CCI: Spencer and Salas Live a New "Existence"

When morally ambiguous scientist Sylvester Baladine was on the cusp of death, he had no idea that he would be born again in his killer's body seconds later. Similarly, the creators of "Existence 2.0" must've been surprised that after just one issue, Image Comics already wanted another miniseries.

As announced at Comic-Con International, writer Nick Spencer and artist Ron Salas are crafting "Existence 3.0," a four-issue sequel series to the currently releasing "Existence 2.0." The franchise focuses on the aforementioned Baladine, a self-absorbed scientist murdered by an anonymous killer. His consciousness transfers into the killer's body upon his death, thanks to some fancy technology that Baladine had previously worked on. He enjoys his new existence quite well - attractive women, fast cars, nightclubs aplenty - but when his daughter is kidnapped, Sylvester is forced to confront his earlier life.

Spencer and Salas spoke with CBR News about the new series, what topics it might explore and how they've enjoyed the existence of "Existence 2.0" so far.

How and when did "Existence 3.0" come to, well, exist?

Nick Spencer: Jim Valentino and Kristen Simon at Image/Shadowline knew we were interested in doing more. When the first issue of "Existence 2.0" really took off, and it became clear there was a responsive audience to the book, they asked us if we were interested in keeping it going. We were happy to say yes, obviously. 

Ron Salas: "Existence 2.0" was conceived as pretty much a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end. However, it was so well-received that it was easy to see that there are quite a few out there who would like to see the story continued and expanded upon. We were very happy that Kris and Jim felt the same way.

Will "Existence 3.0" hinge on the story of "Existence 2.0," or is this an entirely new adventure?

NS: The nature of these announcements make it very hard to talk about this stuff without giving away big chunks of your story, especially since only one issue has hit the stands! But with this one, we're staying as tight-lipped as we possibly can. We want people to enjoy "2.0" to its fullest, and unfortunately that means keeping quiet about the exact details of "3.0" for now.

I can say that, yes, this story takes place in the same world, and builds off of the last one. I will also say we wouldn't be doing a sequel unless we thought we could make it better than the first one. I always hate when I read interviews with people talking about how they want to make their follow-up "just as good as the first one." What kind of goal is that? That's setting the bar way too low. We want to tell a story here that's even bigger, more dangerous and more exciting than what came before it. We're going to raise the stakes. It'll be tighter. If people thought the first one hit the ground running, this one should knock them on their asses.

Is "Existence 3.0" just a clever numerical update in the title, or does the number 3.0 have any significance within the story itself?

RS: Like I said earlier, "2.0" was conceived as a self-contained story. It would have felt wrong and not a little bit awkward to title the new series "Existence 2.0 Part 2" or "Volume Two." "3.0" will mean something, though.

Do you think the franchise benefits from the miniseries format, or would you prefer it as an ongoing series?

NS: We've talked about this. All of us were pretty blown away by the reception to the first issue, and the conversation about doing more started almost as soon as we hit shelves. The question then became, what's the best way to continue this? And we all came to feel like the miniseries format is the way to go here. Each story is its own, each has its own conflict and resolution. Each one should feel like it's own big summer action movie with brains.

RS: One of the problems I see facing some ongoing series is the "what comes next" factor. Which is to say, sometimes series do not really have a point; they're just there. It's like a joke where the punch line never comes. You're basically reduced to showing the reader what comes next and, more often than not, you end up losing the reader during this meandering "progress." With "Existence," we definitely are trying to say something.

There's a lot of story potential in the "Existence" world, but perhaps not enough room in "2.0's" three issues to get into every facet of the concept. What are you exploring in "3.0" that you weren't able to in "2.0"?

NS: It's all super top secret for now. I can say that, yes, there was a lot more about the transfer process and what it means that we were very eager to come back and explore. 

RS: One of the main things we'll be exploring in "3.0" is the idea of multiple identities inside one brain and what that really means. With each transfer there is a certain amount of "bleed-over" of the two personalities and in "3.0" we'll examine the consequences this might have.

Sylvester is initially pretty happy with his new life in "Existence 2.0," but when he learns that his daughter has been kidnapped, he quickly realizes that there's no escaping his past. In your opinion, are there circumstances in which this scientific achievement - transferring one's consciousness into another person's body - could be entirely beneficial, or is there always a downside?

