“This is you. You own a surf shop in Hawaii. You dine in the finest restaurants in Paris. You’re hiking the Appalachian Trail. You live in San Francisco. You are in love in Venice. You’re on a road trip. You’re a cowboy. You’re a hurricane. You are the President of the United States of America.
“Go anywhere. Be anything.”
With one little video teaser, Nick Spencer and Christian Ward’s “The Infinite Vacation” became one of the most buzzed about new projects coming out of this year’s New York Comic Con. Described as a mixture of “(500) Days of Summer,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Inception,” this January-debuting five-issue miniseries from Image Comics takes place in a world where switching between alternate realities is as simple as operating an app on your iPhone. Users can become the customer at a high class Manhattan brothel in one reality, the leader of a foreign nation in another, with infinite possibilities remaining in infinite realities in between. At the core of the story is Mark, an Infinite Vacation addict living every life but his own — a fact that may very well change upon meeting a mysterious woman with a very different philosophy.
CBR News spoke exclusively with Spencer and Ward to learn more about the plot of “Infinite Vacation,” how the story came together, how the two of them collaborate on the series and what they would both do given the opportunity to hop between realities.
CBR News: Guys, what can you tell us about “The Infinite Vacation?”
Nick Spencer: “The Infinite Vacation” is set in a world where moving in and out of an infinite array of alternate realities has become a totally commercial endeavor. You use it every day of your life; for work, for play, you name it. We follow an average joe named Mark who is very much addicted to “The Infinite Vacation” and all the possibilities it affords him, until something happens that makes him start to question what he’s been doing and forces him forward on a journey through time and space alongside a beautiful girl who sees the world very differently than he does.
Christian Ward: For me, “Infinite Vacation” is all about the idea of choice and free will. What happens when you have too much choice? When you can choose and change anything, does the traditional idea of fate disappear? We’re all haunted by our choices and the “what ifs,” but if we could change those, do we actually change who we are?
At the core of “Infinite Vacation,” there appear to be two main characters: Mark and this mysterious girl he meets. What can you tell us about them?
Ward: Mark is a man who, by buying into the Infinite Vacation, has in a sense ceased to live. He is so preoccupied with what’s better and what’s next that he doesn’t live now. Free will [and] choice has pre-empted his sense of fate. He’s living a thousand lives, except his own.
Spencer: I think most guys, if they’re being honest, will see a lot of themselves in Mark. He’s a guy who’s dissatisfied with his life, afraid of commitment, constantly trying to figure out where he fits into things and where he’d like to end up. So he just keeps changing lives the way a lot of us change wardrobes or furniture, but nothing ever seems to fit.
Now, our mystery girl, she’s got a big role to play in this story, too. Can’t say too much about her yet, but I will say she challenges Mark’s own belief system and has something of her own to say about the Infinite Vacation.
Clearly, “The Infinite Vacation” has a high concept science fiction premise at its core. How did you guys arrive at the idea of turning alternate realities into a marketable commodity? What compelled you about the idea of exploring alternate realities from what seems to be a business standpoint?
Spencer: Science fiction has a long tradition of alternate reality stories, obviously, but I haven’t seen the idea explored quite like this. I’m always interested in taking these well-known tropes and blowing them up by viewing them as commercial products. This is something we started exploring in “Existence 3.0” but haven’t gotten to follow up on: this idea that if these technologies – moving through realities, transferring consciousness, time travel – these things, if they existed, there would be a race to make them profitable and a part of day to day life. If alternate realities existed and we could switch between them, it is not something that would be reserved for secret agents and superheroes. It’s something housewives in St. Louis and college students in Ann Arbor would use. It’s something that would have an app on your iPhone. Once you open it up like that, the story possibilities are endless.
Christian, with multiple realities at play in “Infinite Vacation,” I’m sure you’re getting to draw all kinds of wacky stuff. Give us a tease – how do you plan on approaching this series from a visual standpoint? Will it be relatively grounded, significantly heightened or perhaps some combination of the two?
