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'Blade Runner 2039' exit interview with Mike Johnson and Andres Guinaldo

Comic Books

‘Blade Runner 2039’ exit interview with Mike Johnson and Andres Guinaldo

‘Blade Runner 2039’ comes to a close on April 17.

Several years in the making, the epic finale of Blade Runner 2039 #12 brings everything to a sweeping close on April 17.

First introduced in Blade Runner 2019 in July 2019, Ash and her decades-spanning journey has run across three separate series and five full years. Blade Runner 2039 officially comes to a close as Ash’s turn in the Replicant Underground and 30-plus-year odyssey finally bring her face-to-face with Niander Wallace, the messianic father of a new generation of Replicant kind. Will Ash have a future, or is this to be her actual retirement?

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Given the significance of this moment, now’s the the perfect time to chat with writer Mike Johnson and artist Andres Guinaldo, who lets us in on Ash’s development, how he plans to wrap things up, and the book’s larger impact, among other tidbits. Then, check out a special preview of Blade Runner 2039‘s grand finale.

Blade Runnner 2039 Exit interview with Mike Johnson

Courtesy of Titan.

AIPT: To start, it’s been over a year in the making since the start of the series. When Blade Runner 2039 wraps up with issue #12, how does it feel getting close to the end of this epic run?

Mike Johnson: I knew the expiration date (so to speak) for Ash’s story was coming, but it’s still bittersweet to say goodbye to a character that has meant so much to me. Even more difficult is bidding adieu to our wonderful creative team, but hopefully, we can work together again someday.

Andres Guinaldo: It has been a journey of almost 5 years of work and life. Rarely does a penciler have the opportunity to be on a project from conception to completion, and that is always something exciting. You make the story, the characters and the world which reflects your own, and that all becomes a very personal work. It has been a real challenge and a pleasure.

AIPT: It’s rare to see an original character like Ash grow over so many series. What would Ash tell herself now that she’s learned so much over the decades?

MJ: I’d think she’d tell herself that she ended up exactly where she was meant to be via the most unpredictable path possible. She’s not ashamed of any of the steps on that journey. She has always been a realist. She’s accepting of the things she shouldn’t be forgiven for.

AG: It has been a journey of growth for her. The cold, unfeeling professional we met at the beginning has been transformed into a human being capable of trusting her peers. She has been asking herself important questions about what the human race is and she’s been meeting the right people who’ve helped her find the answers. She has finished the journey much better than how she started it.

Blade Runnner 2039 Exit interview with Mike Johnson

Courtesy of Titan.

AIPT: Do you feel like Ash has grown into the fully formed character you’ve always intended?

MJ:  I hope that readers think so. When I’m writing for Ash, it’s less about me putting words in her mouth and more about her telling me what she wants to say. I think creators who have stayed with a character for a long time know what I mean. You might plan a grand overall story, but the decisions the characters make in the moments that make up that story can (and should) surprise you. I feel like Ash’s story has come full circle. It’s tough to say goodbye, but it feels like the right time.

AG: Like any human being, Ash continues to have her doubts and flaws. The shortcomings inherent to the species, but without a doubt she has chosen the side of the good guys in the face of the coldness of the dehumanized hyper-technological world that they have always shown in the films that compose the Blade Runner saga.

AIPT: What appeals to you about the Blade Runner universe?

MJ:  On an aesthetic level, the whole package, the future noir that has captivated fans for decades and will continue to. On a narrative level, I like the sadness of the Blade Runner world, which is intrinsic to noir. I like that the characters aren’t perfect, and that the visual spectacle is ultimately at the service of very personal stories.

AG: It is a world that allows the artist to be very visually imaginative. Aesthetically, very rich. I had a lot of fun drawing that hypertrophied city that mixes old and new technology. All that cyberpunk beauty was already in the movies. I have simply tried to play with it a bit and to give it all I’ve been able to make it even more real, if that’s even possible.

blade runner 2039

Courtesy of Titan.

AIPT: Why do you think the Blade Runner universe is so beloved? Can it sustain another trilogy like the one you’ve pulled off?

MJ:  I think it delivers a future that doesn’t go for the easy dystopia so many other films and shows embrace. It’s not nukes and A.I. and zombie hordes. Even with its world of flying cars, all the important stuff happens at the street level. It’s as familiar as it is exotic, and that makes it irresistible.

AG: The wonderful thing about the original film is that it showed a world full of nuances, which opened your mind to a thousand questions but it didn’t give you the answers. From the outside world that did not teach the possible future fights that may occur between replicants and humans. It is a world so rich that in the hands of the right writers can be explored in a thousand different ways. And in the case of Mike Johnson we are in pretty good hands.

AIPT: What has been your favorite moment in this series so far?

MJ:  Great question! Writers love to smell their own story farts, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go back and flip through the series sometimes. (Also painful because you see what you wish you had done differently.) One scene that jumps to mind, simply because it was really fun to write, is from the 2029 series when Yotun jumps out of his moving aircar and hijacks a police Spinner, destroying another one in the process. It’s fun to write without a limit on the special effects budget. But my favorite page is the last one of the 2019 series, when we see Ash and Freysa together.

AG: I really like the reunion between Ash and Cleo, who is now more mature. It was emotional and one more step towards the formation of the final group with all the protagonists.

Blade Runnner 2039 Exit interview with Mike Johnson

Courtesy of Titan.

AIPT: In what ways has 2039 changed since your first pitch and vision for the series? Was there an alternate path at any point?

MJ:  The overall idea of bringing in Wallace and Luv was there from the beginning, as was tying that in with the return of Cleo and Isobel. But, without spoiling anything, I was still undecided on Ash’s ultimate fate until very late in the scripting of the series. Even as I plotted issue #12 I wasn’t completely sure. Now that it’s done, I’ve had no second thoughts about how the story ends. It feels right.

AG: I think Michael Green and Mike Johnson were clear from the beginning about the story they wanted to tell. Only in this way can you make a series so spaced out in time and still maintain style and cohesiveness. Without a doubt, Ash’s story has been accompanied by the rest of the events, but the fact that it is also an ensemble rich  story with many very solid supporting characters has made it easier for the comic to work as a whole.

blade runner 2039

Courtesy of Titan.

AIPT: I could easily see 2039 get a TV treatment, is that something you’d be excited for and if so, who would you cast for your lead?

MJ:  It would be fun see Ash’s story on screen, but I’d be nervous about whether they get Ash’s character right. I’ll always be protective of her, even though she’s the last person who would need or want protection. I don’t think the performer who would play Ash is someone we know as of now. That person is out there. Ash would be someone we’ve never seen before.

AG: It would be great, of course. The story has drama, action, good characters, an already known and attractive world… It has the makings to make a good TV series. The truth is that I never had the image of any specific actress when drawing Ash, but since you ask… For her Hindi origin, she could be the protagonist of Slumdog Millionaire, Freida Pinto. I think she fits Ash’s physique and personality.

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