The pull of gravity may be the most powerful force in the universe, but it will have some competition from the power of human emotions in an incoming Dark Horse Comics series.
Debuting this summer, "Deep Gravity" is a miniseries written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman from a story by Publisher Mike Richardson with art by Fernando Baldo. The book focuses on the personal lives of deep space explorers who risk their lives against the unknown.
"Every character is making a sacrifice just by going on this mission to a planet that takes three years to get to -- six years out of your life round trip, or nine if you are doing a 'rotation' planetside," Hardman told CBR News in an exclusive first interview about the comic. "Our main character, Stephen Paxon, is making the trip for personal reasons. Romantic reasons -- at least from his point of view."
"Everyone in the story is a competent professional. They have to be, to go on a mission like this, to a distant world three years' travel away from our own. But not everyone is has signed wanting the same thing," Bechko added. "For some, it's scientific curiosity; the chance to explore a new planet. And for some it's just a job. But for our main character, it's much more than that -- it's deeply personal. That's what sparks the story, that's what he holds on to throughout, and I think that's what brings everything to a satisfying conclusion.
"We really like working on stories that have room for human-scale drama as well as fun science fiction concepts, and this project has both. There's pathos mixed with the action, and that makes it an enjoyable challenge to write. In addition, I love anything having to do with astrobiology and this story is filled with opportunities to explore that. A whole new planet orbiting a different type of star, weird animals and the rigors of space travel, all measured against humanity's capacity to adapt to circumstance that test its limits."
"The fact that 'Deep Gravity' puts the characters in a harrowing situation that tests their ability survive was a big draw," said Hardman. "All the big crazy sci-fi concepts in the world don't mean much if we're not experiencing them through the eyes of relatable human characters."
For his part, Richardson views "Deep Gravity" as the latest concept of his given life by Dark Horse collaborators. "I write a lot of treatments and ideas. I have a computer full of them. From time-to-time I'll flesh them out, and if time permits, I'll write them myself," he explained. "This one I've been working on a couple of years. When I was on the set of 'R.I.P.D.' I was working on it. I decided to bring in some other people to help, and Gabriel and Corinna felt like exactly the right sensibility to bring this out.
"'Deep gravity' is actually a term that has to do with the bottom of a gravity well, but in this particularly story, it doesn't just refer to the pull of gravity on an object to the bottom of that well. It's also the pull of a particular person on another person. It's a symbolic gravity well," Richardson added while joking that after years of development, he expects some may mistakenly view the title as being inspired by the Oscar-winning "Gravity" film. "It's a fun story. It's a story of survival and the irresistible pull one person can have on another. It's a little bit 'Alien'-esque with a little bit of 'The Poseidon Adventure' in space thrown in."
For Bechko and Hardman, "Deep Gravity" offers a chance to flex some creative muscles they don't always get to use when working on established franchises like "Star Wars: Legacy." "It's true that with our prior freelance work we had to tailor them to the pre-established world, but so far we've had a lot of freedom to tell the kind of story that we're passionate about within that broad framework," Hardman said. "In some ways the world of 'Deep Gravity' is just as set because we're trying to be fairly accurate about the science without losing any of the storytelling dynamism.
"This our first time writing something more along the lines of 'hard' sci-fi. 'Star Wars: Legacy' is clearly space fantasy, and 'Planet of the Apes' doesn't really have much sci-fi to it when you get beyond the premise. Being able to use somewhat more realistic physics in a space story puts different limits on the kind of action we can portray but that's a good thing in my book. I always like new limitations that challenge you to come up with interesting story solutions. It fits in to our other projects in that we like to tell human scale stories in a genre setting. That's where the drama is."
On the visual side of the series, Buenos Aires native Fernando Baldo is bringing a style unique to the project and different than past books by Bechko and Hardman. "Fernando definitely has his own style, and that's exactly right for this project," Hardman said. "With our other books, the artists we were working with were following me after I set a tone and style. On some level that's just about keeping a consistency so the readers feel like we're in the same world. Here Fernando is able to really be free to establish the look from the start. That said, I think we share some influences and he puts a lot of ink on the page, which is always a good thing as far as I'm concerned."
In the end, whatever the fate of the travelers in "Deep Gravity," the journey for Bechko and Hardman at Dark Horse is just beginning. "Working with Dark Horse has been very creatively satisfying. Everyone there really cares about putting out the best books possible. We're thrilled that we'll be doing more projects together!" Bechko said.
"Definitely," agreed Hardman. "We've had a great time working for Dark Horse and we look forward to more in the future, particularly on some creator owned projects we're very excited about. I just have to get finished drawing them!"