In July 2017, a year after his last comic hit selves, Ales Kot returned to Image Comics to release Generation Gone #1. The creative team of Ales, artist André Lima Araújo, colorist Chris O’Halloran and letterer Clayton Cowles first issue of the new series sold out and was instantly rushed back for a second print. “Generation Gone” is set in America in 2020 and follows three young hackers , a secretive scientist and asks the question “What happens when you’re poor, angry, and get superpowers you never asked for?”
This week, issue three of the series is set to drop. The first two issues showcased Ales’s ability to tell complex stories entrenched in social context mixed with genuine characters and dialog. André, Chris and Clayton create sharp pages filled with detail and nuanced human interactions. To learn more about the first two issues and series going forward I was able to correspond with Ales and André for an interview. Below you will find our interview and a quick look at the process of one page of issue 1 of “Generation Gone.” Be sure to check out issues 1 and 2 of the series in stores and online now and look for issue 3 out this week from Image Comics.
I love doing interviews once a series has started because I can say how much I enjoyed something and hopefully it not seem like I am just hyping an upcoming series because was completely enthralled with these first two issues. So for anyone that missed the start of the series, what can you guys tell us about “Generation Gone?”
Ales Kot: Thank you, I’m so happy you love it! Three Millennial hacker kids are planning to rob a bank and get superpowers when targeted by a rogue scientist. Their relationships, already strained, start feeling more pressure, and the army is coming to get them. Things get worse before they get better. Much worse.
André Araújo: Thank you very much! We’ve been getting a great reaction to the series and it’s a very satisfying thing for us creators. It’s about three kids, pretty much in what is today’s world, that get superpowers. And when you mix that with all the problems the youth is facing today, you get a kind of heightened reality.
This issues start right on the cover and instantly is developing these characters. Both issue covers feature for me phrases that do a lot to portray that character. The dialog feels genuine and the acting feels on point throughout. The shot of the two on the the first issue just laying on the grass and their body language says so much about them and their relationship. How have you each approached the characters in this series and bringing such life to them?
AA: I think the key element to create relatable characters is to give them several dimensions (no one is 100% bad or good), which means that you can understand what they do. That doesn’t mean that certain behaviors (in particular from Nick) is acceptable. Not at all. It just helps to flesh out our characters and give them reasons for the things they do and they way they feel. Then there is also the fact that actions have consequences and that play a big role on this story. What the characters do stay with them and everything is amplified by their newfound powers.
To build on how well you guys do characters, two issues in and Nick is the worst. I don’t like him as person but I need to find out what happens to him. How do you try to evoke those feelings from people and make a unlikable person something people invest in?
AK: By making them a person. Going with the example you mentioned, Nick is real, and his actions come from traumatic experiences we allude to — which he hadn’t come to terms with yet. He’s got dreams, routines, quirks, and he makes mistakes. Everyone can relate to that. The potential for healing, transforming or at least coming to terms with our wounds — or a lack of it and a potential subsequent tragedy — is in each one of us. That’s why Nick’s recognizable. Plus…he’s a mentally abusive boyfriend in a country that has a mentally and physically abusive white president encouraging mentally and physically abusive white men (and 53% of white women) to go out and cause more abuse and harm. But it’s harder to see an abuser as a two-dimensional villain when we see the traumas they succumbed to, and still relive. With that in mind, whether Nick gets better or worse…things can’t stay the same.Continued below
And it goes to say that what Nick’s done so far is what we are all capable of.
AA: He’s not a good person, but I think that when you show characters as people, with several layers, that makes the readers to be invested into them. We’ve all made stupid things, we all relate to bad choices here and there, and when you feel actions have consequences, you want to keep reading because situations feel much more real.
Issue two readers and introduced to the idea of making our children powerful so they are not subject to being powerless. This comes out of loss and hardship from our two “adult” main characters. As a father of two really small kids this is a fear and thought I have all the time. How did this idea develop?
AK: Living in the world we live in, how does this idea not develop? Humanity fucked itself. We developed capitalism thinking it would save us and instead it’s destroying us. Our governments are collapsing into totalitarianism. Our resources are dwindling. The ideas being developed are being developed on the backs of the poor and the collapsing middle class. White supremacists feel safe enough to walk the streets. Who doesn’t want the power to change things in some exaggerated way?
