Imagine your life as you know it has fallen apart. Leaving your cheating partner behind, you head off on a road trip, filled with rage and uncertainty about what comes next. What if that ‘what comes next’ is a giant interdimensional tear that looses monstrous creatures into our world? Writer Ed Brisson and artist Damian Couceiro are going to help us find out with Beyond the Breach from AfterShock Comics.
Meet Vanessa, a 20-something Canadian woman from the East Coast that finds herself in California when the Breach hits. Rescuing a young boy named Dougie and a creature named Kai, they eventually team up with a fugitive named Samuel who harbours a dark secret that connects him to this monster apocalypse. Here, Brisson and Couceiro answer a few questions about their pending apocalypse.
Where did the concept for this story come from? How long has it been with you and how has it evolved since the first spark of an idea?
EB: The answer to this one is a little messy, I think. The concept largely came out of my own frustrations during the early days of the pandemic. Things had stalled and everything was uncertain. My work had dried up or was put on hiatus and so I started working out ideas for creator-owned books—something I’d swore I’d get back to, if I just had the time. Those early days, I had nothing but time.
The idea was mostly all new. Damian and I knew we wanted to pitch a new book together and had just been waiting for the opportunity. We’d shot some ideas back and forth for a horror book since we’re both huge horror fans. Part of the inspiration for Beyond the Breach comes from a trip I took when I was in my 20s. After my then-girlfriend and I broke up, I hopped on a Greyhound bus to do a cross-Canada road trip with the plan of making my way from Kelowna, BC to Halifax, NS, where I imagined I’d join a band and bum around for a year or two—I was in love with the Halifax music scene of the time. (Side note: I’m working on a mostly Halifax-centric road trip playlist that we’ll be posting nearer to the release of Beyond the Breach #1.)
I had a lot of the post-relationship frustrations that our lead Vanessa does and just wanted that freedom of hitting the road, figuratively and literally leaving my problems in the rear-view mirror—though, her discovering, shortly after losing her mother, that her boyfriend has been cheating with her on her own sister is far worse than what I had dealt with. My trip did not go as planned and I found myself stranded halfway across the country after some very strange adventures. I ended up living on a couch in my dad’s basement in Sudbury, Ontario during one of the most intense winters I’ve ever experienced in my life.
The concept for the book was really just that: Let’s go on a road trip that throws you some serious curveballs—such as an interdimensional breach that bleeds all sorts of deadly creatures right into your path.
Another bit of inspiration comes from a road trip my wife and I took several years back along the same route Vanessa travels in the book. We were pretty broke, but I’d wanted to go to California because a short film I’d made on a $500 budget was playing at a horror film festival. That was a first for me and I wanted to be there to experience it. The drive was about 20 hours each way and we only had enough money for the car rental and two nights in a hotel. The drive there was LONG and uneventful, but the drive back…well, we decided to take the Oregon Coast route back up to Vancouver and got lost and nearly stranded along the way. I remember the horror of being on the side of some backroad that a gas station attendant had convinced us was a shortcut to get back to the I5 and nearly being run off the road by a massive semi-truck that came out of nowhere. Not the same as dealing with an alien invasion, but that moment is still vivid and makes me shudder when I think back on it. It was a very, very close call that would have killed us.
That’s a lot of typing to say that I love road trips; I love that they never go as expected, but I don’t love almost dying, though. The concept for the book was really just that: Let’s go on a road trip that throws you some serious curveballs—such as an interdimensional breach that bleeds all sorts of deadly creatures right into your path.
Tell us a bit about your creative process. Was there a lot of back and forth as writer and artist?
EB: Early days, Damian and I shot things back and forth, “what ifs” and “how abouts”, to develop BEYOND THE BREACH to a place where we felt ready to jump on it and start producing. Damian and I have a working relationship going back more than a decade and a half and I think we have a pretty good concept of where the other is at and what we’re thinking, so once the planning is out of the way, we tend to just put our noses to the grindstone and produce the work. We’ll generally check in with each other along the way, maybe Damian has designs or suggestions or a different approach to a scene, and we’ll talk it out. But for the most part, there’s those 15 years of trust that allows us to work like a well-oiled machine once we get going.
