Deeper Underground: Writer Jon Rivera On Why He Relates To ‘Cave Carson’ [Interview]
When DC Comics announced its Young Animal imprint early this year, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye stood out for a number of reasons. The title alone is distinctive, and Cave Carson isn't exactly a fondly remembered concept like Doom Patrol and Shade, yet nor is he a wholly new creation like Mother Panic. Yet the final product by Gerard Way, Jon Rivera, Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi has gone from strange curiosity to one of the standout books of the year, melding sci-fi action, mind-bending visuals and obscure DC Universe cameos.
Ahead of the release of Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye #3 this week, ComicsAlliance caught up with co-writer Jon Rivera to talk about Young Animal, collaboration, and breathing new life into obscure characters.
CA: When you first made aware of Young Animal and how early did you join as co-writer on Cave Carson?
Jon Rivera: I believe it was in February of 2016 that Gerard first told me about Young Animal, and asked if I would like to help out. Our discussions about Cave Carson and the possibility of co-writing the book began that first night.
Together, we hammered out the initial idea for the book as I assisted him with other aspects of the imprint. After about two weeks of helping out, I got the call to submit a writing sample to Shelly Bond and Molly Mahan. The next 24 hours were a bit of a blur,
and then, here I am!
CA: What’s the standard collaboration process between yourself and Gerard?
JR: We're big fans of the "jam session." We like to get together and talk about the larger concepts of the story. We search for moments, and gauge how the other reacts. Those moments become scenes, scenes become story, and you go from there. For Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye in particular, I'll lay out the first draft, and then we pass it back and forth until it's polished. We've been writing together for a long time, so it's become a very natural process.
CA: Mike Oeming seems to have a lot of freedom when it comes to layouts and such; how closely are you working with him?
JR: We work closely with Mike. That initial two-page spread in issue #1 was conceived by Gerard, and that can be a difficult idea to communicate, but Mike nailed it. Gerard, Mike, and I are all visual artists, so we have a lot of fun coming up with interesting layouts. There are some great surprises as well. One of my favorite moments was in issue #2 when the car is flipped over. Mike had drawn the entire sequence upside down, as was written, but then framed the panels inside the body of the car itself. I gasped when I saw that page!
CA: Color plays a big part of the presentation of Cave Carson, is that something you think about when scripting or is something you trust Oeming and Nick Filardi to collaborate on separately?
JR: The world of Cave Carson provides us with so many opportunities for crazy colors and lighting from both natural and unnatural sources. One of the first things I did when we began working on Cave was to created a mood board of images to figure out our vision of Cave's world.
Much of that influence came from the Amicus and Hammer films of the 70's like At the Earth's Core. Color is definitely factored in during the scripting stage, but much like our working relationship with Mike, you want to give an artist the freedom to be themselves. If I feel a certain color or light is important to the emotion or the mechanics of the scene, I'll be specific, but at this point one of my favorite parts of the process is seeing what Nick comes up with on his own. I still smile every time I think about those neon pink polo shirts from issue #2. Nick is a genius.
CA: What was so compelling about the character of Cave Carson that he stood out as a leading man for 2016?
JR: Our version of Cave is someone who's only ever been comfortable underground. For me, he was someone yearning to return to a simpler time of adventure. He gave it up because that's what was right for his family, but lost part of his soul in doing so. The upper-world is too loud, superficial, and chaotic for his tastes, and as 2016 went on, I found myself relating to him even more.
CA: The book is filled with disparate threads from the DC Universe like the Challengers of the Unknown, the Metal Men and Wild Dog, but they all seem to mesh perfectly. Was providing a home for wayward characters part of the plan with this comic?
JR: Yes. I think all of these characters are a little lost. Wild Dog never really became the famous scourge of terrorists around the globe. Cave never got the world to appreciate the beauty that lies beneath the surface of the Earth. These guys have much more in common than you would think. I believe that one of the themes in our book is about taking the licks that the world has given you, and finding a way to move forward.
CA: How do you approach the beast of continuity and a larger superhero universe when it comes to Cave Carson?
JR: I love it. I had never heard of Cave Carson before the night Gerard brought him up, and so I immediately sympathized with readers who may also be new to the character. Our story was designed so that a new reader could get involved with this guy at a major turning point in his life, and as time goes on, we can dip back into his past and celebrate everything which came before.
CA: Are there any weird corners of the DC Universe you’d love to explore next?
JR: I hear Skartaris is beautiful this time of year.
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