Rucka and Lark Talk the Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Future of “Lazarus” [Interview]

By | May 8th, 2013
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

It seems like Image Comics has been dropping huge books with incredible creative teams each and every month for the past few years. Scratch that, it basically has been exactly that, and we’ve gotten a lot of books that are more than the sum of their parts from those newcomers. Books like Saga, Fatale and The Manhattan Projects are already established, bonafide hits for Image, and new books like East of West and Jupiter’s Legacy are following them up by finding higher heights to reach.

But the question is, like in Image’s marketing campaign, what’s next?

I’m here to tell you wholeheartedly that the book to watch is Lazarus from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Now, this should be no surprise given the talent of Rucka and Lark, but from what I’ve seen and heard about the book, this has all the markings of the next great Image book. Hopefully both retailers and fans are ready for this, as this could be two of the best bringing their A+ game to an absolutely dynamite concept.

To help get this book in front of more people, I have a sprawling conversation with Rucka and Lark about the genesis of this book and the direction of the first arc, and if you enjoy it, expect more as we plan to chat in-between each arc. This book arrives June 26, so make sure to get your orders in to your retailer as soon as possible. You don’t want to miss the first print of this book, that I can promise you.

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Let’s start with the question I’m sure you always get asked. The two of you last worked together on Gotham Central…

Greg: That’s not true.

Michael: Yeah, that’s not true at all.

When was it?

Greg: The last thing we did together prior to this was “I Am An Avenger” #2 .

Michael: That’s not true Greg. It was Punisher.

Greg: Oh that’s right! It was Punisher #7.

Michael: We did an issue of Punisher. We did I Am an Avenger. We Got an Eisner for that.

Greg: We did Daredevil.

Michael: Yeah. The Dakota North arc.

Well shit. Sorry guys. That started well.

Greg: You can tell we’re horribly offended! (laughs)

Clearly. (laughs)

Michael: I had forgotten a lot of that stuff too, because it really felt…we were barely able to touch base on those. It’s been a long time since we were really able to dig in.

Even on Gotham Central, half the time I was working with Ed. So this is the first time Greg and I have done anything long term, full time together. From previous experiences, I couldn’t imagine we’d ever have any difficulties.

Greg: It’s interesting too, because back when we were doing Central…I very much…I changed a great deal as a comic writer in the last decade obviously.

For sure.

Greg: Certainly since when we were doing Central together, at least. I came into comics from the prose side, and my first editor in prose was a woman who really didn’t want anything to do with me until the manuscript was in her hands. So I was used to working entirely alone. Since then, and it’s unfortunate – it’s one of those cases of if I knew then what I know now – over the years I’ve become, I don’t know if I want to say better but certainly I’ve come to realize that you know what, you can communicate with your collaborators.

Thus, when Michael and I started…and Michael would call, you would call me far more than I’d call you. Michael would call up and say, “I’m looking at the script and you did this, and I don’t know why you did this,” and I’d always be a little surprised and say, “yeah, okay sure.” Now where we are working on Lazarus, I’m still writing the scripts quote unquote “in isolation.” But the give and take and the interaction is so much more immediate and constant and the give and take is so much more rewarding. I do think it’s reflected on the page.

Michael: Yeah. We’re birthing this thing. There was…in a lot of ways, I don’t know if we had to do it as much on Central or any of the other projects we’d done, because we were just playing in someone else’s sandbox. And now we had to build our own sandbox from the ground up.

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I was not the one the idea came from. The idea came from Greg, so I feel like right now a lot of this communication we’re doing is me unzipping Greg’s head and digging with a spoon (laughs). It’s like, “here’s what you said, but I want to make sure this is what you meant.” That’s my job.

Especially right now it’s to tell people what Greg meant. It is fun, because we’ve been having a lot of back and forth. I know as I start to see the characters drawn that kind of changes my perception of them. I’m sure it does for you Greg.

Greg: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael: It gives you stuff to build on.

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Greg: You sent a page today…I was up all night finishing this draft (of his novel) and went to bed at 9 this morning, then got up at 1 pm, and immediately checked my phone and had a email from Michael, and it was a page from #2, and it was the first time we saw his interpretation of this character. And I’m looking at it right now – panel four – and I looked at that, and I thought, “that was not what I saw in my head, but it’s absolutely perfect.”