RS: I think that depends on what you mean by completely beneficial. For example, if you're a guy who's completely paralyzed and you happen to manage to transfer your consciousness to - I don't know - a vegetable or a guy on death row or whoever then you could probably see this as beneficial. However, as I said, there is a certain "bleed-over" involved in every transfer. Whether the eventual result of this mix is positive or negative depends on the viewer. How much Baileys and Kahlua do you put in the coffee to get a good result? Depends on who's drinking it.

NS: On our end, it would make for a pretty boring story if it all worked out perfectly, wouldn't it? The way we've laid out the process in the book, though, I don't know that you could ever call it truly beneficial, since no matter what, you're stealing someone else's body. That's pretty horrific when you get right down to it. That said, if it were possible, I have no doubt we'd find a way to rationalize it and make common use of it.

As creators, what's so alluring about the concept of the "Existence" universe? From both a storytelling standpoint and a visual perspective, what possibilities are offered in this world where people can jump from body to body?

NS: The possibilities are pretty limitless. Without lifting the veil too much, I can say we're aware of what a huge impact an innovation like this would have on the world at large, and we're looking forward to upping the ante in the next story.

To me, what Sly has done in inventing this, he's sort of started the snowball rolling down the steep hill. Now it's growing and picking up momentum until it becomes something much bigger and much scarier. If you think about it, the biggest inventions in history, most of them start out with just a handful of people in a lab somewhere, stumbling onto a huge breakthrough. And a lot of times, it can really take them a while to fully comprehend the implications of what they've done and what it will mean beyond the walls of that lab. The bottom line is, in this world, the ability to move your consciousness into another person's body is now out there, and a lot of people are going to be interested in that, to say the least.

RS: What I love about this world is that it gives us a chance [to explore] two things in particular: the concept of identity and the meaning of death. Does death become meaningless in a world where people can jump from body to body? What does "having one's own identity" mean? These are interesting questions.

Visually, what I love is the chance to explore a certain "mirror image" of reality. My art has been described as having a "noirish" style and I think the best of noir explores a side of reality that we don't usually get to see.

How about for your fans? What elements of "Existence" do you think are resonating with them?

NS: We have just been blown away by the response to the book. I can personally say I didn't expect it. I mean, I hoped people would like it and it would find an audience, but I really wasn't prepared for how enthusiastic about it so many people seem to be - it's a tremendously gratifying thing. To see people posting on Twitter and Facebook and on message boards, telling everyone to go get the book because they enjoyed it so much, that's just more than I ever dared to dream for this.  As for why, I think on the one hand, there's always a fascination with the idea of becoming someone else. Hell, that's really what superhero comics were at their start and still are, in some cases. And people like the idea of a truly fresh start, even if we know it can never truly happen.

But more than that, in reading what people say about the book, I think a key part of it is that the story is fun. The book's exciting and funny without being completely brainless. I feel like sometimes in comics, we take ourselves way, way too seriously. Don't get me wrong, I like writing the high-minded stuff as much as the next guy, but there is something to say for entertaining people, and I think we managed to accomplish that for most of the audience. I can count on one hand the not-so-positive reviews I've seen thankfully, and in each case, I felt it came down to them taking the book too seriously. But luckily, the overwhelming majority of people got it. You're supposed to laugh at what an ass Sly is. You're supposed to laugh at the outrageousness of the situation and the absurd levels of violence. It's okay to have some fun with it - no one is gonna knock down your door and confiscate your copy of "Persepolis" over it.

The big question... if you could transfer your consciousness into anybody else's body, who would it be and why?

NS: Yikes. Can you believe no one has asked this before? Hmm... well, Ryan Reynolds gets to be Green Lantern and Deadpool and gets to sleep with Scarlett Johansson every night. I gotta imagine that's a pretty cool life. But hey, who cares - I write comic books now! So I don't know if I'd take that trade, with all due respect to Van Wilder.

RS: I don't really know... someone younger and better looking, maybe? I don't know if I'd be satisfied with the end result of that combination, though. Will I still truly be me?

How about the person you would least like to see your consciousness transferred to?

NS: John, Kate, any of the eight. 

What else do you guys wanna add about "Existence 3.0"?

NS: Just how incredibly grateful all of us are to the web sites, blogs, podcasts, shop employees and readers who really seemed to take this book up as a cause with their friends and followers. That's been the best part of all this, seeing other people get really excited about the story and eager to share it. As a creator, that's a pretty amazing thing to experience. And without them, "Existence 3.0" wouldn't be happening. 

RS: It's very exciting to be a part of a story that resonates with so many people. I hope "Existence 3.0" has an impact in how people think about their own existence, whether they like the story or not - but I hope they like it!

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