When we spotted a preview for Anomaly, an epic sci-fi adventure written by Brian Haberlin and Skip Brittenham, with art by Haberlin and Geirrod Van Dyke, we knew it was going to be a unique book. Printed in a “widescreen” format and featuring more than 50 interactive 3-D illustrations, Anomaly will be available as either a deluxe hardcover or limited-edition, signed-and-numbered hardcover in early November.
We had the chance to interview Haberlin, a longtime comics artist and writer who has also, among other things, worked as Vice President of Creative Affairs for Top Cow and Editor-in-Chief for Todd McFarlane Productions. He took us through the evolution of Anomaly and introduced us to his upcoming books, Between Worlds and Shifter.
Make sure to check out the amazing preview art for Anomaly and others, below, as well as a video showcasing Anomaly‘s 3-D capabilities!
TFAW.com: Anomaly is definitely unlike any other graphic novel we’ve seen before. How do you describe it to someone who hasn’t seen it yet?
Brian Haberlin: Epic, cinematic, really freaking big! When I’m showing it in person I like to say that it’s big enough to use as a weapon or a low-caliber bullet shield! We were even crazy enough to do a pull-out that measures over 40 inches.
TFAW.com: Readers will be able to experience some unique, 3-D content with the Anomaly app and their iOS or Android smartphones and tablets. What has the reaction been thus far?
BH: When people see the graphic novel you can see the “wow” in their eyes. When you show the Ultimate Augmented Reality (UAR) and they point a device at it and poke the character and it reacts, it’s like magic. And it’s not just about the eye candy — there are also over 100 pages’ worth of character background in the UAR pages. And beyond that, a few months after it comes out, you’ll get a notification to update your app and we’ll change and add UAR points. It’s the only graphic novel that can grow after publication!
TFAW.com: You’ve long been recognized for your innovative digital art skills — your work is featured in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution. What led to the concept of Ultimate Augmented Reality, and how did you make it a reality-reality?
BH: Well, Augmented Reality has been around for awhile, but you had to have obvious markers printed on the page for the software to recognize, and I thought it was a bit clunky. As of the beginning of this year that all changed, and you could have the software recognize an individual image, or panel on a page. This meant it could be seamless and not affect the design integrity of the page itself. That’s when were off and running.
TFAW.com: The story behind Anomaly has all the hallmarks of a classic epic: an unknown world, an underdog hero, a beautiful girl. What are some aspects that will surprise readers?
BH: I think it’s a unique mix as we start in our future, with a high-tech, sc-fi-epic feel. Then they land on a planet that essentially destroys all their tech, and it becomes an action-adventure story more in the spirit of Lord of the Rings . . . I think people really like the mix.
We definitely have some major twists and themes, like don’t judge a book by its cover . . . and when we work together we can accomplish the impossible.
On a character level, I think we have a level of development possible that you can’t have in a 20-page comic. We had the luxury of letting a scene take its natural time to tell, and I think that paid off in oodles of character development. Meaning that when we get our characters in trouble, hopefully you’ll care more for them, and root for them all the more.
TFAW.com: As co-creator of Witchblade, you’re known for creating powerful, unique female characters. What can you tell us about Samantha?
BH: Well she’s the bearer of an ancient weapon . . . no! Wait . . . that’s Witchblade! Hey don’t forget Aria, Athena Inc., and the lead in Area 52! But I digress . . .
Samantha is smart, determined, an idealist. But she’s grown up a bit sheltered and believes the Conglomerate (the company that rules everything in the future) is really a benevolent force. She finds out they aren’t when they try to kill her and her friends.
What I like about her is her ability to hold it together, and when things are really bad and even she can’t hold it together, she has the spirit to bounce back.
TFAW.com: What are some of the challenges that Jon, a disgraced Enforcer, is going to face?
BH: There’s Samantha! Right off the bat they bump heads. And on the planet . . . well, giants, mutants, dinosaur-like creatures . . . he should be dead (spoilers).
He also feels an incredible guilt for something that happened when he was an Enforcer . . . but that’s something you’ll have to read about (no spoilers!).
TFAW.com: What were your inspirations for the planet Anomaly and its many creatures?
BH: Anything and everything. I have a 10 year old who has tons of books and DVDs on prehistoric animals. And I used to be a 10 year old myself and continue to love prehistoric life. There are so many variants that were real that you never see portrayed much in movies, TV, or print.
We also got to scratch a bit of fantasy itch with the dozens of varied humanoid species on the world. They range from the tiny to the very large — over 20 feet tall — with all sorts of different abilities.
TFAW.com: Do you see Anomaly continuing in future graphic novels, or perhaps as a movie or video game?
BH: This is the first of what should be three Anomaly books. We are already 60 pages into the next one. As far as movies or games go, we really want to focus on the book first. Once it’s out in the world, we’ll see what comes of it.
TFAW.com: The book trailer says, “This is what you graduate to from Marvel and DC.” Do you think this sort of mixed-media approach is the future of comics?
BH: Not necessarily. Really what I meant was [Anomaly features] deeply immersive storytelling that is more like a movie. And with altogether new characters and situations. I mean, with DC and Marvel, you have these casts of characters that have been around for decades and they eventually kill them, turn them to zombies, switch their sex, start anew, etc., but you’ve been there, done that as a reader. When you turn to your retailer at that point and ask “What’s next?” this should be one of those things.
I love words and pictures, sequential art. And I think there are new characters and stories to tell in this medium. Also, I think people want the big story all in one go, so they don’t have to wait for the next issue. Again, sort of the cinematic approach as opposed to the episodic.
TFAW.com: You’ve worn a lot of different “hats” in the comics industry: colorist, writer, artist, Vice President of Creative Affairs — even Editor in Chief! Which role do you prefer?
BH: Artist, then writer. Trust me. Being a boss is overrated!
TFAW.com: How do you feel about the evolution of comics since the 1990s?
BH: I think we lost a generation of creators to video games and movies. Guys stayed on top of the charts because nobody was really nipping at their heels — creatively speaking, that is. And as a result, I think the medium is not where it should be, both in terms of content and the exposure of the general populace to it.
I guess I’m saying there should be a hell of a lot more people reading comics!
TFAW.com: What comics are you reading right now?
BH: Walking Dead. Love Charlie’s and Robert’s work.
TFAW.com: What would you like to do next?
BH: This is just the start! Anomaly Productions is a new publishing company, and we have two completely new books coming out next year, with all the UAR bells and whistles. Shifter will be out in May next year, a 200-page contemporary action-adventure story with a sci-fi twist. Think of it as Three Days of the Condor with a sci-fi twist. And then comes Between Worlds later in the year, a young adult fantasy illustrated novel in the design spirit of Dinotopia — meaning illustrations on almost every spread — and it’s illustrated by the award-winning Jay Anacleto. And a few children’s books should be sprinkled in there as well for next year.
It’s going to be a lot of fun . . . please join us for the ride!
We want to thank Brian for the informative interview! Make sure to pre-order Anomaly now and save 20%.
Are you intrigued by UAR? Post your comments below!