I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Top Cow chief and artist extraordinaire, Marc Silvestri, about the new Cyber Force series kicking off this year… completely free for the first five full-size issues. Here’s his video of the Kickstarter program alongside Matt Hawkins, Top Cow President and co-writer on the new series. Below that, you’ll find an insightful little Q&A that sheds some light on the new direction for one of the Image cornerstone titles.
Cyber Force has been on hiatus for a little while. Why did the series take the break, and with respect to the new content, what makes now the right time to kick off its new direction?
Yeah, I felt Cyber Force needed a break to distance itself a bit from original series. There are parts of the original run that I never really liked, so this is a good opportunity to take a mulligan and toss them. All the mutant stuff, blue people, characters with weird-ass names had to go. The original unused concepts of Cyber Force are relevant now much more than 20 years ago, so yes, this is a complete redux.
The simple idea of Cyber Force is that technology runs amok, but it’s the nuance and subtleties of human/technological co-dependence that really drives the story. This Cyber Force is about the human race and the rapidly-shrinking distance between our present and our future, not a “humans against mutants” story. For the first time in history, our intelligence has outstripped our natural pace of evolution. Basically, as a species, we’ve timed it all wrong.
Why did you decide to launch the new Cyber Force series through the Kickstarter program and with its nationwide giveaway of its first five issues?
In a market filled with 52 of these or “New X” of those, you’ve got to fight to get noticed, and giving five issues away for free seemed like a pretty good way to do that. If my last name was Romney, maybe I could finance this myself, but it’s not, so social funding makes for a good option. Plus, it gives fans an opportunity to be part of something unique in comics. What’s awesome about this whole project is that it’s being made possible by the lifeblood of our industry: the fans and the retailers. I think that’s pretty cool.
With the free giveaway promotion, you now have the perfect reason for new customers to enter comic shops on a regular basis. What will are the marketing initiatives that you will make to drive those potential new customers to stores?
The retailer is VERY important to use and like I mentioned, we couldn’t do this without their help. For sure the blue-sky scenario is that the Cyber Force project brings traffic to the stores, but we also know there’s more we can do. I feel that most don’t fans realize that retailers still have to pay a certain amount per comic even on “free” comic book day, so we want to help the retailers as much as possible. One of the things we’re doing is offering the retailers special editions that they can sell to make up for their costs ordering the free CF books. And, of course, if we do our jobs right and deliver a great book, fans will hopefully line up even when it’s not free anymore.
What are the benefits of investing in the Kickstarter program? How did you come to the decision that these particular perks would be in play for your Kickstarter, and what are your expectations on fan participation?
When I was a kid, there was a show I wanted to watch that was only available on publicly funded television. That show was Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the only way I could see it was because people pledged to the station that broadcast it. Depending on the amount donated, you got something cool, which is basically the Kickstarter model. I didn’t have much money, but I sent in my five bucks and did my part. And frankly, we’re giving some really sweet and valuable swag in return for people donating. I don’t know the numbers, but let’s just say that the vast majority of people that watch or listen to publicly funded programming don’t pay/donate… but that’s okay because enough people do. No judgments whatsoever, it’s just the way things work. For us, fan participation has been amazing and thanks to them all fans around the world will get Cyber Force for free.
“Bio-Cybernetic Steampunk” is the term you’ve described as the new look for the team. What are the elements that make your characters and/or environment meet that aesthetic? Aside from visuals, does that description apply to how the story itself will be crafted?
One of the things when designing a world is to try to deliver something that hasn’t been done (or at least not done to death). As an artist, I’m somewhat constrained by my own style, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something that, although identifiable as mine, can’t still be fresh. I love steampunk and the clockwork aesthetic it brings, but the genre’s appeal remains somewhat boutique. And the “bio-mechanical” look of Alien has been done, and done, and done. Including by me. I love both genres but didn’t want to be held to the visual rules of either. Best solution? Mash `em up!
Everything in the new Cyber Force is enmeshed from the ground up. Without spoilers, the bio-cybernetic steampunk aspect will be used allegorically to add to the paranoia that runs deep in the story. In other words, we’re going to be sneaky bastards with our storytelling. No preconceived notion is safe, no anticipated plot turn is safe, and no character is safe.
As we’ve seen with Hollywood films, for instance, sometimes there is a need for a reboot, and sometimes not so much. Given that Cyber Force is a team of characters, when approaching the new series, did you feel that there was a particular hero (or several) whose individual journey of character development had reached its end, thus truly requiring a revamp? On the flip side, were there some characters that — knowing that the reboot was coming – you were hesitant to change, given your own appreciation for what had come before?
Hmm, I’m going to answer that with a cryptic “Muahahahaha!”
The bold new Cyber Force launch seems perfect for introducing new readers to the diverse cast. Are there specific plans in place for spin-offs to build upon your launch initiative? Which of the characters do you feel has the best potential to resonate with new audiences?
We’ll be doing spin-offs ONLY if the fans want them. The new Cyber Force is going to be very deep in character, way more the original ever was, so I can guarantee that there will be characters that fans will really connect to. Matt and I are using Game Of Thrones as our benchmark on how to maintain focus on an epic scale without losing drama or intimacy. We’re going to unwrap the world of Cyber Force through the actions of characters both extraordinary as well as ordinary. This reboot is an origin story in the truest sense to the point that there is no Cyber Force when we start, but there will certainly be the need for one by the fifth issue.