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CLIFF RATHBURN
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DF Interview: Cliff Rathburn has civilizations colliding for the survival of Earth in ‘Remote Space’

 

By Byron Brewer

 

In the year 2450, Earth is dying. The human species has gone down two different evolutionary paths. One used cybernetic augmentation to adapt to space travel. The humans left behind used genetic manipulation to adapt to Earth's worsening climate. For Earth to survive, civilizations need to collide.

 

From Image Comics, illustrator/author Cliff Rathburn (The Walking Dead, Brit) launches an all-new, four-issue science-fiction miniseries titled Remote Space. I chatted with the creator about his new book.

 

Byron Brewer: Cliff, what was the muse, the inspiration that led you to produce Remote Space? Is this a new creation, or one from the Rathburn backburner finally at a boil?

 

Cliff Rathburn: I've always followed and read a lot of science articles and websites for inspiration for robotics or for something cool happening in astrophysics or physics in general. I saw a trend in the last 10 years. The bulk of the articles being published are mostly about climate change, insect decline, species loss and how we're currently in the 6th extinction due to anthropogenic climate change. Climate change has always been a huge concern of mine and seeing how little government/corporate interest are doing or doing all they can to cause the collapse of a habitable environment for life on Earth, I became more cynical and very frustrated. As a form of catharsis, I developed a plot for a comic book that takes place hundreds of years after environmental collapse about who or what would be left to survive.

 

Byron: Our setting is Earth, but way way in the future: 2450. (So we STILL don’t know if Man is alive in 2525, LOL!) Describe this world you are building as artist AND writer, and will be setting readers down into it come June.

 

Cliff Rathburn: Remote Space is a story set in the future, around 2450, where a divided civilization went down two different evolutionary paths. The civilization that remained on Earth needed to quickly adapt to worsening climate and pollution, so they relied on genetic manipulation, eugenics, and barbarism. They invented a virus that allowed the infected to mutate and adapt quickly.  The biggest drawbacks of the virus were speciation, shorter lifespan, and infertility. Civilization, being technophobic, halted all technological progress and innovation, which led to a new dark age on Earth. Years without technology, or advancements in medicine, created the need for civilization to embrace technology again to save themselves.

 

The technological space civilization was founded by William Higgs, billionaire owner of the company Higgs Corp. He invented a technology, called a Higgs Power Cell, which supplied near endless energy through the manipulation of Higgs Boson particles, to create a mini black hole inside the cell. After the invention of the Higgs Cell, William amassed a large amount of wealth and invested it in space travel, robotics, human augmentation, and AI. William saw the environmental disaster of social inequality around the world and devised a plan to create the Higgs Space Initiative. In preparation for his plans, he started hoarding most of Earth’s resources creating civil unrest and resentment towards Higgs Corp. Since at the time everything on Earth ran on Higgs Power Cells, government leaders were unable to stop William Higgs.  The Higgs Space Initiative left and most of Earth’s scientists, engineers, and highly skilled labor joined.

 

Byron: We will obviously get to know some individuals of both branches you will be introducing. Can you spotlight your main protagonists in the cybernetic augmentation populace and a little about them, and then similarly for their counterparts in the genetic manipulation populace?

 

Cliff Rathburn: The majority of Remote Space takes place in the abandoned Higgs Corp City.  The city acts as a sanctuary for the remnants of humanity on Earth. It’s controlled by the main character named Zoe, with the help of Levi Wells, an anthropologist and social engineer of the Higgs Space Initiative. Wells established a way to subjugate the people that joined the Initiative. Zoe discovered within four generations all sentient life on Earth would become sterile. For her to save the people of the sanctuary city, she needs original human DNA, before the introduction of the virus, from which to create a cure. Since there are no humans on planet Earth and all data and medical research DNA was destroyed because of the virus, she needs to find a way to lure humans back in the hope to capture an uncorrupt DNA sample.

 

On the cybernetic augmentation populace, we have Lola Doulos, the other main character from the Higgs Space Initiative, positioned on Earth to monitor and maintain spy stations. She tracks Earth’s progress toward becoming a lifeless husk, so William Higgs can later reclaim and terraform Earth. Lola’s unique physiology made her unable to be implanted with the governor module, so she was placed on Earth near her family on Mars. Lola shares this post with Seth Version: 12 who assists and monitors her. Normally, William Higgs would have eliminated her by placing her in a high-risk job and orchestrating an accident so as not to raise suspicion about her death, but her unique physiology needed to be studied.

 

Readers will learn about them and how eventually their paths will become intertwined, and how they'll need each other to survive what's coming.

 

Byron: What else about these two human branches can you tell us? And is there perhaps another homo sapiens-related group we do not know about, one that may be stirring the pot (re big-bads)?

 

Cliff Rathburn: Both branches of civilization’s motivations are still very human. The one caveat is that the cybernetic augmentation branch installs governor modules to control the population’s behavior. Stirring the pot would be Levi Wells, one of the cybernetic founders, who helped them subjugate the cybernetic population. He holds the key to freeing them. Levi Wells' motivations are a mystery and unravel as the series goes on.

 

Byron: I realize civilizations will collide, but aside from evolutionary differences and where that has obviously led, is there one main beef that brings the two to blows? Having left, I would not think the cybernetics would be concerned about a dying Earth.

 

Cliff Rathburn: You're right about how cybernetic civilization is not concerned with Earth other than for its mineral resources hence the small presence in Earth's orbit. They're patiently waiting for Earth's life to die off, but finding out that Levi Wells is alive and on Earth has left them no choice but to return to eliminate him.

 

Byron: Your art is celestially so beautiful. Talk about the task – one hardly ever mentioned in interviews, I do not think – of designing the main characters and the main stage sets for them. Any favorites among the cast art-wise?

 

Cliff Rathburn: Art for me is the most important thing in comics. Even before I could read, a good comic was still easy to understand even if I couldn't read it. It made me feel like I was reading even though I couldn't. The main goal with the art is to have it understandable from panel to panel and page to page.

 

I can't think of a favorite character because I get to draw whatever I want, as long it fits into the art direction of the book.

 

Byron: Cliff, what other projects in which you are involved, inside or outside comics, can you tell readers about?

 

Cliff Rathburn: As of right now, I'm wrapping up the last issue, which is around 46ish pages and gray toning The Walking Dead Clementine, Book 3 with Tillie Walden. When I'm finished, I'll probably start another book, but the next one's going to be black and white.  I’ll work for hire inking on the side as I work on the next book.  I plan to continue with Remote Space and do other stories that take place in the universe.

 

Dynamic Forces would like to thank Cliff Rathburn for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Remote Space #1 from Image Comics is slated to be on sale June 12!

  



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