Michael: That happens a lot. (laughs)

Greg: It was a million miles from whatever was in my mind’s eye. This character…the attitude…

Michael: And that will change as we move along. And Greg, I inked that page. I’ll send it along to you.

Greg: I can see Beth there…

Michael: Yeah, she’s a work in progress. We’ll see.

Greg: Yeah, I figure you’re going to get…that’s the first time you’re drawing her.

Michael: You gave me a challenge with this one, trying to get everyone in this room. It’s the first time we see all of the family together.

Greg: Everybody but the mom and one of the sisters.

Michael: It’s the first time we’ve seen their home and some new technology we’ve done. Right now, it’s definitely a birthing process for me. I have to think of that stuff all of the time. Nothing is there already. It’s been a lot of fun working together doing that.

I’m always curious when you’re working on a creator-owned project like this, especially one based in our world but a “What if?” this is the way the world goes. You have to build up some of the elements…you start with a base and then the both of you have to develop this world in all these new and different ways. Is there a process for developing things like the economy, the Lazarus system, and other parts of the world?

Greg: Again, it’s been fairly organic. I had some really clear ideas when I first brought the idea to Michael. In particular about Forever (the lead), about what her nature was, how she came to be, and I had some ideas about what the world would look like in terms of both environment and technology. But it’s one thing to sort of see it in your head, and another thing to hand a script to your artist and co-creator and collaborator and say, “there you go.”

For me, I try to give Michael as much information as I can. Yet he has to turn around ask me really basic ass questions (laughs), and I mean really basic. Like, what does the car look like? What do the walls look like? You say it’s a compound…what architectural style are we talking about? When we talk about it being in the near future, and this is why I keep using the Children of Men analogy, the technology is advanced enough that it’s plausible extrapolation. But it isn’t science as magic.

But the environment, simply by nature of the world where we have this very, very limited privileged class, and everyone else pretty much has to suck it (laughs), they’re not living…the wealthy gets whatever they want. So they can have new, they can make new, they can maintain it.

But everyone else is left with literally the leftovers. There’s a bit in issue 2 where two of the siblings, the Carlyle family’s domain is pretty much Western United States. Sort of West North America. Two of the siblings have sort of their dominion. The area that they are responsible for, which is basically southern California. Maybe San Joaquin Valley down to what we would call the border to Mexico.

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So, Forever ends up in Los Angeles in issue 2 with one of her brothers. You see as they are going to the family estate, which is out in what would be the Palisades, there’s been an earthquake in the past ten years. The family, Jonah and his sister, have not given one whit about rebuilding for the populace. They’ve just maintained what the family requires. They’ve done nothing.

So you have obviously a juxtaposition of what they have, which is shiny and new and clean and well maintained – maybe even retro – and then you have what was and however it’s decayed and survived and scavenged and maintained.

And every single time right now, when I send scripts to Michael, and I say, so we’re in this location. We’re in Magdalena, Mexico. It’s a Moray family compound, so Michael says, “okay great, what do those uniforms look like? (laughs)

“What do those uniforms look like? I need more information about their family. It’s Mexico you say, or does that mean they’re Mexicans? Who are these guards? What ethnicities am I working with? What is their economic strength…we know the Carlyle’s sort of power base grew out of. Where did the Moray power base grow out of?”

So I can literally, “oh that took me three seconds to write this sentence.” And Michael will now take the next three days while he’s working on other pages, back burning in his head and sketching “this is a Moray uniform” and “this is a Moray coat of arms.” We’ve established that the families, their soldiers wear identifying markers, they wear coat of arms. That means Moray needs a coat of arms.

Michael: Jesus Greg, I didn’t even think of that (laughs).

Greg: That’s exactly it.

Michael: I did not get in this business to design heraldry.

Greg: Said the Graphic Design major.

Michael: Hey man, they taught us how to sell Cheerios, not how to design coats of arms. But I love it, it’s fun. It’s something I never thought I’d have to do, but it’s not conducive to work at a Kirby like speed. But it’s fun. It’s what I like to do, you know.

A lot of time is spent on the Internet looking at the speculative science websites, which there are tons of them out there. That have concept vehicles, and rubber gloves that can touch the Internet or something. That stuff is fun.

I got to design a motorcycle. That was kind of like, “what will a motorcycle look like in 20 or 50 years.”

Greg: That forces other questions.

Michael: What’s the technology? Do they run on gas? Do they have gas? Are they running out of it?

