Mathew Klickstein has tamed many a beast with his pen. As a journalist, screenwriter, and playwright, he’s written everything from novels (Selling Nostalgia) and films (Against the Dark) to theater (Ladies of the Fly) and the oral history of Nickelodeon (SLIMED!)
More recently, Klickstein has tried his hand at comics with You Are Obsolete, which he’s described (begrudgingly, mind you) as “Children of the Corn with cell phones.” But the series is so much more: with its mix of ’70s horror vibes and the profoundly resonant motifs of ageism and technological overreach, it’s as engaging and entertaining as it is outright unsettling.
We touched base with Klickstein recently to discuss the book, and he delights with the deepest of dives, addressing the book’s ideas and messages, his many inspirations and influences, working with artist Evgeniy Bornyakov and colorist Lauren Affe, and much, much more. It’s a read almost as compelling as the book itself.
For even more from Klickstein, the TPB of You Are Obsolete hits shelves on April 8.
AIPT: It’s clear from the book (and your perfectly wonderful intro, BTW) that you’re playing with that trope of not trusting adults and the eternal struggle for independence every generation of whippersnappers experiences. Why do you think this is such fruitful ground for fiction, and why were you drawn to exploring this dynamic? What does the series offer in regards to new insights into the age-old struggle?
Mathew Klickstein: You mention the new introduction to the upcoming trade paperback edition here, and it’s apt that the very first line points out the seemingly non-sequitur, innocuous notion that Jack Weinberg, the activist who popularized the slogan “Don’t trust anyone over 30”, will be turning 80 this year (serendipitously/unintentionally four days before the new edition’s release date).
There are of course earlier examples that go back even further than 3000 years, but our civilization’s self-awareness of the cyclical notion that “what was new will soon be old” (and vice versa) can be plainly seen in the Bible. The Byrds’ lyrics, “to everything thing, there is a season…” is directly pulled from Ecclesiastes, after all (and in fact that song came out at the same time Weinberg and the Berkeley Free Speech Movement were promulgating the “never trust anyone over 30” motto; more serendipity there, perhaps … or zeitgeist?).
The dialectical concept of the next generation revolting against the old is a natural, axiomatic part of our lives as beings on this planet. So, no surprise it comes up again and again in our literature/artistic expression.
We sometimes forget that “revolution” itself was originally an astronomical term refers to 360-degree motion; as in, the (more or less) circular movements of celestial bodies and thus our entire system of life. A “real” revolution, then, if you want to get persnickety about it, means a full circle, means going right back to where we started, beginning the cycle anew.
This process is laid out particularly plainly in one of the pioneering texts of “modern” revolution, Max Stirner’s The Unique and Its Property, first published in 1845:
“A countless multitude of concepts buzz about in people’s heads, and what are those who strive to get farther doing? They negate these concepts to put new ones in their place! They say: ‘You’re making a false concept of right, of the state, of the human being, of freedom, of the truth, of marriage, etc.; the concept of right, etc., is rather the one which we now establish.”
We’re talking here about the extremely pertinent themes of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. That the revolutionary platitude “ALL ANIMALS ARE CREATED EQUAL” so frictionlessly devolves over the course of the narrative into “ALL ANIMALS ARE CREATED EQUAL … BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS” is such a basic idea, Orwell penned the tale in which it appears as a literal children’s book.
The fact that – as Orwell himself saw firsthand through his chronicling of various worldwide revolutions and civil wars, including one in which he was shot in the neck for his trouble – the revolutionary can (and typically does) become the revolted against over time (and so on and so on…). Or, as Hannah Arendt – referenced both explicitly and implicitly throughout You Are Obsolete – once suggested, “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative on the day after the revolution.”
Our society is a perpetually-moving pendulum, as observed when one considers the significance of the First Law of Thermodynamics (energy can neither be created nor destroyed) combined with Newton’s Third Law of Motion (every action has its equal but opposite reaction).
It’s right there in the ending to Richard Matheson’s horror novella I Am Legend, which was one of the many influences on You Are Obsolete for its subdued but eldritch sense of terror. The last scene of I Am Legend has the protagonist realizing that yesterday’s hero is tomorrow’s monster, and vice versa. I mean, Jesus! (Pun intended.)
