Billionaire Island #1, the new satirical book from Ahoy Comics that involves all the worlds billionaire’s abandoning mankind to live in luxury on a secluded island, is out this week, and in the run-up to its release, writer Mark Russell made some time to discuss it with The Beat.

The book will see Russell reteaming with Steve Pugh, who was the artist on Russell’s breakout hit, The Flintstones. We also asked Russell about his previous book with Ahoy, Second Comingthe first six issues of which is now available in collected trade paperback format. The solicit info for Billionaire Island is below, followed by Russell’s answers to our questions and our exclusive cover reveal for Billionaire Island #5…enjoy!

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #1
(W) Mark Russell
(A) Steve Pugh
Cover A: Steve Pugh
Cover B: Pia Guerra
A savage satire reuniting the critically acclaimed team behind DC’s The Flintstones, Mark Russell (SECOND COMING) and Steve Pugh (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass), in an all-new creator-owned series! Welcome to Billionaire Island, where anything goes…if you can afford it. But the island’s ultra-rich inhabitants are about to learn that their ill-gotten gains come at a VERY high price.

The Beat: Apologies for starting with a question you’re bound to hear often, but I have to ask — you’re back working with your Flintstones collaborator, Steve Pugh. How is that? Is making hilarious and satirical comics loaded with visual gags at all like riding a bike?

MARK RUSSELL: No, actually, it’s more like building a bike. There’s very few ways to do it right, but a lot of ways to screw it up. But it’s a lot easier to build a bike with someone like Steve Pugh. He naturally gets my sensibility and then adds his own layer of goofiness, which makes me look better. That’s my professional advice for creatives. Work with someone who is eminently talented and then blur the lines between who gets credit for what.

THE BEAT: Can you talk about how this came together creatively? If I had to guess, I’d imagine our worsening problem with massive wealth disparity was the starting point, but how did you extrapolate that into the island concept and the book’s plot?

RUSSELL: For a while, the movie theaters were showing these hipster-produced ads that combined a few dubious factoids about the fossil fuel industry with the reassurance that much awesome progress was being made so there was really no need to worry about climate change. Around the same time, I kept seeing these articles about billionaires buying secret end-of-days bunkers in New Zealand or their own remote private islands, some of whom had made their billions from the fossil fuel industry. So it seemed like they were trying to pile into the lifeboats of the Titanic before the rest of us could make up our mind on whether the boat was sinking. But, in a more general sense, it’s about the inevitable result of massive economic inequality. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how letting a few people take all the world’s resources and then not spend any of it fixing the world’s problems will end in disaster for the rest of us.

THE BEAT: What about the characters? Was there anything specifically that drew you toward including a reporter? (Loved the Nelly Bly reference, btw)…

RUSSELL Thanks! I think you’re the first person to get that reference. But yes, I wanted to give a nod to the crucial role in society that journalists play and also, I thought the hero needed to be somebody who was quick on her feet and could summarize what she was observing in short and pithy observations.

THE BEAT: You and I corresponded over email once before before your other Ahoy book, Second Coming, was published, and now that the first volume is done, I wanted to follow up. There was controversy when the idea for the book was announced, but my sense was that didn’t quite extend during the book’s run. What was the difference between the pre-reaction and the actual reaction to this comic?

RUSELL: I think the people who were complaining about Second Coming to drum up clicks and likes and donations perhaps realized that they’d better do it fast before the comic came out, because once it comes out and people can read it for themselves, they can’t really make up whatever they want about it without looking crazy. They lose control of the narrative once the work can speak for itself. When selling snake-oil, it’s best if your customers can’t read the ingredients.

THE BEAT: Controversy aside, what was the holistic reaction to Second Coming like, and are there plans to do more of the book?  

RUSSELL: The reaction has been great. A lot of people wrote in, often sharing very moving stories of their own faith and struggles, so much so that Tom Peyer (the editor) decided to include a letters section at the end of the comic. Even the people who are not entirely down with my opinions seemed to understand that the comic wasn’t an assassination attempt. That, whatever its criticisms of Christianity, it’s actually a very pro-Christ comic. And, yes, I’m happy to say there will be more.
And finally, the cover for Billionaire Island #5