Greg: Is it combustion? Is it solar? Is it nuclear, god forbid? (laughs) Then there are secondary questions too. You’re asking technological questions. Then there are legitimate design questions. What is the aesthetic of the family?

Michael: It’s taken a couple issues to get into that, but it’s fun because each family has their own look. Now that I’m kind of getting used to our family. For Forever’s family, it’s getting fun now. “Okay, what kind of motorcycle would they have?”

Michael, when you’re working on a non-creator owned project, would you get…obviously you’re not going to develop speculative fiction future cycles and stuff like that if you’re working on Spider-Man or something, but do you get to that depth on other projects? Does this get a bit more robust than you’re used to?

Michael: (laughs) Uhh….I think that, yeah, I do this a little bit on everything. I Sheldon Cooper out on this stuff. That’s who I am. I get into every little nitty gritty detail. It doesn’t always end up on the page, but when we were working on Gotham Central, Greg can attest to the fact…a lot of it takes places in the squad room.

Well I knew where everyone’s officers were, where their desks were, what was on their desks.

Did you effectively have a floorplan?

Michael: Yeah, oh yeah, I did. It wasn’t effectively, I did. (laughs)

Now I use Sketch Up and build that place. I can see what it looks like from certain angles so much better. I can play with different focal lengths to see what can get into a panel and make it interesting. I’m still learning how to do that, but it gives me a lot more options than a perspective drawing, and I’m just too precise about that stuff. I want to get it right.

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I’m not a good cartoonist. I can draw stuff the way it kind of looks, but my theory has always been “if that’s what I have to do, I might as well get it right.” Not fake everything like so many comic artists do and are better at than I ever can be. I can’t just sit there and draw a car and it’s like a car a way I would draw it, but it’d look wrong. So I have to make it look like a real car for me.

Listening to the two of you banter back and forth, it’s obvious that you enjoy working with each other. What appeals to you about working with each other? And what took so long to get a big project like this off the ground?

Michael: Schedules and the fact Marvel and DC don’t like each other. (laughs) Am I right?

Greg: It’s schedules more than anything else.

Michael: Comics take a long time to do. It’s not like going to make a record with your friends, and then making another one a few months later with your other friends. Comics take a long time.

Greg: I’m not sure…I think it was when we were doing Half a Life (Gotham Central arc), we realized we were not only on the same page, but we were speaking each other’s language. Not specifically content, but in terms of art. I remember there was a panel in one of the Half a Life issues, and I was trying to describe a moment Montoya was having, and the gesture, and I could not say she looks unhappy. She is angry. It’s the kind of look that’s this and this and this, and David Caruso used to do it really well on NYPD Blue, and it’s this and this and this. And I get the page, and he’s nailed it.

It is not actually a common thing, at least in my experience, I think there are some who are very gifted at this. I am not. Being able how best to communicate with their artist.

Michael: I don’t think that’s true Greg. It’s like any relationship. There are some people who fit together like puzzle pieces better than other people do. Me and Greg just fit together that way. Ed (Brubaker) and I do too. But it’s a completely different relationship. Even in terms of the creative communication back and forth, it’s a completely different relationship. Their scripts look and read differently, their characters act completely different, but it somehow still works. And Greg, you have that with Rick (Burchett), right?

Greg: Yeah, I think that there are only three or four artists I can say this about, where I feel that the communication is not so much effortless as it is really intuitive and fundamental. There is an absolute understanding. And then it also frankly doesn’t hurt that we’re friends.

Michael: Oh, we are? (laughs)

Greg: Shut up Michael.

Michael: Oh, yeah yeah, we are. (laughs)

Best of friends.

Greg: There are plenty of artists I’ve enjoyed working with that I feel I’ve done great work with, that I wouldn’t call them my friends. I’m pleased to call them acquaintances, and I’m glad to have a professional relationship with them.

My relationship with Michael is beyond professional at this point, and I do think that whether consciously or not, that does provide another level of trust.

Michael: I think that’s the keyword right there.

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Michael: Yeah. We trust each other completely. I guess I can’t speak for Greg, but I think he feels the same way. We creatively trust each other 100%. Greg knows I’m never going to just go off on my own where he gives me a scene where I go somewhere completely different on my own and I don’t give a shit what he thinks about that. And there are artist who will do that.

Greg: Yep.

Michael: And I know every script I get from Greg will be great, and even if I do have little nitpicky things about it, like I did with issue 1, which I made Greg rewrite (laughs). It’s like he knows that it’s because we have the same vision. I know that I can say it, and Greg’s not going to get offended and we’ll be on the same page creatively.

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Greg: I don’t know a way that I can put this that won’t make me sound schmucky. There are very few artists who come back to me and say, like Michael did, “this was not what you said to me.” We talked about it and I think it’s a mistake that I would have given the time to go, “okay, let’s figure out why you’re saying that.” Because I absolutely trusted him when he said that. The result is a far better issue 1.

Michael: That’s cool that you said that, because I don’t think you had said it to me yet (laughs). I’m glad to hear that.

Greg: I thought I had made that clear. I apologize that I hadn’t.

Michael: It’s cool to hear it.

Greg: The initial issue number one did everything it should do, but in such an unpleasant way.

Michael: That’s not true. That’s not true.

Greg: It didn’t focus on what we needed it to focus on. It was a fine first issue, but it was a fine first issue for our second story arc, if that makes sense. Michael called me out, rightly so, and it gave me contortions. I had to go back in and rip everything out.

Michael: I felt so bad about that.

Greg: But the result is an issue I’m really proud of.

Michael: It came out great.

The way it came about was he was coming through Texas about a year ago on a book signing tour, and his agent just so happens to live in Dallas as well. Greg and I went out to dinner with his agent, and we’d been talking about doing something else for a couple years. Greg just…I don’t know what compelled him to do it, because I don’t think he was trying to get me interested in it…he described this scene that ended up being the first scene in the first issue.

It just knocked my socks off. It was just great. I loved it. If that were a trailer for a movie, I’d be the first person in line to see it. And then I got the script…I said that night at dinner that that’s the book I wanted to do. Forget the other thing, that’s what I wanted to do. Everything just fell into place.

Then I got the script and I said, “what happened to my first scene?!” It wasn’t there anymore, so Greg went back and put it in, and it did come out to be a very great first issue. For me, it’s a fucking awesome way to open a comic. What other books are you going to read where the very first scene of the very issue is your main character getting killed? (laughs)

A section of Lazarus #1

Not that many. (laughs)

Greg: Denny’s (O’Neill) reboot of The Question in the 90’s, but not many others.

Michael: I’m showing my comic book ignorance, but not many the way Greg is doing it.

Greg: That’s the point. This is verrry different.

So far we’ve been able to read the one four-page prelude. It’s set up some of the characters and the world. From what I understand, it’s not appearing in printed issues. How did you decide to do that, and why is it not being printed in an issue?

Greg: I suspect it will end up in a trade. But honestly, I had been talking to Ed (Brubaker)…Ed had been very bullish on doing something at Image. When I went to Image with this, they were gracious enough to say, “yes, we would like to do that.” Ed was talking and saying, “then what you need to do is…” I love him to death, but the authority he was speaking on was….”what you have to do now is a trailer in previews. That’s what we did. You do a trailer with scenes in there.”

I called Michael and said I’m not comfortable with that, but what if we did a four-page short short. What if we put a short story into Previews that will give a taste of what the book is and will sort of introduce some of the characters and show them around.

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Michael’s response was “YES!” That’s why we did it. It seemed to me if we had the four pages, and this isn’t to malign the trailer thing, clearly it’s been successful for a lot of people, but I couldn’t get my head around it. I suppose it says everything you need to know about me and the way I manage my career, I couldn’t figure out how to pick the marketing moment. What I could do was I could see this little story. That was how we did it. There’s nothing really nefarious in it.

It’s in Previews and it’s online, and there’s a link to the PDF and you can download it and blow it up on your screen. You can share it.

It was really nothing more than putting this thing out where people can find it.

Michael: It was a nice way to get acquainted with the world and all of that stuff without the pressure of it being a first issue too. It was kind of like Spring Training.

A section of Lazarus #1

I had never seen that type of thing before, but I loved it because you guys are both storytellers and when you have a preview where it’s unlettered or could be a random part of the story or a trailer, not to disparage the trailers, but it only does so much. But when you get to read the feel and the flow of the story like you can in that four-pager, I think it’s a great way to sell me as a reader.

Greg: Good. It’s good to hear that. That’s the best we can hope for. It’s good to put out this little taste and say, “hey want more? It’s only $2.99!”

