[Interview] Writer Zack Kaplan of JOIN THE FUTURE from AfterShock Comics

JOIN THE FUTURE Interview with Zack Kaplan

On Wednesday, March 4th, creator Zack Kaplan‘s newest title drops at AfterShock Comics. JOIN THE FUTURE is the latest science fiction offering from the writer, and from early press and reviews it appears he’s got another smash sensation on his hands. Written by Kaplan and featuring art from Piotr Kowalski, colors by Brad Simpson, and lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, this futuristic western thriller is gripping, intriguing, and visually spectacular and already on our pull list! Coming off successful runs with ECLIPSE and PORT OF EARTH at Image/Top Cow, and THE LOST CITY EXPLORERS at AfterShock, Kaplan’s returned to the publisher with an invitation to all…Come with us and join the future!

We had the fortunate privilege in chatting with Zack about his latest project. First, take a look at the info for the debut issue, hear from the writer himself on this exciting new series, and find out when/where you can meet Zack during launch week and score autographed copies and store exclusives!

The future is here. The future is now. It’s time to join.

JOIN THE FUTURE #1

Writer: Zack Kaplan
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colorist: Brad Simpson
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

Main Cover Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Variant Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson

The Future. Ultra-modern megacities reward millions of their citizens with a completely funded life, with every need met, from food to housing and healthcare, in order to com-pete in an economic power struggle in which population is key.

But a few rural residents still cling to their independence in what last American small towns are left. When a nearby megacity pressures the people of a small town join up or else, a young teenage girl named Clem will learn how far she’ll go to defend her principles.

Written by Zack Kaplan (LOST CITY EXPLORERS) with art from Piotr Kowalski (Port of Earth, Eclipse, Sex, Marvel Knights: Hulk, The Dark Tower), JOIN THE FUTURE is a sci-fi western that examines a future where everyone must ask what your values are truly worth.


PopCultHQ: Coming off thrilling sci-fi titles ECLIPSE & PORT OF EARTH at Image/Top Cow and LOST CITY EXPLORERS at AfterShock, you’re back with a futuristic thriller in JOIN THE FUTURE. What do you find most appealing about the science fiction genre as a whole?

Zack Kaplan: It can be anything. I find science fiction to be the most open genre to write in. And it allows me to deeply explore some interesting topics that are on my mind. I always loved stories that made me think, specifically about our society today, our values and ideals. I think a good science fiction premise, even one that takes place in a future where the sun is deadly or aliens have come with a business deal or mythical cities actually exist, or here in this Western, where megacities want your citizenship by any means, good sci-fi concepts make us actually think about our current world. And that’s a good thing.

PopCultHQ: The opening pages of JOIN THE FUTURE creeped me the hell out. I’ve seen a lot of sci-fi films where they make the society of the future seem overly appealing, though there’s something terrifying in its dystopian, controlling nature. Though this is obviously a fictional envisioning of a future, do you see parallels in today’s world with regards to the advancement of technology and humans’ desire to have all their needs met, perhaps at any cost?

Zack Kaplan: Absolutely. Technology is coming at us so fast that we aren’t even considering the ramifications. Our social media, our data usage and monitoring, smart devices that read our every thought, not to mention machines and algorithms that help us do everything nowadays, it’s not just making life easier and more convenient, but it’s changing who we are and how we relate to each other. It’s changing the very nature of society, civilization and humanity. And it’s not all bad. There is a lot of amazing things happening. But I absolutely believe it’s the consideration and choice that we need to hold onto. In JOIN THE FUTURE, the megacities are attractive utopias of advancement, but the people out in the countryside aren’t actually rebelling against any technological aspect. It’s the loss of self-sufficiency and simplicity and the traditions we had that lead to resistance.

PopCultHQ: There’s a real Western feel to life outside the big city in JOIN THE FUTURE – the local sheriff protecting the townsfolk, the hunting of animals for sustenance, the trading of goods, and a land without technology (by choice). Is JOIN THE FUTURE leading us to a showdown between the old ways and the new?

Zack Kaplan: Of course! The future is here and these cities are absorbing people as fast as they can, by any seductive means possible, and these small town communities are losing the fight. Issue #1 introduces the boiling pot of this situation, as hunting food is harder and harder, the support from other small towns is dissipating and the sales pitch from the cities gets stronger every day. These small town folks have tried to turn their backs on technology and futurism, and even the Mayor instructs his children to never compromise their ideals and never embrace technology or they will lose themselves. But how do you resist and fight the future when you are completely out-gunned? There is a showdown coming, but one that strikes to the challenge of staying true to your ideals when facing a fight.

PopCultHQ: Though the phrase “Join the Future” is expressed in an inviting way, there feels to be an underlying threat if you choose not to join. Assimilate, or else. Is resistance futile? Do you find we face this struggle in today’s society?

Zack Kaplan: I researched a lot of stories about resistance and rebellion. I think stories of institutionalization, where society as a whole has decided on a direction, and you are either part of the tribe or you are out, these are fascinating studies in individuality. I constantly feel these types of struggles in every day life, every time I accept a new subscription, data share or technological upgrade. I think we all do. We are being assimilated as technology expands and progress moves quickly, and it’s for each of us to stay true to our own values, morals and ideals, or yes, sick being assimilated, or more fearfully, changed. Join the Future is about this dilemma for our heroine, Clementine, and how she can handle the threat to her ideal and town.  

