History has a lot offer in that not only does it teach us how to learn from our mistakes, but it can also point to the cause of those mistakes. For instance, people who don’t care what they build on top of an unstable foundation can cause just as much damage as those who embark on an archaeological expedition without knowledge of how to use a compass. These kinds of shortcomings can cause a world of trouble, and a lack of communication make such problems even worse in Zack Kaplan’s The Lost City Explorers Volume 1 (9781949028027) for Aftershock Comics. Check out what Zack has to say about his new project in this exclusive interview!
The Lost City Explorers Volume 1 (9781949028027) is available January 29, 2019.
Vince Brusio: From what we know, the premise of Lost City Explorers is that Atlantis is discovered underneath New York City. This would explain why the book touts to be a marriage of science fiction and archeology. But what is it about Atlantis that you find worth exploring? For you, as the writer, what compels YOU to want to discover this fabled city?
Zack Kaplan: The Lost City of Atlantis is the most famous lost city never found. Plato’s legend has had so many readings and theories, and yet, surprisingly, I was able to find a new interpretation — the lost city of Atlantis perfectly fits with Manhattan. If you know my books, Eclipse and Port of Earth, I like to take familiar ideas and put my simple but unique spin on them. And so much history of the island of Manhattan has been lost underneath subway tunnels and utility pipes and sewer systems, below razed ruins of Manhattan from the Revolutionary War, below Dutch settlements and Native American holy grounds and whatever else the Earth has swallowed up, so how would we know what’s exactly down there?
Maybe there is a lost city or something more below. New technologies are emerging every year to help pinpoint new lost cities, and I’m fascinated by the cross-section of technology and archeology. Plus, I love urban exploration and the world of underground NYC is amazing, so it all simply collides to make for one amazing world for a story.
Vince Brusio: Tell us about this group of millennial teenagers that are about to go on an underground adventure of a lifetime. Who are they? Is their alliance without weak links? What do they love? Who do they hate?
Zack Kaplan: Look no further than modern teenagers to see a remarkable generation of empowered individuals. The story follows the teenage children of an antiques professor who is involved in the search for Atlantis, a professor that goes missing. His daughter, Hel Coates, is the protagonist, a real rebel without a cause, lost in the world, but empowered to find her way. She teams up with her brother, Homer Coates, an analytical realist, his social media savvy girlfriend, June, Hel’s best friend, a streetwise girl, Maddi, and Hel’s ex-of-sorts, a nerdy programmer named Edwin.
The group does not rush to find Atlantis, but rather searches for the truth about the disappearance of Hel and Homer’s father, and his possible whereabouts, a search that takes them much farther than they ever imagined. Their alliance as you say is incredibly weak, wrought with interpersonal tensions, disagreements about the merits of their journey, and fought with doubt and fear. At every turn they are tested, and it requires a tremendous amount of coming together in order to succeed here.
Vince Brusio: What’s the inspiration for these characters? Did you take The Goonies and hit them with age-accelerators so they became miniature versions of Indiana Jones? What compels this lot to put their lives on the line?
Zack Kaplan: The teenagers are not super heroes. They aren’t the Goonies aged-up. And they aren’t Indiana Jones. There’s no whips here. These kids are real teenagers, as real as we can capture. They are modern. They are finding themselves. They are all of us. As a writer, I want young people to see themselves in these characters, and I want the rest of us to feel like these are us as teenagers.
I’m not interested in creating Lara Crofts here, but rather evoking that wanderlust that exists in all of us, and that moment when we find something in our ordinary surroundings that seems extraordinary, whether it’s an open tunnel leading somewhere off-the-grid or an ancient artifact that seems to call from a time before ours. Goonies captivated so many of us because it set an extraordinary adventure right underneath our very normal community, and now, The Lost City Explorers does the same.
Vince Brusio: Compared to your other works which includes Eclipse and Port of Earth, how does this book measure up in its intensity? What gears are shifting in your head when you try to get in the heads of these kids, and make them come alive with their own unique dialect?
Zack Kaplan: This book is definitely more fun and more emotional simultaneously. Port of Earth is a very thought-provoking but abstract book that puts the reader in a powerless position of watching an alien business deal unfold. Eclipse is an exciting thriller with action and character, but quite a dark book, and readers get put through the ringer with one terrible blow to the gut after the next (and the new arc coming soon gets no easier).
I think The Lost City Explorers veers ever so slightly brighter, more hopeful, while capturing the same twists and turns as my other work. And it’s also, perhaps, the most emotional and most personal book for me, because to capture these teenagers and their feelings and points of view and emotions, I had to crawl into their heads. So this book is probably less intense and more fun, which is why I think of it as a modern Stranger Things for Millennials.
Vince Brusio: If you had to make a two-minute video trailer for this book, what would we see? What would you focus on, and how is it representative of the heartbeat for Lost City Explorers?
Zack Kaplan: You’d see a research expedition deep underground New York City, a search for something lost, something important, a doorway to a secret place, a sci-fi exploration of water and what lies below it. Then you’d see a supernatural phenomenon occur and the project goes terribly wrong. You’d see our teenage heroes going about their ordinary life, lost and struggling and just trying to figure out their tomorrow, and then you’d see the call to action. As soon as they take up the adventure, they are in the amazing underground world of New York City.
The tunnels are rich, dark, unique, quiet and scary and impressive and awe-striking in a way you’ve never seen before, a weird mixture of urbanism and history, and you’d see an exciting chase between our heroes and some dangerous villains, men with guns, seeking to get there first, and of course, our teenage heroes can’t even agree or get along, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but of course, the thing we’re all truly waiting to see…the lost city…is it real and what does it look like? But you don’t get to discover lost cities and lost worlds unless you get up off your ass and get ready to explore. I don’t know. Are you ready to explore?
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.