Frankly, this all goes to the point I’m also making throughout the series: that the realm of social media/new media/tech overall is not the egalitarian electronic utopia that some would like it to be, had hoped it would be or are hoping it will be one day. No, it’s just Animal Farm again.
The players have shifted around a little, maybe, but it’s still the same game. It’s no more than yet another plutocratic oligarchy in which an extremely small number of wealthy/famous/powerful people are well served while the rest of us are jammed-up (at best) or ground-up (at worst) in the slow-moving gears of modern-day machinery.
There are those meager few who benefit from a system in which they can have seemingly adamantine “terms and conditions” overturned (for themselves) or have (for themselves) some flight delay issue handled immediately via one angry tweet. The rest of us are meanwhile stuck on hold with faceless customer service two hours a day … if a contact number is even offered to we lumpen masses.
While powerful men and women need only snap their fingers if they wish to have certain online elements rectified, rearranged or outright redacted, the rest of us are granted no such agency and are impelled to abide by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s unwitting McCarthyism: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
It’s an utterly venal system in which a select few who have at their fingertips the funds, time and resources the rest of us are lacking can generate the “branding power” required to push any product or agenda far more quickly or easily than ever before.
We’re talking, after all, about a globally dominating industry that turns unprecedentedly monumental profits off of relentlessly disseminating highly addictive products, content and services that have been proven to be devastating to our communication, neurological, emotional, economic, physical, political and environmental health. All the while horribly mistreating, underpaying and often silencing their employees at the same time as pharisaically declaring support of ostensibly philanthropic causes as means of working toward “making the world a better place.”
Like all systems of control throughout history, the realm of “new media/tech” overall has proven to be governed by the ineluctable tendencies no different than those written about by Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels three hundred years ago when Gulliver journeys to the complementary lands of Laputa and Balnibarbi or, of course, what HG Wells was writing about in The Time Machine’s analysis of the Eloi and Morlocks more than a century ago.
I suppose, then, the reason You Are Obsolete has been so successful in delving into these themes is that they are indeed – for good or ill – eternal to our natural way of life. The “monsters” in the story are therefore very familiar, very real and thus very frightening.
AIPT: Lyla is a really well-crafted character, and she seems to be the perfect mix of emotions and ideas to place herself in the middle of this “storm.” How important is it to have that great human angle (someone complex and flawed) in a story about our increasingly un-human ways and decisions to acquiesce certain powers/responsibilities?
MK: I’m extremely proud of the way that Lyla Wilton (a flower, wilting — Shh! Don’t give it away!) developed and manifested herself.
Lyla had to evolve in that way to be real. Any creator/writer knows what I’m talking about here: When I first came up with the idea for You Are Obsolete – after a bibulous ramble with a few friends (and even the bartender himself) about the idea of a film where a video game/app kills people – I immediately rushed home and this three-page confession poured out of me.
What ended up on the yellow lined notebook paper was not only in first person (which I rarely write in, fiction or non-fiction-wise), but it was in Lyla’s voice. It was one of those magical, mystical moments we creatives have if we’re lucky where the Muse just spanks us in the butt with sitzfleisch and we can’t not write or create until the deed is done.
Lyla needed to be an authentic, flawed, three-dimensional person for it to go down that way. And to show my gratitude, I needed to let her be who she was/is. I needed to be rather like renowned portrait artist John Singer Sargent who said, “I do not judge, I only chronicle.”
Why have readers/critics et.al enjoyed Lyla’s singular voice and perspective? I think it’s as simple: She’s relatable. It’s the long-running Superman (perfect/inaccessible) vs. Batman (imperfect/relatable) dichotomy in action. It’s no different than the success Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first found in giving the members of the Fantastic Four more “ordinary/everyday” personalities or, of course, what made Alan Moore’s Watchmen such an earth-shattering enterprise.
