Zack Kaplan is a comic book writer whose first book, Eclipse, debuted with Image Comics in September 2016. Eclipse takes place in a near future, where a mysterious solar event has transformed the sun’s light into deadly, immolating rays. The sunlight burns people alive and the world’s few survivors now live in nocturnal cities. The first arc was about a killer who uses sunlight to burn his victims. He targeted Cielo, the daughter of a solar power mogul, and it was up to a disillusioned solar engineer named Bax to protect her.
In the second arc, Cielo and Bax have both survived the killer. Now, they want answers about his origins. Cielo investigates the city’s underground and her father’s company, while Bax braves the post-apocalyptic wasteland and discovers another person immune to the sun’s rays. The second volume will be released on August 9, 2017, and Zack was kind enough to take time out of his busy con schedule to sit down and answer some questions!
Rogues Portal: Eclipse is an interesting look at what would happen if the Sun suddenly was our enemy, forcing mankind to adapt to a new way of living. Where did you first come up with the idea for the story?
Zack Kaplan: I often tell the story about how I was working a graveyard shift as a poker dealer, and I would drive home at sunrise when the streets are ruled by the sun. Everyone was sleeping, but the sun was out, so that made me think about a world in which the sun reigned supreme while everyone hid. Why might they be hiding from the sun? Also, I think I was influenced by the changing relationship we have with the sun, which more and more becomes an antagonistic force in the everyday lives of people.
RP: Eclipse is eight issues into the story, but this is your first comic book, and the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive. Are you having more fun or do you feel more pressure?
ZK: Hahaha. Both! It’s exactly what you hope will happen when you release a comic book: that it will catch fire and you’ll find yourself expanding the world and charting out many more issues, but I do feel a tremendous amount of pressure to maintain the quality — no — to elevate the quality of the story. Like you said, I’m new to comics and I already have fans, and I don’t want to let them down. So I probably spend a lot more time with the story than the average comic book writer out there. But it’s really rewarding when readers react to the hard work that the entire Eclipse team puts into the series. It’s been great to see the positive response continue.
RP: I like the beginning of the issues where we briefly travel back in time to visit various characters, seeing what happened shortly after the solar event. Will that be continuing in future issues? Or maybe even an issue primarily focusing on that day?
ZK: That will continue. That’s the framework for Eclipse. Eclipse is about both the past and the present, and our relationship between them, so the device of seeing moments from the past elevates the story for me. However, I intend to continue to explore different other characters and their past, how their backstories seem to only complicate the challenging dilemmas they face in our present. We’ve seen the past of our hero Bax, and our heroine Cielo. Can you guess who’s next for Volume 3?
RP: There are a number of post-apocalyptic stories out there. I feel you have taken Eclipse in a different direction within a familiar setting. How did you make Eclipse feel so fresh?
ZK: I hope it’s fresh! I don’t think there are many stories that look at the sun as a deadly killer here on Earth. I try to keep the story grounded by not introducing too many other story gimmicks. I also think that Eclipse is a mash-up of the post-apocalypse story and a dystopian tale, because there is a functioning city here. That amalgamation makes it tricky to pigeonhole into a subgenre, but maybe that makes it fresh or unique. I certainly try to make the characters seem realistic and the conflicts seem complex in order to give it all an authentic feel.
RP: Cielo is an intriguing protagonist who has already gone through a significant change and has matured since the first arc. What was your inspiration in creating her?
ZK: I love Cielo. Initially, I just wanted a character that offered a contrast to our hero, someone who had no nostalgia for how life once was. As she developed, disrespect for the past manifested into a rebellious streak. Add in an emotionally withdrawn father, Cielo has a lot of baggage to deal with. That’s why it’s been so much fun to watch her mature in this most recent arc. She had to mature on her own, which is why I chose to separate her and Bax in the second arc, but since the story is ultimately a pseudo father daughter story, she and Bax must reunite in the next arc.
RP: Are we going to see different parts of the world to see how they are adapting to the sun’s effects, or has everyone else on Earth pretty much vaporized?
ZK: Everyone always asks me to take the story to other locations, but honestly, there’s just too much to explore here in New York City with these characters! I’m sure some other cities have survived in their own way; not everyone has been vaporized. And I have some thoughts about places we could go, but I’m more interested in playing out the dramas here and I think once readers get to the third arc, they are going to want to see how this conflict with Solarity and the city comes to a head.
