Known mainly as the artist on "Spawn," "Streets of Gotham" and "Zombie Cop," Szymon Kudranski also has a passion for writing taught, gritty science-fiction stories set in the not too distant future. His latest creation "Repulse" follows After Crime detective Sam Hagen on a self-destructive path that puts him on the trail of a very mysterious and unusual killer. The Image Comics one-shot, which hits stores in July, follows Hagen as he literally absorbs the last moments of a corpse's life to solve their murders.
"Sam working for After Crime is basically him doing a suicidal job," Kudranski told CBR News. "He implants himself with memories of the last few moments of a murder victim's life. He feels, tastes and sees what the victims saw, and in the end he dies like the victims did, since his body thinks this is happening to him. It's a very painful job and not for anyone who wants to live until their forties. At some point, his body won't handle dying every day and will finally give up. But for Sam, it doesn't matter -- he's abusing himself with alcohol and other stuff. At some point he will drop dead anyway, so at least he can make money for it."
In the one-shot, co-written with Kudranski's longtime friend and creative partner Jeff Mariotte, Sam's most recent vision reveals a murderer who, quite frankly, should not be possible: a robot. While the story is set twenty years in the future where robots exist as a part of everyday life, there should be no way for one to harm a human, let alone go on a murderous rampage.
"Overall, robots were created to serve humankind," Kudranski said. "They are programmed and they can't do anything about it. They don't have the right tools to create feelings like love, hate, passion, faith, depression or envy and so forth. The robots in 'Repulse' are very primitive, they don't talk much; they don't have opinions, just a machine taking orders, nothing more."
As if the concept of a robot on a rampage isn't a disturbing enough concept for Hagen to process, this one also appears to be reliving a past life, one which is directly informing his crime spree.
"I wanted to do something involving robots, but almost everything had been done," Kudranski said. "I wanted to come up with something new. Whenever I watch movies or read books about robots, they always try to show robots at some point gaining awareness of themselves and fighting back to be free. But for me, it will always be only a machine, no matter if they have dreams, if they want to be human or be alike. So why not merge robots with the idea of reincarnation? It doesn't matter if you believe in it or not; this robot remembers his past life. It's not like someone built some machine to catch your soul, he just remembers it. It's that simple."
Kudranski took concept of robot reincarnation and combined it with his Sam Hagen/After Crime idea, which began life as a separate book titled "New World." Mixing the two together, "Repulse" was born. The creator began telling industry folks about the idea, but he ran into some creative roadblocks along the way.
"I pitched it to a few people in 2008, but some of them said, 'Hey, how he can remember his past life? How could it be? You need to change it and give an explanation, it doesn't make sense.' I said, 'I am not changing a thing. This is a comic book -- it's not like we have a budget of a million dollars to do that thing.' So, I took my chances. People who experience past lives don't have explanations for how they can remember them. Just lay back and enjoy the story."
Because he stuck to his guns, Kudranski's book remained shelved for a few years. In the meantime, he drew "Spawn" and "Streets of Gotham," all the while hoping to get back to "Repulse." Eventually, he was able to get things rolling at Image with a little help from friend and editor Jeff Mariotte.
"Actually, it was Jim Valentino's idea to bring Jeff to the project," Kudranski said. "English is not my first language, so there were a bunch of grammar and syntax mistakes. Jim told me, 'This thing needs to be polished up.' Jeff worked as an editor for a long time and he is a great writer, so it was a blast for me to have Jeff touch up this thing. I have known Jeff for a very long time. He was my first editor back in 2004 at IDW, and we did "Zombie Cop" together at Shadowline. He did an amazing job [on 'Repulse'], and I am thankful for that."
Readers familiar with Kudranski's style will notice that his art has a different look in the pages of "Repulse." The artist explained he wanted to experiment with black and white, placing the final feel of the pages somewhere between "Zombie Cop" and "Spawn" on the spectrum of his work. In addition to playing with his artistic approach, he took inspiration from fellow artists and their ability to really create a world and mood for the story to live in.
"If I need a breath of a fresh air, I read comics done by Ashley Wood, Kent Williams, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo, Bill Sienkiewicz and many, many more," Kudranski told CBR. "These guys are like directors. I would say they do more than a director. They build everything from the ground up, from environment to characters expression. That gets me inspired, that one man can build an amazing visual world and give you amazing entertainment."
Ultimately, Kudranski hopes readers find "Repulse" as creative and interesting, because he's got more stories to tell in the world he's created, telling CBR, "The second story is already written. It's just a matter of time when I have more time to draw this thing!"
"Repulse" hits stores in July