What if the afterlife was an uploading program with an expiration date of its own? That chilling concept is explored in John Stanisci's new sci-fi action graphic novel LifeDeath. Slated for a 2018 release, the graphic novel is currently part of a Kickstarter campaign with perks aplenty, and we caught up with Stanisci and actor/producer Stelio Savante to discuss the ambitious ideas behind the new graphic novel, the goal to adapt the story for the screen, and much more, and we've also been provided with an exclusive set of preview pages to share with Daily Dead readers.
Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, guys. LifeDeath looks like an engrossing story with an intriguing concept. John, when and how did you originally come up with the idea for this graphic novel?
John Stanisci: First off, thank you so much for this feature! I’m really excited to talk about the book. The concept and characters for LifeDeath first came to me roughly twenty years ago! Yes, TWENTY YEARS AGO. I was under contract with DC Comics at the time and started writing some stories for the Batman office. Sci-fi was making resurgence and I had this notion in my head: what if the afterlife was really just some sophisticated "uploading program" for our consciousness? What if an ancient evolved society on Mars created this "afterlife" and that’s what caused their destruction? And, after untold millennia, what if that program was now dying? As I started thinking about the characters, I thought: wouldn’t it be cool if the bad guy in the story goes into his enemy's past life to corrupt him at the soul level in another lifetime? It would be kind of like The Terminator concept only on a soul level. Once I had these ideas nailed down, the rest of the story just started falling into place.
Stelio, you’ve teamed up with John as a producer and actor (to play the role of Golem) to help LifeDeath become a series and potentially a feature film. What attracted you to John’s story and how would you like to see it adapted for the screen?
Stelio Savante: John created a world and characters that are compelling and provocative. There's the fascinating WWII storyline, and in this day and age of CGI and FX, it was a no-brainer (that it made sense for me to join the project). I'd like to see it done as a gritty, dark, character-driven graphic novel series or film. While this is genre, it is still driven by the characters and to me that's very appealing.
Thought-provoking sci-fi is becoming more and more popular these days. Why do you think this genre is resonating so much with modern-day audiences on both the page and the screen?
Stelio Savante: Our technology has advanced so much the last few years, and this kind of CGI lends itself to the sci-fi genre more than anything else. There is artistic license with the above-mentioned support (CGI) to create worlds we've never imagined, through time travel, or future/distant worlds on screen. The public can't get enough of that because there are no limits. The comic book feature franchises also have characters that cross over into each other's storylines and fans love that, they can't get enough of it.
Although it has an epic sci-fi scope, LifeDeath also takes an intimate look at one family trying to make their way through this dangerous world. How important is it to keep the story character-centric while still delivering ambitious sci-fi visuals and settings?
John Stanisci: For me, paring this potentially enormous story down to a personal level is essential. I think the great challenge of doing "high concept’’ sci-fi is having a few select characters that audiences and readers can completely identify and fall in love with. Once the readers connect on that level, they can get on board for the more fantastical elements of the story. So, it was really a simple concept that would connect the whole book: a family torn apart by war in one life, fights to reconnect in another.
Stelio Savante: It goes without saying, the characters are the reason we tune in. We love to hate them; we love to root for them. We invest our time and commitment and emotion into those characters. Without those characters, it is difficult to feel connected to storylines or to care much. I think the latest example of that is Blade Runner 2049... they brought [Hampton] Fancher back in to re-write the re-write. He knew the character, he understood the inner conflict of Deckard's journey, and that's what folks identified with.
LifeDeath is set in two different timelines: 2211 and 1944. What were the challenges or rewards of telling this story in two vastly different periods of time?
John Stanisci: It’s been a heck of a lot of fun! The obvious visual contrast between the two timelines had to be carefully thought out. As we worked our way through the book, editor Joseph Navarra, colorist Andre May, and I came up with very specific ways that we would visually connect the two timelines so, as you read through the story, you can see the connective threads between Deke’s life in 2211 and his past life as Lucet in WWII and how the corruption of Deke’s soul in the past is affecting his life in 2211.
The afterlife is such a fascinating aspect of our real-life world to ponder and explore through storytelling. Was it daunting or freeing to really think about life after death for this story?
John Stanisci: Without sounding morbid (hopefully), I’ve always been kind of obsessed with the notion of an afterlife. What is it really? How did it operate? As I was developing the concept for LifeDeath, I heavily researched all kinds of spirit world phenomena, past life regression therapy, countless stories of people who claim they’ve been reincarnated, etc. There were a lot of connecting threads, but the thing that really stood out to me was that there seemed to be a sense of order in all the accounts of this afterlife; an organizing consciousness. Some might say that would be the hand of God. I thought, for the purposes of my book, what if it was a consciousness invented by man? I was off to the races.
