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Writer Glen Brunswick and artist Whilce Portacio stopped by the world famous CBR Tiki Room at New York Comic Con to discuss their brand new creator-owned series “Non-Humans” from Image Comics about a near future world in which toys and other inanimate objects have been given life. The pair talk about the story’s dark heart, Portacio’s return to creator-owned comics, how humans give “birth” to non-humans, their recent science fiction favorite and more.
On the basics of the story: It takes place in Los Angeles in 2041, twenty-six years after a NASA probe brought back this Martian artifact that creates a disease that goes global. What happens is the teenagers are able to bring life into toys and inanimate objects, such as like mannequins or anything that they can imagine in their mind, and bring it to life. The problem is teenagers — some of them, at least — tend to be emotionally underdeveloped in some cases so a lot of the non-humans turn out to be violent, and as such they have to be hunted down and destroyed for the good of society.
Brunswick on finding the dark heart of “Non-Humans”: Because the non-humans are becoming so wide-spread in the world, a law is passed that teenagers have to take drugs 24/7, from the time that they enter puberty when they’re able to create the dolls ’til they reach adulthood. In a sense, creativity is dead for human beings. Non-humans on the other hand are sort of like the creative ones in this world. If you have a world where creativity is dead, you’re gonna have a dark tone and a dark book. I think that’s the real difference in tone between [“Non-Humans” and “Jersey Gods”]; this feels more modern and more adult.
Portacio on this was the right book with which to return to creator-owned comics: Science fiction, actually, is my original love. I did not grow up as a kid wanting to draw “Jersey Gods.” [Laughs] I would read science fiction novels and draw those, try to imagine those worlds. It was good timing that I was thinking about getting back in and Glen comes to me with this bare idea of this beautiful science fiction world and hasn’t fully yet been developed — the details — and that’s what I love doing. Everything I’ve done in comics has been just filling out the world.
In fact, when we did “Wetworks” one of the problems I admit to is we overdeveloped that world. Too many characters, too many subplots and stuff that I think we dumped it on everything — but see that was an inkling into what I really love doing. I’m fortunate with Glen, he’s a great idea guy and great, you know, banging on the head, keeping me on the straight and narrow in terms of the theme and the concept. Most of our conversations I’m just going, “Oh, what if we did this… What if we added this to that,” or “Hey, they got a religion, right? Let’s…” So there’s a ton of backstory, a ton of characters that we haven’t yet done.
Brunswick on the element both creators really connected on: The non-humans actually come from us. You know, they’re born in the same way that a mother gives birth to her child. When a teenager sort of sparks one of these things to life, a piece of their sort of mental DNA, if you will, sort of comes out of them, goes into the doll, and the doll is like fully formed as a person. Because it still has that connection to humanity it desires to get back to humanity. So if you’re like a little doll that thinks it’s human, or thinks it’s a piece of humanity, you might want to build yourself like a shell to be human-sized. It creates this desire that, despite the fact they are this new minority, they also really strongly desire to get back to humanity. That whole thing set up a really interesting kickoff point to take it somewhere emotionally.