Love Over Time In The Rift

by Vince Brusio

If we did have the ability to time travel, what would we do with such power? Would our goal be monetary? Altruistic? Would we dare change history? Imagine pondering such a question while a WW2 fighter plane crashes in front of your speeding car. It may take an event like this to make you realize that time travel is as complicated as it is desirable, which Don Handefield and Richard Rayner write about in Red 5 Comics’ The Rift TP (MAR171990). In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, both writers ponder how such power over periods of time can best serve your heart, and emotional need for closure.

The Rift TP (MAR171990) is in comic shops May 24.

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Vince Brusio: Tell us about the premise for this story. We fade in from black, and what do we see in this man-out-of-time scenario?

Don Handfield: The comic opens on a single mother, Mary Ann, and her son, Elijah driving west to California, with all their worldly possessions in the car, fleeing an abusive relationship and headed for a new life. Their journey is unexpectedly interrupted when a sonic boom smashes the windshield and a UFO crashes on the road in front of them. They examine the wreckage and find not an alien craft, but a WW2 fighter plane, with the pilot still trapped inside. Mary Ann risks her own life to save the man inside, who turns out to be from 1941, having come through a rip in time and space.

After a government team descends on them, Mary Ann learns it’s not the first, or the last time these ‘Rifts’ or tears in the fabric of space time have opened. Many of these events we know by the government cover-up: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Roswell.

Vince Brusio: Describe the main characters in The Rift, and what makes them tick. How do they deal with time shock?

Richard Rayner: Mary Ann is the lead role. A single mother, strong, tough, intuitive. She's brave enough to pull a man out of a burning plane, but is somehow tethered to a somewhat dark past in this abusive relationship she is running from. That man will play a larger role in the series moving forward, and we will learn about the dark secret he holds that gives him power over her. She feels like these Rifts are not triggered by a scientific anomaly, but are driven by something spiritual – a higher power.

Elijah is her son. He's young, brilliant, and his curiosity often leads him into dangerous situations. He loves his mother dearly, and wants nothing more than her to escape her abusive husband, Jim. He’s a kid with a mind beyond his years and kind of bridges the gap between the spiritual – his mother and the scientists of Section 47.

Lieutenant James Cole is the WWII pilot who finds himself pulled forward in time with a chance to heal an emotional wound that in his previous reality hasn’t even occurred yet. He’s a member of the so-called ‘Greatest Generation’ with 1940s values, slightly chauvinistic, but a Boy Scout, thrifty, brave, reverent, kind, but tough as nails. A dream man for a modern woman and a love relationship develops between him and Mary Ann, but it’s complicated by Cole’s desire to return to his own time and see his wife again.  Cole, while amazed by the time shock, is intensely capable and will always do what’s morally right in the moment, no matter what the cost. Ultimately he will have moments of real loneliness and disconnection. All his friends are dead or dying. Everything he holds dear has changed.

Vince Brusio: What served as the inspiration for this story? 

Don Handfield: Some of the characters were inspired by real people. My mother was also strong, tough and smart, she raised two boys by herself. My grandfather was a pilot in WW2 and he was the only father figure I had in my life as a boy and was taken from me when I was young. I always felt a void at his loss and I think the character of Cole was me channeling the need a little boy has for a father figure, and what better father figure in this day and age than a man from the 1940s. That value system, the manliness and honesty of the men of that time, I think would be a benefit to any young man.

Richard Rayner: My own childhood was a story of abandonment and a father who ultimately, literally vanished. I think Don and I both dealt with a father not being around at a young age, and though The Rift is a science fiction at its heart, that desire, the idea that you can actually go back and heal some deep emotional wound from the past is actually what The Rift is about. It’s really about time travel can give you a way not to go watch the World Series in 1911, but something more personal and more important, i.e. reconnecting with people you love that lost in your life, or healing deep psychic and emotional wounds.

Vince Brusio: Did any particular books or films help fan the flames of creativity, both in the story's execution and the visuals used to tell it?

Don Handfield: We are both huge fans of the Amblin and Spielberg films of our youth. In particular for this series, we would probably say Close Encounters of the Third Kind was a major inspiration. Our story doesn’t deal with UFOs, but what made that film so special was not just its sense of mystery and wonder, but the fact that it plunged very ordinary individuals into extraordinary circumstances and took the audience into that world through their eyes, not some alien life expert.  It also made the journey one that was primarily emotional and not scientific.  Field of Dreams would also be in the same tonal world, as that story deals with fantastic events, but focuses on healing personal emotional loss and pain.

We both grew up reading comic books. I read X-Men, Daredevil, the usual, but also liked Nexus, The Badger, the early TMNT were all out when he was a boy. Richard read Batman, Superman and some of the English funny comics like Beano and The Dandy. Much later, Richard (when he was a magazine editor) helped Neil Gaiman on his way by giving him a cover story for Time Out that introduced the 80s/90s new wave of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, etc.  From a literary standpoint Jack Finney’s Time and Again and Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson and of course The Time Machine by HG Wells all laid the groundwork as well.

There are also some beloved time travel TV shows we would be remiss to not mention in particular the show Quantum Leap, which was really such an emotional series at its core. It was about making things right in people’s personal lives moreso than about changing epic history. We try to ensure every storyline has this emotional heartbeat and catharsis built into it, which is what we think sets it apart from other time travel stories.

Vince Brusio: How is Jeremy Renner involved in this project? 

Richard Rayner: Jeremy and Don have been friends for twenty years and together they have a production company called The Combine. Together they produced The Founder, starring Michael Keaton, which is being released this fall by the Weinstein Company. Plus, Jeremy serves as an Executive Producer on our History Channel project Knightfall that Richard and Don co-created. 

Vince Brusio: To what degree does he have his hands on this property, and what if any role will he play in the book's promotion?

Richard Rayner: Jeremy was pitched this story early in the development and has been a sounding board throughout its evolution. He has incredible taste, and his guidance is really what helped us keep this series more about the character and their emotional journey over the high concept.

Obviously with his role in Avengers, he is well known to the comic book audience and may get involved on the promotional side, but first and foremost, he wants whatever projects we put out as a company to sink or swim on their own merit, and not because of his name or involvement.

Vince Brusio: If you could geek about a particular scene that you think would best encapsulate the heart and soul of this book, what would we see if you made that scene into a YouTube trailer?

Don Handfield: I think the scenes that really encapsulate the tone and characters and the magic of this show is the opening scene where the pilot crash lands on the road, and where you see how this single mother and her boy react under the pressure and amazement of this moment. The other moment is when the pilot gets to dance with his wife again. That moment really encapsulates the emotional core of the series, and what we hope every issue can deliver in the series.

The Rift is more than just a science fictional story device. It’s a way of magnifying the core human values and issues at stake throughout the series.  Each issue won’t just be a person coming through time; it will be an emotional journey – tracking a character seeking closure from emotional pain. The series will deal with characters confronting the very human longing that somehow, through some means, we might be able to fix mistakes in our lives and make ourselves whole again.

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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