Clones and comics go together, like peanut butter and jelly. Sometimes the results of that partnership result in fan-favorite storylines and characters, while others are less successful — we’re looking at you, Ben Reilly. David Schulner plans to keep his Skybound/Image Comics series “Clone,” drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, firmly in the former category.
“Clone” tells the story of Luke Taylor, a man who discovers the existence of an army of genetic copies of himself, the result of experiments performed by his estranged father. And if that’s not enough of a mountain to climb, Luke also has to deal with his pregnant wife’s kidnapping and his now-born daughter being in the hands of some less than reputable people — the same people who have decided to go nuclear in their search for Luke by letting loose on the world a more powerful, morally bankrupt version of him called Beta.
For the book’s second arc, which kicks off with the April 26-shipping issue #6, Schulner turns to some old friends to help him continue Luke’s saga: fellow television writers and co-producers on his show “Do No Harm,” Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre. The trio spoke with CBR about the threats Luke will face in the second arc, the differences and similarities between comic and TV writing and how far back the collaborators go.
CBR News: How did the three of you come together to work on the second arc of “Clone?”
Aaron Ginsburg: The three of us have been friends for years; we all went to college together in Dallas. When Schulner got word that Image/Skybound wanted another arc of “Clone,” he feared he wouldn’t have time to do it. He looked into actually cloning himself, but when that avenue proved too costly, he asked us to come on board to expand the series.
Wade McIntyre: We loved the first arc and were honored to get the chance to dig into this new, gritty sci-fi world David created. Television writing is often a collaboration between multiple writers, so we just carried that model over to “Clone.” It’s always a blast to work with your friends. We feel very fortunate.
David Schulner: It’s funny, because in answering this question, I’m just now realizing that I’ve worked with Wade and Aaron on almost everything I’ve created. My 2008 pilot for FOX, “The Oaks,” had a small writers room and Aaron and Wade were the first people I brought on board. Same for my recent NBC show, “Do No Harm.” Aaron and Wade gave me notes when I was still writing the pilot and were co-producers on the show. It seems only natural that we’d be working together again.
David, has working with Aaron and Wade changed how you approach each issue of “Clone?”
Schulner: It’s a total pain in the ass, now. We have three schedules to work around. They shoot down my ideas. They critique my dialogue. They find holes in my arguments. It was so much easier when I was doing it all by myself!
But the result is that these next five issues are the best yet. The new stories are intense. The new characters are surprising and rich. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done.
Aaron and Wade, how do you like working in the world of comics?
Ginsburg: I came to the world of comics late, and I am madly making up for lost time. I absolutely love the medium. In TV, economy of language and storytelling is a real skill, but comics take this to a new level! You only have 22 pages to service all of your characters and to deliver a satisfying beginning, middle and a cool cliffhanger at the end. It is a fabulous challenge and I won’t lie: I am addicted to it.
McIntyre: I’m finding writing comics to be more demanding, I think because it is so visual. You’re basically writing and directing at the same time. You’re also uninhibited by practical constraints like shooting locations and budget, which is very freeing creatively. It’s nice to blow stuff up and not have to worry about paying for it. But breaking the story, crafting each scene, writing dialogue that pops, that’s all the same. Good storytelling is good storytelling, regardless of the medium.
Luke had to deal with quite a bit in the first arc, from discovering he has a legion of clone brothers to meeting his real dad. Does he have time to really contemplate any of that in the second arc, or is he still zooming along?
Ginsburg: He doesn’t have as much time as he’d probably like. His wife, Amelia, and newborn daughter are still in the hands of the morally bankrupt politico Davis, so the quest to get his family back drives him above anything else. Luke believes that if he can accomplish that one goal, it will actually give him some sense of normalcy again, some sense of having his life back. But can you ever really go home again? Not to mention, he has no idea what surprises the Clone Program has lying in wait for him.
McIntyre: We dig further into his family history and the origins of his cloning, but philosophical contemplation will continue to occur under gunfire. We like to zoom.
Schulner: We do like to zoom. I think it’s one of our strengths, but also probably one of our weaknesses. To me, the greatest sin is to bore an audience. I’ll do everything I can to keep your ass in that seat turning pages. Now that we have you hooked, I’d love to be able to slow down a little bit. And by that, I mean twist the story every four pages instead of every two.
This new arc finds Luke facing off against Beta. What kind of challenges will that offer?
Schulner: Beta was designed to be stronger, faster, smarter than the original. Now Luke has to confront and conquer a “better” version of himself. Sure, this is going to be next-to-impossible on a pure physical level, but to me Beta is most dangerous on an existential level. How do you kill your younger self? Your best self? The boy you used to be. How do you look your younger self in the eyes and pull the trigger? And for Amelia, that’s the boy she fell in love with. When Luke was 18. And here he is again. Beta makes everyone question who they are and who they became.
What other threats will Luke face in the course of the arc?
Ginsburg: Beta might be younger and stronger and willing to annihilate any clone that comes in his path, but Luke’s biggest threat this arc actually comes from within himself: the Assinik Disorder that lies dormant in his blood cells. It’s been mysteriously in remission since he was a child, but a relapse can be caused by extreme stress. Stress like, say, learning a covert government agency is performing illegal medical tests on your newborn daughter, or, you know, fending off attacks from a soulless clone. His only hope of survival will be in discovering the secret of how he survived the disease when he was a child.
McIntyre: In the first five issues, Luke was confronted with perfect clones of himself and the challenges that presented. In these next five, we’ll learn that the process wasn’t always so perfect. Once you start trying to make a copy of a copy — things get messier.
Schulner: Man, what don’t we throw at Luke? Government assassins, a fatal disease, a kidnapped wife, clones of himself trying to kill him. Those are all the big, story-driving threats. But the smaller ones, the personal ones, will cut him a lot deeper. The daughter he may never get to meet. A father who abandoned him. Amidst all the action, what we really want to do is break your heart a little bit.
David, how has your working relationship with Juan evolved over the first arc?
Schulner: It’s funny — I didn’t know Juan’s art before we started working together. I’m 100% embarrassed to say this, but it was only after reading some reviews of “Clone” that I fully understood what an amazing artist he was. I was like, “Wait, you mean not every artist fills each panel with excruciating detail? Doesn’t every artist insist on inking their own work? What do you mean other artists don’t draw every crease on a t-shirt worn by a background character in the very edge of a panel?”
Now, in addition to thinking about story, I try to think, “What would Juan like to draw?” So in the next five we’ve got some very erotic stuff, insane violence and a clone whose entire body is covered in tattoos. Juan might want to kill me for that one.
Aaron and Wade, how have you enjoyed working with Juan so far?
Ginsburg: We have absolutely loved the process. Juan and colorist [Andy Troy] are mad geniuses. In TV, there are often elaborate stunts or kick ass action sequences that we could never pull off with our limited production schedules and shrinking budgets — and for Juan, these are child’s play. Whatever we imagine for Luke and our team, Juan realizes it in such detail and with such vibrant energy, his art seems to leap out of each panel. It’s been a dream collaboration for us, finding artists who are able to take our germs of ideas and grow them into beautiful, violent, stunning imagery.
McIntyre: It looks better when they draw it than it does in my head. Can’t ask for more than that.
“Clone” #6, by David Schulner, Aaron Ginsburg, Wade McIntytre and Juan Jose Ryp goes on sale from Skybound and Image Comics on April 24.