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Into The Future With The Southern Cross [Interview]

Alex Braith boards the tanker Southern Cross a woman on a mission: her sister has passed away, and she must collect her remains from Titan, Saturn's largest moon, and solve the mystery behind her sister's death. Alex begins with questions like "Why did she die?" and "Who killed her?" before realizing that she's stepped into a story that's bigger than she could have ever imagined. Southern Cross has secrets of its own, secrets that many would kill for or worse in order to prevent their spread. A mix of blue-collar trucking and psychedelic space fantasy, Andy Belanger & Becky Cloonan's SOUTHERN CROSS is a weird and dark space mystery teeming with creeping dread and plain menace. Below, Cloonan and Belanger discuss the origins of the series, where it's going, and what's appealing about having a regular job in space.

Image Comics: You two live and work in the same city. How does production on SOUTHERN CROSS work? Becky, do you go off and script it alone, and then Andy, you draw it solo? Or is there more of a mix, more interaction than that?

Becky Cloonan: I actually moved to Austin in October, so sadly I don't see Andy as often as I used to and I miss him a ton! He is basically my best friend, so working on this book with him rules. We are very much a team (Team Southern Cross!) when it comes to the book. I run all of the story past him to make sure it's stuff he is into drawing, and he has some great ideas that he throws my way. He'll also throw ideas my way for covers and stuff, and we talk about character designs and layout together. Then he leaves me to write the book and I leave him to draw it! After that we get together and do dialogue edits and figure out all the extras and stuff together. It's a good collaborative process!  

Andy Belanger: Living in the same area as your bestie is always amazing. I think the thing with our creative process is that we know each other really well. At the beginning of things we collaborate, but when it comes to the meat and potatoes we really go on our own. I personally like reading the script while I'm working so it surprises me, too. The look, tone, and concept are all there, so it's fun to watch what Becky does. It's really an amazing playground for us both. I also imagine she'll come back and visit Montreal quite a bit in the future. I also love visiting Austin. The Alamo Drafthouse theatre is the coolest!!!

IC: Why was Lee Loughridge the right choice for colorist on SOUTHERN CROSS?

AB: Besides being the surly kind of creator that I like, he and I are the perfect fit. I thought what he was doing on DEADLY CLASS [with Wes Craig] was absolutely brilliant! My work tends to be really detailed, not as much as say Geof Darrow, but getting there. So too many colours, too many dark colours, or over-rendered colours tend to make my work look like mud. I love Lee's flat style with amazing colour schemes. It was issue one when the colours first came in that I really noticed that the colours weren't just flat, but that he used the schemes to tell a story and create mood. It was so cool! It also added a bit of the '80s cartoon feel that I was going for. He really hit it out of the park on this series!

IC: The in-universe ads you put in the comic are pretty cool. What do they add to the story for you?

BC: We're creating a whole world here, and the ads I think contribute to the universe. You can read as much or as little into them as you like and it won't affect the story, but if are the type of person who likes to dig a little deeper, there is a lot you can take back to the story with you! 

AB: For me this was a total ode to Paul Verhoeven. I always loved the way he broke up tension with his in-story ads. It brought in a feeling of commercialism, a daytime tv commercial break that always felt jarring but was totally charming. The Yamaha Sports heart from Robocop always killed me. And of course, the Weyland company in the Alien franchise was always the coolest. You can already see when it comes to today's space programs that companies, rather than governments, are going to be the ones pioneering the heavens.

IC: We've seen the ship and gotten glimpses and hints of life outside of it, both on Titan and elsewhere. It's not squeaky-clean like Star Trek, but it's not rustic like Star Wars, either. What kind of setting is the future of SOUTHERN CROSS?

BC: I would say it edges on the side of dystopian, however I see it as kind of a natural progression if things keep going they way they are. We are still dependent on fossil fuel, big businesses have gotten bigger, crime has gotten more pervasive, and while the structure of our society remains more or less intact, it has been weakened by the deterioration of the Earth and environment. And so as planets, asteroids, and moons are being colonized and mined for resources, space has become a new sort of Wild West—big corporations make the rules, drug barons control the board, but another more sinister and otherworldly force is at play, and is threatening to take over...

IC: "Space truckers" is an interesting job, and one with a nice history in horror fiction. What appeals to you about working-class space jobs, whether as a fan or a storyteller?

BC: Historically (for the most part!) it's mostly those with wealth, power, or who accomplish extraordinary feats who have their stories passed down. But writing these kinds of stories to me sometimes feels too lofty; it's the stories of the everyman (and woman!) that are the most compelling. The idea of a person's history changing as well, of one character doing one thing and being remembered for another...these are all ideas I'm playing with in Southern Cross. 

IC: How long ago did you first come up with the idea for SOUTHERN CROSS? Did one of you approach the other, or was it more of a "Hey, let's jam on a comic, what do we both like?”

BC: Andy actually asked me to write something for him! I had an idea of a murder mystery set on a ship, but he wanted something sci-fi so I set it on a space ship! We jammed on ideas for a while before plotting out three story arcs. The hardest part was maybe coming up with the title! (It's named after our favorite Back Sabbath song.) Also, yeah, I guess it's not really a secret that we were together for a while but aren't anymore—I think working on this book has brought us closer together. Andy's always got my back and he knows I've always got his—we've even got matching tattoos now. Team Southern Cross!! We party hard. 

AB: I think for me I've always wanted to work in this world. The early '80s film culture is where my heart lies for sure. Longer held shots of gorgeous backgrounds in worlds not conceived before. So, that being said, I knew that's what I wanted to draw. I had been working on sword and sandal stuff for so long that I really need a 180° switch on content. I love it so much more. I think it was maybe a year before SOUTHERN CROSS hit the shelves that I started sketching characters that would live in this world. I'm pretty sure I redesigned the characters for this more than a couple times. As far as our team, it's always the most fun to partner up with your best friend and we are both very like-minded and driven in the way we create. In a lot of ways, it comes from the same dark places. Team Southern Cross is pretty heavy; we're like the band Immortal but in comic creator bodies. And yes...we party crazy hard!!!

Oh and here is a sneak peak [left] at some art for the next arc!

From SOUTHERN CROSS #6:

SOUTHERN CROSS is availabe in a collected edition or ongoing single issues. SOUTHERN CROSS #6 is out this week.