There’s a pretty classic fantasy to the idea of cloning yourself. Got extra work to do? Make the clone do it! Errands to run? Clone! Dishes, cleaning, laundry? Clone, Clone, Clone!
But Clone, one of the newest hits from Robert Kirkman’s Skybound imprint at Image Comics by David Schulner and Juan Jose Ryp, takes the fantasy and instead makes it a horror. Dr. Luke Taylor didn’t even know he had any clones until one showed up on his doorstep, and revealed that he might be one, too.
At Comic-Con International: San Diego, it was announced that Universal Television is developing the series for TV, with producers Robert Kirkman, David Alpert, and David Engel. We thought that made it the perfect time to talk to creator David Schulner (a lot of Davids involved with this – wait, are they all CLONES?!) about the comic that spawned this potential show, and what’s coming next for Luke Taylor and all of his similar-looking friends and enemies.
Newsarama: So David, is Clone meant to be a very literal external look at the battle within in human nature?
David Schulner: Yeah. It started out when my wife was pregnant and I was going to be a father. I thought, “I was just somebody’s son a couple years ago.” Then “I got married and became a husband.” Now I’m a father? Can we slow this down a little bit? I’m just learning how to be a husband – my identity keeps changing before I’m ready. These labels are put on me and I’m being forced to live up to a different identity before I’ve become that person.
Nrama: Just so you know, this is going on the internet, and your wife will be able to read it…
Schulner: (laughs) I know! She knows!
I think that kind of identity crisis of who I am, who do I have to be, am I ready, all those sort of things were swirling in my head. So I thought “what if there was a version of me that was ready?” I feel like I am so many different people inside of me, but I can only present one face. So how do I tell a story of the different versions of me that nobody sees?
That led me to this idea of a man waking up and finding himself in the middle of this crazy cloning conspiracy, that he’s been cloned and there are many version of him out in the world.
Nrama: Catch our readers up on Clone a bit here – the events of the first arc were very fast, it fell right into the situation and had death and kidnapping, it’s instantly full pace.
Schulner: Yeah, it was meant to be very crazy. Luke wakes up, he finds a version of himself being shot in the gut, dying, bleeding out, saying, “They’re coming for you, they’re coming for all of us because we’re clones.” So Luke Taylor says he doesn’t know what’s happening but “I know one thing, I’m not a clone.” And this dying one says, “Well that’s what they all say.”
Then they take his wife, because no clone has ever been able to conceive before, and she’s about to give birth. So that means either Luke is the original, or clones are evolving. As much as he hopes he’s the original, he finds out that he’s been cloned because his father, when he had a child, that child was born with a fatal disease. So this scientist at DARPA cloned his child but without the disease. Then DARPA appropriated the research and started turning out all these clones as an experiment.
So as much as Luke Taylor wants to be the original, the original will die very quickly.
Nrama: Let’s talk about the second arc and what’s coming up here that changes the face of the series already.
Schulner: That’s right, we’re at issue 9 out this week. In Issue 8, Luke succumbs to the disease – so he’s definitely the original… except he’s going to die.
Nrama: Hooray! … Damn.
Schulner: Sh**, right? So issue 8 was devoted to saving his life, with the only person who knows how to do that, his mother. So his parents come together for the first time since Luke was a child. He’s a man of science and she’s a woman of faith, and that friction is all brought back to the surface.
Nrama: So hypothetically, if Luke was going to go ahead and die – for a lot of series that would end the story, but it seems like you’ve built in a lot of exploration you could still have even if he was off the table.
Schulner: You could. I definitely think, I’m invested in Luke Taylor. Because he’s the original, and because the crux of his problem – he has the greatest dilemma. So I’m not going to kill Luke anytime soon.
Nrama: Why is it that he relates to them so quickly, despite his passionate claim and eventual knowledge that he is the original?
Schulner: Well, one of my favorite scenes that I wrote is between Luke and this clone named Surge. Luke is shown a bunker of like fifty clones, and they say, “Okay, you’re safe here, this is your new home.”
So if he’s having an identity crisis to start the series, then seeing fifty versions of himself plunges him into despair. He has a moment with Surge, who is this clone that has gone crazy because the clone sent to kill all of them killed his wife. So this clone watched “himself” strangle the woman he loved. So that severed his sanity. Luke having that interaction, he is determined to take a different path, to be more proactive, to become a person he never thought he’d be, a kind of hero.
Nrama: There’s a lot of fantasy behind the idea of cloning yourself and having someone else to go do the things you don’t want to do. How close is the dichotomy of the horror of it linked to the fantasy of it to you?
Schulner: I think that they go hand-in-hand. I think, if I take the clone named Patrick, who is our nemesis in the first five, Luke sees him and thinks “I never knew I could be so brutal. I never knew I could be so violent.” “I never knew I could destroy things, but that clone came from me, I am capable of everything he is capable of.” Then the clone named Foss, who is our hero for the first five, and is in charge of saving all the clones, Luke looks at Foss and says “I never knew I could be so heroic, so brave, so courageous. That’s part of me too.” So each interaction Luke has with a different version of himself, he realizes there’s much more to him than he ever knew he was.
Nrama: What can you tease coming down the line here for Luke and his journey?
Schulner: I will tease that Luke does find his wife. Who he finds her with is going to be a shock. I can tease that Luke saving the day, if he does, would have even worse repercussions than if he hadn’t. And I can tease that issue 10 closes the first over-arc. At the end of that, we’ll start a real new arc going forward, it’s a real game-changer that spins it in a different direction.