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Time Breakers is Back!

We chat with Chris Weston about resurrecting Time Breakers and the brilliance of Rachel Pollack.


Time Breakers Chris Weston Interview

Welcome to our Creator Corner, our reoccurring interview series, where we chat with the coolest and most thought-provoking creators in the industry. In this entry, we're conversing with Chris Weston about Time Breakers. Listen to the unedited audio HERE.

 

Comics seldom get second chances. Usually, a book hits the stands; some read it, and many don't, and it fades away. Even bestsellers rarely retain attention, enjoying their temporary spotlight only to have it switched off at a moment's notice. We never expected to see Time Breakers by Chris Weston and Rachel Pollack back in the world, but here we are. And it's glorious.


The '90s gem first appeared through DC Comics' Helix imprint. It was a mini miracle of a comic for those in the know. It followed a band of rascals who weaponized time travel as a means of creation. What if humanity owed its existence to not one massive paradox but several? Unlike every other time travel story you've encountered, Time Breakers demands that its characters muck around and cause a little trouble.


Now, decades after its original release, artist Chris Weston has retained the rights. He and writer Rachel Pollack put nearly all of themselves into this book, and Weston can't sit back and watch it fade into nothingness. Partnering with the crowdfunding publisher Zoop, Weston will soon have his radical series back on his shelves and, more importantly, our shelves.


We've all had the experience where you recommend a comic to a friend and discover its availability is almost nill. That's been our case with Time Breakers for quite some time now. When Rachel Pollack sadly passed, and folks were rightfully celebrating her success with Doom Patrol, we had that tingling urge to shout out—"Don't forget about Time Breakers!" It's thrilling to know that more people will suddenly have the opportunity to dig into this new collection.


And it was a thrill to chat with Chris Weston about resurrecting Time Breakers. We discussed why this new edition is so important to him, the strenuous process he goes through to accomplish every page, and Rachel Pollack's genius. We've been big fans for a while, and we hope you will soon be, too, if you're not already.

 

Time Enough for Time Breakers


Brad: We're delighted that Time Breakers is back. How on earth did that happen?


Chris Weston: I have no idea, really. It's been in the planning stage for a while. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. We've got the rights back. The rights lapsed at DC, so we've had the rights back since about 2016, I think. I managed to organize an Italian edition. It's something I'm looking after now because, as you know, the writer, Rachel, was very poorly towards the end of her life, and so it's kind of been left for me to try and see what else we can do with this property.


I wish we could have got this edition out while Rachel was still alive, but unfortunately, I was just so busy working on something that I'm not allowed to talk about, and that just absorbed all my attention, so I wasn't able to push the Time Breakers reprint as heavily as I would've liked. I wish Rachel could have seen it while she was alive, but it didn't happen, unfortunately.


Brad: Yeah, I was thinking about it before we started talking. It's a little bit of a bittersweet event.


Chris Weston: Yeah. We've been approached by a couple of publishers. There was one that said, "Can we put out an edition?" And I was like, "Yeah, sure. Send me the contract, and let's have a look." And then the next thing before I'd even got the contract, I noticed they put it up for sale on Amazon and they still, they haven't taken it down yet, so I might send them a, "please take that down."


They caught me in a really bad week. I was in a right foul mood that week. And so when I saw them putting it up for sale before I'd even read the contract, I was like, "No, you've blown it. I'm walking away." I don't think Rach was too happy with me about that, but I was in a right and stroppy mood that week.


Then there was another company who wanted to put it out on its 25th anniversary, and they sent me the contract. There was a clause that said, we got sign over the media rights, 50% of the media rights. And I'm like, "Hang on, this is a book we've already drawn and paid for with our time and labor. I'm not giving you the media rights. You can reprint it, sure."


But the idea that if someone by some remote chance wants to make a film of it, I've got to give you 50% of that check. No, you're not having it. But someone at that company said, "Well, have you tried Zoop? They would possibly put out an addition, and you wouldn't have to surrender 50% of the media rights." And I thought, "Oh, okay, that's good." So, I got in touch with the Zoop, and I think we were hooked up together and we've had a long, gestating romance really. It took me about a year to sign on the dotted line, but we're going for it. We're doing a crowdfunding campaign.


