The following is an interview with Geoffrey Ashley, writer of the cyberpunk comic book series, Frontiers. In this interview, Fanbase Press President Bryant Dillon chats with Ashley about how his career led him to comics, the characters and world of Frontiers, what he loves about the comic book medium, and more!
Bryant Dillon, Fanbase Press President: Can you tell us a little about your background and how it led to you becoming an independent comic book creator?
Geoffrey Ashley: As a kid, I was inspired not just by science fiction films and television, but by their creators, as well. So, I wanted to be Captain Kirk, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo. But, I also wanted to be George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry. Consequently, I’ve been writing — and pretending to be sci-fi heroes — for as long as I can remember.
Frontiers grew out of my desire to create my own sci-fi world others could enjoy. It’s been my passion project since I was literally 12 years old, beginning as a script I wrote for a friend and me to shoot using his parents’ VHS camcorder. That plan ultimately fell through. But, the characters and stories stayed with me. And as I grew older and (allegedly) more mature, Frontiers did, as well. It began reflecting my own life…everything from heartbreak, cynicism, and dark sarcasm to…well, more nuanced and deeply felt heartbreak, cynicism, and dark sarcasm.
Producing Frontiers as a serialized graphic novel is fantastic for me, because it’s a medium which allows for maximum creativity, as well as maximum creative control. In other words, as an exacting storyteller with a pronounced need to be in charge, being an independent creator feeds every part of my being.
BD: For those who are unfamiliar with the title, what can tell us about the plot of Frontiers?
GA: The log line of Frontiers is “It’s the humble story of a man destined to destroy humanity…and why that really isn’t such a bad thing.”
A hundred years from now, Kieran Murphy is an average man drafted into an unjust war. After losing three years and half his leg, and realizing his only escape is either desertion or death, he goes AWOL. Now, he scrapes by, flying odd jobs in his spaceship, the RENEGADE MERCHANT, and pursing that one big score that will allow him to live life on his terms and stop worrying about being arrested by the military.
In the first issue, Murphy has been hired by a shadowy mafioso called the Curator to procure a valuable antiquity. Murphy knows if it goes well, it could lead to lucrative work…and put him on the road toward that big score.
So, of course, it doesn’t go well at all.
But, it does put Murphy into the orbit of the Curator. And through this association, Murphy will ultimately come to realize he is the man destined to destroy Earth. And he must decide whether to resist this destiny or embrace it, while beset on either side by those who want to ensure his genocidal success and others who will try to stop him at any cost.
It’s going to be a hell of a ride.
The first page of issue #1 is a flash-forward to Murphy destroying the Earth. And I do that specifically to throw down a gauntlet for the reader. I am taking the familiar “chosen one” trope and turning it on its head. I’m challenging the reader by saying, “I just showed your hero wiping out every human on Earth. And now I’m going to show you how he got there. And by the time the narrative winds its way back to that point, I think the reader will agree with Murphy’s decision.
BD: You describe the book as “dark and darkly funny.” What type of readers do you think might enjoy this subject matter?
GA: Poor, twisted bastards.
It’s definitely for adults. But, beyond that, it’s for anybody who likes sex, violence, and sarcasm – which seems to be a pretty wide swath of the population. If we’re talking demographics, males 18 – 35 are up front; however, women enjoy it, too. And everyone who reads it really seems to enjoy the writing, which is very gratifying.
BD: Do you mind telling our readers more about the world and cast of characters in Frontiers?
GA: There will be a lot of characters moving in and out of the Frontiers universe. But our four major characters are…
Kieran Murphy, the lead. He’s 30ish, capable of getting himself into — and out of — trouble. He is also almost as cool as he thinks he is.
Noble Saracen is Murphy’s college girlfriend who escaped capture when Murphy was “drafted” into the army. She has since joined the resistance on a former Earth colony which was handed over to aliens so they wouldn’t invade Earth. Murphy meets up with Noble seven years after college and finds her to be a major badass.
