Eclipse: Beware the Sun, Trust No One [Interview]
September 7, 2016
IMAGE COMICS: Tell me a little about the origins of ECLIPSE. What came first—the murder mystery or the setting?
ZACK KAPLAN: It started with an experience. I was driving home from a graveyard shift, and it was sunrise. The streets were empty. It was as if the sun was ruling this vacant city, and the people were hiding. And I wondered: Could there be a world in which we lived in fear of the sun, where the sun had transformed from a life-giving force to a monster? That gave birth to the setting, which in turn lead to a second idea. What if the ability to survive the deadly rays of the sun appeared in this world? What if a man emerged with that power? That led to characters, who charted the story's plot.
IC: David Baxter is the hero, and he's somewhere between burnt-out and professional. How does he feel about life at the beginning of this story?
KAPLAN: David Baxter, a.k.a. Bax, is defeated and disillusioned at the beginning of the story, and why shouldn't he be? Billions of people have died in this solar flare cataclysm. A select few societies have survived with a nocturnal structure, but people will never directly see sunlight again, which does affect them.
People in this new world are out for themselves. It's a bleak existence. Bax can only stomach life by working a day shift as an Iceman, a group of engineers who maintain the city's infrastructure with specialized suits that allow them limited exposure in the sunlight. So he works during the day and sleeps at night. But it's more than just the status quo that haunts Bax. He once tried to be a hero during the cataclysm, to do the right thing and help the city. He paid the price. Thus, he doesn't feel like being heroic or selfless anymore.
GIOVANNI TIMPANO: Despite the fact that Bax might be the classic reluctant hero, it's not easy to find the perfect look for him. He is that distinctive kind of character that is not supposed to be in the middle of the action, but once he is in, he is one of the best men you would want in it (which doesn't mean that he will choose to join the action). I mean, as an artist, I kept in mind that I needed to draw him like he doesn't want to be there, in terms of expressions and body language, but that he knows what to do and how to do it, because he is a hero. So, I must still draw him as a man of action. It's more difficult than working on a 100% hero.
IC: What's society like now that the sun scorches the Earth during the day? Do you see humanity as having adjusted, or just made their peace with their new status quo?
KAPLAN: A new status quo has definitely emerged, but it's now somewhere in between post-apocalyptic wasteland and dystopian city. But most people have done what people do: accepted their situation and tried to survive. There are plenty of gangs and small groups in the countryside, and then there are those few communities that have lasted. And of course, worst of all, there are those who have tried to capitalize on the downfall of our world. In our story, the remnant of New York City is run by wealthy industrialists who have taken control of the basic resources like energy and food. One of these men, Nick Brandt, runs Solarity, which provides energy and structure for this teetering community, but at what cost?
IC: Giovanni, what kinds of changes has humanity had to make to survive, and how did you go about designing them?
TIMPANO: People started by simply switching their daytime and nighttime lives, which had nothing to do with simply switching world environments for us. In the daytime, with this deadly sun, there is no chance for the people to stay on the surface during the day, so we see a New York City which is totally abandoned during the day. It's a very particular thing if you think about the city now. There is no sign of life in the cityscape, just cement and a few of our Icemen on duty. The city has the classic post-apocalyptic look in terms of abandoned places, ruined skyscrapers, etc., because the solar flare cataclysm was destructive, but at the same time, the city also has an "ECLIPSE look," because now all the life support systems—air, water, energy, etc.—have been re-invented.
We worked on converting some buildings for this. I created a portion of Manhattan with the SketchUp software. I included these environmental changes, new structures, bridges between skyscrapers, water and air tubes between the buildings' windows, and fields of solar panels all with the purpose of having a solid reference for the place where our book is set.
Now, in the night, the people come out from their underground housing and try to have a normal life on the surface, using those converted places I talked about before. We start ECLIPSE #1 in Times Square, one of the most popular places in the world, which looks like more of an open market in the book. The look of the citizens also had to be explored, and while the look isn't far from what it is now, it had to be different. The world of ECLIPSE isn't a rich society, and the people focus on things other than clothes. Everything in this world is converted to the new status quo, including the clothing. And despite the post-apocalyptic world, the youth still try to look unique and create their own style, so we even thought about how young people might craft their fashion in this landscape.
IC: Zack, you're a fan of sci-fi and film. Are you pulling inspiration from any other works for ECLIPSE? What's "your" type of sci-fi?
KAPLAN: Actually, I've found ECLIPSE to be its own lane of science fiction, and as much as I have influences, nothing truly translates to this world. I mean, I love everything from Mad Max to Blade Runner, but ECLIPSE is neither. I think it's all very unique, because we see a surviving city with tens of thousands of people rebuilding into a new nocturnal society in this post-apocalyptic atmosphere, and with the added component of the sun as a monster. And ECLIPSE even flirts with a grounded tone, as we're exploring characters and their dilemmas, but then we have in-your-face action where the sun will burn somebody alive. Hopefully, readers will like that ECLIPSE falls into its own category.
IC: Without saying too much, there's possibly an element of the supernatural to the series, too. How crazy is this going to get before the end?
KAPLAN: The sun is a monster, and it burns people alive. Is that supernatural? The ability to survive this monster has become known. Is that supernatural? ECLIPSE is about our relationship with the sun, and how in this world, we fear it. But the greatest monster in this world is human nature. When you create a situation where going out into the sunlight becomes a power and not a natural right, then human beings are going to try to control that power, and that desire to dominate, that makes us the monsters.
And once you pit man against itself with survival at stake, then things do get crazy.
ECLIPSE #1 is available today.