Brad: Yeah. We love Zoop and we've talked to so many creators that have had some tremendous experiences with them. The difference between doing Zoop versus a Kickstarter is Zoop takes care of a lot of the hassle, it seems.


Chris Weston: Yeah. And that's why one of the first things I said to him was, "Look, I'm very time-poor." You know me. Well, you may not know me.


Brad: I do. I definitely do.


Chris Weston: I do very detailed art. It's very time-consuming, and I make very little money. So finding someone that's happy to share that load with me is very exciting.


Brad: So then, what does it ultimately mean for you to have Time Breakers back in the world?


Chris Weston: This is a good question. It's nice looking at your bookshelf and going, "Oh yeah, I made that. That's cool." And I also think, because my stuff is so labor-intensive and I'm so slow and detail-heavy, I think you've got to try and milk your product, make it stretch as far as you can go, really. And it just seemed crazy that I must like sitting on this, these 120 pages of artwork, and there's a generation who hasn't seen it now. So it's just making that a bit of work and making it stretch a bit and see what we can get out of it.


Brad: That Helix imprint that DC did back in the '90s was a significant moment, and it did feel like something special - what they were trying to do with it. When Time Breakers comes out, it didn't feel like any other comic even within that line.


Chris Weston: Yeah, no. I remember Mark Waid running up to me at a convention and saying, "Oh, you did Time Breakers?" I said, "Yeah." He goes, "I loved that. To me, it was like a classic silver-age comic." And I thought, "Wow, that's nice praise." I know what he means, because it was kind of a, I think it was more of a sedate comic compared to all the other comics that are coming out in the '90s.


Brad: Yeah, not eXXXtreme, right, like with three exes?


Chris Weston: Yeah. I think Image ruled the roost in the '90s. Everything was very big and dynamic, and I think my art style was a bit more illustrative compared to what was going on. And I'm a big fan of silver-age artists like Curt Swan. No, that was definitely what I was thinking in my head at the time as well, just straightforward storytelling.


Time Breakers and the Agony of Chris Weston


Brad: I was just talking to Tom Peyer, who is over at Ahoy Comics right now. He brought up Curt Swan. He said Swan told him once upon a time, "The best thing you can do is never show your editor the full extent of your labor. Never be as good as you actually are."


Chris Weston: Oh, wow. I could have done with that advice earlier in my career.


Brad: Well, that's what I was going to say. Time Breakers is such a strenuous work. It is of a different era and a different vibe than those image guys of the '90s, but it is extremely detailed. You are not cheating on backgrounds. We see your time and your labor in every panel.


Chris Weston: Oh, thanks very much. Yeah, and I think I've got worse since. I was looking at some of my Time Breakers pages and I just think, "Wow, this is quite minimal compared to what I'm doing now." You'd think with old age, I'd have learned a few shortcuts, tricks, but I think there's a part of me that thinks that with every job, "Well, this has got to be even better than the last one, and I've got to put even more effort in." And so yeah, I think in comparison to my current work, it's actually quite turned down.


Brad: Can you talk a little bit about that inability to cheat?


Chris Weston: I had an incredible amount of luck early on in my career. There's a comic strip artist called Don Lawrence who's huge in European comics or was huge, and he was like my mentor. I was his apprentice and he helped get me into comics in the first place. He introduced my stuff to an agent, and an agent introduced me to 2000 AD. I had amazing amounts of luck, and I think there's always been a little part of me that thinks I need to earn it and pay it back, and always do the best I can, and always give readers value for money.


I like prog-rock and I want my comic book art to be like prog-rock, with thousands of notes and very noodly. I like the idea; it's got repeated play value where you can have one sitting where you just read through it, and read the story, and then a week later, pick the comic up and go through and go, "Oh my God, yeah, I haven't noticed that character in the background." That's interesting.


Brad: Your comics are a good sit. You can blitz through them, but even going back to your 2000 AD work, all your work is stuff that, if you take time with the comic, you are going to see a lot the longer you sit with that panel.


Chris Weston: I'm not as bad as Geof Darrow, but -


Brad: There are extremes. It's a spectrum.