Other thing is, when you decide to “make” someone something, even more powerful, and you don’t even tell them — like Akio didn’t tell our protagonists — what does that say about you? Are your fears more important than other people’s autonomy?
AA: I think every parent dreams of protecting their children from all harm. I love history and I read a lot about it. Many things in human behavior repeat themselves and one of them is the feeling that the world is getting worse and worse, even though that is not always (never?) true. So the idea of giving the younger generation powers would pretty much solve the problem wouldn’t it? So the concept is that simple. But it is also important that, as children grow, that they’ll have to become responsible for themselves, so there is a fine line between protecting our children and their autonomy. And, as anyone who’s reading the story can tell, it’s a line fairly easy to cross.
What has the process been like creating the series as team? The layout and look of the book is sharp. The page with the city, Elena walking the sidewalk and greeting Nick is so well realized and the panel work and “camera placement” really told a lot of story. What is the direction like for a page like this as a creative team?
AA: I basically pick up the script and see what fits and what not. Ales is a great writer so that usually is covered. I then search for any references needed (I crossed a bunch of American Midwestern cities to get the first shot) and I go from there. Here’s a layout for reference:
Ales’s Script for Page 11
Sunrise over the city. 60-70,000 people, somewhere in the American Midwest. Vast fields around. Flatland, a beautiful kind, where the seeming flatness dissolves against the subtle waves and peaceful near-stillness of the landscape.
A portrait of old rural America married with the wild progress of its cities. But, just like the Midwest now, the billboards are not taken care of, the buildings are sometimes abandoned and in disarray, and there is a nuanced, pervasive sense of dread weaving through the American dream.
Behind Elena as she walks the city center street with the hoodie on, some of her hair flying out against the soft wind. The sunrise grows slow and steady; the street, mostly empty, receives its first humans, cars, electricity.
Elena’s backpack is a cheap but sturdy one, and fashionable, even. Simple blacks and grays, simple shapes, high usability. A perfect backpack for a hacker.
A man unloads fresh food for a grocery store. He’s weathered, tired. A billboard on the other side of the street is peeling off. Some of the stores on the street are new, still closed in the morning, their owners still believing they have a chance. Other stores, like the grocery store, are surviving, and a few are already dead and empty.Continued below
Behind Elena as she walks towards a run-down apartment building. A tag on the building says YOU KILLED FUTURE. Nick’s waiting in front of the entrance, wearing a backpack as well, noticing Elena–
Elena kisses him on the cheek.
ELENA: HEY, BABE.
NICK: MORNING. YOU’RE LATE.
ELENA: YEAH, TWO JOBS AND ALL THAT, YOU KNOW. LET’S GO.
Chris O’Halloran’s colors are so good right? That right scene looks amazing. Im not sure this is a question but so good.
AK: Chris is getting on a whole new level with us. Wait until you see #5. I’m really honored and happy to be working with my team, and seeing them evolve and joyously push past their previous best is a really special feeling. Chapter five is where things become extremely raw and emotional, plus we go into space again, and…the creative synergy between the entire team is off the charts there, and in many ways contains a defining scene for the entire story.
AA: Chris and me really clicked. We worked closely on Generation Gone and it’s something we’ll surely repeat in the future. Like me, he’s biggest concern is storytelling. Like the rest of team (Clayton, Tom, Lizzie) I feel we’re working among the very best.
How do you approach pacing a comic which has a lot of down time and large focus on character development, whether it be a the team sitting around a table on computers hacking or several silent pages with everyday life? Issue two had some more action but even a riot you guys are able to convey as a controlled chaos.
