Being Non-Human – Talking To Whilce And Glen

I read the new Image comic Non-Humans last night on the train on the way to the pub. By the end of the train ride, I wanted to grab people and make them read it with me. I was not expecting the comic to be quite this good.

I’m quite the fan of the kind of sci fi narrative that does away with origins. That presents a changed world but just drops you in it, letting you work out what’s going on, what changes have actually happened and why. The world has changed and now everyone is just getting on with things, where the amazing differences have now become mundane and humanity’s standard blasé approach has regained dominance. A procedural fiction emmersed in wonder. And this is one of those.

What are these non humans, robots, clones, aliens, what? How do they come into being? What is it that kids do that adults can’t? And what are the drugs that all kids are on preventing them from doing? Is this science? Magic? Something else?

Thy whys and the wherefore’s are irrelevant here, when instead we get a story of parents and children, or concern and fear, of power and a lack of it. I asked creators Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio a few bits and pieces inbetween panels.

Whilce, congratulations on receiving an Inkpot award this year in San Diego, is it in a place of pride in your home?

WHILCE: It’s on the living room display table alongside my grade school girls numerous academic school awards, it’s the shiniest one…

Glen’s a fairly recent arrival on the comics scene, what’s the appeal in working with a newer writer versus a seasoned veteran?

WHILCE: Glen is very seasoned in terms of story and concept. He has an uncanny sense of keeping us both on track in terms of the theme. One of the general problems in today’s reality is because IP’s can be worth so much, there is not as much collaborating on concepts. I got into comics for the collaboration with my partners and am fortunate that Glen is of the same mindset. If anything it sets forth a much more fulfilling work experience as you both bounce back and forth ideas, concepts, and words.

GLEN: I can’t comment on working with myself—-it’s hard enough living with myself. I think the main thing is developing a trust with your collaborator whether seasoned or new.  If they are talented then it’s not a huge difference as long as you have an open dialogue to discuss what is and isn’t working.  Whilce and I have that trust to pitch each other a better creative take.  Whilce’s veteran status also means I can rely on him a bit more with shot selection and laying out a page.  I can focus more on the emotions of the characters on the page and leave the design layout to him.  And when Whilce has ideas, I listen.  They’re usually spot on and wind up in the book one way or another.

As artist and writer respectively how much input do you prefer from the creator you’re working with?

WHILCE: The more the merrier. As an aspiring teenage artist I thrived on the hours of discussion, argument, and cajoling as you developed ideas from a spark of an idea to final living and breathing reality. So I am constantly looking for interaction with Glen…

GLEN: I feel the same way. I’d rather argue it out before we go to press than wind up with a book done my way that has holes we didn’t iron out.  I think if you get into a creator-owned project with someone then you better be open to collaborating with them.  Just make sure that you get involved with people that are smarter than you, check your ego at the door, and put their best ideas in the book.  No fuss, no muss!

Non-Humans – scifi with a touch of horror, or horror with a smattering of sci-fi?

WHILCE: Science fiction if you please. The distinction is Scifi is more action fantasy oriented, while Science Fiction is about world building and trying to, as much as possible, to be true to the current science knowledge, sometimes to make concepts work you must dabble in pseudo science…with a smattering of horror, noir, action, etc. Starting with Wetworks I tend not to think in terms of conventions of genre. I just think where does the story and characters go and then strive to make it feel true.

GLEN:  NON-HUMANS is more about the former, sci-fi with a touch of horror.  I think of good horror as developing suspense and interesting twists involving your main characters—-and while that is a focus of our book as well, the main trust is the sci-fi concepts and ideas that set the action and actors in motion.  At its core the interesting thing we hang our hat on is the idea that the toys that spark to life in this future actually come from us—from out of our own mental DNA if you will.  We brought back this Martian virus that causes a global epidemic in our world teenage population that grants them the ability to breathe life into their toys simply by using their imagination.  The Non-Humans, as they’re called, are also given a part of the owners personality—in a sense they are birthed in the same way that a mother gives life to her child.  And some of them are very violent—-they’re not quite whole.  They need to be destroyed for the good of society.  At its core the action of our story tends to spin out of these interesting ideas that force the resulting character driven action.

Do you have any favorite toys you can remember from growing up that you would’ve liked to have come to life?

WHILCE: I grew up in the day when the Saturn Five’s were flying into space so all my toys were science based. G.I. Joe’s with astronaut suits complete with full parachutes and moon rovers and space walking gear, etc…

GLEN: I like the G.I. Joe’s too.  Mine had the life-like hair and the Kung-Fu grip.  If only I had a toy that showed me how to shave properly and how to defend myself I wouldn’t have had so much trouble in high school.  “Curse you G.I.Joe, for not being there for me.” Sorry, I get carried away.

A teenage population that has to take drugs to kill their imagination possessions infused with the worst aspects of our personality coming to life and trying to kill us, prejudice and segregation, is Non-humans a stealth Occupy Comic?

WHILCE: Man, I wish I had thought of that.  That would’ve been a great highbrow way to pitch this whole thing.  But I think current events do tend to bleed into our fiction through our subconscious. So if you see that in this, I wouldn’t exactly say it wrong.  I’ll just complement you on your keen perceptive abilities.

The toys that most young people today play with are probably video games, versus the classical standard of dolls and action figures though those continue to be popular to be sure. Do video games exist in this world? Are they affected by the space virus as well?

GLEN: The Non-Humans have control of the urban streets.  One of the trading areas where humans and Non-Humans meet and find common ground is Plastic Town, formally East Los Angeles.  It’s like Las Vegas! You can buy anything there.  The Non-Humans sell video games, illegal drugs, toys—-all the things that are forbidden to humans.  If you’re human, you just don’t want to get caught.  The Non-Humans actually live the rich fantasy life we used to.  Humans are no longer allowed to dabble in creativity as it causes the creation of more Non-Humans.  In a sense, it’s much better to live the creatively fulfilled life of a Non-Human despite their minority status.

Whilce, the new book is from Image. You were there at the beginning, do you have any regrets that you were never a defacto founder of Image?

WHILCE: I was there and I contributed what I did. Among other things, it was I, the lone Image founder that was a computer geek so I was the only Image partner who was part of the four man team devoted to figuring out how to harness Photoshop and therefore how to implement and teach it to new operators. So I was always at the forefront of shaping the art of what we did, and will always feel pride in that and everything else I did for Image and our fans.

Given the success of Walking Dead #100 and Uncanny Avengers #1, how many covers in retrospect do you think Non Humans #1 should have had?

GLEN: The Walking Dead had thirteen, right?  I don’t know, Fourteen?

More and counting…

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