Because these inter-dimensional creatures do play such a large role in the book and because we wanted this to feel unique and not just a standard monster book, there has been a lot of back and forth on designs for creatures and other characters. Damian has been great when I hit him with an eleventh hour idea on what I see something looking like versus what we’d initially been talking about. For example, there are characters who pop up in issue three…I won’t say too much here, just that we’d had designs for these characters before we really got to work on the book. And those designs were great. Really great. But, when we got to that scene, they didn’t feel right and so we went back to the drawing board and the stuff that Damian came back with was just incredible and fits the scene so perfectly.
DC: The best thing about working with Ed is that we have worked together for so long that there is plenty of trust to share our thoughts, as well as total confidence on each other’s work. So, we always have back and forth enrichment and a lot of freedom to work creatively.
Canadians rarely get to hang out in apocalypses, so it’s refreshing to see that Vanessa is from up north, even if she ends up down south during the series. What is the significance of making Vanessa a Canadian woman now stranded in California when the Breach occurs?
EB: There’s a couple things at play. One, as mentioned above, I’m an avid road tripper and love road trip stories. The idea of being stranded somewhere unfamiliar is both horrifying and exciting to me, and so to take that idea and twist it and amp up the unfamiliar is something that just felt like it was worth exploring. I think the big thing that attracts me to the idea is that Vanessa isn’t the only one out of her element here. Every creature and being that spills out from The Breach is also a tourist, willingly or not. Everyone and everything is struggling to figure out their environment and how to adjust to this new reality.
In regard to Vanessa, she’s leaving behind a lot of unresolved issues and now finds herself in a position where she’s not sure if she’ll ever be able to get back to resolve them. She doesn’t even know if there’s anything left to get back to. Her journey to escape becomes a journey to get back.
Aside from her citizenship, tell us a bit about Vanessa as well as her companions. What do these characters mean to you?
EB: In the first issue, we’ll meet with Dougie and Kai. Dougie’s a young child who’s just witnessed some very, very horrific things and, like Vanessa, finds himself stranded. Unlike Vanessa, he doesn’t have the ability to defend himself. Left alone, he WILL die. And, so, Vanessa has to take him under her wing and is no longer looking out for herself, but also this kid who she can’t even be 100% honest with—there’s some stuff here I’m trying to tread lightly around to not spoil the experience of reading issue #1…but I will say, though, that Dougie will provide some pretty serious ethical dilemmas for Vanessa going forward.
Kai, the little fuzzy guy you see on the cover, is just a fun dude to write. He’s here for some levity, for sure. Having someone like Kai to lighten the mood from time to time is a huge help in pulling me back from my proclivity for going real dark in a story.
There are a couple coming around in issue #2, Samuel and Turtle, who fit into that sort of fantasy weirdness that I love so much from films like Time Bandits and Beastmaster that are primarily that. Just me scratching that itch and trying to do something interesting with it. I’m also tapping into my childhood turtle obsession a little.
DC: I’m a big fan of Lovecraft so there is a lot of influence from there. I tried to be as original as possible, so I looked for inspiration in all sorts of places. I especially observed Moebius drawings. I don’t think you can see its influence on the final designs, but it helped as a trigger for ideas.
Vanessa pulls herself up pretty quickly and gets to work when she sees monsters attacking. How well do you think you would manage in this kind of apocalyptic event?
DC: I probably would be one of the first to die. I’m not athletic so I’m not good even at running away, but I like to think I’d have the courage to help if I see anyone in danger.
EB: I would curl up into a ball and weep until some interdimensional monstrosity had me for lunch.
How well would you do in this new monster apocalypse? Find out in Beyond the Breach #1, in stores on July 14.