Ward: In my previous series “Olympus,” I tried to make the art look a little in worldly. I didn’t want to give it a fixed sense of place, rather, the world through a god’s eyes. I didn’t want to do that here. Instead, “Infinite Vacation” is grounded in reality. However, I wanted to flood each page with as much color and light as I could. I like the idea that Mark can’t see that he is surrounded by all this life. When we do pump up the sci-fi, the contrast will be more striking. These moments will certainly bend – and occasionally break – physics, but the world will always be recognizably ours.
Nick, it appears you haven’t learned anything from comparing “Morning Glories” to “Runaways” and “Lost,” because you’re at it again here! Can you talk a bit about how “The Infinite Vacation” fits in the same spectrum as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “(500) Days of Summer” and “Inception,” as you’re teasing in the solicitation?
Spencer: It’s a big, high concept science fiction story, but at its heart, it’s a fun love story about two people who are living their lives in very different ways, and for whatever reason, that reminds me a lot of “(500) Days.” You’ll see these “Inception”-ey sprawling action sequences that (hopefully) blow your mind and do some things you’ve never seen before, but at its core, it’s still a story about those two characters and their relationship. Then there’s this fun Kaufman-esque approach to the science of the Vacation, where we just sort of embrace the nonsensical aspects of it and play up a sort of low-fi aesthetic that helps you not take it too seriously. I think it’s ending up a pretty interesting mix.
With those inspirations in mind, how much is “Infinite Vacation” a surrealist romance tale versus an action-oriented story? Is there more of one over the other, a bit of both?
Spencer: Little bit of column A, little bit of column B, really. To me, the best science fiction uses high concepts to tell stories about how we live our lives here in the real world. I think we did that pretty well in “Existence,” where we used consciousness transfer to reinforce life lessons about not running away from your mistakes or trying to grow up too quickly, and I think this story does the same.
Take us through the process of creating this series — how did “The Infinite Vacation” go from the idea phase to becoming a full-fledged miniseries?
Ward: Nick and I have wanted to work together since we debuted at the same time with “Existence 2.0” and “Olympus” respectively. In actual fact, I think “Infinite Vacation” is the third idea we talked about. The idea in question though came very much from Nick’s brain; who’d have thought he was so romantic! I knew straight away that I wanted in, since I’m such a romantic, and then it was a case of bouncing the ideas backward and forwards as Nick’s very powerful (and romantic) brain began to shape it into what it is now.
Spencer: This is the most collaborative project I’ve ever been a part of. Christian is a dear friend – despite his status as a registered sex offender – and it’s the first book I’ve ever done with an artist in person. We start with a rough script and then Christian sits there and lays it out in front of me and we start batting ideas back and forth. It’s a blast. He’s a hell of a writer in his own right, too.
Ward: Nick’s easily one of the most exciting writers out there. Simple. He’s got a real voice and an edge that you can’t fake. It became clear quite early on that we had a compatible imagination, and despite some of the filth that comes out of his head, we think in similar ways. It’s been a thrill to develop a story with him.
“The Infinite Vacation” is currently slated as a miniseries, but do you see the potential here for other stories set in the “Infinite Vacation” universe, whether through Mark or other characters? Is it a world you’d like to return to?
Spencer: I’m kind of excited to get back into these quick miniseries that have a defined three act structure. It’s enormously fulfilling to look back at something and see the beginning, middle and end there in one place. We’ve got a specific story to tell here. You never say never, and certainly this world offers literally infinite possibilities, but for now, this is a five-issue story that will hopefully satisfy people looking for that kind of thing.
Closing out, what would you guys do if you had the ability to vacation in alternate realities?
Spencer: I think I’d be just as bad if not worse than Mark if I had the Infinite Vacation at my disposal. As anyone can probably see from my workload, I like to be doing as many different things as possible at once, so the idea of being happily married, an astronaut, and the President all in a week’s time is pretty fun to think about.
Ward: It’s cheesy, but I am my mistakes, and think the idea of living in a world of “what ifs” is dangerous. Having said that, if there was a “me” living in San Francisco, that would be nice. Especially if he had less of a gut. And more hair. On his head. Did I just turn this into a plastic surgery question?
“The Infinite Vacation,” written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Christian Ward, is a five-issue miniseries debuting in January 2011.