Afterlift is a new comic from writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Jason Loo, which involves elements of the supernatural and a hero who drives for a rideshare service.
You can find their answers below!
THE BEAT: So, I had a chance to read the first issue of Afterlift and I thought it was great. What to both of you makes the concept of ride-sharing such a great vehicle (sorry) for telling a horror story?
Chip Zdarsky: It’s a strange thing. The inside of someone’s car feels like such an intimate space, but rideshare experiences are, for the most part, non-verbal, or minimally so. So, the idea of strangers being forced together in such a tiny environment, dealing with a larger threat outside that claustrophobic space, can make for some decent horror.
And of course that intimate space is a great environment for learning about people trapped together.
Jason Loo: Yeah, Chip nailed it all. Janice’s car is also like a coffin on wheels, especially with the kinds of stunts she’s pulling in the series.
THE BEAT: Jason, one thing I really liked about the artwork is that many of the scariest touches were grounded in reality, from the posture of the woman who was already dead, to the car striking the other car…why do you think this worked better than, say, adding more exaggerated supernatural imagery like we see later?
JL: Thank you! Sometimes all those scary moments only require something of the ordinary for the readers to connect to that scene. Whenever I’m drawing characters on a page, I’m fascinated by the slight measures of a head tilt, a shoulder shrug, and other body language variables are enough to convey the perfect emotion in a panel. This grounded technique is like the unsettling chill in a horror film which I like the most compared to jump-scares.
THE BEAT: What drew you both to this project, was it the commentary on the difficulty of the modern economy, the genre touches, something else….?
CZ: The gig economy stuff was more of an entry point, really. At its heart the book is about death and what we carry with us. That’s what interested me. But beyond that I for sure enjoy trying different genres! Afterlift is actually pretty light on the horror and feels a bit more like an action car chase book with some fantasy elements and philosophizing!
The big draw for me was getting the chance to work with Jason, who is a fantastic comic creator on his book Pitiful Human Lizard! Back in the day he was an intern in my old studio, so to see him grow has been really amazing.
JL: Getting to work with Chip on a comic series is like a dream I never thought would actually happen. I would have said ‘yes’ to any idea he had because I trust his judgment in telling great stories with heart.
The added bonus was getting to work on another comic series with an Asian lead. So when Chip described the premise over email with “Janice Chen is a ridesha—“, I wanted to interrupt with “Sign me up!”
THE BEAT: Chip, the conversations in this comic really felt real to me, to the point I think it’s pretty clear you had to really exercise some major empathy to understand a rideshare driver that well…how has writing this comic changed the way you use rideshare apps, if at all?
CZ: Whenever I get a rideshare driver who likes to talk, I engage and listen. Everyone has a story to tell.
Some of that made its way into Afterlift, but I don’t think writing the book has changed the way I use the apps necessarily, except to probably be even more interested in the drivers’ stories.
I don’t think good stories are possible without empathy, or else you’re just stuck writing about yourself as the hero of your story.
THE BEAT: This has such a great comics kicker at the ended of the first issue…what can either or both of you tell us about where this is all headed?
CZ: It’s just a wild trip! Demons! Angels! Battles! And an exploration of guilt and our personal beliefs!
Also, it’s been really fun to write, as I’m used to the never-ending nature of Marvel books. Getting to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end is super satisfying for me, and hopefully the readers.
JL: There will be moments that will tug on your heartstrings as well. Those were my favorite scenes to draw out and Paris Alleyne’s colors capture the atmospheric moods so perfectly. Also, issue one is only the tip of the iceberg before some of the cooler characters show up.