None of us are perfect. Nothing is perfect. No one – not even fictional characters – are beyond reproach. And in revealing Lyla’s foibles and darker traits over the course of the story, we’re hopefully able to keep the reader intrigued by the unpredictable nature of what she will say or do next. This in turn maintains an eerie “who’s in charge here?!” tension that may keep said reader so engaged.
And, yes, as perhaps best exemplified by Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtman’s Contract where the ubiquitous statue acts silly/unrefined in the background while the humans act more subdued and statuesque in the foreground, you make a good point here. I think the more mercurial/unrefined she proves to be, the more contrast develops between Lyla and the antagonistic forces of You Are Obsolete. Hence why the sinister children are colder, more withdrawn and machine-like.
And, certainly, that last component is a major theme here as well. It’s intentional if not somewhat hyperbolic that being as tech-obsessed/addicted as they are, the children are rather machine-like, robotic. The unsettling “Does Mark Zuckerberg ever blink?!” thing.
Lyla, in her own rather hyperbolic way, represents something of the liberated luddite. Some readers may ultimately end up viewing Lyla as possessing certain “bad” qualities, but at least she exudes genuine emotion, is utterly human. Yes.
I knew I had a winner with Lyla Wilton right from the get-go, I’m glad she decided to let me be the one to tell her sordid tale and that so many people decided to buy the ticket and take the ride alongside her (and me).
AIPT: You draw a lot on ’70s horror films, which is a great era for the genre if only that it brought a more cerebral and measured approach. What’s the challenge in using that specific influence given just how savvy (or oversaturated) modern-day readers are?
MK: Also as explicitly evinced by the new intro in the trade paperback, I was deeply inspired in You Are Obsolete (as with much of my work from the past, as well) by the films of David Cronenberg. Particularly, not surprisingly, his punk-rock sci-fi masterpiece, Videodrome (and even his semi-update eXistenZ).
I knew that anyone reading the series would immediately catch the obvious references to Cronenberg’s mesmeric canon and especially to Videodrome. That is, if they’re fans of Cronenberg’s, too. And, I suppose, I assumed most people who’d be in the market to read a series like You Are Obsolete – from the title, the logline, the blurbs, the excerpts, the general atmospheric artwork etc. – would likely be Cronenberg-philes (or fans of the work of likeminded filmmakers such as John Carpenter and fellow traveler sci-fi writers Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, et al).
By consciously/subconsciously incorporating elements from Cronenberg’s and those aforementioned folks’ impactful work, not to mention the very obvious influences pulled from The Twilight Zone (the title of the series was not my idea, but I like that there’s a very explicit Twilight Zone reference there), I was able to also bring in that patina of nostalgia you mention in your question.
Comedians are tending more and more to make pop culture references in their stand-up routines now because, again, it makes their jokes immediately relatable, accessible and often “funny” simply because of that familiarity felt by the audience. I wanted there to be some of that ease and fun in You Are Obsolete too. It’s a bit of Where’s Waldo?: “Hey, I know what that quote is from! Hey, he’s referencing ‘It’s a Good Life’ from Twilight Zone here! Oh, cool!”
So, I wasn’t really worrying about this being a barrier to readers. If anything, I went all in and just said, “F--k it, if I want to directly reference the original The Wicker Man versus the shittier remake, I’m gonna do it and folks will get what I’m saying.” I guess in some ways, it could be considered a “rites of passage” type of deal. But that was less my intention than a clarion call to arms to the so-called “geek community” which is probably my main market, as mainstream and simple the core story may be as well.
AIPT: Maybe I’m odd, but I never got a deeply negative reaction from the children. Sure, they’re totes creepy and evil, but there’s a sense of measure and thoughtfulness to some of their machinations. Is that a normal response, you think, and is it important to have some semblance of relatability with your “monsters”?
MK: Not odd at all. In fact, this goes directly back to the comparison I made to The Draughtsman’s Contract (originally unintended, but I guess it was in my subconscious a bit, since I’m such a big Greenaway fan) in my answer to your earlier question.