Were you influenced or inspired by any sci-fi or war films, TV series, or graphic novels while creating LifeDeath?
John Stanisci: Okay, true confession time. As I was creating and working on LifeDeath? No. Not any one thing in particular, really. However, I will tell you that, in my opinion, the film that kind of triggered this fascination and fear of the afterlife was this documentary film I saw as a kid called Beyond and Back. The film took a 1970s style hard look into afterlife phenomena and had several scenes where we see the souls of the recently deceased leaving their bodies and entering that "bright white tunnel." TOTALLY freaked me out for years! So, I think this was still all on my mind years later when the first notions of LifeDeath were popping into my head. Parents: be careful what you show your children! Their trauma could end up as a graphic novel one day!
Right now readers can help support LifeDeath through the graphic novel’s Kickstarter campaign. What types of perks can supporters look forward to enjoying?
John Stanisci: Great question! As of now, we have some really great perks for everyone. At varying levels, people can get signed full color prints of my work, have an original commission piece created just for themselves (I’ve attached a full color commission of The Walking Dead I did for a fan as an example of what they look like). We are also offering a limited number of live Skype portfolio review/art instruction personally with me for the aspiring artists out there! I’ll be live with you to look over your art and give you the best advice/critique/instruction that I can. Lastly, I’m going to tease all of you and say that on November 15th, we are going to be hosting a KICKSTARTER LIVE EVENT where we will be announcing a limited edition LifeDeath variant cover by a SUPERSTAR Marvel/DC artist, being colored by a SUPERSTAR colorist! To get more info, please go to www.lifedeathogn.com. You will NOT be disappointed!
LifeDeath is currently eyeing a 2018 publication. What does the future hold for LifeDeath on both the page and the screen? Are you already thinking about continuing this story in a sequel?
John Stanisci: A sequel to the graphic novel? Mmmmm, it’s definitely on my mind. Stay tuned!
Where can our readers go online to learn more about you and LifeDeath, and do you have any other projects on the horizon that you guys can tease?
John Stanisci: Readers can check out www.johnstanisci.com to learn more about me and some of my upcoming projects.
Stelio Savante: I'm starring opposite Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel in a drama called Jo, The Medicine Runner and I'll be in the upcoming season of Tyler Perry's The Haves And The Have Nots. You can also see me recur my South African shoreline mercenary character in the video game Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, and I'm starring in three new films being released fairly soon: No Postage Necessary, Rapid Eye Movement, and Selling Isobel.
Press Release: NEW YORK, NY–John Stanisci has launched an exclusive Kickstarter campaign to publish his original science fiction epic, LifeDeath, told in part from the perspective of a teenage female Jewish resistance fighter in the Second World War.
LifeDeath has added the Emmy-award winning producer Jared Safier as an Executive Producer, alongside veteran actor/producer Stelio Savante to help the graphic novel find a home as a series and to explore its development as a feature.
“Having a strong female character at this time is very important to where we are heading as a society” says three-time Emmy winner, Jared Safier. “Beyond that, the bravery of a 14 year Jewish freedom fighter during the Nazi regime really hits home with me personally. I grew up in a Jewish family with many stories of oppression that my ancestors had to endure. It's great to see a strong female Jewish character standing up to this oppression that past generations have had to do endure.”
In the year 2211, Dr. Emil Heydrich, a fugitive scientist on Mars, discovers that humans invented the afterlife long before man existed on Earth. The ‘afterlife matrix’ is an ancient computer program, an uploading device to preserve human consciousness. After many millennia, that matrix grew to sentience and now, like anything that lives, the afterlife matrix is dying.
Deke Renner, an elite Martian soldier, is slowly going insane. His mind is being torn apart by his memories of a past life where he was Lucet, a Jewish 14 year-old female resistance fighter in World War II. An ancient evil has entered Deke's past life as Lucet, in hopes of corrupting his past life soul. If it succeeds, and Deke dies in his current life, he will be erased by the Lifedeath. The story takes place over two timelines: the future year of 2211, and the year 1944, during the Jewish uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto. Lifedeath is an action packed thrill ride where the spirit world collides with a future science spiraling out of control.
LifeDeath will debut as a 140 page graphic novel, written and drawn entirely by Stanisci, and produced through LifeDeath Media LLC, a trademark co-owned with editor Joseph Navarra. The graphic novel is currently available exclusively on Kickstarter, with distribution to its supporters slotted for early 2018. For more information on perks offered, visit the campaign page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1867737982/lifedeath
Cover art and exclusive preview pages:
Commissioned Artwork by John Stanisci: