Neal Shaffer Is Living On "Borrowed Time" For A Second Time

Yesterday CBR News brought you the complete first volume of Oni's critically acclaimed "Borrowed Time." Written by Neal Shaffer, the first graphic novel tells the story of Taylor Devlin becoming lost in more ways than one and trying to return to the life he once knew. We continue our spotlight on "Borrowed Time" as the second volume hits stores today and Shaffer spoke to CBR News about the Oni Press book.

"'Borrowed Time' is the story of a man - Taylor Devlin - who falls through a crack in time, landing ten seconds away from everything he knows and loves," Shaffer told CBR News. "From there it's about his quest to find out exactly what happened and try to find his way back.

"Taylor is the main character. He's a journalist with a good life and a woman he loves - a kind of modern everyman. There's also Ellen, his girlfriend. When he lands on the alternate timeline he starts to assemble a cast of characters. There's Steve, an easygoing fellow who shows him the ropes and becomes a friend; Lynn, another new friend; Butch, a mysterious general store proprietor; and a handful of others here and there. Each of these people has their own relationship to both Taylor and the mystery in which he finds himself, and each will figure in some way into the eventual resolution. If I said much more, I'd be saying too much."

Readers picking up the second volume will find that life isn't looking rosy for Taylor. "Issue two finds him facing his fears and doing a lot of adjusting," explained Shaffer. "Where issue one was mostly about putting him in this situation and explaining how he got there, issue two deals with the new reality. He's basically re-learning how to live and how to relate to people, and that, to say the least, isn't an easy process.

"Each book, ideally, should leave the readers both knowing more and wanting more."

Like so many others before him, Taylor travels to the Bermuda Triangle and awakens in a seemingly new world, but readers of "Borrowed Time" have learned that it's not just a simple shipwreck. Fans of Shaffer's "Last Exit Before Toll" will remember that the scribe is quite deft at layering his stories with far more truth and answers than might be obvious upon first reading, but that doesn't mean there will be a "tell all" ending. "Well, I don't know if 'all, will become clear," admitted Shaffer. "I have a tendency to intentionally dangle some open ends as a way of prompting the reader to get more involved and wonder what might have been. But yeah, there will be a resolution and things will become clear at the end.

"The mystery itself is actually kind of simple: what happens to things that get lost? The idea is that they slip through seams in time and land ten seconds away from "normal". So in addition to the people Taylor meets, there are miscellaneous items all around. Lost keys, pets, socks, etc. They all go to the same place. Taylor, as it happens, is particularly interested in finding out if that process can be reversed.

"I drop clues in the script all the time that point, ultimately, to a greater understanding. But I try not to make them so important that missing them compromises the story as a whole. When the story wraps up with issue 6 (if we go beyond that it will be a new arc entirely) I think readers will have a pretty solid idea of what happened. The actual meaning of it all, however, will have a lot to do with how much attention folks paid to these characters and how much they care about them."

Fans of complex series such as "Lost" and "Heroes" have learned to look for conspiracies and answers in their favorite stories, and while Shaffer won't confirm if it's a conspiracy or more grounded secret to be revealed in the series, he added, "There's a certain element of secret knowledge that will become clearer over each issue, but at the same time the story really is an exploration of man out of time. I think it dovetails with real life in that sense. We're all exploring a path, and yet the presence of people who know more than we do - who have more control than we do - is a constant circumstance. Taylor will have to reckon with that, but it would be wrong to characterize any of it as a 'conspiracy'.

"I can't speak to 'Lost' or 'Heroes' because I've never actually seen either of them. I know, though, that I'm dealing in themes that are fairly universal. People explore this kind of territory all the time, but I do think that 'Borrowed Time' is a worthy addition to that canon."

Speaking of processes, Shaffer said that "Borrowed time" began with Shaffer's desire to explore what it means to be lost. "From there I worked up a story, and Oni was very cool and enthusiastic from the get go," said Shaffer.

There's also a lot of enthusiasm for the Bermuda Triangle, a source of mystery and superstition for some time, but it hasn't been in the news too much over recent years. Still, Shaffer sees it as a great metaphor for the larger story of being lost and an easy way to transition Taylor into his new life. "The Triangle itself is there because it's such a major touchstone for the mystery of disappearance. The idea for me is that it's just one of many seams, but also one of the largest. That's why so much activity happens there. Other than that, though, the story isn't really about the Triangle in any substantive way.

"As far as the larger fascination, I think it dovetails with my reasons for using it. People are naturally drawn to the big mysteries, and in a way 'Borrowed Time' is taking one of those big mysteries and personalizing it."

"Borrowed Time" eschews the norm in more ways than just storytelling and the art by Joe Infunari - the series has been released as a series of graphic novels instead of the traditional 22 page single issue format. "I think that it just made sense, particularly because the market seems to be shifting to OGNs anyway," explained Shaffer. "The response to the format so far has been positive, and it wouldn't surprise me to see more people adopt that kind of hybrid approach. We can keep the price point low while giving people more content, so what's not to love?"

While you can expect "Borrowed Time" #3 to arrive this summer, hopefully at SPX, don't expect a "Borrowed Time" film quite yet, despite fan interest. "That would certainly be OK with me, but nothing so far," said Shaffer.

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