The more we realize Lyla is something of a mess – who therefore can also be “redeemed,” hopefully later, and who therefore can go through a kind of prototypical “hero’s trial” that makes for more engaging conventional storytelling – the more we end up with an unpredictable, frightening sense of what’s happening. “Wait a second! Who’s in charge here? Who’s this crazy woman piloting the plane?!”
Concurrently, we can as mentioned earlier relate to her and connect with her more intimately due to her flaws, thus we can (ironically?) trust her more in what she’s telling us despite the whole “unreliable narrator” scenario. At least she’s honest about how much of a mess she is, eh?
Meanwhile, the children – the “villains” of the story, if you want – are more diabolical in their robotic coldness. They seem savvy. Or, at least, their “fearless” leader Martina does. Then again, where she goes, what she says, what she does is where they go, say, do a la the “lemming” hive mentality of those characters and what they clearly represent in our larger culture today.
They are polite. They are somewhat sophisticated. They’re dressed nicely. They’re even helpful (to Lyla) more than once. During some of the discussions between Lyla and Martina, Martina/the children even make “valid” points about the death and destruction they’re bringing to the village where the story is taking place. They seem almost reasonable, in a way.
Aesthetically, creatively I guess the closest analogy would be to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. That unblinking red eye with the gentle, soothing voice representing a kind of sophisticated and phlegmatic computer mindset is f-----g scary! Stanley Kubrick himself once reminded us that a cold-hearted indifferent force is far more frightening than a hot-blooded diabolical one.
Jeepers, how nicely dressed, polite and even “friendly” are the twin daughters in The Shining? How crafty was Kubrick to make sure they had that robotic, stereophonic but still sing-songy and gentle (British/sophisticated) voice to them? Think of how “polite,” sophisticated, educated and articulate Alex is in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
We see this dichotomy with the whole “He was a nice, quiet man” trope of serial killers like Ted Bundy or the fictional Patrick Bateman and Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. Look how well Pasolini took this idea to the extreme in Salò (if you need a “trigger warning” for this movie, you shouldn’t see it; period).
And it also goes back to the various references in You Are Obsolete made to Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil” and the idea that sometimes the most bureaucratic, banal, quiet, polite and unassuming among us can be the most vile monsters.
That’s pretty scary.
AIPT: There’s a few moments where, mainly through Lyla, you note the complexity of the narrative or the whole obsolescence system. Was it difficult keeping everything straight from a creative end? Should more books or titles be OK with confusing or challenging readers with their narrative approach?
MK: You kind of got me here with this one. I’m not really sure what you mean by the first part of the question. Again, all I can say is I purposely wanted to invoke a sense of “who’s in charge here?” unpredictability throughout the story and, if anything, for that sense of ubiquitous chaotic doom to exponentially ramp up over the course of the series.
Obviously, my goal (and the goal of my savvy editors and publisher) wasn’t to inhibit readers from venturing forth into the story (heck, we want them to buy the next issue; why pretend otherwise?!). And, yet, I did want to almost “trick” the reader into getting in so deep that by the time they realize how “lost” they are in Lyla’s unique storytelling, it’s too late and they have to just keep going even if it’s becoming more disturbing and in some ways uncomfortable.
It’s Winston Churchill’s remark (likely apocryphal, as with the best historical quotes) that the way to get through hell is to keep going. Or, to be more pop culture/geeky, the most age-inappropriate rollercoaster ride experience any kid could take via the original Willy Wonka riverboat sequence.
It’s Hunter Thompson’s adage yet again of “buy the ticket, take the ride.”
I love Hunter’s work, I love the original Willy Wonka film. And I love “content” (ugh, but I guess “when in Rome”) that is, sure, “challenging” be it content-wise or structure-wise. Luckily, I’m not alone, even if the audience for such works may be dwindling (or may appear to be; who knows).
“Easy” popcorn fare is great. I love Road House and Smokey and the Bandit as much as the next person. But just as you can’t live on easily consumable junk food alone, sometimes some hearty broccoli can be very satisfying (and tasty) too.
AIPT: You might have described this as Children of the Corn with a tech twist. Did you come in trying to honor or outright ape any other specific titles? I love that film for its mix of horror and cheesiness — do you think there’s a bit of that in Obsolete? A wink of self-awareness given the subject matter?