You mentioned social media, and not saying the comics Internet represents the entirety of comic readers, but it’s nice to send it to five comic fans I know, and they send it to five comic fans they know. It’s a great way to share stories and to know what they can expect from the story.

I live in Anchorage, Alaska, and my shop woefully underorders every Image comic and Oni comics and anything basically besides Marvel and DC.

Greg: Which store in Anchorage.

Bosco’s, which you did a signing at I think.

Greg: Yeah, about four years ago, I think.

Yeah. They’re great, but I have been trying to convince them to up their orders. I think they’re finally coming around to the idea that they need to order more Image, and it’s things like this that convince people to order more books because they’re good.

Anyways, that’s my rant. (laughs)

Greg: I hope it’s successful, if not as a distribution model, but as a way for people to share their materials.

Michael: Absolutely.

A section of Lazarus #1

You mentioned that Ed had been trying to get you to work with Image, and obviously they’ve been successful, and as soon as you brought it to Eric Stephenson I’m sure he was overjoyed. But what made Image a perfect home for this as opposed to Oni, who you did Stumptown with Greg?

Greg: It’s an interesting question. I’ve never done anything with Image. I’ve done a lot with Oni. I wanted to see, I think, just personally, what it was going to be like working in a different format and in a different way. One of the things Image does that…it’s not necessarily Oni wouldn’t, but my relationship with Oni is so established that it’d be weird to say we’re going to tear out how we do things and build it back up.

There’s also frankly the matter of being able to fund it. Michael needs to be paid and it matters to me that he is paid what he is worth. Image’s model makes that a little easier to do.

Michael: Yeah.

Greg: That’s essential, as when you ask an artist to take 4 to 6 weeks to draw this, you’re also telling them to take 4 to 6 weeks to not make any other money. When you have a child and you have a life and you have a mortgage and you have all these things, that’s where you have 4 to 6 weeks where you need to make enough money to offset those costs. So that’s a huge part of it.

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The thing that sealed the deal was, and I said this before, this is not mine. It’s ours. It’s a co-creation. It mattered to me that Michael and I retained our rights as completely as possible. For both the comic and for any part of exploitation of the comic (laughs).

And I’m on record of this elsewhere. I’m not a fan of coming into comics and saying, “I intend to use you pretty little medium to get myself a movie deal.” I don’t like whoring us out.

Michael: I do. (laughs) I want a movie deal.

Greg: I should be more precise. I don’t want to use slut shaming language. I don’t like the medium being abused as a stepping stone to another. I don’t have a problem with other stuff being exported and being adapted into movies or TV or whatever. If you can do it, god bless you. If that’s the only reason you’re doing it though, there’s the door. I want first and foremost to tell the best story we can and in comics format. If I wanted to try this as the best story I could tell in a novel, I’d have written it as a novel, and if I wanted it to be a movie, I’d write it as a screenplay.

Be that as it may, I’m certainly not resistant to nor disparaging those people who when presented with the offer, take the option money. It matters to me that should we find ourselves in the situation where someone wants to buy the rights, we can say yes or no, but we also can be compensated for our time.

A section of Lazarus #1

I think it’s interesting that you hear from creators who get offers before their books are being released. To me, it seems you should succeed off the merits of your book, but where the speculation is so great at this point, people get money thrown their way just in case it is good.

Greg: I know a number of creators who have found themselves in the situation where they have announced a book and sold the rights almost immediately. Or presold the rights prior to the announcement.

You know, that works for them.

Michael: It’d be really hard to say no to that money if there was good money behind it. I don’t know if we necessarily would have.

Greg: I know for my own part, and this is for my own part, and the other project we were working on was called Black Magic. We could never get everything together for that. I have had a couple people who came to me who said they want to turn that into something, and it makes me wildly uncomfortable. For my purposes, like Lazarus, it was created as a comic. Until it exists in that form, I don’t understand how anyone can interpret successfully what exactly I wanted to do.

That I think is the thing that makes me really uncomfortable. But that is very personal. I really want to stress that. I would not turn around to someone else and say, “you shouldn’t take that deal if they’re willing to give that to you.” I just know for my own purposes, I stand a better chance of being happy with whatever ultimately might be iterated out of that project if I can give the person who wants to buy it four issues out if it first.

You guys have mentioned a 4 to 6 week window where you work on an individual issue. What’s the plan for a release schedule? Is it going to be some sort of staggered schedule?

