Tom Bilyeu & Steve Aoki’s Neon Future Looks Bright

Tom Bilyeu & Steve Aoki’s Neon Future Looks Bright

Tom Bilyeu always has his eyes set on a the future and inspiring people to unlock their full potential. He is the co-founder of the highly successful nutrition company, Quest Nutrition, who moved on with his wife Lisa to found Impact Theory, a for-profit media company that is designed to "leverage the self-sustaining power of commerce to

Tom Bilyeu always has his eyes set on a the future and inspiring people to unlock their full potential. He is the co-founder of the highly successful nutrition company, Quest Nutrition, who moved on with his wife Lisa to found Impact Theory, a for-profit media company that is designed to “leverage the self-sustaining power of commerce to radically influence global culture.” Of Impact Theory’s many offerings are a series of YouTube interviews with successful business people sharing the secrets to their own unique successes. After geeking out with DJ, entrepreneur, and activist Steve Aoki, Bilyeu has brought a new angle of his goals to life in the form of a comic book. Neon Future is the first comic published by Impact Theory. It’s a cyberpunk saga that challenges the politics and humanity of technology in a not-so-distant future.

Fresh off their first successful San Diego Comic-Con, Bilyeu has been excitedly sharing the story of Neon Future and how it came about. When Bilyeu was researching Aoki for a podcast, he discovered the performer’s intention to have himself cryogenically frozen. Imagining what it would be like to resurrect people like Aoki using technology, Bilyeu spent a year considering what that might look like as he got to know Aoki better before finally formally pitching the concept of Neon Future to Aoki.  “There was just so much overlap in terms of the aesthetic and loving comics and the other kinds of things that we both enjoy,” explained Bilyeu at Impact Theory’s first SDCC booth. “And also, I knew that he was way into technology, and that he’s a techno optimist.”

Bilyeu brought in comics veteran Jim Krueger to help him shape the story. Joined by artists Jheremy Raapack, Neil Edwards, and various variant cover artists, Neon Future tells a story set thirty years into the future following Article 10, aka “The Return,” which is the American government’s response to a global economic crisis brought on by the overuse of technology. The Return has made the use of all advanced technologies illegal, with the promise of returning jobs to the people displaced by technology. But the result is, as always, humanity finding a new way to divide itself by bigotry and classism, which is coming to a head in a looming war between the Augmented and the Authentic. The systematic oppression of those who wish to augment their bodies with technology has led to rise of the resistance group known as Neon Future, led by the enigmatic Kita Sovee. On the other end of the spectrum is TV star Clay Campbell, whose lived a life of hunting down the techno-class, only to become one when Sovee resurrects him after a terrorist attack, making him the greatest player on the chessboard, if Campbell is willing to learn and make the right choices.


Bilyeu promises that Neon Future strives to avoid the stereotypical pitfalls of the cyberpunk genre. “So a big part of it is, normally when people are doing cyberpunk stories, it’s set so far in future — even if they claim that is a few years from now, the actual reality of the city and the place is so far in the future, that you usually end up getting lost. The characters, like Altered Carbon — at least the show is the classic example of — you’re trying to introduce so many cool ideas, so much technology, so many parts of the city that the characters don’t have time to connect.  And so what we wanted to do was really invert that keep the world recognizable introduce technology enough to be a flavor, but not get lost in the technology.”

Aoki himself has been heavily involved in the creation and genesis of the project, beyond simply being the model for the character of Kita Sovee, who shares Aoki’s views on technology, transhumanism, and humanitarian efforts. “He’s such an extraordinary collaborator,” said Bilyeu, “and he’s just got a lot of style.”

Collaboration and partnership are obviously a big deal, but the story doesn’t quite cross over into Aoki’s music. Though it shares an aesthetic and name with Aoki’s albums, Neon Future isn’t a transmedia tale like September Mourning, for example. Instead, explained Bilyeu, “you can think of the future as like a soundtrack or music,”  though both Aoki’s music and the comic share an overarching psychological theme.

Neon Future’s sixth issue is set for release on August 14, with the six issues collected into a trade for October 2, but Impact Theory Comics isn’t stopping there. Having dipped their toes into the comics publishing world, they are now seeking more talent to expand their catalogue, as announced by Bilyeu himself at the Impact Theory SDCC party.

Wendy Browne
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