AK: Trusting my inner sense of rhythm. I love music, I love storytelling, I love fucking — all the same thing. I observe, I learn, I filter through my own perception, and I integrate. Studying how people work with rhythm is crucial. I love Krav Maga which is, just like any martial art, about listening to the rhythm of your own body, the other body/bodies, and the rhythms of the environment where anything can be used as a weapon at any time. I love ballet — recently saw Max Richter’s Virginia Woolf works and I bawled through the entire thing. Once I clear my schedule a bit I want to start going and learn ballet too, feels like a great counterbalance to Krav Maga…both about flow, one about efficiency, the other about elegance. I aim for both. Making music and analyzing it, being in the dubstep/breakcore scene around 2005-2008 as one of the youngest kids they probably let fuck around with proper crowds, that did so much for me too, you know? And reading Warren Ellis on comics and music and how they relate, hey uncle Warren! You were right, many of us owe you a lot. Analyzing manga, Alan Moore’s pacing, but also novels, dancing my ass off in a club, spending a week in bed with someone and learning how they move and why and when, watching the way different editors work in movies and television, playing videogames and experiencing different kinds of rhythmic pacing there, working out what is immersive or not…and then ultimately giving up all the thought after doing all the prep work and going with the flow of the story, you know? Be like water, my friend. Bruce Lee, the ultimate. So it’s about the work and the prep and then about being like water and respecting and trusting my collaborators.
AA: It’s about being clear in what you show. The sequence is key. Being able to control the panel to panel transitions by carefully crafting what is inside them is a lot of work, but very rewarding as well. When you’re drawing something like that riot scene, it’s a lot of work, where you have to draw a crowd over and over again, but for the type of stories that I want to tell I feel that I have to be relentless on my work. It’s wave after of wave (panel after panel) of a sea of perspective, anatomy and details that, when carefully put together, produce finely paced sequences.Continued below
There are a lot of ideas, themes and trends that seem to be referenced and alive in the series. How much research and influence have you guys brought into your work on the series?
AK: All my life.
AA: As someone taking care of the visual side, I research every element basically. If it says “barn” I search “america midwest barn” and so on. I’m obsessed with getting things as well as time allows.
There is a lot of set up the first issue with a great payoff in the end that seems like it is setting up a whole different tone going forward. Issue two continues to push the story and characters in different ways. What can readers expect from the series going forward?
AK: Oh gods, I don’t think I want to tell…isn’t one of the best parts of reading a story as a monthly the whole experience of being surprised? I’ll give you a teaser: hidden feelings emerge and Chris O’Halloran colors some very beautiful skies.
AA: They can expect on hell of a comic.
One of the ideas you touch on in the first issue is an experience rewriting or altering our make up or code as entities. Mr. Akio even uses the example of a book that changed your life and maybe it actually altering our make up with those new ideas. For you guys what are some things that have altered or made you what you are as comic creators?
AK: I mean, honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am without my collaborators, readers, and people who believed and believe in me. I’d also like to highlight the journalists working in comics who do their jobs for meager or no pay and still ceaselessly push for higher ethical standards and a fair industry for all in addition to doing some amazing, loving work when analyzing comic books themselves as well. Some bullet points on what made me as a comics creator: reading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic books with my dad and seeing him redraw an entire two-page spread for me so I could hang it on a wall. My mom reading me books since before I was even born, which meant I knew how to read by the time I hit three years. Being told I can become whatever I want to be by parents who had that option taken from them by a totalitarian state. A director letting me into an editing suite for the first time and asking for advice. My ex-wife’s belief and support when we were poor and worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Joe Keatinge looking at my portfolio when I was about to give up after years of hard work — and dragging me to Eric Stephenson while in Seattle, which resulted in my first two books at Image being greenlit. Ben Abernathy at DC doing the same and taking a chance on me when no-one else would, and then Filip Sablik at then Top Cow and Wil Moss (back then at DC) doing the same. All the friends who believed in me and gave me notes. All the creators who inspired and continue to inspire me. All my collaborators, especially so the people who have started with me and continue to grow with me, like Tradd Moore, Jordie Bellaire, Tom Muller, Clayton Cowles, Vanesa R. Del Rey and more. What and who has not altered or made me who I am as a comics creator and as a person? I have to remain open. Evolution is key.
AA: First of all, all the comics I’ve ever read. My mom reading comics to me before I could, all the Disney comics I was drawing in as a kid, the first Astérix book, the first Lucky Luke, Tintin and Spirou, the first time Valérian melted my teenage brain and Moebius, oh Moebius – it was like seeing God. The trailer from Akira which sent me on a hunt for Manga and Anime, with both versions of Ghost In The Shell and the endless epic of Katsuhiro Otomo. All of it, forever combining in my mind, with all of the comics I’ve read since, all the movies, books, videogames. And above all, all the support from my family, parents and wife first, all the others too.