Faster Than Light: Pushing Into The Unknown [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: How do you see the sci-fi in FASTER THAN LIGHT? Are you working in hard or soft sci-fi, or does that kind of categorization even apply?

BRIAN HABERLIN: More towards a "Larry Niven" style, a realistic sci-fi. There has to be at least some scientific theory, some plausibility behind story situations and plots to make them believable. When we set rules, we won't break them. I think we also do that by the look of the book, having everything with that NASA feel still. The spacesuits and the ship look like something we'd probably build next, with function above aesthetics. They'll have missing panels and exposed wiring, as the Discovery herself is a work in progress and was launched before really being ready.

IC: FASTER THAN LIGHT is a sci-fi tale that acknowledges the existence of other sci-fi stories, including Star Trek. How has being conversant in science fiction influenced how you're creating this story?

BH: We have the benefit of having our story basically take place today. So, I really reference existing sci-fi as someone would in our culture. I've seen or read most, if not 99%, of all sci-fi out there. Some I'm happy I experienced and some I wish for that time back, but there it is. So, I have a ton of this stuff to reference, but we'll also reference all the other aspects of our lives...we'll see iPhones, we'll see Krispy Kremes... When our crew goes home it will pretty much look like our world today, maybe with some newer electric cars and smaller phones, bigger tablets...but essentially it's us right now out there, waaaay before we're ready. Think of FASTER THAN LIGHT as being a NASA mission on steroids.

IC: The invention of a faster-than-light drive by Dr. Saul Fredericks changed the world, but there are still a secretive Council pulling strings and threats presented by the alien races the crew discovers. How do you describe the tone of this series?

BH: Sort of original series Star Trek mixed in with The Martian and Gravity. While there is the potential for the alien threat, our crew knows it's through exploration that we can save the day. They have to be open to finding allies and knowledge that might help them and not lose that sense of wonder at being out there, even though the reason we are out there is a potentially dark one. But Earth is still Earth, so we'll have political intrigue, greed, religion, and general power plays messing with our crew and its mission.

IC: There's a looming threat on the way in FASTER THAN LIGHT, and a secret behind how humanity first gained access to faster-than-light travel. What does this creeping doom add to a story about exploration for you?

BH: It's a dramatic card to play. They're my big bad wolf, my zombie horde, my smoke monster from Lost...are they coming? ...are they here already? I know all there is to know about them...but I'll be revealing that in a bits-and-pieces kind of way. I think readers who pay attention will get a sort of blind men describing an elephant take. Each reader will fill in the gaps of information in their own way.

IC: We've seen what life is like for the astronauts on the ship, and a little bit of life for the other characters, but what's the status quo for humanity back on Earth like?

BH: Pretty much like it is today. The story basically takes place tomorrow. Now, I'll be slipping in little changes here and there, like you'll see a hybrid Apple/Microsoft logo from their merger, but the crew will still be checking their Instagram, Facebook, etc. Captain Forest has about 1.5 billion likes on his page!

IC: How are you creating the visuals for FASTER THAN LIGHT? Are you working traditionally or digitally?

BH: It's a mix. A hybrid approach. So there is 3D, digital, and hand work thrown in. I'll be doing a tutorial shortly to demonstrate the process.

IC: What was the inspiration behind the integration of Ultimate Augmented Reality in the storytelling?

BH: Trying to offer more bang for the buck. But, also exploring a new method to add to conventional print storytelling. We've added a voice-acted Captain's Log to each issue with the Captain's personal insights into the story, an eight-level retro 8-bit game on the cover to issue 3, and multiple interactive pages with "sourcebook"-like info on the characters or things we feature in the story. We also have the ability to change the story...a crude example of that is in issue 5, where we have some bad guy aliens chatting amongst themselves. In the comic, it is in "alien," so you can't read or understand it...but then you hold your device over the page and it goes into translate mode and the words on the page become English.

The challenge with the AR is to do stories we can only do with that...we're not there yet, but I think we have it so it really adds to the experience and is especially fitting in a sci-fi work.

And while we're talking about "bang for the buck," how about free? We're not resting during our break. I'm enlisting some of my A-list writer friends to do standalone stories that focus on an individual crew member. The first up will be "The Hermit" by myself and David Hine...if you liked David's and my work on SPAWN, then you'll love this. Expect it to be on the scarier side of the FASTER THAN LIGHT dial! The rest of my fellow creators we'll announce later...but they're GREAT and I'm really excited about their insights and takes on things in FASTER THAN LIGHT!

Your first look at the cover for David Hine's Mission Log:


FASTER THAN LIGHT is available in ongoing single issues and an upcoming collected edition. For more info on UAR and the FREE intermission comics, visit the official site.