Writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark, who last worked together on DC Comics' acclaimed Batman family police procedural comic "Gotham Central," have joined forces once again to create the world of "Lazarus," an ongoing Image Comics series announced in July at Comic-Con International in San Diego. The duo, who won an Eisner Award for their "Gotham Central" work, spoke with CBR News about their new title set in a near-future world crippled by economic inequality. They discuss the challenges facing protagonist Endeavor Carlyle as she attempts to come to terms with her place in society, the role of science fiction in today's world and the challenge involved in simply telling a good story.
Endeavor is not an ordinary woman -- she occupies a specific role in her family, in a world where kinship is everything. She is a genetically modified one-person security detail, protecting the Carlyle name and the position of power the family occupies in a setting heavily influenced by recent political and economic events.
"'Lazarus' is the story of a woman who discovers nothing is what she's been led to believe it is, and her attempts to overcome it and perhaps try to make things right," Rucka told CBR.
"[The series] takes place in a near-future where the economic collapse we all fear happened," Lark added. "Endeavor is a sort of high security for part of the One Percent, who are literally at this point the one percent who have everything."
"It came out of the Occupy Movement and the economics of it and positing, 'What happens if it goes horribly wrong?'" continued Rucka. "If there is no return from the brink, where are we in 50 or 100 years?"
In the world of "Lazarus," Rucka and Lark have pushed the One Percent economy to the edge. The world's wealth is held not by governments or corporations. The world's wealth, less measured in cash than in access to material and resources, is held by a limited number of familial entities, and each family structure has adapted based on the resources they control.
"As Endeavor exists in that world, she exists within her family," Rucka said. "Her relationships with her family members -- her siblings and her parents -- are obviously crucial. There is a guy who is not of the family who is part of the unit, who is responsible for her health, welfare and well-being. This is the most crucial relationship we've established in the first story arc: her relationship with, basically, her doctor. As we move on and as she moves out of the family bubble, those interactions are crucial."
According to Rucka, the element of science fiction allows "Lazarus'" human story to take on a depth of allegory unique to the genre, but at the core what is always at stake is the human element. "For reasons I still don't understand, I almost always write these nature versus nurture stories," Rucka said. "This creates a backdrop where the nurture is directed in one way for Endeavor. She is brought up in a very specific environment with a very specific set of priorities, beliefs, duties, relationships and values, and those are all nurtured things. So what is her nature? We're asking this right out of the gate. One of the big things about all science fiction, regardless of how far or near you set it, is it provides allegory and wonderful opportunities for social commentary.
"At the end of the day, the end goal is always to tell a great story for people to be invested in," Rucka continued.
"The setting is something we can talk for hours and hours about," Lark said. "It's the framework on which we can examine this question of nature versus nurture: who are you at your core?"
Aesthetically, the largest challenge facing Lark is two-fold: extracting Rucka's vision for the world of "Lazarus" from his words, and designing the world down to its smallest detail. "Right now, there's a lot of world creation going on," the artist said. "We're still at the very beginning, and there's a lot of just asking, 'What if?' Do people drive cars? Do they have gas powered or electric cars?
"We're focusing on Endeavor's family," Lark continued. "Different families have different things around them. She moves out of this bubble where they have everything they want and need into a world where nobody has anything. It's a very different world and very different aesthetically."
"Never mind the character design," Rucka added. "Never mind the clothes, the weapons, the questions about technology -- just think about what your doctor's lab looks like. All that stuff has to be designed."
"We're starting from scratch here," Lark continued. "I don’t think a lot of people realize, when you're a comic book artist, you are the film director, the lighting director, the cinematographer, set designer, concept artist and storyboard artist. I'm into the final stage of the design work for the first issue and I'm ready to start doing some story telling. I tend to think about my sets in three dimensions and high detail. Even if I don’t end up drawing all of those details, I want to know where they are so if I have to draw them, I can."
"Lazarus" has long been taking shape in Rucka's imagination, written in notes and outlines, but is still very new to outside eyes and ears, including Lark's. When Rucka hooked Lark on the idea of the book, it was only several weeks before its official announcement at Comic-Con International.
"We hit the ground running on it, which is both good and bad," Rucka said. "It has energized us both incredibly. I had notes and ideas, but they weren’t completed. I have to answer all these questions about the world."
The compressed time from conception to implementation has been challenging for Lark, as well. "For a story like this, you have to know the world the characters are moving through. Even if you know the characters like the back of your hand, it's been a challenge having a six-week gestation period to suddenly have to give birth to this thing."
Despite those challenges, Rucka and Lark are both extremely happy with the results of the collaboration thus far, and are optimistic about the project and excited to carry it forward for as long as possible.
"If I have my way this is the book I'll do until I retire," Lark said.
"Oh, okay. I might have to adjust the timeline," Rucka joked.
"I would like this book to grow into something," Lark continued, "so we can stay in this world for as long as we want to stay there."
"Lazarus" is slated for a Spring 2013 release from Image Comics.