MK: Yes, I have referred – when pressed – to You Are Obsolete’s logline as “Children of the Corn with cell phones.”
I guess that’s kind of what it is at its most fundamental core. But I think that’s the trouble (though I of course understand, marketing/salability-wise, why they’re important) with loglines. It’s one of the many reasons Twitter has proven to be such a calamitous forum for communication: How much can one really say in a limited number of words while trying to encapsulate a five-part, 120-page series of comic books telling a fairly complex story about our modern times?
But, hey, Jack Warner didn’t become rich by accident, so instead of fighting the wave I’m just finding my own way to surf it, I guess. So, okay: “Children of the Corn with cell phones.”
And, yes, Children of the Corn is fairly cheesy. But who doesn’t like the creamy goodness of cheese? Stephen King himself seemed to have had a heck of a lot of cheesy fun in Creepshow. (and Maximum Overdrive, anyone?!)
That good ol’ nostalgic (elegiac?) quality present in Children of the Corn is something I certainly cribbed, and there are moments especially from the opening sequences where the couple is coming into the strange, haunting town trying to figure out what the heck is going on that I also cribbed (though really the first issue of You Are Obsolete borrows tone-wise mostly from the Hobb’s End sequences of Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness).
Part of what I like about Children of the Corn on a more serious level is that sense once more of “who’s in charge here?” or, more specifically here, “I need an adult!!!” No wonder South Park and other cartoons, parody films etc. have and tend to crib from the film when they’re doing something similar with the “kids in charge of the town” trope.
It’s one of the (many) reasons Harmony Korine’s Gummo remains such a resonant piece of cinema and continues to be discussed so vivaciously two decades after it came out. It’s a brutally naturalistic “where are the adults in this town?!” type of film in which even the (few) people who are technically (age-wise at least) “adults” are basically paedomorphic children themselves, cartoonishly playing with fake guns in the basement or wildly wrestling a chair in the kitchen. So too with Buñuel’s Los Olvidados or Hector Babenco’s Pixote (both heavy, heavy influences on Gummo, for those Korine fans out there who are itching for more).
There have of course been plenty of other movies that have come out before and after Children of the Corn with a similar “children are firmly in charge of the town” storyline (check out the 1976 Spanish film Who Can Kill a Child? if you can find it; it’s way closer to You Are Obsolete than Corn, which came out a year before King’s short story was first published and almost a decade before the rather adaptation).
Children of the Corn, however, is the one that seems most understandable as a quick mnemonic, if you will, when employing the quick-fix logline. Even people who haven’t seen it or who may not remember having seen it will almost immediately know what you mean when you say, “Children of the Corn with cell phones.”
AIPT: I struggled with the ending a lot, not because it’s bad (totally awesome, in fact). But rather, I think it’s more complicated than it might let on. Without spoiling too much, how do you perceive the ending? Is there some larger message or grain of insight people should take away when they read this series?
MK: Ooooooooh, this is a tough one without giving too much away, which as Ethan Hawke’s character says in Before Sunset, would “take the piss out of the whole thing.”
How can one talk about a Twilight Zone twist ending without giving too much away? I won’t even try here with You Are Obsolete’s ending, but yes, it seems many people were … “conflicted” about it, despite digging it nonetheless (complex emotions are fun, ain’t they?).
All I’ll say is:
- I came up with the ending spontaneously with that initial three-page confessional of Lyla’s that kickstarted this whole thing. I always knew exactly where we would go and exactly what the last line (hint hint hint) of the entire series would be.
- Because of this, if you haven’t yet read You Are Obsolete and want to give it a try, do as Churchill (may have) suggested and just keep going right to the end. You’ll be well rewarded.
- At the same time, I purposely wanted there to be something of an ambiguous ending and for readers to question not only what happened (and, more importantly, how it happened … if not also why it happened), but to question the entire five-part/120-page story up to that last ground-shaking panel. What can I say? I’m a fan of the endings of Chinatown and The French Connection.
