Moving Faster Than Light With Mirko Topalski And Milos Slavkovic On ‘Lightstep’

by Hannah Means Shannon

New high-concept sci-fi series Lightstep arrives for its second issue on December 19th, 2018, and brings with it further revelations about a strange cosmos where elite beings rule from artificial planets which move at light speed, slowing down time for them, while the less fortunate inhabit normal, working-class lives on slower worlds.
Brought to us by Eipix Comics and Dark Horse Comics, the series is created by writer Mirko Topalski and writer/artist Milos Slavkovic and is illustrated in a space-operatic style that may remind you of the work of Moebius and other great masters of the comics medium.
The series follows an elite young woman, January Lee, as she reaches a point where she can no longer condone the decadent and violent lifestyle in which she’s been raised, and once cast out of that society, has to find a way to survive, and perhaps pursue a more specific mission, too. The comic also has a relationship to an upcoming video game.
Both creators, Mirko Topalski and Milos Slavkovic, join us below to talk about Lightstep.

HMS: I see that the comic actually began with a Kickstarter campaign. What sparked the idea for the comic and led you to bring it to print?
Mirko Topalski: The inception of Lightstep was most extraordinary. I work in a game development company that at one point entered a period where we were creating a large number of games in the same genre. I was looking for the next big thing and was talking to people about any amazing local artists that I could collaborate with. I heard the name Milos Slavkovic mentioned a few times and I decided to set up a meeting, which he accepted. Initially we started working together on concept art for an unknown future SCI FI project. It was fairly hit and run. Since not much was known, I told Milos to go wild.
As time passed, it was becoming clearer that this project might be further away in the future than I had anticipated, but I was in love with the art, and I was anxious to see this universe come to life, which is when I suggested to Milos that we do a graphic novel based on the existing universe and art. Here we had help from a few collaborators, even though the biggest portion of the work was done by Milos. Inspired by interest in Lighstept we started work on several other graphic novels, and since financing was getting a bit strained we decided to do a Kickstarter campaign. At the time of the campaign, most of the graphic novel was almost complete.
HMS: The concept of time is really important to Lightstep, since it’s the basis of inequality among beings. Do you think if beings could master time in a mechanical way, like this, they would become god-like, or just despotic?
MT: I cannot even begin to fathom all the problems that could arise should humans be exposed to a technology as powerful as time manipulation. For us this was an interesting and novel way to add conflict and injustice to our story, and a fairly unique setting and technology. It does not serve a higher purpose than just causing some to feel superior to others. However, in real life, I am afraid that should the tech get in the wrong hands, we probably would feel much more profound and dire consequences.

HMS: Can you tell us a little bit about the personality and character of January Lee? Is she different simply because she questions things, or is she made of more heroic material?
Milos Slavkovic: January is not heroic in terms of actively seeking and fighting injustice. She is at her core an outsider, an individual that perceives the world outside of the group. In that way, you can say that her perspective is clearer, since she is able to examine the norms that her people, misguidedly, find to be a moral imperative. I think that is what makes a hero, the ability to form a clear and fair personal code and not get scooped up by conformity.
HMS: No doubt plenty of the history and behavior of this genetically “pure” class of people in the comic draws from real history and inspiration, for instance Nazi thoughts on racial purity, or for the super-violent Primogenitor’s actions, someone like Caligula. You had plenty to work with when looking through human history for atrocities. What made you pick these specific analogies?
MS: When I was a child, the country I lived in [Serbia] was in the late stages of terminal socialism. The cult of the great leader was widely spread. We had great performances for the masses, celebrating the leader’s birthday and his life, staged at sport stadiums that persisted even though the leader himself was deceased for some time. I noticed that this cult had an uncanny influence on some people, since they started to do their hair the way the leader did, and they started to act like him, and even mimic the tone and the way that he talked. So that was the initial inspiration. I think that is what SF is about: you take a thing, like ideology for example, and blow it out of proportion over time.

HMS: Artistically, does the comic draw on specific comic or illustration traditions from science fiction or beyond? What sort of tone and style did you most want to create?
MS: It’s a mash up of things. I was always a great fan of Alphons Mucha, and the secession with its s shape curves. When we started working on this project, Mirko told me he would like to see something in terms of Art Deco, which is heavy on geometry and straight lines. So, the resulting style of design was me trying to incorporate straight lines into my long-lasting love affair with curves.
HMS: How closely does the comic relate to the upcoming video game that Eipix will be launching? What are the points of commonality in story, for instance?
MT: The game came later, and other than the basic universe and technology, there is no relation. Once again, the art of the comic was so beautiful that I wanted to see it alive on more than just a page, and it was the right time for us to pursue this additional challenge. We have been working on it for more time than we would like to admit, and I am happy to announce that we expect the game to ship in Q1 2019. There may be a cameo appearance of one of the characters in the game, but I will let you find that out on your own. The game will also be very peculiar, and when I joke about it, I say it will be “the most beautiful text adventure”.

HMS: It sounds like there’s a core mystery about a “radio drama from earth” that could be influencing the bizarre aspects of culture we see in the first issue of the comic. Is there anything you can tease about the significance of Earth to this story?
MS: Radio drama is sort of a guide, for January and Jazman. It was designed by a man from the past, our past that seems to possess inside knowledge about their lives. He turned it into an SF story, like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers, because he knew the radio signals would travel endlessly trough space and eventually get caught and recognized by Jazman. To tell you how he knows all this would be too much of a spoiler. I always had this sort of nostalgic feeling about the golden years of radio, even though I was born much later. It’s storytelling in its basic form created by word and sound.

HMS: If you could live on a Lightstep world close to the speed of light, but couldn’t take all your family or friends with you, would you do it? What do you think would be the pros and cons of that choice?
MS: If you think about it, your life wouldn’t be much different. Your time would proceed much the same. The only difference is that there would be people whose lives would span your day. So, it is merely significant as a means to set oneself apart on a higher social ladder, if you will. I guess one could also find it useful if one had to oversee a project that would take a really long time, and it would be fun to see how our civilization progresses through centuries as you observe, unchanged. However, I personally find all these to be a poor trade for friends and family.

Thanks, Mirko and Milos for taking part in this interview with us! It’s been a pleasure!
Light Step #2 lands in comic shops on December 19th, 2018!

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