Summer is ingrained in our heads as blockbuster season, a time when we sit back with some snacks and watch storytellers take big swings with big concepts on big stages. Of course, this summer, blockbuster season didn't really happen in the way we're used to, but that doesn't mean we have to miss it altogether. Stories can be just as big and bold on the comics page as they can be on a movie screen, and that's exactly what the creators of comiXology's new original sci-fi series 40 Seconds are hoping to deliver to readers.
In 40 Seconds, a five-issue miniseries launching from comiXology Originals later this month, writer Jeremy Haun (The Red Mother), artist Chris Mitten (Witchfinder: The Reign of Darkness), colorist Brett Weldele, and letterer and designer Thomas Mauer are swinging for the fences with a story billed as a "widescreen sci-fi adventure" that unfolds like a summer blockbuster in comics panels. Ahead of the book's launch, SYFY WIRE is pleased to debut a first look at the series, along with commentary from Haun and Mitten on how it all came together.
Like many great sci-fi blockbusters, 40 Seconds begins with a group of explorers attempting a dangerous mission into uncharted space, using a series of gates that allow them to jump across vast swaths of the galaxy. It's these gates that give the series its title — 40 seconds is the time it takes for the gates to "forge" the connection between places — and the haunting mystery that the crew is attempting to solve. When we first join them, they're not just exploring space, but also trying to find out what happened to the team who went in before them and was never heard from again. As the journey begins, one mystery gives birth to others, as the crew finds themselves hunted by a mysterious force.
For Haun, the series was a chance to explore some of his favorite ideas from a lifetime of consuming science fiction stories, while also lacing some scary things in along the way.
"I've always been a huge fan of epic science fiction stories. You'd see characters hopping from world to world exploring and trying to survive in things like Star Trek and Lost In Space. They could go anywhere," Haun told SYFY WIRE. "I remember reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series as a kid. That brand of stranger in a strange land science fiction always captured my imagination. Of course, because I'm me, I can't not bring some element of weird cosmic horror to the stories I tell. There was no way the influence of things like Alien weren't going to seep into this story. I was just thinking about Black Hole while writing a moment in the final issue. That movie weirded me out so much as a kid."
To craft this epic tale, which he noted arrived more or less "fully formed" once he started thinking about the project, Haun turned to Mitten. The pair had discussed working together for a while, and when the moment finally came Mitten jumped at the chance to flex his sci-fi muscles across the various cosmic environments of the story.
"I have a huge soft spot for drawing sci-fi and fantasy stories and have been fortunate enough to do a number of them over the years; they’re so much fun — the scale and scope of everything, the world-building, the chance to play in one alien landscape for a bit before, maybe even just a few pages later, jumping somewhere else entirely," Mitten said. "This sort of thing, these stories, they’re right in my wheelhouse; I’ve been drawing this type of thing, in some form or another, for as long as I’ve been drawing, so the look and feel tends to come fairly easily, really. And working with Jeremy on something like this, someone who just has a natural flair for writing, made it even easier.
"The tricky part in anything like this is clearly establishing one location from another and giving each place its own look and personality, because if one isn’t careful, everything can kind of blend together after a while. And in a fast-paced story like 40 Seconds, where everything’s always on the move, that’s especially important."
Part of the fun of 40 Seconds, which is evident in the first issue, lies in the way that Haun and Mitten are able to root the story in blockbuster sci-fi elements that we all know and love, only to then spin things off in a different direction. In the preview pages in the gallery above, you'll see those shades of Alien that Haun noted as the crew gets up and gets ready for their mission, and other clear sci-fi influences (the gates, for example, will obviously connect the story to Stargate for some readers) shine through as the story takes shape. Once the journey begins, though, all bets are off, as Haun and Mitten attempt to deliver something new on this wild space adventure. However recognizable the opening might be, Haun said, what comes next will be a surprise.
"I love when a story can start out about one thing and then turn around completely," Haun said. "This is a book about a group of explorers traveling across the universe. But of course that's just the starting point. Things get weird really quickly. Nothing is quite what it seems. And the things that are hunting our team are relentless. Sometimes you see a story and immediately know where it's going. I think we've taken something that feels familiar and have gone somewhere completely different with it. It's going to be a hell of a ride."
40 Seconds #1 debuts August 25, and will be available for purchase on comiXology and Kindle free to subscribers of comiXology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon Prime.