Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of Afterlife Inc. Volume 5: Glory Days s! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the overall series' premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Jon Lock: Afterlife Inc. is the tale of con-artist Jack Fortune who dies, discovers an afterlife in chaos, and decides to take over and run it like a business. Establishing a new corporate entity is one thing - but Jack must also contend with the dark secrets at the heart of his world and a sinister conspiracy that threatens to tear down everything he holds dear.
Afterlife Inc. began life over 10 years ago, at a time when I was desperately searching for a voice in comics. My early, unsuccessful attempts at telling a story had all been superhero-focused, and Afterlife Inc. appealed because it was so different. Although, in hindsight, it's not all that different... my heroes might wear business suits instead of spandex, but they're still saving the world!
BD: You have an incredible creative team involved with the ongoing series. How would you describe your shared creative process in telling this story together?
JL: While it was never my intention to have a massive creative team on the book, Afterlife Inc. has slowly gained a reputation for being an ensemble piece. I'm only a writer, so I've always been immensely grateful to the artists who bring my stories to life. As such, I do my best to respect the time and talent of the people I work with. Comics are a collaborative process and I'd never have gotten Afterlife Inc. off the ground if not for the help of others.
In terms of a creative process or strategy, I always try to match the artist to the story (or vice versa if I know I'm going to be working with someone in particular). The world of Afterlife Inc. is well suited to both long and short-form stories, which allows me to bring in a lot of different artists with wildly different styles. Even though my scripts are quite descriptive, I like to give artists the freedom to interpret them as they see fit, as they're going to have a unique perspective on visual storytelling that will only enrich the finished result.
BD: Given that this is the fifth volume in the series, do you feel that there has become a shorthand to re-visiting the Afterlife Inc. world?
JL: The afterlife of the series is an impossible structure called the Empyrean, which floats in an endless white void. The Empyrean was ruled by seven immensely powerful beings called the archangels, until a mysterious event wiped them from existence. In the chaos that followed, Afterlife Inc. emerged, bringing modernisation and opportunity for all under Jack's visionary leadership.
Now, as eternity sets in, Afterlife Inc. is weighed down by ennui and constant attacks. Remnants of the Empyrean's past are re-emerging and the legitimacy of Jack's rule is called into question. Perhaps worst of all, evidence emerges of a shadowy figure manipulating events from behind the scenes... and a hooded assassin with Jack in his sights draws ever closer.
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Afterlife Inc.'s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
JL: The world has changed significantly since I began work on Afterlife Inc. - and while the story was never written with a message in mind, it would be impossible for the events of the last 10 years to have not bled over into the story. I've changed... and so has Jack. When we started out, we were both more confident, more assured in who we were and where we thought we were going... but also more naïve, and maybe oblivious to much of the wider world. Over the course of the series, we've seen the shine come off Jack's dream for the future. Once, he was full of optimism and energy. Now, he's tired and jaded from repeatedly coming up against a world that can't, or won't, change for the better.
Afterlife Inc. was about a corporation being a force for good in the world, when old and ineffective power structures could no longer be relied upon. Now, it's about not becoming the thing you replaced... and whether a system can be healed from the inside, or just needs tearing down.
BD: What makes Big Punch Studios the perfect home for Afterlife Inc.?
JL: I never set out to be a publisher or business owner. In founding Big Punch Studios, I just wanted a better machine for making the things I love. The beauty of Big Punch Studios isn't just the books, games, and podcasts we make... it's that it's founded on a friendship. The core team is two married couples: myself and Lucy, and our colleagues Nich and Ali. We support and balance each other, and we each fill a gap that the others are lacking. Together, we have all the skills necessary to make some pretty nice books - or at least pass as one functioning human adult!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JL: It’s the worst answer ever, but I'm currently working on a secret project that I can't share yet, but it's one that will see Big Punch Studios opening up our doors to more creators, and hopefully giving people a leg up in the industry. We wouldn't be where we are today without the help and support of our peers, and it's only fair that we try and return the favour. At the same time, I'm also working on a new horror property and a comic adaptation of G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday - which sounds a lot more literary and impressive than I actually am! Big Punch Studios is also constantly plugging away at our podcasts and games, and we hope to get a sequel to our card game Sandwich Masters out in the near future.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Afterlife Inc. and your other work?
JL: The entire Afterlife Inc. saga (so far) is available to read online at www.afterlife-inc.com. That's over 700 pages of content available for free, including the brand new Volume 6, which is currently updating every other week. All our podcasts, games, and other books can be found at www.bigpunchstudios.com. We've got a ton of content available for free that we hope people will enjoy checking out.