Skyward #1 Cover Crop - Art by Lee Garbett

Go behind the panels of Skyward and inside Lucifer with writer Joe Henderson

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Apr 12, 2018

Lucifer showrunner Joe Henderson is no stranger to the comics world. As with so many of us, comics come as second nature to him and he's got the stacks of white boxes at home to prove it.

But for the first time, Henderson is co-creating his own comic book with artist Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela (who both worked on the Lucifer Vertigo comic that was published at the same time as the show was starting), a 15-issue, creator-owned maxi-series called Skyward for Image Comics. The first issue drops April 18.

The events of Skyward take place in a world that's been rocked by a scientific event, where a majority of the Earth's gravity has been lost due to a phenomenon called G-Day. In the wake of that event, we meet the scientist at the center of it all, Nate, and his daughter, Willa, who is torn between preserving her world and wondering if the old way of life is still possible.

As for this creative team behind Skyward, Henderson decided to take his Twitter friendship with Garbett a step further when he asked him to take a look at this creator-owned comic scripts and see if he knew an artist who might be a good fit, secretly hoping Garbett would be available. The next day, Garbett said, "I'm in," and the two have been cranking away furiously ever since, with Henderson already deep into writing the tenth issue. Garbett is drawing the seventh. To say that this collaboration is clicking is an understatement.

SYFY WIRE spoke with Henderson about creating his first comic, its story, and the science behind Skyward. And with just five more episodes left in the season, picking up again April 16, we asked him about the upcoming Season 3 finale of Lucifer.

Skyward #2 Cover by Lee Garbett

Skyward #2 Cover by Lee Garbett

I don't want to call this a "post-apocalyptic story" because of all of the connotations we attach to that term, but there is a scientific event that triggers this new world of low gravity. The tone is light, but the longer you think about this world, the more the dark places materialize. How did you come to establish this light tone with the room to move?

Joe Henderson: That's a great question because the whole point of this book is that it's not a dystopia; I'm tired of dystopias. I think we're all fatigued by them. This is a world where something terrible happens, and then humanity moved on. Some humanity thrives as a result of the event. Look at our character Edison, who would be in a wheelchair if not for G-Day. Here in this world, he can fly through the air. So some things are better, some things are worse, similar to how the world is now.

One of the things I really wanted was a protagonist who reflected that enthusiasm, excitement and loved this world. I feel like if this is the only world you know, then you will see the best in it. I love the idea of following someone, who, to her, this is the only way the world's ever been. So this world is better in some ways, worse in others, but like any version of the world, there is darkness and bad people that need to be defeated.

You have a protagonist who wants to preserve this world, while her father Nate might be trying to restore the old world. There's a lot of inner conflict for Willa, isn't there?

Yes! Exactly. Every character should in some way reflect that this world would be better or worse than it used to be, and it can be a sliding scale. Edison is a very clear visual representation [of] "would be better." Nate very clearly represents that the world must go back and it's his responsibility to fix it. Willa is us [the reader]; she loves this world but she's also never thought about it. So the journey for her is the back and forth argument, the world would be better off if gravity came back versus this is the world that it is now and this is better. So much of the story is the push-pull and Willa's [journey] through that.

Skyward #1, Interior shot 01

Skyward #1, Interior shot

Even though Nate is full of knowledge, he shelters Willa from a lot of the outside world and keeps her in the dark about a lot of things, doesn't he?

Willa's fearless because this is the only world she's ever known. Nate is terrified of this world to the point where he is crippled by it. He has this mission to do but the problem is he can't step outside the front door. It's a father-daughter pair of complete opposites. Our story is whether they can learn from each other. She's so fearless that she stumbles into things that she should've been more cautious about. Nate's not only crippled his own life but his relationship with his daughter. We've put that at such extremes that there is plenty of journey in meeting them in the middle.

Willa is this great entry point and I love that we have a young woman as a protagonist, could you talk about the diversity of your cast?

One of the things that were important to me was having a strong, diverse female protagonist. I'm a white dude, I grew up watching a bunch of different versions of myself on the shelves, in movies and in TV, I think it's important that we create as much representation out there.

Working on Lucifer, we have a number of people that comment on having a Latina scientist on the show and how much that matters. People feel like they're represented, it's really important. I wanted to create another character out there to make my small contribution and continue to do that. It's important to me going forward that everything I work on helps representation.

