ARKS PROXIMAN Creators on the Creative Force Behind Their Captivating Sci-Fi Universe
ARKS PROXIMAN #1, the latest installment in the renowned ARKS sci-fi series, brought to you by Clicky Sprout Wife is coming to Kickstarter. This captivating comic is co-written by the seasoned film storyboard and concept artist, Rory Collins (Children of Men, Bourne Ultimatum, and Never Let Me Go), along with the talented award-winning writer and director, Natalie Malla. The exceptional art and colors are crafted by Erich Owen (Batman and Teen Titans Go), and brought together by the letters of Jeremiah Lambert (Monocul). The ARKS PROXIMAN creators shared some insight into the creative force behind this ambitious universe.
In this all-new chapter, ARKS PROXIMAN explores the first interaction between an exonatal human and a demon from Earth. Odd Bluford finds himself in the middle of a mystery when his parents discover a signal on the network – a beam of light containing instructions to awaken a female Ark from Earth.
ARKS Proximan #1 has already gathered the attention of over 150 followers on Kickstarter ahead of its launch. Join the revolution and check out the biopunk series available on Kickstarter soon. Diver deeper into the world of ARKS PROXIMAN in our interview with the forward-thinking creators of the series.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me for the Geek Network. I’d like to start at the beginning, as the best stories do. How did the three of you meet? What made you want to work together?
RORY: Myself and Natalie have been working together on and off for nearly 20 years and like 95% of the rest of the writers in the film and TV industry we are yet to get anything made. Natalie has made some brilliant short films and I have written a few scripts and made a few failed pilots and this is all a good thing. Mark Twain said ‘Good decisions come from experience, experience comes from bad decisions.’ We have chummed the water with failure and now the sharks have surfaced for a feeding frenzy.
Working with an artist like Erich would have felt like a dream a few years ago. When he responded to my DM earlier this year, saying he was interested in doing the art for PROXIMAN I could hardly believe my luck. His art is contemporary yet timeless and the frames he is producing for PROXIMAN are beyond words. You really have to see it to believe it.
Who came up with the concept for ARKS PROXIMAN first? How did the others get sold on it?
RORY: ARKS PROXIMAN came about when planning the story beyond Joe and Lilith in the main ARKS storyline. Originally PROXIMAN would have been released shortly after we finished ARKS Issue Six in deepest, darkest 2025 (probably) but whilst planning further comics last year we realized that we needed to be simultaneously making more comics whilst also giving our core team a break from producing 180+ pieces of artwork every 6 months.
So last year I began organizing my notes for the story beyond and it is not an exaggeration to say that the story for ARKS PROXIMAN almost wrote itself.
The reason is simple: if our descendants attempt a process like the one depicted in our story, the concept of humanity will change. The galaxy could abound with civilizations made from light. Our descendants will communicate with each other like distant lighthouses, shining beams of light across the void and spiriting people (ARKS) to incomprehensible worlds and situations. In this future, time travel becomes the reality as people are booted on distant exos, in their minds in an instant, yet knowing full well that the process will have taken many thousands of years and the planet and person they were, are now lost to time.
You could write a thousand stories based on just the concept alone and it is our hope that Odd’s story is the first of many.
To attempt something this enormous I knew i’d have to involve another writer to help me begin to compile these stories. Preferably one good at the things I am not. Natalie has been editing the story with me since 2020 and she was my first and only choice. I pitched the story to her years ago with a Carl Sagan quote: ‘It will not be us who reach Alpha Centauri. It’ll be a species very like us.’
This seems to have got her hooked. Erich on the other hand, I have no idea why he agreed to do it. None ;>
NATALIE: As Rory mentioned he quoted Carl Sagan, before pitching this project to me. “It will not be we who reach Alpha Centauri. It will be a species very like us.” It was the endless possibility and scope for a science fiction story, inspired by this science fact that got me hooked into the ARKS comic book universe, but it was Rory’s talent and vision that kept me hooked.
I have never written science fiction before, and I would never attempt to again, without a clear and inspired creative vision like Rory’s firmly at the helm. I know character and I know story, but Rory knows everything else. Safe in his incredibly knowledgeable and imaginative hands I get to write and create in a Universe that is completely horrifying, totally terrifying and so much fucking fun. I have loved every second of working with him on this project and I hope readers find ARKS PROXIMAN to be as fascinating, funny, devastating and grotesque as he intended it to be.
