Giles Clarke is the founder of Uncharted Wilderness Studios, a veteran-owned small press comic book publisher based in Los Angeles. Their premiere series is The World of Tomorrow, written by Clarke with art by Kenan Halilović, Felipe Obando, and Deron Bennett.
Tim: The 1950s and sci-fi seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Why do you think that is?
Giles: I think it was a mix of the Atomic Age and the Space Race. America's attention was on the future and the stars. When you look at various events from the late 1940s, scientific ones like Project Diana by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1946, which was the first time we bounced a radar signal off of the moon, or more fantastical events like the Roswell "alien crash" of 1947, these events really set the stage for the science fiction fascination of the 1950s.
Tim: The art team took a lot of visual influences from media from the 1950s. What influenced your writing?
Giles: The art team did an incredible job capturing the look and feel of 1950s Hollywood. The illustrator, Kenan Halilović, perfectly designed everything from clothing to furniture, vehicles and street exteriors. What you see, is how it looked. Seeing all of these characters and scenes brought to life was incredible.
Colorist, Felipe Obando, was amazing in his textures and lighting for every scene. When you see the show on a television screen, it's not just in grayscale, but rather given that mild sepia hue to the picture, which was more accurate of televisions of that day. I was blown away week after week seeing the lighting and layering that he put into each panel. You know the time of day in every scene, just from his coloring.
Finally Deron Bennett did a fantastic job with the lettering. He was able to subtly layer in the dialogue around the art in such a way that the story just flows and feels very organic. He found new and engaging ways to render sound effects throughout the book and really brought all of it to life and gave it a great kinetic energy.
The influence for a lot of the story came from my love of films and history. I live in Los Angeles and have been fortunate to have access to the the movie studio lots around town. These backlots and sound stages have a great deal of history to them and saw some of the most memorable classic films and tv shows recorded there.
A lot of research went into this series before we went into production. I created a reference book of street scenes, vehicles, interiors, and wardrobe items. Even the smallest items like beer bottle and clothes pins were researched to make it look as accurate as possible. All of that helped to create the world and really focussed the writing process and assist the art team in recreating that world.
Setting the story in the 1950s allowed for a lot fun obstacles to overcome, just based on the time period. There were no smart phones, GPS, or ride share service like Uber or Lyft. If you lost your car keys and missed the bus, you were walking. If you didn't know where you were and couldn't find a map or someone to ask, you were lost. It all worked together dynamically to drive the story forward.
Tim: Craig Barstow has a lot on his plate with his entire life seemingly falling apart. What's it going to take to keep the mob off his back and his show on the air?
Giles: It is going to take everything that he's got!
You're going to have to read the series to find out.
Tim: How did you gather the art team?
Giles: It was a lengthy process. I put up a job posting for artists with a brief description of the series and what we were going for. It was important to me that the art in this series be a neutral, more realistic style and not super stylized.
I started receiving portfolios. A LOT of portfolios. Combing through all of them took some time, but I was finally able to sift it down to a handful that I thought really "got" the style I was hoping for.
Kenan's portfolio really stood out to me. He had illustrated these incredible Spider-Man pages and another page for a martial arts book. He really captured motion and weight very well.
I contacted him and commissioned two test pages from the first issue. When I saw his work, I knew he was the man for the job.
Felipe was the same. When I put out the posting for colorists and saw his portfolio, I knew this was a guy who really knew how to color. He colored this amazing page of Juggernaut that really caught my eye. I reached out and commissioned him to color the two test pages that Kenan drew, and he really knocked it out of the park.
Deron Bennett came onboard completely differently. I had a very hard time finding a letterer. I had a lot of illustrators apply for the job saying: Well, I can draw, so I can letter. Which, I'm sure any letterer who read that just cringed.
I was beginning to get nervous that these amazingly illustrated and colored pages would not get the lettering they deserved. Sitting on my desk, I had a copy of DC's He-Man / ThunderCats #1, which a friend had given me for my birthday a number of years ago. I thumbed through it and thought that the lettering looked amazing. I tracked down Deron through his company website and pitched him the project. His lettering is outstanding and really ties everything together.
Tim: Do you hate Westerns?
Giles: Not at all! I love westerns. One of of titles that we currently have in the works is a western horror. The digs we make at westerns throughout the book are sort of an anachronistic running joke about the current Hollywood superstition that westerns are box office poison. So the studio execs of the 1950s being so crazy for westerns is more of dig at the modern studios than it is at westerns themselves. That being said, though, the western in our comic looks like a pretty awful show.
Tim: How many issues do you see The World of Tomorrow running?
Giles: We anticipate it as a year-long monthly series. This story arc has a definite beginning, middle and end and we want readers to come onboard knowing that they will see a resolution to all of this, even though they don't know what that resolution will be.
We're not saying that this is the last readers will ever see of Captain Cal Armstrong and the brave crew of the Spaceship Acropolis, but any future appearances will also be fully defined storylines.
Tim: Finally, did amphetamines really keep Shirley Temple dancing?
Giles: I really hope not, but, honestly, who knows! Amphetamines were doled out pretty freely back then, and by actual doctors. Most of the time they called them "pep pills", but they were pretty much just methamphetamine tablets. Of course, in those days, living with lead paint and no seatbelts was the norm, so "pep pills" might have been pretty tame in comparison.
Check out the Kickstarter for The World of Tomorrow #1 here.