Between the Balloons

Zack Kaplan is a television and screen writer who grew up on comics.  He now is writing the hit series Eclipse over at Image Comics.  We sat down and talked about where Zack came from and his ongoing series at Image.

Ryan Mount for Two-Headed Nerd: You are a television and screenwriter, but somehow escape a huge imprint in the internet, so in getting to know you, how long you have you been a writer?

Zack Kaplan: Well, many may not know this, but there’s a world of Film/TV writers who collaborate with well known producers on a spec script, pitch a TV project to studios and networks and even sell ideas for a first draft, but those writers are not yet produced, and that’s the world I’ve been in. For every company that does two movies or shows a year, there are more projects in development that never see the light of day. Sad but part of the process. I studied Film/TV writing at USC Film School ten years ago, and I was writing sci-fi stories and plays years before that. So I’ve been writing since I was a teenager.

THN: What are some of the previous projects you have worked on?

ZK: Oh, I’ve had a few gigs, a couple paychecks, and so many almost moments and near hits, but the things that almost happened are hardly worth mentioning. I still have projects being developed, things I’m not able to talk about. But if you’ve heard those stories about a project taking ten years to happen, that’s true!

THN: Eclipse being your first comic, what drew you to the medium?  And why this medium for this particular story?

ZK: Oh, I grew up on comics. I’m a comic book nerd. I love comics, but it only occurred to me years ago just how awesome it would be to write comic books. And I knew the medium of comic books would be perfect for ECLIPSE, because we would get to capture the visual representation of sunlight as dangerous. Every ray across the page would suddenly come to life in a different way. It’s a very visual concept.

THN: Who are some of your favorite and or inspirational comic creators? Any particular favorite comic series or stories?

ZK: I’ve often talked about being exposed to Warren Ellis, Greg Rucka and Brian K. Vaughn well over a decade ago, and coming to realize that the medium of comic books was changing, and that any story could translate into comic books. I love all things sci-fi, especially sci-fi that makes you think. I love all things Remender. He’s a true inspiration. I love Millar. I love Kirkman. I love Brubaker. I love Kelly Sue. I love a lot of comics.

THN: How did the project come to be? And how did you land at Image Comics?

ZK: I had been pitching ideas for several years, and I took the ECLIPSE pitch to Top Cow. Matt Hawkins is a sci-fi writer himself, and he decided to give ECLIPSE a chance. In retrospect, I was a lucky break, and I’m very grateful for it! Because not only was I given the chance to create my first comic book, but Top Cow is an imprint of Image Comics. I managed to stumble into having that illustrious Image eye on my first book. It’s always a little surreal, but all I can do is focus on producing an amazing series.

THN: You certainly have created a world which seems like it could go on endlessly, so Eclipse scheduled to be an ongoing series or is there an end game to all this?

ZK: I always saw an opportunity to do a lot in the world of ECLIPSE, and with the success of the first few issues, we’ve been given a much longer platform to explore that world, so we’re in no rush to wrap things up. ECLIPSE is currently scheduled to be an ongoing series. And while many fans ask me what’s going on in other parts of the world in ECLIPSE, I will say we plan to stay very focused on the Northeast part of the US.

THN: Before writing and creating Eclipse did you know or work with Giovanni Timpano or Chris Northrop?

ZK: Both artists came to me through Top Cow. Giovanni had been working for seven years through many other publishers like Dynamite and IDW, but he had never really created his own world like this, so he was ready to pour his heart and soul into the project, and did he ever! Giovanni and I have developed a real partnership, and he brings so much to the world of ECLIPSE. We even discuss story together! Chris came on at the end of Issue #1 and he’s been really great about delivering a stark and sun-baked feel to the colors.

THN: One of my favorite things about the book was that the entire team has captured a horror landscape in complete light.  How much collaboration did it take to set the tone that well?

ZK: I know Giovanni our first colorist, Betsy Gonia, collaborated on the tone, and I know Giovanni and Chris worked together to elevate it as the series continued. While I’d like to think that I helped to create atmosphere in the way I wrote about the world, the credit for this visually captured horror through light is probably most due to the artists on the project. But yes, I love that somehow the daylight exteriors feel dangerous and scary.

THN: In just the three issues you have created, you managed to give some depth and weight to all your characters while still moving the story along.  Have any characters been a surprise joy for you to write?

ZK: I like to approach character creation deliberately and write characters very slowly. It’s important to know how each character views the world, what they want out of life, what their greatest fears are, the true person inside that they are hiding. I love writing Cielo, because her youth allows her to be a mirror to this world. It’s fun to write her father Nick Brandt, who might seem like a bad guy to readers, but he thinks he’s a hero. And I actually love writing Bax! Trying to bring life to the silent, brooding hero is a lot of fun.

THN: If Eclipse was ever a movie who would be your dream cast for one character in the series?

ZK: A movie?! Who says it won’t be a TV Show? Hahaha. I would be excited to just see happen, but dream cast? The actor who will never be available? Tom Hardy for Bax. Maybe Michael Fassbender or Hugh Jackman. Guy has to exude masculinity and pain.

THN: If Eclipse was your real life which one of your friends most resembles someone in the book?

ZK: Oh I don’t write that way. I don’t write characters to be like people I know. Rather, all of the characters are me. That’s the only way I know how to write. When I craft a character, for a moment, I say the line, I embody the viewpoint, I burn for the goal, and I channel the character. I become them. So if you’re a friend and you think someone in the book is you, it’s not!

THN: Any other projects you are currently working on in comics or any other medium?

ZK: I have a couple Film/TV projects still in the works, but yes, after the response to ECLIPSE, I am definitely working on some new comic book ideas. So stay tuned 2017!

THN: Thanks so much.

Remember to check out Zack Kaplan’s work on Eclipse for Image Comics and follow him on twitter @zackkaps