ERICH: ARKS being sci-fi was really all it took for me.I’m quite easy.I mean, sure, there’s the distant-future, distant-planets, traveling-to-distant-planets-in-a-unique-way, some-emotion, and the intriguing-storyline-with-some-mystery aspects, but all Rory and Holly really had to say was, “We have a sci-fi project that we’d like you to draw in your style.” Sold!
From each of your perspectives, what is ARKS PROXIMAN about? What is an Ark for those who don’t know?
RORY: ARKS PROXIMAN is the story of Odd Bluford; the first exonatal human; coming face to face with a demon; a girl from Earth.
An Ark is a human, created by bacteria. They can be any gender and their DNA and engrams (memories) are normally taken from deceased scientists / engineers etc. They are technically a new species (Homo-Evolutis) as they are bioficially conceived, non ex utero in a Synth Well (not from a female womb)
NATALIE: ARKS PROXIMAN is a story of survival. Of not just a single family, but a whole species. It will entertain you with the brutality and terrifying reality of building new worlds on a planet that doesn’t want you. Show you how it could be done, and question whether it should be.
You’re known for films such as Children of Men, Bourne Ultimatum, and Never Let Me Go. What was the transition from movies to comics like? Did you have any stumbling blocks?
RORY: Films and comics are both trying to do the same thing; tell stories. Films are created by hundreds, sometimes thousands of crew whereas comics are created by 2 or 3 people. I came to film from my love of comics and I came back to comics with everything I had learned from film. There are definitely straighter career paths that I could have taken but I think it has set me up to do what I am doing now.
I’ve liked your work on Batman, and Teen Titans Go is one of my guilty pleasures. Did ARKS challenge you or put you out of your comfort zone? The art is stunning and really accentuates the story well but feels like a departure from your normal work.
ERICH: Thank you! Teen Titans GO! is a ton of fun to work on. Yes, ARKS is a challenge! I’m up for it, though. I’ve been working on licensed projects so long that I don’t really get to create art in “my style” (still not sure what that is). I’m quite good at mimicking the styles of the WB properties and with the already established style guides, I don’t really have to figure out how to draw characters or BGs.
It’s something totally different to create my own vision/voice/style. And, that puts me out of my comfort zone. I do enjoy the process, though, and hope I can do more with “my style”.
From panel one of the Kickstarter, how long did it take to create the world of ARKS? Any major roadblocks? Any points where you felt like you passed go, and collected $200 without even trying?
RORY: I’ve been working on ARKS since 2013 on and off and i’ve written hundreds of drafts of it in that time. It has existed as a TV show, a feature film and now in its present form, a comic. In that time the science featured in the story has had several revolutions. From the advent of Synthetic Biology, Stephen Hawking’s Breakthrough Starshot and most recently the precursor of Artificial Intelligence; Large Language Models.
Each one of these technological breakthroughs has triggered rewrites and new inspiration for the story. It’s safe to say at this point that none of it has been easy. But this is also why ARKS is so rich and interesting and what sets it apart from standard pot-boiling science fiction.
Was there anyone outside of your creative group that helped shape ARKS PROXIMAN? The best advice/criticism/praise you received?
RORY: An industry guy came up to me at a comic con last year and asked me to talk about my book. I gave him the elevator pitch and told him how ARKS had started life as a film script before it became a comic. He smiled and said ‘So you’re baking the I.P?’
Initially, I didn’t know what he meant but minutes after he had left the table I was disgusted with myself. He was absolutely right – I was baking the I.P. Or at least I was, in one tiny respect. I was willing my story into existence by making something I could make with my own talents. To give me a chance at continuing to tell the story because I really believed that it could be something original.
Anyway, this person made me feel kind of small but it made me more determined than ever to make good work for its own sake and not be a hack..
– I’m a writer myself so I know we all put something of ourselves into our work. What would you all say you contributed? I personally find myself giving a nod to something I’m watching or reading.
– Odd’s death touch. Who thought of it, and how did it become central to the character?
RORY: The answer to these two questions is actually the same. Our hero in PROXIMAN is called Odd Bluford. He is a neurotic teenager who sees agency in everything he does. We all do it. Something good or bad happens and we vainly / pessimistically assume it’s because of our actions.
