Greg Rucka and Michael Lark on Bringing Lazarus to Life at Image

Lazarus #1

Years after having first worked together on DC Comics's Gotham Central, writer Greg Rucka and artist Michael Lark recently reteamed to take on Lazarus--a new, creator-owned miniseries at Image Comics that plays with family politics in a dystopian near future.

ComicBook.com recently caught up with the pair to discuss first how they came to bring this series to Image (there's a bit more detail in the back of the issue, which you can buy and read on comiXology) and then, in a portion of the interview that will run later today, we talked about some of the specific events that took place in the first issue.

ComicBook.com: You've blocked out space for a letter page in the first issue--in which you've written kind of an afterword that answers many of the questions that readers might have. Is the decision to have that kind of commentary area and give-and-take with the fans that a letter column provides a bit inspired by your experiences with Lady Sabre?

Greg Rucka: It's twofold. I believe in letter columsn and I think especially when you make creator owned work you need to engage your audience in a way that's far more active. In the mainstream, the audience is there. There's a commitment to ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, sixty years of storytelling and the character already. People are in love with the soap opera and with the characters to such an extent that you can reboot entire universes and people will still stick around in many cases.

But in the case of a creator-owned work, especially starting out here, we are entirely dependent on reaching out to an audience and building a community that will want to come back and be in this world with us every month--and every month for really the conceivable future. So having a means to communicate is really important.

It's funny because when I sat down to write the backmatter, I just started writing that. I don't know why I decided it needed to be so confessional but it did come about very organically and it seemed to me that as I was writing it I was like, "Okay, then let's tell the whole story of how we got here," because it has been quite a journey. This is a road that Michael and I have been on in some form for at least a decade.

ComicBook.com: I feel like that's so common with creator-owned work; you want to find a book to work on together and it takes years to get one off the ground. Is that a scheduling thing or a cash flow thing or a little of both?

Michael Lark: It's a lot of both. It's only been recently that it's become possible for people like us to be able to start making money doing creator-owned books. I think if you look at Image's current roster, you can see how that's working, that they're just siphoning off talent from Marvel and DC right and left. Fraction and Howard Chaykin just put out a creator-owned book. Everyone else is starting to do one, it seems, and it's only been recently. It kind of reminds me of the black and white boom of the '80s all over again, where there are all these opportunities to do comics that weren't there before.

I don't know exactly how Image is doing it--all I know is that they keep writing checks and it seems to be working, you know?

Greg and I were both trying to make our livings doing comics. And yes, I know that because writers only take a week or two to write a script, they can do other stuff and Greg has done more creator-owned stuff but doing a monthly comic, you don't have time to do anything else--or at least I don't.

To make a living doing it required a publisher like Image to be in the kind of situation that they're in right now and that opportunity just hadn't presented itself before now.

Rucka: It took a long time for the stars to align for this.  I think we'd started talking about the other project at least three years ago and that was--well, no, it would have been 2009 becuase that's when I had the idea for it and that never gelled right. Then the idea for Lazarus came along as described in the backmatter and there's very little embellishment in the confessional backmatter; that really is pretty much how it happened. I had had conversations with Eric Stephenson at Image; I had had both Warren Ellis and Ed Brubaker e-mail me at separate points and say "Why aren't you doing something at Image?" and there had been a variety of reasons.

Lark: I had tossed out the idea of doing the other project at Image, too, but for whatever reason at the time it just wasn't right.

Rucka: Well, it's got a home. The problem there is that getting that sort of moved into that home has proved to be more challenging.

Lark: This one was instantaneous. The moment Greg told me what his idea was for it, it was really an instantaneous thing. We talked to Eric and had something going at Image within a week, it seemed like. It was really fast. It was one of those things where a husband and wife decide they're going to have a kid and they're trying and trying, taking fertility pills and stuff and then they finally decide, "Eh, screw it!" Throw all the stuff away and the next thing happens, they get pregnant. It was like that.

When I left DC, I felt like DC was the most stifling place in the world. Working on Gotham Central was a great experience creatively working with Ed and Greg on a great book. It was a horrible experience creatively working with the editorial oversight. Even though we had a good editor on our book, the people up above him--blech! It was a horrible environment, it was so stifling.

When I went to Marvel, I was like, "Woo hoo! The inmates are running the asylum! Let's go have fun," and that soured pretty quick, too. Not as quick, but those guys have products that they're packaging and we as artists and writers are just like the ad copywriters and art directors on the advertising for their products. It's not a creative environment and the reason Image is having all of these hits is because they're letting creators do their own thing. I'll be curious to see if the people at Marvel and DC even get that--I don't think they will.

Rucka: They get it, but I'm not sure there's a lot they can do.

Lark: Even if you look at the books that they have that are big hits, you have to go back a while to find something that was kind of original that was a big hit. Usually it's the books that nobody cares about that end up becoming big hits.

Rucka: But that's my point. It's the exceptions that are proving the rule there.

Lark: It's books that nobody cares about and financially it's like they'll just let somebody do something interesting on it. But if it's something they think is important, they're just going to get their claws into it and muck it up as much as they can.