Michael: We’re going to be doing monthly with like, short, short breaks in-between.

So like what Saga is doing.

Michael: Is that what they’re doing?

They release an arc’s worth, then release a trade paperback, then an arc, and keep doing that.

Michael: That’s the plan.

Greg: That’s very much the schedule that’s been proposed.

Michael: I feel much better now about the schedule we made. I didn’t know they were doing that. That’s great. Frank Miller did it with Sin City, and Mike Mignola did it with Hellboy. Comics to me were designed to be little anthology magazines. There were…one creator might do an 8-page story and another a 4-page one, and you wouldn’t have a monthly crunch. That’s a lot of work. To me it’s just a much more reasonable way to do things.

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You get your monthly fix and your sequential storytelling, and it’s not we’re just putting out a novel in short bursts so we can make more money off it. You still get your serialized storytelling, but it seems like a much more reasonable thing to do. I always liked how they did Sandman Mystery Theater where Guy Davis was drawing it, where he’d draw 8 issues a year and they’d have one fill in artist. It was just planned. We’re not going to do the fill-ins, that’s the only difference.

A section of Lazarus #2

I’m a big Mignola fan, and I’m a big fan of what they do over there. It’s kind of like what you do with Stumptown Greg, where you do your mini-series and then move onto the next one. It gives you time to breathe and tell you the story you want to tell.

Greg: It is, but it’s funny because we originally wanted to do what we’re doing here and what they’re doing with Saga, where we tell discrete stories and tell the arc, and take a month or two done and then begin the next one. For a variety of reasons, Stumptown has not been able to keep to that schedule.

I have had some really rotten luck with schedule on some of my books in the past. It matters a great deal to me that the issue, if we say it’s going to be in the store on x date, it’s in the store on x date. I really…especially with a new venture, a new project, it’s all the more crucial. You say these issues are going to be there, they need to be there. Even if the majority of our sales will come from trade, it matters that the floppies are in the store when they’re supposed to be.

There’s a relationship with your audience, and having been put in a position more times where I care to count where I feel I let that audience down, I don’t want to do that anymore. I actually feel incredibly guilty about that. It says far more about me than you need to know (laughs).

I think it’s a great model, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out.

Going back to the meat of the story, when the book was originally announced the lead character was named Endeavor and now she’s Forever. Why did that come about?

Greg: It’s funny. Ed Brubaker is factoring a lot into this conversation. He sent me an email and said that they were doing a series about young Inspector Morris called Endeavor, because that’s his first name. I had been dealing with another name collision on another project where I named a character one thing where someone came back and said that’s the name of a porn star. I just wanted to get in front of it as fast as I could. I just didn’t want it to be a thing.

Michael sent me an email either last week or the week before about a couple of our characters and their interactions, where apparently there’s something in Game of Thrones and we’re going to catch heat for that. My response is I’ve never seen Game of Thrones and never read Game of Thrones, and I’m not willing to run away from the idea because some other guy executed that. I never claimed to be the most original ideas guy. There are elements of stories that will always return again and again and again.

I guess we spent about a week and a half bouncing around new name ideas.

Michael: It seemed like we spent more than a week and a half bouncing new name ideas around.

Greg: It may have been.

Michael: Nothing seemed right.

Greg: One thing I liked about Endeavor was the puritan feel to that. The deal is the Carlyle family has five children, and the fifth one is genetically designed and grown. She is not a biological, or natural birth. She’s literally created in a lab and raised in a lab. That’s where she was conceived, and through a variety of scientific processes, spliced together, and then carried to term. And when you create a child and you have the wherewithal to literally create your child like that, then you’re going to give her a name of significance to yourself if nothing else.

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You’re going to name her Sally if she was the most important person in your family. If you’re going to assign to that child a purpose, i.e. you are the protector of our legacy, then the name is going to matter. I think when I first proposed Forever, Michael was like “Iiiiii don’t know.” Like most names, it didn’t connect with the ear quite right at first. After five or six names, it started to sound better.

One thing I always like to do with names of characters is I always want the name and to be able to do a variant of it. So if I have a Steven, I have a Steve. And with Forever, I liked that you could get Eve. I liked the irony in naming her Eve.

I’m sure you get this a lot Greg, but obviously you’ve become known for your strong, realistic female leads…

Michael: What?! That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that!