Chris Weston: He's incredible, how he does that. Probably something I share in common with Geof Darrow. We were probably both huge fans of Mœbius. And Mœbius was a genius. He had like a hundred styles, one of which was minimal, but another one which is super detailed and crammed full of little incidents and characters and things, and I think I gravitate more towards that.


Brad: When you're at the board, and you're doing your thing, how proactive are you? How present are you in the process? Does that make sense?


Chris Weston: Yeah. I think it depends whether I'm inking or penciling. I think with the penciling, I'm definitely doing a lot of thinking, a lot of concentrating. I probably can't listen to music too loudly when I'm coming up with a page. Once everything's worked out, I go to the inking phase. Have you seen my roughs?


Brad: Oh, yeah.


Chris Weston: People say like, "Chris, just print from the roughs. It's finished." I'm like, "No, I need another level of detail on top." And this is why I'm poor. But anyway, once I've got everything worked out really tight in the rough stage, and then I can do the inks, then I can switch the brain off. Honestly, it's bizarre. I can just crank Rush up to full volume - depending on who I'm sharing with the studio with, because this is a shared studio and I can just go for it and I don't need to do that much thinking. It just comes out. I sit in the stream of consciousness.


Brad: And how long do you take to pencil a page?


Chris Weston: I'm a two-days-a-page-man. A day for penciling. I don't actually sit there with a pencil anymore. It's all online. I work it all out in Photoshop and gather all my photographic references or 3D models I've built and just montage them together. Then, print that out. That's a day's work, and then it's a day to ink. And if I'm coloring, then it's probably another day to color.


Brad: And has that been consistent throughout your career?


Chris Weston: No. In the old days, I was probably a page a day, but that was penciling because Gary Erskine was inking me on that. So I'm getting slower, definitely.


Rachel Pollack and the Brilliant Twist of Time Breakers


Brad: You alluded to this a little bit in going back and looking at your pages on Time Breakers, what's the emotional experience when you look at that comic?


Chris Weston: Well, on this occasion, it's not too bad. Usually, with my early work, it's utter despair. I just think, "Oh my God, how did I manage to find any employment? My artwork's so bad." Look, the early 2000 AD stuff, unfortunately, the fans just keep posting it on Facebook and going, "oh, this is-"


Brad: We love it.


Chris Weston: I usually post a gif of someone shooting themself in their head or gouging their eyes out or something. Like, no, take it away.


Brad: I have some Judge Dredd, Chris Weston art here. This is new stuff. It's Control with Rob Williams.


Chris Weston: Oh, yes, yes.


Brad: So that's newer, but yeah.


Chris Weston: Oh, you've done your homework. Well done.


Brad: Well, I love 2000 AD.


Chris Weston: Thank you.


Brad: So, I can understand. It could be awkward when we keep throwing our favorite ancient Chris Weston panels at you.


Chris Weston: But Time Breakers isn't too bad. I can look at that. When you first start comics, you're just a mass of different influences, and also you are experimenting and you're trying to find your own voice, really. I think by the time I got to Time Breakers, I was pretty much settled down. And also Time Breakers, I'd really started using photographic reference quite heavily as well, just to speed things up, and again, make it look more realistic. So yeah, I pretty much sort of nailed my style at that point, I think. So it's not too bad to look back at and it's nicer, and it is a nice story as well. I wish some film company would pick it up.


Brad: We can't wrap up our conversation without talking about your collaboration with Rachel Pollack.


Chris Weston: Yeah, and it's got a killer hook. I can't think of anyone else who's done it because, in most time travel stories, meddling with time is the worst thing you can do. It is usually the act of the villain, isn't it? Like the Terminator, to go back in time and kill Sarah Connor, that's what the baddies get up to. And Back To The Future, it's like, "Oh no, we've got to fix the timeline so everything's back the way it was." And I think Time Breakers, it was a really great idea that was like, "No, just mess things up as much as possible."


Brad: Yeah, let's see you fix this.


Chris Weston: Get in there and meddle, and deliberately create a parallel. That's what made me sign onto the story. I thought, "Well, that's a good idea. I hadn't thought about it." I don't think other people have touched on the idea since. If Hollywood's listening, it is right there on your doorstep.

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