Contrary to what you see in comic books and movies, not every possible future is an apocalyptic hellscape. In the upcoming Image Comics series Symmetry, readers will find a utopian paradise -- albeit, with a little trouble in paradise.
Think Tank's Matt Hawkins and Epic Kill's Raff Ienco come together for this twist on fictional stories of the future, with a look at Earth that's so perfect that it's actually a bad thing. Both Hawkins and Ienco have a history of science fiction storytelling, but as Hawkins explains it its his love of sci-fi and its overused tropes that led him to create this new story.
Announced at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Symmetry is described by writer/co-creator Matt Hawkins as the opposite of dystopian sci-fi with a relatively perfect world but with a dark underbelly. Epic Kill creator Raff Ienco joins Hawkins on this story, following both of their past works in science fiction but with this new utopian twist.
With Symmetry scheduled to launch in November, Hawkins talked with Newsarama about the series' conceit, the romantic pair at the center of it, and what his inspirations are for this latest in a string of science fiction titles.
Newsarama: Matt, what can you tell us about Symmetry?
Matt Hawkins: There are so many dystopian sc-fi projects I wanted to try the opposite. This is a utopian society. Everything is beautiful. Robots do all the work. People are beautiful, all symmetrical features. People are born without sex and at age 13 choose whether they want to be male or female. Robots do all the work. They're benevolent. Relationships are done via contract for one, five or 10 years. How does this become reality? Well certain creative and social things we'd feel entitled to today have been eliminated from this future to make it possible. This includes a complete segregation of the races, an elimination of certain creative activities. Artificial Intelligence creates entertainment for people based on algorithms and thousands of years of recorded human entertainment. In a symmetrical world is there room for asymmetry? The story centers on a man and a woman who have never fit in. In a world where everyone seems to be happy, these two aren't. They find each other and start doing things that aren't allowed. There's a lot of social commentary overlayed but it's essentially a Romeo & Juliet type forbidden love story.
Nrama: You're working on this with Raff Ienco, who popped on a scene in a big way with Epic Kill. How'd you to connect in general, and specifically for this story?
Hawkins: We published his graphic novel Manifestations digitally and have been working on a film adaptation of that over the last couple years with his management Josh Morris and Mark Saffian who are good dudes that I like working with. Raff did a project called Mechanism that's coming out through Heavy Metal that I think is fantastic. When I started coming up with the ideas for this book I emailed Josh who connected me with Raff and we started talking about it.
Nrama: Symmetry is the latest in a string of creator-owned stories for you. You've been writing comics since the 1990s with Lady Pendragon, but in these past few years you've really ramped it up. What's this renewed drive for you coming from?
Hawkins: I did Think Tank three years ago as a fun passion project and people seemed to like it, sales were sustainable, so I started doing other stuff. Flash forward three years and I've done about 100 books in the past few years and I can't imagine not doing them. I love science and try to incorporate some level of authenticity to these stories. I read a lot of sci-fi and I roll my eyes at a lot of it, so I wanted to create more believable content.
Nrama: In general and with Symmetry specifically, I see you revisiting the notion of near-future science fiction stories and the idea of advances to help humanity being subverted by some. Is this something you think about a lot personally?
Hawkins: Yes and only since I became a dad. I have two teenage sons and have been thinking a lot lately about what kind of world they're going to inherit. I read a lot of Michio Kaku and other futurists and the exponential growth of tech in the last two decades is really fun stuff to extrapolate out.
Nrama: Some comic writers push themselves to do something completely different than what's before, but I see you really honing in like a prose author would into one big genre, in this case, science fiction. You've done fantasy and superheroes, but what do you see as the sweet spot for science fiction when it comes to comic books?
Hawkins: I grew up on military bases where my dad worked on advanced tech projects, have a Physics degree and am obsessed with technology so it's a sweet spot for me that I understand. I'm fine being pigeonholed into science fiction and science thrillers. It's what I like.
Nrama: Getting back around to the series itself, who are the main characters in Symmetry?
Hawkins: There are really only two main characters and a vast entourage of supporting characters. We've got two crazy kids in love trying to buck the system. It's a familiar story, but this setting will elevate it. I'm fascinated by the tribal nature of humanity and how we self-identify. My sons are half-Asian so I have perspective on multiple cultures. The issue here is do they do what they want to do, what their hearts are crying out for at the risk of destroying their society? Would you sacrifice the happiness of your "tribe" for your own emotional interests?
Nrama: What would you do if you were in a world like Symmetry?
Hawkins: We're creating a world that on the surface looks perfect. No sickness, no one needs anything, no one works, people live long, leisure-filled lives and they aren't bored as there are so many social activities, VR things and entertainment options available. The problem with "utopia" is it's not the same ideal for everyone. I'm not a rebel, so I'm not sure what I'd do in this world. I'm a creative guy, love to learn so this world would be foreign to me...but if I grew up that way and was happy why would I care? It's an interesting thing to think about.