Michael, I’m sorry I had to break it to you. (laughs) It’s really awkward, but it’s a thing he does I guess.

Michael: My god! I had no idea! No wonder you always were asking me to draw these bitches!

I’m sorry I had to spoil that for you Greg. He now knows.

Greg: Dammit!

The Midtown Comics Variant Cover to #1 from Lark

Both from a visual standpoint and a character standpoint, what sets Forever apart from Dex Parios, Renee Montoya, Tara Chace and the rest?

Greg: Michael should field that, because I don’t know if he’s going to talk about it, but there was a lot of time put into what she looks like and what her body type was.

Well, absolutely. I was thinking about it, if this was a Gattaca child that you’re building the perfect human being to protect your family, what does that person look like?

Michael: She’s the most Greg Rucka chick ever. (laughs) I was telling Greg this, I was talking to you and Jen (Van Meter, Rucka’s wife/fellow comic writer) that one time you were driving…she’s just such a Greg Rucka chick. She’s kind of pissed off and vulnerable, and really badass. If you kill her, she’s just going to come back and kill you harder. She’s just a Greg Rucka chick.

We went around and around and around to figure out what we wanted her to look like, and trying to convey that. That sense of toughness and her vulnerability that are at the core of those great characters you just mentioned. It’s a challenge as an artist and a fun thing to address every day.

We went around and around and finally settled on the soccer player, Hope Solo, as the physical type we wanted. That kind of attractive and muscular and strong, and once we figured that out, she kind of just grew from there. She’ll evolve some more as I draw her, I’m sure.

As we worked on number two, Greg emailed me and said, “you know I realized this is probably what age she is” and we had never even talked about that. (laughs) And I was like, “I think I’d been drawing her older than that, so she’s probably going to look younger in the second issue.”

There are things like that we have to think about. I didn’t even think to ask him.

I think that’s one of the things you see in creator-owned books, and the development of these characters and especially with someone like Forever who kind of lives her own shell and only gets the information she’s allowed because they want to keep her in this role. Once she gets that other information, seeing the way the rest of the world is, I imagine she has to grow through some serious growing pains.

Greg: Oh, yeah.

Michael: Greg is known for putting her through those too. To me, when Greg described the book to me and said here’s what I see, here’s how it’s going to work, that’s what appealed to me. This character is about to embark on a really interesting journey. It’s a classic hero story at the same time that it’s this kind of very modern comic that…yeah, there you go. That’s all I needed to say.

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I think the last question I have for you guys is about one of the things I’m excited about when it comes to Lazarus – the level of depth you get to. Earlier you mentioned the house sigils and the cars and what the cars look like, but one of the things I’m curious about is how into the depths you’re going to get. One thing I am interested is the dichotomy of the way these families live and the way the rest of the world lives. Are you going to be bringing us into the depths, into the rest of the world?

Michael: Oh, absolutely. The second issue we go right into the heart of where the waste lives. We see…issue two really shows the dichotomy between the two. Issue two takes place in both of those worlds. We go from one scene of wealthy decadence and Shakespearean family squabbles to the absolute worst slum you’ve ever been in on the next page.

There’s a great scene that was one of the scenes that had been excised from the original issue one where they’re traveling down the highway in their convoy of sleek, futuristic Hummer type SUV’s, with guards with machine guns mounted on top, keeping an eye on where people are camping in burned out busses and living under the Hollywood letters on the hill. Things like that. That’s the way…we see that juxtaposition of the two. It’s great visuals that Greg is getting me to draw there.

In fact, I edited him there and said I needed more space there. I shifted some space around so I had a few more pages to show more of that.

Greg: And again, it was absolutely needed. He called up and said I don’t have the space, so I said, well, now that you put it like that, we better put find you the space.

One of the things the first issue sets up is that the first issue define forever the deal with Forever, but it also sets up the relationship between the trade class, the serfs. The second issue, you see more of the contrast between the family and the waste. In the third, you see the family dealing with another family and Lazarus interacting with Lazarus, with all of that culminating in the fourth.

In the next arc, we’re going to be spending more time in the waste. We’ll really start to see that level of suffering and deprivation. Apparently it’s universal amongst the families. They all do this. As we expand the world, and the world’s going to grow with each story, and as Forever both comes to terms with her and discovers who she is and how she has come to be, that will roll out as well.

David Harper