The works of Charles Dickens are beloved for the author's evocative language, memorable characters, and, perhaps most significantly, timeless themes. The traits that make Dickens' stories so beloved also make them prime material for reinvention and reinterpretation. This week, Dark Horse releases the first issue of Olivia Twist by acclaimed Half a Life author Darin Strauss, co-writer Adam Dalva, and BREAKS and Life is Strange artist Emma Vieceli.
Olivia Twist reimagines the story of Oliver Twist, but set in an oppressive, futuristic world (you can get a glimpse at this grim world in the exclusive preview art for Issue #2, found below). CBR spoke with Strauss, Dalva and Viecelli about the series, which boasts a more active role for the central hero, as well as appearances by other Dickensian characters.
CBR: Darin, Adam and Emma, I'm hoping you can start by telling us a bit about the world you're creating here. The opening pages paint a dark future with some ripples clearly emanating from our present.
Darin Strauss: It begins by hewing close to Dickens, and we open it out to something much wider, much stranger, much more our own -- by which I mean Adam and my own, and also of our world’s own, sad time.
Adam Dalva: As Darin and I built out the world of 2050 London, it kept feeling more urgent -- which is a testament to Dickens. The weird trust we put in corporations, income inequality; the cruel, arbitrary separation of the perceived other -- that was rooted in him. We wanted to modernize those fears and put them in a glimmering, neon world, an increasingly possible future.
Strauss: There’s a mile-high tower filled with American corporations; America has been destroyed by an EMP device to prevent the singularity; internment camps for illegal immigrants (an idea that has been in the script since 2014!) spot the edges of town; orphans have to work on assembly lines; most poor people have to shop in a black-market called America Town.
Dalva: But, at the same time, the world will always have beauty, and Emma has created something beautiful here. The comic lives as much in the outsider space of artists as it does in sleek sci-fi tech or shocking grime.
Emma Vieceli: I'd say a dystopian near-future pretty much sums it up. We see a possible, horrific outcome of some of the paths the world is already on. Paths that make my heart hurt.
In terms of visuals, I knew that I was building a future London, but one that also needed to reflect and incorporate Dickensian visuals and class differentiation. To that end, I sort of mashed together a whole bunch of aesthetics into my main cast, so that the Dickensian element could be seen as just one facet of a varied world.
Olivia and Pip come from the workhouse -- so they are the most Dickensian looking of the lot. Fagin has some Turkish vibes, harking back to her roots. Charlie is harnessing his true-blue American blood with sports-wear combined with Fagin's aesthetic. Therese is probably the most "future" looking of the lot, but she's a tech-head and super excited about gadgets and technological progress. Nell and Dodger look practically contemporary, but -- in their minds -- they're retro. Dodger, especially, is a fan of "old" music like Guns 'n' Roses.
On the streets and in the vertical city, you'll see a mix of the '30s, "retro" and what's contemporary to the London of this story. You'll see some more futuristic elements in there, but we're not THAT far ahead, so most of my ideas have stemmed from what we're already using.