tease of what we can expect in the first few issues?
Glen Brunswick: One of my favorite characters is Detective Medic. He was the first and only Non-Human to become a detective on the force. He refers to himself as the Jackie Robinson of the L.A.P.D. He pesters Aimes constantly on a daily basis. He was a orignally a medical dummy that sparked to life—but his actual genesis is that he's one part Sherlock Holmes and the other part Mr. Spock. There are many more characters I could mention, but that would deprive readers of experiencing it for themselves first hand. It's quite an adventure we have planned that is well worth diving into. We're very excited to see the response and can hardly wait for the first issue to drop on October 3rd. Whilce and I will also be at the New York Comic-Con, October 12-14. Please come by and see us to get your copy signed in person.