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Exclusive: Richard K. Morgan returns to cyberpunk roots in Altered Carbon graphic novel
Blazing out of the neon-drenched pages of his bestselling 2002 sci-fi classic Altered Carbon, and last year's hit Netflix series adaptation, British author Richard K. Morgan is diving back into his cyberpunk roots with an all-new original graphic novel from Dynamite titled Altered Carbon: Download Blues.
Morgan's latest futuristic odyssey is co-written by Rik Hoskin (White Sand, Red Rising) and matched with arresting art by Ferran Sellares (Grimm Fairy Tales) for a first ever graphic novel offering set in Altered Carbon's alluring territory — and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chat with its creator and a sneak peek at this next adventure.
Within Altered Carbon's dazzling look at things to come, 24th century technology has sufficiently advanced for human memories and consciousness to be expertly stored digitally in disc-shaped objects called cortical stacks. In the event of death or murder, stacks can be transferred into brand new bodies nicknamed "sleeves." This has naturally upended the criminal justice system, as well as unlocked the limitations of interstellar travel.
The hard-boiled protagonist of the trio of novels is Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman/Will Yun Lee/Byron Mann in the 2018 Netflix series), a former mercenary turned private investigator, imbued with enhanced psychological skills and abilities to detect impulses and motivational intentions.
Morgan's original dystopian gem won the prestigious Philip K. Dick Award and two sequel novels followed, 2003's Broken Angels and 2005's Woken Furies. A second season of Netflix' Altered Carbon will be released sometime next year, with Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) taking on the Kovacs role as a fresh sleeve.
"The mythos Richard K. Morgan has created is so rich, it's easy to see why the novels are so successful and how it has become a huge hit on Netflix," Dynamite Publisher Nick Barrucci said in a statement. "We're honored that Richard is allowing us to work with him to create new stories to continue to grow this universe. Dynamite has experienced great success with retailers and fans creating original stories of popular prose series in the graphic novel format, striving to offer something wholly original for hardcore fans. Altered Carbon is one of the true masterpieces of sci-fi and we can't wait for fans to check out this story!"
SYFY WIRE chatted with Morgan on heading back to the neo-noir world of Altered Carbon, the differences in the novels and the TV show, and his collaborations with his talented creative team.
What's it like seeing Altered Carbon now in three different mediums?
Richard K. Morgan: It’s mind-blowing, to be honest. Looking back, all I can say is that all those lonely evenings and weekends spent in back in 1994-97 finally paid off — and how! I mean, it was enough of a blast just to get a three book deal and a movie option off the back of the MS for Carbon 20 years ago. But now, seeing it up on the screen at maxed out budget too (and looking pretty much as I’d always envisaged!) is just so far beyond dreams-come-true it’s impossible to describe. And the comic-book incarnation is like the cherry on the top. As anyone who’s read my stuff can probably tell, I’m very influenced by visual media, so both these forms are close to my heart.
What new elements will this graphic novel bringing to the table?
RKM: Well, I think it’s fair to say the GN has a much higher pulse rate than the novels or the show; sequential art, after all, lends itself well to dynamic excess. The ground we cover in not much more than a hundred and twenty pages is immense. The style of the novels is very much in the classical noir tradition, which makes for a fair bit of protagonist introspection, and you can’t shoehorn too much of that into a comic; we’ve done enough to maintain the overall tone of the IP, but it’s all very much on the run. You’ll want to get some deep breaths in before you take the plunge!
What do you have to say about your artistic collaborators on this book?
RKM: There’s been a lot of back and forth and that can get intense, so it’s important that you work with people who buy right into the thing at the beginning. Rik Hoskin has his heart firmly in noir territory. He grasped the salients of Kovacs right away, and built a lovely understated intro for the character, plus peppered the story with sly Easter Egg references for all the noir devotees out there. He’s also got a great sense of how things will look on the page, and had planned panel sequencing in really tight detail right from the early drafts.
Similarly, with Ferran Sellares, he came cold to the Kovacs universe, and really went the extra mile to get the tone right; we backed up a few times on the look of characters, how hi-tech the environs needed to be and so forth, and Ferran was tireless in revamping wherever we needed it. Then, he’s got a great feel for violent action and I think when you read those sequences, you’re going to feel that energy coming off the page! Oh, and he *really* aced the splash panels!
Step into SYFY WIRE's nine-page preview of Morgan's latest venture into the Altered Carbon universe in the gallery below, then tell us if you'll take the bait and slip a copy into a sleeve when it arrives in comic stores May 28.