A few decades ago it seemed ludicrous that a situation from a movie like The Running Man could ever come to pass. People watching life and death combat for fun? We have left the uncivilized days of gladiatorial battle far behind us. It seems, though, we may not have learned from our past mistakes. Shows like Big Brother, The Great Race, and Survivor along with websites like Twitch are all just on this side of the tipping point for a return to the days of combat shows popping up. In a new world created by Ivan Brandon and Esad Ribic for their new comic book VS this line has already been crossed. It’s a hard look at the consequences of this spectator sport and the spectacle that has arisen around it. Brandon and Ribic gave me the opportunity to learn more about the world of VS.
Chris Campbell: What gave birth to the idea for VS?
Ivan Brandon: I had these 2 appearances to do, one in Italy and one in England, but they were a week apart so I rented a car and wandered 800 miles through the north of Italy. Somewhere in a food coma my 12 year old brain thought “SPACE GLADIATORS” and called Esad on the spot. He was probably drunk, so he went with it.
CC: We tend to think of ourselves as a more advanced culture than that of the “Vox Populi” that loved the gladiatorial fights so much. However, as illustrated in VS, now it’s not only the battlefield drama we like to watch but everything that happens in the drama of life. Why do you feel we as a society enjoy watching the lives of others so much?
IB: I think there’s something in most of us, in our day to day, that is insecure. Some part of us that feels like we’re doing it wrong, like looking over at someone else’s plate we’ll see the movie we were supposed to be starring in.
CC: Do you feel like what you have created with VS could be the next step for spectator sites like Twitch?
IB:I don’t really know a lot about those sites, but I’d hope there are some new steps between where we are and watching live mortal combat!
CC: The world that you have created in VS looks fantastic. When writing scenes that show the world around the characters did you give Esad detailed descriptions of what you wanted or just a general idea and let him have free range.
IB: Esad has free range whether I give it to him or not. The man once took an unauthorized joyride in a tank. I’ll give as much (or as little, really) information as I can to hopefully spark the tiniest bit of an idea that he can run with. Whatever I give him, he’s going to build something bigger and smarter and crazier with it, and we’ll all need to run for our lives, starting with me. My collaboration with Esad is basically me throwing a match from a safe distance.
CC: As a writer do you hope that people will “get a message” from your creations or do you just write for people to enjoy the story?
IB: There isn’t really a message. We’re playing with ideas that hopefully resonate, but we’re really just trying to tell a story.
CC: Without spoiling anything what can you tell us about what is in store for readers with this series.
IB: You have a show that’s trying to walk into the logical future, and an audience that’s going to fight them every step of the way. And Flynn like a wishbone between them.
CC: What are your influences for the designs of the fighters armor/equipment in VS?
Esad Ribic: India, Ancient Rome, etc. Weaponry is unnecessarily big and imposing, it’s the TV of the future, after all!
CC: When you are illustrating a comic book do you see the scene play out in your head and pick a “still” to render or do you just see that one particular moment that you end up with?
ER: I see a scene and add characters into it according to script, occasionally I’ll start with the characters, but I save that for the most dramatic character moments, where the background doesn’t matter as much.
CC: Are creating and drawing futuristic stories easier or harder than those set in more realistic settings?
ER: Not sure, each has its set of different problems. Let’s say it’s refreshing to change this occasionally.
CC: The characters outfit’s are very well designed in VS. Do you have any sort of background in fashion design or did you do a lot of research when coming up with them?
ER: No, no fashion background, it’s just lifetime of dealing with this set of problems, I did do research on the Hindu deities, because it was my idea from the outset to use them as inspiration for the design of the main team. I had earlier versions of the characters that resembled the mythology much more, but in the end I decided to tone it down because the characters were in danger of crossing over into looking ridiculous.
CC: What was the most challenging aspect of working on VS?
ER: The city, to me it’s the most important single element of the book, it needs to be the right kind of imposing but not too dystopian. A lot of what the characters do is just responding to that environment, so it had to feel a certain way.
Look for VS to release in February 2018 from Image Comics.