Interview: Chad Kultgen talks about Darklight his Graphic Novel from Archaia!
Earlier today, we brought you an exclusive preview of Darklight, the new graphic novel written by Chad Kultgen, with art by Piotr Kowalski, and published by Archaia.
We poisoned our planet. Sucked it dry of natural resources. Killed one another in the name of gods that never existed, and survived despite it all. Now, at the very edges of the fabric of space-time, the universe itself is starting to decay. Three warring races–the Human Empire, the organic Duron, and the cybernetic Luminids–must band together to stop their mutual destruction, and the future of the galaxy rests on Captain Rhodes and the crew of the H.E. Woden.
We got a chance to chat with Kultgen about the graphic novel, how writing comics differs from movies or prose, and what we can expect. You can check out Darklight yourself this Wednesday when it hits comic shops everywhere.
Graphic Policy: For those that don’t know, can you go into what the story is about?
Chad Kultgen: It’s your basic humanity-overcoming-all-odds-to-survive-in-the-middle-of-an-interspecies-war-that’s-coming-to-a-head-just-as-the-universe-is-crumbling story. It opens at a time in history when everything in the universe has been explored. It’s so far in the future that all of the stars have burned out and the universe is starting to fail structurally due to entropy at its edges, which is creeping closer and closer inward and threatening to destroy everything. The only sentient races who have interstellar travel capabilities are us and two other alien races who have to team up to try and stop the universe from decaying with a device made from our combined technologies.
GP: Where did the idea for this graphic novel come from? How long have you been working on the story?
CK: The story has been kicking around in my head for a few years. The thing that served as a catalyst to generate the story was a friend of mine many years ago told me that a cable network was looking for a sci-fi vehicle for a certain actor. So I started thinking one up and those early ideas for a TV show ultimately twisted around in my head until they became this comic book. I never pitched the TV version of the story and I was beyond happy to do it as a comic book, which is a childhood dream come true. I don’t think that cable network ever figured out a project with that actor because they haven’t had a show with him that I’m aware of. It’s always interesting to me, though, how ideas for stories can sometimes pretty easily slide into different media formats – tv shows to comic books, or comic books to movies, or video games or whatever the case may be.
GP: Were there any influences on the story? The solicit text mentions the rebooted Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek?
CK: I think it’s near impossible to ever write a science fiction story without being influenced by every science fiction story you’ve read or seen before. Isaac Asimov, in some way (perceived or otherwise), influences everything I write no matter the genre or medium. His books had such a huge impact on me growing up I think they shaped a lot of how I viewed the world and existence in general so they natural influence my writing. But more specifically where this story is concerned I think the influences were definitely shows like Battlestar and Star Trek. As I mentioned earlier, this idea was originally conceived as a TV show and so there are certain character dynamics and situational story architecture that are in the Star Trek/Battlestar/crew-on-a-ship-in-space arena.
GP: Your past writings have had a lot to do with relationships, and the preview I’ve read so far seems to indicate this book will be the same, in a sci-fi setting. What draws you in to focusing on that so often?
CK: My books definitely deal with relationships, sexuality and how things are changing as technology forces huge social shifts. The movies and TV shows I write are definitely more broad. The thing that draws me to focus on those subjects is, I think, the fact that I’m living in a time when those subjects are not only relevant but by understanding them and examining them you might even be able to have some predictive power regarding the social structures of the near future. The ability to predict things like social structure or political shifts has always interested me, probably since I read Asimov’s foundation. That entire series was about using a formula to predict large shifts in social and political structures for thousands of years into the future. It’s an idea that’s stayed with me. This story doesn’t deal with relationships in the same way as any of my books in that it’s certainly not as sexually explicit, but there are definitely some interesting relationships amongst the crew.
GP: Your writing style has also been described as frank and honest; can we expect that here too?
CK: This is pretty divergent from anything I’ve ever written. I grew up reading comics. I guess I should say I grew up reading a lot of fucking comics. So while there can obviously be a wide variety of different writing styles where comics are concerned, there are certain parameters (as there are with any written medium) that I wanted to remain within. Just as none of my movies or tv projects are as sexually explicit as any of my books for the reasons dictated by the mediums, this story is more focused on the action and sci-fi elements because it’s a sci-fi comic. That said, there are definitely themes in this story that I explore in my books, as well. Some of those are: the futility of existence, the finite nature of all things, the reality that no gods have ever existed.
GP: You’ve written books, movies, and television, how different was it writing for a graphic novel?
CK: It wasn’t terribly different from writing a movie. The format of the script was very similar and it was surprisingly familiar once I got a few pages in. The most different aspect of the whole process for me and also one of the most satisfying was getting to see the art. It was a very surreal and incredible process to have a hand in some of the decisions regarding what this story would look like. With movies, very usually in my experience, you sell your script and then have nothing to do with the movie again until it’s released and even then you have very little to do. So this was a much more collaborative process which I really enjoyed.
GP: Where did the idea for the two alien races, the Duron and Luminds, come from?
CK: They’re each extensions of humanity, possible evolutions of our own race; at least intellectually. In the story, they’re not related to us genetically in any way. They each evolved in their own little corners of the universe without any influence from us but the ideas for how their races operate and what they became over the course of their own evolutions came from the base question: what are the possible final stages of humanity. I saw one that chose to fully embrace the obvious benefit of computer and machine based technology, ultimately merging with it for a higher degree of efficiency and one that chose to fully embrace the obvious benefit of genetic technology, ultimately having the ability to create a life form for any possible function.
GP: In the solicit text there seems to be some references to current issues we see in today’s world, including war over religion, poisoning our planet, and destruction of our natural resources. Some of the best sci-fi act as lessons and allegories about society’s ills at the time. Why do you think this genre lends itself so well to that?
CK: Because very often science fiction is set in some future time so it’s easy to illustrate a possible conclusion to one or more problems that we face in contemporary society.
GP: Piotr Kowalski is providing the art for the graphic novel. How did he come on to the project?
CK: He is an artist that BOOM! has worked with before. They recommended him based on some of his previous work on projects that had space ships and aliens and other sci-fi elements and I think he was a great fit for this story.
GP: What other projects do you have coming up?
CK: Later this year a movie version of my third book, Men Women and Children, will be in theaters. I’m working on my next novel, a feature script and a few TV projects. But most importantly I’m honored to be recognized as the world’s greatest wild squirrel photographer: instagram.com/chadkultgen