What lies beyond the end of the world? Maybe it’s a city, where everyone waits for the last person on Earth to die before whatever comes next. Maybe it’s a ruined wasteland, where survivors wander in search of their better selves. Maybe it’s a verdant mausoleum filled with deep, dark secrets. Maybe the Earth will be annihilated by a giant evil living planet. Maybe humanity will simply vanish. Or, maybe we’ll live to fight on a little longer.
Then, there’s the end times as depicted by Deep Beyond, a new 12-part miniseries from Image Comics. Created by artist Andrea Broccardo (Empyre: X-Men) and writers Mirka Andolfo (Mercy) and David Goy, the book imagines a world that has fallen far beyond mere ecological ruin. This new world has been overrun by a toxic bio-nightmare, and humanity survives in sealed habitats. However, those seals are fragile, and there are those who would see them destroyed. It’s an excellent piece of science fiction, one that is compelling for the questions it asks and the stakes it raises.
Ahead of this week’s release, I touched base with Andolfo and Goy to talk about the story, the overall development process, the larger feel/aesthetic, and much more.
(Editor’s Note: Goy and Andolfo answered collectively, and so we’ve chosen to use their combined initials for the actual interview.)
AIPT: Deep Beyond introduces an extremely fragile world, one that’s teetering on the brink of total collapse, but whose leaders put on a sunny face in public and try to spin the grim reality. How did you develop this status quo? What sort of research did you do? Were there any particular works that inspired you, or that you wrote Deep Beyond in conversation with?
MADG: In general, we very fan of the dystopian worlds in entertainment: novels, movies, comics, videogames. Mirka in particular was already familiar with dystopian, with her Unnatural, but it was very different. The world we created for Deep Beyond is at the same time far and close to ours. Far because nothing happened on December 31, 1999, and we don’t have scary sea monsters (as far as we know, at least), but also very close, because, as usual, if we go to the heart of the matter, the problem is the humankind.
So, the first question we asked ourselves was: how would mankind react to an emergency of this size? Without changing one iota of the destructive, selfish, and crazy approach that it usually has. That’s how we started developing the status quo. We have to say that when we created Deep Beyond, the COVID emergency didn’t happen yet, and nobody could even imagine it.
As for the research, David is the guy in charge of the more “politics” line of the story (because of his studies, and his passion as well), so he’s more focused on the organization of the colonies, and the part of the intrigue.
As said, we are huge fans of post-apocalyptic stuff, so we have full of inspirations, especially in the approach to worldbuilding. Just to name three: Death Stranding, LOW, and The 100.
AIPT: While it’s overall a science fiction story, Deep Beyond jumps between multiple genres over the course of this first issue. It’s an isolation horror story, a bit like James Stokoe’s Aliens: Dead Orbit. It’s an apocalyptic plague horror story a la The Walking Dead. It’s a conspiracy thriller, a cousin to The Black Monday Murders. There’s a strong thread of dystopian social horror/bleaker-than-bleak humor, a la the bleaker Judge Dredd.
And throughout all this, there’s quiet moments of character study and interpersonal conflict. How do you balance and unify these myriad storytelling forms with each other? How do you maintain tonal consistency while drawing on the unique strengths of each genre you work with?
MADG: First of all, let us say that we’re impressed with this timely analysis, thank you! Then: as Mirka usually did on her stuff, we love the idea of mixing different genres. We love to say that we’re like sponges: we absorb what we like, and then we work, to distill something that is our own story. It’s a fairly spontaneous process, where we don’t stop and think about issues like “the genre of this story”.
When we plan an issue with our editor, we try to take care of all the lines in the story and give them the right space, in terms of sequences and pages. We think – and, again: it’s something very present in all Mirka’s work – that the characters are the first and most important part of a story, so the interpersonal relationships (including conflicts) are probably the most important part of our writing. Together with the unique humor, which, we must admit, is 100% thanks to Mirka.
AIPT: I’d like to ask about Deep Beyond’s ensemble. This is a cast who have quite a bit of history with one another, whether directly or indirectly. How did you develop them and their relationships? And for that matter, which came first in the writing process for you – the characters or their relationships with each other?
MADG: The story was developed in a year or so, and we changed almost everything, many times. The first characters we were sure we wanted to have were Paul and Pamela (with a particular detail that we can’t spoil, of course, considering issue #1 is not yet out): we discussed a lot about their relation, but we finally went back to our first idea. So, in the beginning, we had at the same time the characters and their relationships with each other. In general, as readers, we love when a writer (and you named The Walking Dead, so you know what we mean) is very good at building relationships between characters, so you can empathize with them. This was the guideline we tried to follow, even creating the character which came later. For them, often we started from the relationships.
AIPT: Deep Beyond is a 12-issue series. Issue # 1 jumps not only between multiple characters, but between multiple points in time. What will the series’ overall story arc structure and storytelling look like? Will Deep Beyond shift between its core cast’s perspectives within individual issues, or will different members of the ensemble anchor different issues?
Similarly, will the narrative continue to hop back and forth in time within individual issues, or will there be a more extended flashback? In other words, how does the story you’re telling break down across the space you’re telling it in?
MADG: Once again, and forgive us if we are repetitive, Mirka’s readers already know that her storytelling is very focused on flashbacks, and long arcs from the past. In this case, we decided to start with action in media res (thanks to a piece of advice from our editor, Rossano), because it seemed more powerful to us, considering the situation Pamela was living in. In general, we plan to continue with pretty linear storytelling (sometimes seen from the perspective of one character or another… but they might also meet again at some point, who knows? Never say never…), with a back and forth in time with some flashbacks (but not always… For instance, in issue #2 there won’t be any flashback). But, again, some surprises could come also from a narrative structure point of view, especially in the second part of the series…
AIPT: To close things out, what has been the most interesting part of collaborating as writers? How do you work together, and how does that differ from your process when you’re working on your own?
MADG: Just to set the record straight: we’re a couple in life, and David is usually both Mirka’s agent and Santa’s Little Helper. We already worked together on another book by Mirka (the Vol. 2 of Un/Sacred, which is published in the U.S. by Ablaze), but it was different. Collaborating as writers is an intense situation, where both can learn a lot from each other: Mirka is more expert and much more instinctive, in terms of approach, whereas David is more technical. Then, living and working together allowed us to have sort of 24-hours no-stop brainstorming sessions, and it was so precious: we think that this was the most interesting part.
The project was born from a chat during a (boring) car travel, and we continued in the same way. As for the process differences, when Mirka works alone she can do whatever she wants, so the main difference is that here she had a petulant guy replying to her ideas. As for David, he was already used to working with other writers (he did many times both in Italy and France), but this time was very different, both for the relationship with Mirka and for the kind of comic: he’s very passionate about American comics, but so far he never wrote one, so he had to follow a lot Mirka about rhythm and temporal scan of sequences because it’s very different compared to the French bande dessinée. As we already said, both of us learned a lot!
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