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Cyberpunk and Psychotic: In Conversation with Dave Cook, Creator of “Killtopia”

Spun from 80s cyberpunk with a violent, vibrant setting, Killtopia Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 delivered its killer premise – a future Tokyo-made battleground for high-tech bounty hunters – with strong characters and animated action. We caught up with the series’ creator Dave Cook to speak about Killtopia Vol. 3 and upping the ante.

A Place To Hang Your Cape: What’s new in Killtopia Vol. 3; how do you raise the bar after the first two installments?

Dave Cook: Raising the bar is always tricky, but I’m always thinking about new scenes, twists and set pieces to keep readers interested all the way through our five-book journey. A big part of the process is pre-planning – working out the big story points in the issue before you start writing it so you have your essential story points. Then, you can fill the gaps between with as much crazy, weird, dark and attention-grabbing stuff as you like (as long as it’s in service of the core plot). Killtopia Vol. 3 is definitely the darkest book in the series, so I think the emotional scenes and twists will hopefully help us raise the bar.

AP2HYC: There’s Shinji, there’s Saitoh, there’s Stilleto – all with their own competing motives – and Crash in the middle. How do these dynamics develop in Vol. 3 and what characters take the spotlight this time round?

DC: This issue definitely belongs to Crash. He goes on a journey of self-discovery in this book that I don’t think people will expect. I’m really interested in how people react to where the story takes him. In the first two books, everyone around Crash was deciding his purpose for him, such as Shinji telling him he should help cure the Rot. But in Killtopia Vol. 3, Crash starts to think about what he really wants and what’s best for Neo Tokyo. Then of course, there’s our villain Yurei, who has appeared throughout the first two books. There’s more to her than first appears and I can’t wait for readers to finally discover what we’ve been building up to all this time.

AP2HYC: Killtopia combines ’80s cyberpunk with pretty modern sensibilities of fan culture and activism. It’s almost an amalgam of 2020 and what we thought 2020 would be 40 years ago. How do you strike a balance between the two?

DC: A huge part of striking a balance is to keep things somewhat rooted in reality. In Killtopia‘s version of Neo Tokyo, people are hooked on social media. They get hyped by celebrity culture, even if it means they ignore their own pain and difficult lives. They clamour to buy the hot new merchandise, and they quite often act a bit ridiculous. That’s not too far away from where we are today.

Killtopia is most definitely a satire in many aspects, and it comes from just paying attention to what’s going on in the world and “reading the room” to see what the current state of culture is like. When writing the third book, I actually scrapped big chunks of the script when the #BlackLivesMatter protests started and people started standing their ground in support of the moral good. There are scenes of rebellion and protest in Killtopia Vol. 3, as the people of Neo Tokyo start to realise that just maybe, they don’t have to stand for all the crap that class division, healthcare inequality, and other injustices bring to the table.

Lastly, Killtopia Vol. 3 does lean hard the other way in parts, with some truly outrageous scenes that defy logic and reality. But only in short bursts. It’s not a sci-fi fantasy series, but if you go a little crazy in moderation, it can work really well to keep readers invested in your script.

AP2HYC: You’ve had some diverse influences on the series, from movies to anime to video games; are there any particular influences we’ll recognise in Vol. 3?

DC: There are definitely a few in this one. Ghost in the Shell shines brightest in this issue, thanks to Yurei, who was once a real human girl who died in a car crash. A corporation bought the rights to her brain and injected traces of her humanity into their new line of companion dolls, giving them a more convincing personality. So there are some parallels to the Ghost in the Shell series. Next, I wouldn’t say this was an influence, but you will definitely find similarities to The Matrix and Ready Player One in the issue. Shinji and Blaze hack into the Deep Web, which is Killtopia‘s version of the internet—but it’s in VR! This scene was originally planned for Killtopia Vol. 2, but I moved things around to make the plot flow better. It gets pretty wild in the Deep Web, so I’m keen to see what people think of it.

AP2HYC: Lastly, can you give us a tease of your favourite moment in Vol. 3?

DC: The big twist. It’s incredibly violent, completely unexpected, and turns the whole series upside down. That’s kind of a boring answer though so I’ll add a scene that shows a ninja clan attacking a corporation building. There’s some really neat action in that scene!

You can find out more about Killtopia at the Kickstarter page. Have you read the first two issues? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Matthew Smith