In addition to his ongoing Marvel work, Rick Remender is currently writing two creator-owned titles at Image Comics in “Black Science” and “Deadly Class.” While “Black Science” affords him and artist Mateo Scalera the opportunity to explore the dark side of esoteric discovery, his work on “Deadly Class” with artist Wes Craig is more personal to the writer as the story pulls heavily from his real-world angry teenage years. At Image Expo 2014, Remender announced that he would add a third title to the lineup with “Low,” an aquatic sci-fi adventure spiraling from his newly discovered relationship with a characteristic he tends to avoid: optimism.
“Low” takes place on the ocean floor, where the crumbling remains of society exist in a state of unrest. Although the shielded city once provided solace from the dying sun’s radiation, hope is running out for survival. None of the attempts to find an inhabitable off-planet location have succeeded, and time is running out. When a probe unexpectedly returns with new information, a brave group must risk their lives to retrieve it from the scorched surface of their planet. With art by long time collaborator Greg Tocchini, “Low” promises to be a must-buy book for Remender fans.
Remender and CBR News sneaked away from the madness of Image Expo to get deeper with “Low” and find out how optimism in the face of certain, irradiated death has breathed life into his new series.
CBR News: The last Image Expo was a little over six months ago. What’s changed for you since then, and helped you to launch three new titles?
Rick Remender: Balancing the creator-owned with my Marvel work has leveled me out quite a bit. It’s enabled me to still care and love the opportunity to work with the characters I grew up reading, but I don’t necessarily have the same compulsion to control every aspect of it. I think that’s the part of me that didn’t work so well in mainstream comics. I have the creator-owned work to do that, and I’ve got the Marvel stuff to just have fun with superheroes. I’ve found a really nice balance those two things in my life right now.
There’s been a lot of talk about Image bringing diversity into the comics world. Is that something you’ve been thinking about as you develop new books?
It’s always about an idea grabbing my attention. I cooked up “Low” when I was working on “Last Days of American Crime” with Tocchini in 2009, 2010. I was reading a “National Geographic” and it was talking about the expansion of the sun and how it will inevitably do what all stars do and consume our solar system. It brought back this memory of being 7 or 8 years old and being told that this is a fact that is going to happen.
That sounds like about the right age to hear that!
I know! I don’t remember who or why I was given this information, but I remember walking down my street and remembering that thought — nothing matters. Talk about nihilism. Nothing matters, no matter what we do or build makes no different, because the final result is going to be the sun consuming our planet. I just went out and started doing drugs and listening to punk rock. Not quite chronologically, but you know what I mean.
The idea really hit me that it’s a universal thing we’re all dealing with. Anyway, I remembered as I was reading this article, as a kid who was into “Star Wars” and all of those things, wondering how we were going to survive. And I’d thought we’d have to drill into the Earth and live like mole people, imagining these giant cities in the bottom of the ocean. So I started putting it all together and it just came together, and I realized I wanted to tell this story.
â€¨The aspect that came later and gave “Low” its beating heart is the mother of this family we follow, Stell. She’s this unbridled optimist, which is something I’ve never written. I always sink into my depression and just go, “We’re all fucked and it’s all gonna end bad!” It was fun to dig into something so foreign to me: Optimism. I’m in therapy learning about optimism and positive thinking, and the correlations between what you think and how you feel, and also reading about numerous theories from physicists who are saying that matter and things in the world don’t take shape until a living creature sees them. What an outlandish, crazy concept that is, that we are painting the world around us. I fell in love with this woman, Stell, having an optimistic point of view where, in the face of this inevitable expansion of the sun, she’s still optimistic she can solve things, and that optimism is infectious. It can be damaging, in some cases. It’s such a large story and digging into that aspect of it coalesced into a story I want to tell. â€¨
The one time I’ll confess to having been aware of [diversification needed in comics] was in 2004, when Tony Moore and I cooked up “Fear Agent.” That was when we realized there was no science fiction in comics. There was, of course — Paul Pope was doing his thing, and there were bits and pieces from Warren Ellis, but there was no pulpy science fiction, no extension of what Wally Wood and Al Williamson built, and that was weird. It was weird that there wasn’t anything like that, because it’s the dopeness. It’s the real, real, real deal. We recognized that and we developed “Fear Agent” based on that.
But most of the time, it’s just an idea, and the idea gets you excited. And that means something good. If I’m excited to write something, it means people might be excited to read it.
Off-Earth colonization is topical right now, with real-world advocates like Freeman Dyson pointing us toward space.
It is, actually. It’s interesting that the technology is developing and we’re seeing it. I read a lot of futurism sites, and that shit is definitely happening. In this case, we have to leave the solar system because the sun is going to burn out and collapse onto itself in black hole. But in “Low,” they need to find another world for themselves and don’t have the tech for terraforming one — but those are choices you make. You have to realize what people in a story can and cannot do.
You mentioned that you thought “Low” will be around 60 issues. Is that set in stone?
No, it’s just a ballpark. When I look at the outline, I realize that there’s a good five years of story. God knows if we’ll get to it, if I’ll live that long, but as we build it, that’s where it lands. Tocchini put so much time into it, he put so much of his ass onto the page, if we can get 10 issues of this out every year, it would be amazing. I know the ending of this story and I really want to get to it.