RP: You have a solid team working with you on Eclipse. The artwork plays such a significant part in illustrating how the world has changed. What has it been like working with Giovanni Timpano, Chris Northrop, and Flavio Dispenza?
ZK: I have an amazing team! Giovanni is an incredible artist; his attention to detail, his powerful layouts, his focus on story-telling is just awesome. Chris Northrop created an amazing palette for the book, and Flavio Dispenza took on the difficult task of seamlessly continuing the book with some truly impressive colors. And it’s Flavio’s first US comic series! I’ve been spoiled by working with great artists, and I expect nothing less now! Kidding aside, I brought a tremendous amount of passion to this project; it was more to me than just the next series. I was very fortunate that the artists involved were each willing to match my passionate dedication.
RP: I know you went to school for film and you write screenplays. Is it easier or harder writing for comics?
ZK: They’re very different. Screenplays are finite, comics are more episodic in nature, more similar to TV writing. Of course, TV writing deals in time, comics deal in space. How many panels does one display? How fast or slowly does a comic compress time in a single image? There’s a lot of nuance there. I think comic writing, TV writing and feature writing all use entirely different writing muscles, and if you don’t exercise one muscle, it gets soft and it gets harder to do that. You can only get better at writing in any medium by doing it over and over and over again.
RP: When I am writing, I like to have music in the background playing. What is your creative process like?
ZK: Music is good. I like film scores. I like to find things that fit with the tone of the project I’m working on. Lately, I go through phases of having politics on in the background. I feel like something big is about to happen in the world, and then I realize it’s all frustrating noise, so I turn it off, only to then feel like I’m missing some big dramatic moment again. It’s not good though. I need to turn off the TV. I can’t write with movies or TV in the background. It requires too much focus.
RP: You like playing poker, I am a big poker player myself. What comic book villain would you not want to be sitting across from playing heads up?
ZK: I imagine anybody who can read minds would be a real pain in the ass to play against. Dr. Xavier isn’t a villain, but I wouldn’t play against him. I wouldn’t want to play against anyone with a temper, so no thank you to the Hulk. I don’t know, I like to play the villain myself at the table. I guess I can come across like a real cocky player, no matter how little I talk, so people always want to take me down, and I fall into the villain role. So any other villain that wants to try their luck on me, well, they are welcome to try! Muwahahaha.
RP: At SDCC you announced a new book coming out this November titled Port Of Earth, about aliens opening up a spaceport on Earth in exchange for advanced technology. It sounds intriguing, where did you come up with the idea?
ZK: I was doing research about Europeans coming to the New World, and it occurred to me that when civilizations usually meet for the first time, despite disparity in technology and advancement, that relationship usually begins in business. And yet, Hollywood seems obsessed with aliens coming to blow us up. So I wanted to see what would happen if we struck a deal with aliens, and it seemed like they may very much want to use our planet along one of their interstellar routes as a port site. Of course, there’s more to it! What happens when we invite advanced aliens to do business here on Earth? What happens if that deal begins to go bad?
RP: Is there anything that you are allowed to say about Port of Earth that you didn’t mention at SDCC, or will we just have to be patient and see?
ZK: The story follows two agents with the Earth Security Agency whose job is to track down aliens who break Port protocols and deport those rogues back to their ships. One of these agents is a reasonable man who follows protocol, but the other harbors resentment towards aliens and may allow his xenophobic feelings to affect his duty. Needless to say, as we follow a day-in-the-life of these agents, and as they respond to a dangerous alien escaped into the California Coast, things don’t go according to plan. It’s a grounded sci-fi story that looks at the different views that may evolve from this alien deal and the character stories of these two agents in the field. And there’s some awesome sci-fi action with deadly aliens and awesome alien guns. Can’t wait to share it with everyone this November!
I want to thank Zack again for taking the time out to talk with me. You can click the links to purchase Eclipse Vol. 1. and Eclipse Vol. 2. I have read all the issues so far, and it has been a very entertaining story. Go pick them up! And I can’t wait to get my hands on Port of Earth in November!