In 2012, writer Skip Brittenham and artist Brian Haberlin took sci-fi comics into a different realm by not only publishing the book Anomaly with a cinematic horizontal landscape format, but by also including interactive elements and an App to show how the comic was made. It’s territory they’re exploring again with Anomaly The Rubicon (hardcover), a sequel that not only utilizes the same format and behind-the-scenes interactivity, but a pinball game as well.
In terms of the story, what is the plot of Anomaly The Rubicon, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the original Anomaly?
Brian: This story starts a few weeks after the end of the original Anomaly. In it, we first learn how so many bipedal species could defy evolutionary theory and evolve simultaneously on one planet, Anomaly. Our surviving crew, led by Samantha, then take the fight back to the forces of the Conglomerate that sent them on their original mission to die in the first place.
What inspired this story, and how different is the finished comic from that initial idea?’
Brian: Skip and I had a rough road map for at least three of these. The outlines for the story are really just the initial skeleton. As we go along, we bounce back and forth additional scenes, story twists and turns. But for a creator sometimes it’s about continuing the adventures of characters that you like and want to go further down the road with. Though it’s also about exploring and expanding their universe more, both on Anomaly and out in interstellar space.
Skip, are there any writers, or specific books, that were an influence on Anomaly The Rubicon, but not on the first Anomaly or any of your other books?
Skip: I’ll call out Larry Niven and Dan Simons all day. Larry for functional ingenious tech and Dan for story structure fun.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that you feel had an impact on the story in Anomaly The Rubicon?
Skip: Old epic movies. The book is a massive widescreen presentation, so I really got a lot of influence from John Ford westerns, Lawrence Of Arabia, those types of movies.
How about the art, Brian; what graphic novels and comic artists were influences on Anomaly The Rubicon that weren’t on the first one?
Brian: It’s funny, there aren’t many landscape graphic novels to look at for reference. So I was also looking at more cinematic influences. But if I had to go with a landscaped influence it would Frank Miller’s 300. What he did with building a standard comic that then would be something completely new as a landscape graphic novel is simply amazing.
What about non-comic influences on the art; are there any movies, shows, or games that had an impact on the imagery in Anomaly The Rubicon?
Brian: Oh, hell yeah. There’s old Disney “deep canvas,” also a color palate that is a homage to early Max Fleisher Popeye cartoons.
And this is my last influence question, I swear. Skip, what influence did Brian have on the story, and Brian, what influence did Skip have on the art?
Brian: Skip will always insist on logic and science. We have to explain how this is able to work. It can go into theory, don’t get me wrong, but has to be something that can be real. And anything that becomes, “I don’t think they’d do that,” he’s the police on all that.
Skip: Brian works hard to ensure that the narrative dialogue seems plausible and always works within the context of the part of the story we are telling. But, actually, his most important creative contribution is his unique ability to come up with and frame a fresh artistic vision that he then more than matches with fantastic art. His art helps engage the reader and thus drive a deeper and more compelling interest in the story.
Anomaly The Rubicon and the original Anomaly are presented horizontally, something we’ve seen from both Frank Miller (300, Holy Terror) and Victor Santos (Polar: Came From The Cold, Polar: Eye For An Eye, and Polar: No Mercy For Sister Maria). But those are rare cases. Why did you make this decision with the first Anomaly, and why continue it with Anomaly The Rubicon?
Brian: We wanted to go big or go home with Anomaly…make an impact. And going landscape format was one of those things. And for a comic artist that doesn’t usually get the opportunity to work landscape, it was a blast.
Anomaly The Rubicon is in that format as well simply because it would be a bit strange to change up the format at this point. That and we just liked it.
Another interesting thing is that readers can use a free app to interact with some of the images in Anomaly The Rubicon. In doing this, what kinds of things will be see or even be able to do?
Brian: Lots of process stuff, where you can drag icons around a page and interactively see the layouts for the page, then the black and whites, and finally color. We have a sketchbook in the back of the book, though unlike other books that include sketches, when looked at through the app you can see the sketch actually being drawn before your eyes. We also have face swapping tech so you or your friends can become characters from the book. And the book will be getting bimonthly AR updates to the app.
There’s also, oddly, a pinball game you can access through the app. But what’s the connection between Anomaly The Rubicon and pinball?
Brian: We figured a pinball game is probably in that bar the AR is on. Plus, pinball is cool.
Along with the regular edition of Anomaly The Rubicon there’s also a special edition. What’s included in that?
Brian: It comes in an exclusive box, has a different cover, comes with fifteen collector’s prints of the books main characters, and it’s limited to 500 copies.
As you said earlier, Anomaly The Rubicon the second book of three. What are your plans for this series going forward?
Brian: We’re planning more…with lots of surprises for our crew and the universe. But I don’t want to give anything away.
Fair enough. We talked earlier about the influence that movies and Popeye cartoons had on the story and the art. But has there been any interest in adapting Anomaly The Rubicon or the first book into a movie, show, or game?
Brian: It was originally fast-tracked for feature, but then the studio we were with went bust. Right now it’s in Japan for an anime series. In working on the feature version, there were so many compromises to make the story fit in a two-hour format. An anime series will allow us to explore a bunch of stuff and have time for character development.
So who would you like to see cast in the lead roles?
Brian: I always liked the idea of Chris Hemsworth [from the Thor movies] for Jon, and Emily Blunt [Edge Of Tomorrow] for Sam. Though we actually had some great voice actors on our Anomaly app that I think would do a great job as well.
Finally, if someone’s read Anomaly and Anomaly The Rubicon, what sci-fi graphic novel would you suggest they check out and why that one?
Brian: Black Science from Image. Kind of a modern take on The Fantastic Four, bizarre and compelling sci-fi.