PopCultHQ: The first issue is visually stunning and you’ve got an incredible creative team working with you. Piotr Kowalski’s illustrations are brilliant, Brad Simpson nails the look and feel of the story with his colors, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou brings it all together nicely with his lettering throughout. You’ve worked with a number of artists and colorists, but this is your first time working with a new letterer (having Troy Peteri covering all 3 prior books). How did your team come together for this project?

Zack Kaplan: I am extremely picky when it comes to artists and in fact I spent months and months searching on this one. The artist needed to capture both the hi-tech look of a megacity and the beauty of the countryside. This wasn’t just a heartfelt character story, this was massive world-building and detail generation at the highest level. When I saw what Piotr and Brad were doing in Bloodbourne and reviewed their prior works, I knew this was the team for this book. They were excited about the concept and jumped on board. I love Troy Peteri but I had seen Hassan’s work and thought he could bring something special to this project. The creative vision on this series is utterly spectacular and I am so grateful to be working with such a talented group of artists.

Piotr Kowalski's line art
Piotr Kowalski’s line art

PopCultHQ: You’ve pulled off a rare feat by having your first three titles all get picked up for television adaptation, by Skybound Entertainment, Amazon Studios, and Universal, no less. Do you find your experience in film & tv writing, as well as teaching screenwriting at the International Academy of Film and TV, has helped you bring sci-fi tales to the comic book medium in a way that’s attractive to the tv/film industries?

Zack Kaplan: I don’t think every comic idea translates to Film and TV and I don’t think every Film and TV idea translates to comics. But I think I find interest and come up with a certain type of idea, an idea that marries world-building and strong character drama together, and with a cinematic execution, I think my series, so far at least, have been lended to both mediums. I couldn’t say what aspect of my experience in Film and TV writing, and teaching, has helped me in coming up with good concepts. I’m sure it all comes together. I will say I think a good idea stands out – and sometimes you have to think about all of the stories out there and consider what makes yours different. I come up with hundreds of seedlings of ideas, but which I plant and grow, those are carefully considered and selected, and they always must stand out.

Brad Simpson's colors applied
Brad Simpson’s colors applied

PopCultHQ: How did JOIN THE FUTURE land at AfterShock Comics for publishing?

Zack Kaplan: I pitched them the idea and they loved it. There’s not much to it! But we did spend a lot more time looking for the right art team and Aftershock gave me the time I needed to properly develop the story, so in that way, we really worked on this one before diving in. I’m very proud of the hard work we put into it. I think JOIN THE FUTURE will offer readers something new in the science fiction landscape, with its mash-up of Western, but moreso, I think they will really love the character of Clementine Libbey and her story of resistance and defiance against a technological future she can’t possibly stop. Like you suggested, perhaps resistance is hopeless. Everyone should just join.


Huge thanks to Zack for taking the time to speak with PopCultHQ. Be sure to pick up JOIN THE FUTURE #1 on Wednesday, March 4th at your LCS or favorite online retailer. 

If you happen to be in the SoCal region during launch week, you can connect with Zack at a few signings, including store exclusives! (Details below)


JOIN THE FUTURE #1 - The Comic Bug exclusive variant by Darick Robertson & Tony Avina
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 – The Comic Bug exclusive variant by Darick Robertson & Tony Avina

Join The Future #1 Release Signing w/ writer Zack Kaplan

The Comic Bug
4267 Overland Ave, Culver City, CA 90230
Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at 9 AM – 12 PM

Score The Comic Bug exclusive of
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 by Darick Robertson w/ Tony Aviña!


JOIN THE FUTURE #1 - Variant Cover by Brandon Peterson
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 – Variant Cover by Brandon Peterson

Join The Future #1 Release Signing w/ writer Zack Kaplan

Collector’s Paradise – Pasadena
319 S Arroyo Pkwy, Ste 4, Pasadena, California 91105
Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at 5 PM – 8 PM


JOIN THE FUTURE #1 - Fistful of Dollars Knowhere Games & Comics exclusive variant by Natasha Alterici
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 – Fistful of Dollars Knowhere Games & Comics exclusive variant by Natasha Alterici

Join The Future #1 Signing w/ writer Zack Kaplan

Knowhere Games & Comics
744 Grand Ave #102, San Marcos, CA 92078
Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 2 PM – 5 PM

Pick up the Knowhere Games & Comics
exclusive variant by artist Natasha Alterici!


JOIN THE FUTURE #1 - variant by Soo Lee
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 – variant by Soo Lee

You can also score this Soo Lee propaganda variant for JOIN THE FUTURE #1 variant cover exclusively available as seen (and a virgin variant) only at three select and incredible retailers:

Jetpack Comics

Space Cadets Collection Collection

Forbidden Planet NYC


JOIN THE FUTURE #1 - Game Changer variant by Andrea Mutti & Jordan Boyd
JOIN THE FUTURE #1 – Game Changer variant by Andrea Mutti & Jordan Boyd

Plus! Get this sharp Andrea Mutti and Jordan Boyd
variant exclusively at Game Changer!


Writer – Zack Kaplan

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Artist – Piotr Kowalski

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Colorist – Brad Simpson

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Letterer – Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

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Publisher – AfterShock Comics

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About Jason Bennett 5954 Articles
Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ's chief editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. One with the Force. Browncoats Unite! So say we all! Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett

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