- Though it’s wholly doubtful any “Hollywood” folks have gotten this far in the interview (if anybody at all), but I also consciously worked toward an ending that would make for relatively easy “franchise”/ancillary projects based on the comic and its adaptation potential. Sequels. Origin stories. Movies/TV shows that focus on peripheral characters. Etc. That was not my only intention in coming to this ending, but it was certainly in the back of my mind throughout.
- Aside from the fact it just spontaneously popped out of my head the way I mentioned earlier, the primary reason I came to that ending was that I wanted the story to have a feeling of coming to a conclusion while also living on in the minds (and thoughtful discussions) of the readers and their friends.
Just as our old friends Calvin and Hobbes came to something of a “conclusion” of their (much longer) running story while also continuing to live on forevermore. What better way to “end” a story than to exhort your reader to keep exploring!
AIPT: What was it like working with the whole creative team of Evgeniy Bornyakov, Lauren Affe, and Simon Bowland? Was there a transitory period for you working with a squad or operating in the comics medium?
MK: I greatly enjoyed collaborating with my art team on You Are Obsolete and found it to be similar to the experiences I’ve previously had in film, television and theater production.
Though You Are Obsolete marks my debut comic, and though I was rather new to the milieu as a whole (aside from a more removed Margaret Mead-ish outsider/anthropological/historical perspective), I do believe that my years in film and television production greatly assisted my ability to produce the kinds of scripts needed for my team to materialize the incredible work we all put out together.
I was already familiar, for the most part, with the language I needed to employ in order to (cinematically, if you will) ensure the artists were on the same page with me and would be able to produce stunning artwork that helped tell the story while also, as was often the case, ending up astonishing on its own anyway.
The team moved fast, they moved well, and with the assistance of my fantastic editors – Christina Harrington and Mike Marts as the thoughtful mediators between myself and said artists – I was able to keep the ship guided to our stirring conclusion while always ensuring the series looked great.
To go back to the cinema analogy, it felt very much like I was the writer/director, Mike and Christina were the producers/assistant directors, Evgeniy was the director of photography and camera operator, Lauren was the gaffer and a second camera operator, and Simon was the audio engineer/recordist.
The proof is in the pudding with the visual aesthetics of the series, so I can only say that if anyone is curious how we all worked together, nothing compares to the visceral experience of picking up a copy and flipping through it (or, heck, even actually reading the dang thing!).
It may not pay much (though that’s pretty much the case throughout the creative/media fields these days), but at least comics are a heck of a lot of fun, very satisfying to my implacable creative itch, and the community of comic folks – readers, storeowners, reviewers, colleagues – has been very welcoming.
I’m glad I got involved in comics and very much hope to produce more books soon.
AIPT: I think each issue operates strongly on its own, but I read this as a whole and I just feel like it flows better when there’s less space between chapters. Do you have a preference for how this story is consumed, or do you think it matters at all?
MK: Truth be told, I was/am so green to the field, I didn’t realize there would be a forthcoming trade paperback version of the series while I was working on the initial five issues. In fact, I thought Amazon and Google had made mistakes (no surprises there) when I saw that there was going to be what appeared to be an issue of You Are Obsolete coming out April 2020.
It wasn’t until Christina asked me for a new introduction to said edition that I realized what was happening. So, from my point of view, it was very last-minute and I’m really grateful that a whole new iteration of the series is coming out, that I did get to write an introduction (in my own idiosyncratic weird way that I felt suited the series, as you seem to have pointed out earlier) and that I’ll get to do some more of these interviews and store signings and whatnot when time/resources allow in order to promote it.
I guess in more specific answer to your question, I was therefore never intending on the series to be read as one long “graphic novel” type story. It was always my intention to make sure each issue had a provocative opening and a cliffhanger ending to keep readers reading (and buying the next issue!).
But, yes, since I had the outer layer of the entire five-part story worked out in that earliest three-page confessional from Lyla, I guess it does make sense that the series works so well, as I’ve heard, by reading it from start to finish in this beautiful new trade paperback edition.