Skyward #1, Interior Shot 2

Skyward #1, Interior Shot 2

I enjoyed that decision. For me, it was easier for me to go along with the ride with her. The fact that she was a woman is a greater escape from my world.

That's interesting. I like that. Lee loves doing books with a female protagonist. I think similar to you, he loves escaping through their eyes and he brings such a warmth, joy and formidability to them and it's been a while since he's been able to do that. Mixed with the challenge of world building, that really spoke to him and it's been the easiest collaboration.

In the second issue, there's an astounding opening sequence that sells the entire series. It makes me think about other corners of this world that we're not necessarily covering and it goes real dark, real quick.

This image might be one of the things that made Lee want to do the book because he understood what he could do. What I had written to Lee was, "You're outside the Earth. There's people, animals and all sorts of things, and I suggest, 'Is it a ring like Saturn, is it something else?' I don't know because I don't know what's going to make it look cooler, but I know you do." The end result is haunting, gorgeous and chilling. The concept is mine but I never pictured it as amazing as the way Lee rendered it.

For all the fun and wish fulfillment of this world, you always want to remember that there's a danger to it. I noticed in all of my favorite TV shows and movies, that as much fun as your characters are having, they're in real danger. Having a powerful visual that immediately tells you that is awesome.

Skyward #1, Cover

Skyward #1, Cover

There's still a fraction of gravity left, so you had to adhere to some laws of science. How much science did you decide to put into it, how much did you look at gravity as a known concept and build off of what is scientifically known? How much did you fudge?

First off, I did a whole lot of research on gravity, which fascinated me because it is no way locked down. It's one of the few things that we don't entirely know how it works. It's one of the mysteries of the world still. I just assumed that gravity was a locked concept. The more research I did, the more I realized we are far from it. That gave me the license to be playful.

Even if gravity is what we think it is, would [Skyward] happen? 99 percent chance, no. So we are exploring the 1 percent of yes. That's where new stories come from. The what if.

Skyward #3 Cover by Lee Garbett

Skyward #3 Cover by Lee Garbett

What were the biggest challenges for you in writing for a different medium?

Getting out of my own way when it comes to the tricks that I do in film and television, making sure that I approach comics from the standpoint, "What is the best way this would work in a comic book?" Comics are such a different medium and as much as I've read so many comics, writing them is a completely different beast. You need to give respect to the format and you really need to understand it as best you can. That's also the fun of it, that's what's so cool — it's comic books. This comic is an excuse to learn how to write comics, and figure it out and crack it open. It's been thrilling!

One of the reasons I'm doing a comic is that you couldn't afford to do this story any other way. That's the fun of it, comics are supposed to be a medium where you tell stories that you couldn't tell anywhere else. Comics is one of the few places where the budget doesn't matter. I can go crazy and find a collaborator who can bring it to life because so much of it is visual, my words can go only so far.

So, I have to ask you about Lucifer. You were on the set shooting the finale when I called you away to do this interview. What can you preview about it for us?

The finale script, which I wrote, is the easiest script I've ever written. By that I mean there was so much story, so much there; it's probably my favorite episode of Lucifer that I've ever written and my favorite we've ever shot. It's emotional, exciting, at times it's like a play because even though it's bombastic and huge as it is, it's got some lovely, quiet moments. I adore it!

Which character were you most pleased and proud about developing this season?

You know, especially towards the end, I've been really happy with the Maze arc. Hers was such a challenging arc because so much of Season 2 was finding a sense of humanity and finding family. This season has been about tearing that up a bit and also showing her that family is hard, family is even, one may argue, torture. So when you have a character who is the torturer, and not the torturee, that instinct of "I don't want this, this scares me," has been fun to play with and Lesley Ann Brandt has been great.

And of course, an easy one, but I always enjoy Lucifer, especially the identity crisis he's been dealing with. We really started digging into it more in the episodes we have left and start dragging Lucifer through the coals and it's some of Tom Ellis' best work.

Skyward #1 is published by Image Comics and hits comic book shops and digital platforms on April 18. Below is a three-page preview of the first issue.

Lucifer resumes Season 3 with two episodes on April 16 and airs on Mondays through May 14.