Jil is the artificial intelligence on Murphy’s ship. She’s coquettish and dryly funny. She is also a holographic exhibitionist. She’s smarter than everyone in the room, regardless of the room, and saves Murphy’s life on a semi-regular basis.
The Curator is a mystery. He stays secreted away in his deep space home, sending others to do his bidding and bring the spoils back to him. Those who have claimed to have met him have described him as everything from an eight-armed lizard to a sentient, gaseous cloud with a beautiful smile. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
The world of Frontiers is one of absolute corporate power and a docile population pacified by technology. So, basically like now, but with snazzy jet packs.
Okay…that last part is a lie. There are no jet packs.
BD: Can you tell us about the rest of the creative team on Frontiers?
BD: How would you describe your writing process when it comes to tackling comic scripts?
GA: Chaotic? Plodding? Magical?
Whatever it is, I wish I could just do it all the time. Because it’s basically disappearing into the Frontiers world and living as the characters. Especially Murphy. Because, like all the protagonists in everything I write, Murphy is basically me…just taller, braver, and less pear-shaped.
I start by mapping out the overall arcs…the entirety of Frontiers from beginning to end…to the smaller story and character arcs. I do a lot of walking for exercise and, as I do, I work things out in my head. I’ll debate plot points with myself. I’ll hammer out the dialogue. I probably look like a loon doing that. But, it’s L.A., so nobody really cares.
I also leave some space in there for new and better ideas. I have a general outline of how this all progresses. But, I’m not so rigid that I won’t leave the door open for more exciting and creative stuff. It’s all part of the evolutionary process that has marked this project for most of my life.
BD: What do you enjoy about the comic book and sequential art medium when it comes to writing and storytelling?
GA: I like the control. I like that writing for this medium is helping me to think in more visual, compositional terms. I like playing with the “fourth wall” of the book, whether it’s blood splattering outside the frame or an alien nearly coming off the page. But mostly, I just like seeing what’s been in my head so long coming to life in a way that matches my vision and allows me to share it with others.
BD: Has your writing style been influenced by any specific comic book or non-comic book creators?
GA: I try not to think about that too much. If I do, I’ll probably get too in my head and start to deconstruct things…and that won’t turn out well.
I see bits of Joss Whedon and Shane Black in there, though. I like sharp, funny dialogue and mixing comedy and jeopardy with heart. And, of course, Lucas and Roddenberry.
I think I draw on a lot of different films and shows in some way, from 24 to Buckaroo Banzai to the TV show, Moonlighting. I like random, ridiculous things, because that’s what life is full of. I like a story that keeps moving. And I like romance between characters who pop.
BD: At Fanbase Press, we love to find out what creators are fans of. So, what are you currently a fan of? It can be anything you choose, but what are you enjoying that you can share with our readers?
GA: When I have time these days, which isn’t often, I’m catching up on TV. The Americans, Better Call Saul, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Expanse, and Family Guy just to name a few.
And I admit I kind of hate-watch The Walking Dead. I greatly admire (and would love to emulate) its jump from comic book success to television juggernaut. But, so many episodes feel wasted…especially given they only have 16 episodes in a season. I mean, a solo Tara episode? But, as I outline, it makes me think hard about the pacing of Frontiers…and, if anything, it makes me keep things moving and border on cramming too much story into the space I have.
But, that’s a good thing. The readers can have a breather when they’re dead, right?
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects you’d like to mention before we wrap up?
GA: Right now, it’s all Frontiers all the time. Issue #1 is on sale now. And I’m putting together issue #2 right now. The art is finished and the pages are lettered. Now, all that’s left is coloring and getting it ready for printing. Issue #2 will be out in May. Then, it’s on to #3. I also just found out the first issue has been accepted for sale on Comixology.
BD: And, finally, where can our readers find you and Frontiers online?
I really enjoyed this. Thank you for letting me share my passion project with your followers and fans!