The End of the World is Just the Beginning in Skybound's Evolution

Evolution, which debuted with its oversized first issue last month, was rushed back to print by Robert Kirkman's Image Comics partner studio Skybound. The new "body horror" series is generating positive buzz nearly as fast as the unpredictable changes that are affecting humanity in the book, from writers James Asmus, Joseph Keatinge, Christopher Sebela and Joshua Williamson.

Featuring art by Joe Infurnari and Jordan Boyd, the new ongoing series explores a monstrous global phenomenon, now driving human evolution, through the eyes of three individuals with very different worldviews: a scientist, a Catholic nun, and a young woman, who knows more about movie magic than math or misinterpreted mythologies.

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With issue #2 (and the second printing of #1) out this week, CBR connected with Asmus, Keatinge and Sebela to discuss Evolution and learned all about the origins of the series, the scientific truths behind the storytelling and the power of keeping some secrets not only from characters, but readers too.

Evolution #2 cover by Joe Infurnari.

CBR: What is the secret origin of Evolution?

James Asmus: I'm not sure where the exact genesis of making an end-of-the-world book came from, I think Joe [Keatinge] may know better about that, but that's how it was pitched to me. We were going to do a writers' room type book with all of the writers in Portland so we could get together and break it down. And then we just had to figure out how the world ended [Laughs], which was the most exciting part for me because we've seen all of the apocalypse scenarios so trying to come up with something that wasn't covered ground was difficult but once we came up with the concept, I think we all really got excited about the possibilities and what we could do with it.

Joe Keatinge: As I recall, Skybound put two and two together in terms of us all living in the same city and said, "We have this cool idea. What do you think about it?" I love working with Skybound and thought Evolution was such a cool, weird idea and it was cool doing a book with multiple writers but with one artist and one colorist, being Joe Infurnari and Jordan Boyd. And I think it came out of us talking about horror and as I recall, we were all specifically into the body horror sub-genre and with us all knowing each other and being buddies, but it was, sorry to make a stupid pun, really just a natural evolution.

You mentioned a writers' room set-up. Are you rotating issue-to-issue, arc-to-arc, or writing specific characters? How exactly are the writing chores split?

Chris Sebela: First we sat down and decided the type of story that we all wanted to write within this larger story, and then we met up to bring it altogether. Since then, we meet up to do a grand review of what's going on over the next several issues. And we share what our next part of the story is going to be. We have a whiteboard and we break down how many pages we need each issue to tell our part of the story, and then we figure out how to weave our three perspectives in a way that feels natural. But the actual writing is basically the same. We just all go off and write our stuff. And I think we're all confident enough in each other's abilities where we're not looming over each other's shoulders all of the time.

There's a great line in the second issue of the series that says that evolution "used to be a slow, methodical defensive measure to adapt life to new condition. But now it's fast and brutal and playing offense." I know you are describing the central phenomenon in Evolution here, but I think it can be said that you are also summing up how humanity is trending today. It's easy to see if you take even a passing glance at your Twitter feed or watch two minutes of CNN. Would you agree?

Asmus: Yes, I certainly think that why we responded so much to this vision of the end-of-the-world as a horror story to tell is that despite not being explicitly topical, the emotion, the anxiety, the spontaneous chaos and violence -- I should say, the seemingly spontaneous chaos and violence -- feels like what it feels like to watch the news right now. And I think it's tapping into an essence of modern day life anxiety and fear without having to get into the weeds of arguing political points.

Sebela: I feel like once you have a sense of being around for a while, things start to feel like they're speeding up. I think a lot of that did inform, at least on my end, the writing. It feels like another year is over or just how quickly we get used to all of these horrible things that are happening around us. We're tapping into that too. We're depicting a world where this massive change is happening but everybody is still going on with their lives and trying to pretend like everything is okay.

Keatinge: You guys are so dark. [Laughs] Every generation thinks they are going to be the last. I think it's just something inherent to the human race. The world is changing and how do we possibly keep up? Sure, Evolution is about the human condition and understanding our place in the world but I think that's what good horror is. Tapping into what people feel and fear and exploiting that for all it's worth. [Laughs]

Evolution #1 cover by Joe Infurnari.

As stated, Evolution is published by Skybound, which is also home to co-founder Robert Kirkman's groundbreaking Walking Dead series. After 173 issues, Robert has yet to reveal how the outbreak started in Walking Dead and how the zombies came to be. And nobody cares, because it doesn't play a part in the storytelling. In Evolution, will we learn about the cause of the phenomenon sweeping the globe?

Keatinge: I think one of things that really appealed to me, and I think all of us, is that we wanted to explore this thing from a lot of different directions. Could it be supernatural? Could it be science? Could it be religious? Could it be just monsters? And in asking the questions, that's where you get the real answers. [Jack] Kirby talked about that a lot. In his career, he said that asking the questions is the thing that fulfills him. And that fulfills me. We do have the answers but it's in asking the questions that we get the real meat of the story. We have it all figured out and we know there are people that want to know every answer to every question to every single thing that they read or watch but I think what really appeals to me about this story is exploring all of these potential answers and we go from there.

Asmus: There are some answers in the series and we mapped out the hows and whys for ourselves but like Joe said, especially using the split narrative approach -- following these different characters -- allows us to explore all of the different possible answers. We follow a doctor, a man of science, and a woman of faith, which gives us at least two different ways to search for answers. It's about looking at different ways of filtering horrible things that are happening into your worldview and figuring out how you cope with them through your belief system and how you look to move forward and push back against them. And I think that interests us more than laying it out like some kind of sterile prequel that would just tell you everything and suck all of the mystery out of it. Like I said, there will be some answers but to us, it about responding to baffling horror and remembering that wanting answers and getting answers is not always the same thing. I think what we can't figure out is usually more genuinely more horrifying than something that has been explained away.

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