Even during a year when Doctor Who isn’t on TV, time travel is in in 2016. We’ve gotten some great stories that use the concept all over the place. The latest offers a personal, pulp-fictiony take, in the form of Frank J. Barbiere, Garry Brown, and Lauren Affe’s new comic, The Revisionist. We sat down with Barbiere to learn more.
io9: Tell us a little bit about The Revisionist.
Frank Barbiere: The short pitch for The Revisionist is that it’s a sci-fi/action story about a time traveling assassin. I’ve been wanting to tell this story for a few years now, and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s come together. My collaborators, Garry Brown and Lauren Affe, have given the book such a unique, pulpy style and AfterShock Comics has given us all the freedom to tell the story how we see fit, without compromise.
Your protagonist, Martin, carries some baggage about his father. How much of that relationship is a driving force behind the events of the book in comparison to Martin’s time-traveling adventures?
Barbiere: Despite having a fun “high concept,” I’ve worked really hard to make sure that The Revisionist has a lot of substance. While the book deals with concepts like destiny, fate, and the greater good, it’s also a very personal story about Martin’s journey as a character. When we begin, he’s very much defined by the role his father played in his life—or rather, the role he didn’t play, as Martin’s father abandoned him when he was just a boy. Martin’s father returns to his life and essentially sends him on his “mission” as The Revisionist, so a lot of Martin’s unresolved feelings will come to the surface in their interactions. Largely this is a story about personal responsibility, so we’ll see the process Martin goes through while learning to take ownership of his past—and hopefully his decisions won’t doom all reality.
What is it about time travel that makes it such an appealing hook for a comic book? What drew you to it for The Revisionist?
Barbiere: I think it resonates with people on a thematic level—who wouldn’t want to change things in their life? And beyond that, who wouldn’t want to change history? Comics aren’t limited by budget or scope, only creativity, so they lend themselves to exploring some of the more practical challenges of time travel stories—different locations, special effects, etc. The Revisionist grew out of an idea of a younger man having to fix the mistakes of his father, a story trope I find compelling. I wanted to say something specific with The Revisionist and all the aspects of it—the story of fathers and sons, the greater good, and time travel—all weave together to accomplish that.
What’s your approach for writing a time travel story? Do you try to plan it all out from the get-go, or do you use the freedom of it to sort of build things as they go along and connect them along the way?
Barbiere: We did A LOT of planning. With time travel, you want to have a lot of “rules” in place so you don’t start defying your own logic—even if the audience isn’t immediately aware of them. I think pop culture has a very sound understanding of time travel from a few major films (Terminator, Back to the Future) and it was extremely fun to think about which tropes we could lean into and which ones we could subvert. We definitely have a lot of unique time travel mechanics in place for our story—they’re all pretty specific and help us further our specific narrative and message. It was great to build this from the ground up to service our particular story—but I think readers will really enjoy seeing the specifics of how time travel works in our “universe.”
What’s the process of working with Garry Brown and Lauren Affe on art duty for the book been like?
Barbiere: Garry and Lauren are two of my favorite collaborators (we all worked together on issue #6 of Five Ghosts), so it’s really been a joy. Comics is a visual medium and I think the visual style has to fit the content for the work to succeed, so it’s really important to me to carefully choose my collaborators. There’s a lot of trust on our team, and I think it shows in the work—I really believe in giving my collaborators the space to do their best work, and both Garry and Lauren have been wowing myself and editorial with their approach to The Revisionist. I think the book has a bit of a fun, pulpy style to it, and that’s something you can really only discover once the art starts coming together.
You’ve got a long list of books you’ve worked on for publishers across the industry—what brought you to AfterShock for The Revisionist in particular?
Barbiere: Mike Marts has edited some of my favorite comics of all time, so I was pretty ecstatic when he told me about AfterShock. As a creator who has a lot of ideas for original properties, I’ve been very fortunate to work at many companies on my own stuff (BOOM!, Dark Horse, and Image, specifically). Any opportunity I get to tell original stories is a real privilege, and AfterShock has given us an amazing platform to do so. We were able to put our own team together under Marts’ careful eye and create a very organic book—it honestly reminds me of working on Five Ghosts in my house with Chris and Lauren, just focusing on the content with a small team. I think AfterShock has built a really impressive lineup with a lot of variety, and honestly we’re just all excited to be a part of it and telling a story we believe in.
If there’s one thing you want someone to take from the first issue of The Revisionist, to hook them to pick up the series, what would it be?
Barbiere: Honestly, I think the book looks great and has such a unique style that hopefully the art alone will draw readers in. We’re all really focused on telling an exciting and original story with a fun hook and strong theme, so I’d really urge anyone curious to check it out. We’ve all been working in comics for a while and feel like we have the chops to deliver something memorable, so the most I can say is that this is a very pure vision from the creative team and we hope it excites and intrigues. Creator owned books like this are created out of a love for the medium, and we hope our readers can feel that in the pages!
The Revisionist #1 will hit shelves in June.