I also noticed – without really getting what they meant – that some of the critics said they were looking forward to reading the series in the trade edition when that iteration came out because it might help them to better understand what was happening. Now that the beast is being unleashed, well, I guess that might indeed be the best way to read it.
We also fixed some typos in the earlier issues and, one more time for those in the cheap seats, I think the introduction is pretty nifty and worth a read. So, yes, even if you’ve already bought/read the five issues as individual installments, Mathew Klickstein endorses the idea of buying more Mathew Klickstein product: ‘Get the trade paperback today!’
AIPT: You’ve done nonfiction/reporting, novels, and screenplays in addition to comics. Is there an overlap between genres or even how you’d approach each project?
MK: I think I accidentally already answered this question earlier, but one of the reasons I so enjoyed working on this series (aside from collaborating with some genuinely fabulous artists and editors) was that it was an entirely new creative realm for me to play in. I got to learn all the rules (fast!), I figured out how to bend (and a few times break) them to give my series its unique quality that would hopefully help it stand out in the tumescent marketplace, and I got to learn the language, structure, form and cadence of a whole new artform.
It really was like learning a new language or learning to play a new instrument, then getting – almost right away – to go take an exploratory, wholly immersive trip to the country where the language would be spoken or getting to go up on stage at a live concert/festival and play my heart out on said new instrument. I think that sense of vibrancy and freedom comes through in the book, but that might just be my take and of course I’m a bit bias…
Meanwhile, as also mentioned, because I have such a solid background in film, I was able to utilize my visual storytelling abilities (and some of the language from that medium, which is very similar to that of comics) in the writing of my You Are Obsolete scripts.
Thus it was an ideal situation in which everything was totally new but also very familiar at the same time. The learning curve was steep to the point of being thrilling; think water slides as a kid.
AIPT: We mentioned in a review of the first issue that this would be the perfect adaptation for a Netflix series. Do you have any armchair choices for actors, directors, etc.?
MK: I can’t imagine anyone, especially Hollywood folkle, have gotten this far in the interview, so I’ve probably blown it now. But, if anyone with that kind of power/access is paying attention, yes, of course I’d love to see You Are Obsolete as a film (or maybe at least something like a Black Mirror episode, which it would be perfect for, too).
Heck, I originally envisioned it as a film, and it was only after about a year of very positive but ineffectual feedback from friends and colleagues in the film game that I was told by friends in the comics scene to give that medium a shot and quickly sold the concept to AfterShock before going into immediate production.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been engaged in some relatively “serious” discussions/meetings with various representatives from companies nationwide about the potential film adaptation of You Are Obsolete, and there’s one company in particular I’ve been talking to quite a bit namely because they’re some friends of mine, are likeminded and – frankly – had a few projects that have been getting great press lately, including a few films at this past Sundance festival, so what the hey …
I probably shouldn’t even pretend to lock down any considerations when it comes to cast and directors, because that would only turn off potential candidates who aren’t those people. But, I can tell you that for Lyla, we used Margot Robbie as a visual source. For love interest Kad, we used a bearded Chris Evans. Martina (somewhat accidentally, but I love how it ended up) was based on a young Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams. Since it wouldn’t be appropriate for Ricci to play a young teen, I suppose Bella Ramsey and Dafne Keen might be contemporary fits.
As for attainable/appropriate modern-day directors, I can’t stop thinking about the film project as something of a combination of Midsommar and Assassination Nation. So, I suppose we’d want to talk with Ari Aster and/or Sam Levinson.
I also absolutely adore Eric Wareheim’s music videos, and after having become obsessed with his marvelously horrific music video for Tobacco’s “Streaker,” I’ve been saying I would love to see Wareheim do a feature horror film. Considering the aesthetic and themes of the Tim & Eric show, maybe You Are Obsolete could be his easy foray into horror feature films.
Meanwhile, if the master himself, Mr. Cronenberg, wants to give it a shot, we certainly wouldn’t turn him away. Long live the new flesh!
Whomever it might be, as long as he or she is down to really give the film that original Wicker Man/Stepford Wives kind of sendoff with end credits scored by the Buffalo Springfield song “I Am a Child,” I’ll be a happy camper.