In our story, Odd pulls transplanted animals from Earth out of the synthesizer who die soon afterwards. From this he quickly develops a fear that they are dying because he is touching them. When his ‘death touch’ in reality, is just an eccentric way to control his own dread. That maybe he can’t control anything.
The main theme in ARKS PROXIMAN is not Odd surviving as the planet he inhabits collapses but a young man coming to terms and finding his peace with chaos. As 40+ year old man this is something I still struggle with and is what I bring to the work. Odd’s death touch is his way of dealing with his fears; that he can’t control anything and in the end, he doesn’t need to.
How does this tie in with the ARKS universe? And what does it mean for the ARKS universe?
RORY: ARKS PROXIMAN is not a spinoff and it’s not a new story. It’s truer to say that PROXIMAN is the actual main story and that ARKS is the prologue. But also PROXIMAN is the chronological prologue. It’s undefinable in many ways because of all the strange paradoxes that are thrown up by Directed Panspermia 😉
When myself and Natalie were writing PROXIMAN last year we discovered these amazing synergies with Lilith and Joe’s story. They were so interesting that we started to nest the narrative together so that events in Odd’s story directly affect Lilith and Joe’s story and vice versa with the plan to create an interwoven narrative that is like a giant, grizzly, sci-fi, time travel, murder-mystery for the reader to solve.
Should we be lucky enough to keep making this comic, all will be revealed and it’ll be like nothing you have ever seen before.
Where does ARKS PROXIMAN go from here?
RORY: SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading if you don’t want events in PROXIMAN #1 revealed. Odd Bluford, his A.I Stella and a family of frogs will go on a journey like no other. They will walk around the Iso, the halo of land that stretches around the edge of their tidally locked planet in the vain hope that they can reach another cradle and reboot Odd’s murdered parents.
On the deadliest frontier imaginable they will have to range across melting mountains, survive deadly solar flares and hope that the DNA-shredding radiation unleashed by the girl doesn’t give them cancer before they reach their destination. But Odd has a secret that he is keeping from Stella- If they reach the cradle, he doesn’t just intend to resurrect his parents, but send an Ark of himself across space, back to Earth, in the hope that he can destroy it.
What does ARKS PROXIMAN mean to each of you?
RORY: We are running this Kickstarter because we really believe that science fiction should be confounding and open you up to new ideas and for a long time, contemporary sci-fi has been recycling itself on the topic of interstellar travel. The maritime view we have of space travel, venturing across the galaxy in great ships is a vestige of a different era, and if we were to ever attempt to colonize planets beyond our solar system, we’ll do it, in a way more akin to plant pollination.
ARKS will be the first pop culture story that explores this amazing and mind-bending idea. By supporting these Kickstarters you don’t just get a cool book in post, you are helping us create an incredible new universe that explores the tangible and potential destiny of humanity.
Are you working on other projects? What are you working on? Where can we find your work?
RORY: I am currently editing the scripts for Issue 5 & 6 of ARKS; our core story which will be coming to Kickstarter in March next year. The feature script was written years ago but there has been a lot of mission creep whilst adapting the script into the comic book. At this point it feels like the script was written by someone else and I’m its editor which is kinda weird.
Other than that Natalie Malla and myself have just finished working out the story beats for the remaining issues of PROXIMAN and now we have to do the hard bit; write the damn things.
ARKS PROXIMAN Prelaunch is here: LINK
Our website is here: www.clickysproutwife.com
Finally, What do you think people should know about ARKS, ARKS PROXIMAN, you as individuals, or you as a creative force?
RORY: ARKS exists because of our amazing backers and a hundred thousand years from now when our descendants are spiriting people between planets in beams of light, it is my insane, demented, vainglorious hope that these books, its writers, artists and patrons will have played some part in it happening.
Do I know Sabrina? Sabrina…Sabrina….Oh, you mean her? Yeahh. She’s wild. Homegirl throws solo dance parties in her bedroom. She writes like nobody’s reading…because they aren’t (yet). She is an award winning baker, and has seen every episode of every season of ALL the Star Treks, and Stargates except Stargate Universe because it wasn’t right. Perpetual teenager. 4’11 of sass and sarcasm. She’s obsessed with cats. Single if you can believe it. All around nerd, and just too weird for her own good. AND SHE’S PROUD OF IT?