Talking To Blade Runner 2019’s Mike Johnson About Crime-Noir, New Enemies And More

by Olly MacNamee

When Titan Comics announced they’d managed to acquire the Blade Runner franchise, it seemed like something of a great deal. And, their Blade Runner 2019  didn’t disappoint. Well, the collected series has juts come out in trade paperback this week from writers Mike Johnston, Michael Green and artist Andres Guinaldo, with colors by Marko Lesko and letters by Jim Campbell. We were able to pin down co-writer Mike Johnson down to catch about the series; the new characters, new threats and the integral crime-noir atmosphere too, amongst other things. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in shall we?

Olly MacNamee: Firstly, let me belatedly congratulate you on this great gig, Mike. But, what are your own recollections of Ridley Scott’s seminal film when you first encountered it? 

Mike Johnson: I was eight years old when the movie premiered, but my parents wouldn’t let me see it, which I thought was really unfair because it had Han Solo and Indiana Jones in it, but later I wore out my VHS copy (an obscure late-20th Century technology.) My initial impression was that I simply hadn’t seen anything like it before. This wasn’t Star Wars. This was something deeper, more mysterious, more intriguing. I subsequently tried to catch it every time it was shown on the big screen during retrospectives and festivals. Still do.

OM: We’re back in the original year in which Blade Runner is set, but following the all-new character of Aahna ‘Ash’ Ashina. And, like everyone in this dystopian alternative realty, she come with her own problems, right?

MJ: Correct. You can’t have future noir without the noir, and you can’t have noir without complicated protagonists. One of my favorite movies is Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. While Ash is nowhere near as gullible and shady as Walter Neff is in that film, we still wanted her to be someone who you weren’t sure how likeable she really was compared to most lead characters, and especially compared to Rick Deckard.

OM: It’s not a tame comic, either, is it? Right from the get-go and the readers’ rather gruesome first meeting with Ash, it’s a good indication of the book’s tone? Crime-noir, certainly, but with more punch, literally and figuratively?

MJ: Yes. We wanted it to have a mean edge to it, like the best noir does. All of the dazzling visuals of the Blade Runner movies are just pretty pictures unless they’re grounded in that kind of street-level, dirty-fingernailed atmosphere. 

OM: I was intrigued at your expansion of what we thought we knew of this grim, grey world. It seems not all of the privileged and wealthy chose to leave Earth. Even living in such an extreme version of a gated community, why would anyone want to stay on this dilapidated mud ball?

MJ: In the case of our billionaire character, Alexander Selwyn, he’s seized on the opportunity of having an essentially captive market by selling to everyone who stayed behind. Beyond the economic motive, we imagined that there would be pockets on Earth, like the Santa Barbara archipelago, that would still be liveable to those who could afford it. And keep in mind, the colonies might not be as idyllic as they sound.

OM: Another new inclusion is the mention of a Canaan Corporation, who’s CEO seems to be family friends with the Tyrells. Other than Ash being signed to investigate a particular case in which he is involved, should first time readers be paying attention to the inclusion of a new corporation in world destroyed by such entities? My Spidey-senses are tingling.

MJ:  Good tingling! Yes, the story of the Canaan Corporation is not finished yet. We wanted to build out the world by introducing another potential nemesis for Ash, a company which felt like it belonged in this future, given that it’s goal is to feed the overcrowded cities on Earth. But with dubious intentions.

OM: Obviously, it’s a well designed and defined world already, but how far do you help guide artist Andres Guilnaldo’s hand through script notes and references and how much of is his own inspiration. For example, the coffee booth Ash meets her superior, Wojciech, at? 

MJ: We try to balance giving Andres enough inspiration so that he has a place to start from, but we also don’t want to hold him back, given his prodigious gift for invention. In the case of the “fish truck” where Ash and Wojciech meet, we suggested taking a modern food truck idea and “Blade Runner-izing” it with details like screens and neon. What he came up with delighted us.

OM: It’s a great first series, Mike. exploring the world of Blade Runner. And, its certainly expanding through Titan Comics and Blade Runner 2019. But, what next?

MJ: The next arc takes place several years after the first. We meet up with Ash and Cleo in the Off-World Colonies and find out what they’ve been up to. We will jump a few more years ahead in the third arc, but in-between we have a special Free Comic Book Day issue of Blade Runner coming out that we are very excited about.

OM: Mike, thanks for your time.

MJ: Thank you! Have a happy 2020!

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.

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