“Homebound” (from GENU, Vol 1)
GENU is a 5-part literary sci-fi graphic novel series written by Tommaso Todesca, Alex Franquelli, and Giulio Srubek Tomassy, illustrated by Aleksandra Fastovets, and lettered by Francesca Colasanti. GENU: VOLUME 1 is due to be published by Markosia Enterprises on April 20th, and is now available for pre-order.
ON CREATION AND COLLABORATION
In 2018 we decided to work on a graphic novel. The three of us (Alex, Tommaso, and Giulio) had been wanting to write something and collaborate creatively for a long time, being old friends with a deep passion for science fiction. We had read Jesus on Mars by Philip J. Farmer, a very clever novel that tackles big themes like atheism, religion and human coexistence. We loved that book so much that we initially decided to turn it into a graphic novel. We went as far as contacting the Philip Farmer estate—a whole adventure in and of itself.
Then, like many creative efforts, GENU started to go in a totally different direction, and take a life of its own. Not even the briefest sentence from Jesus on Mars survived this process. GENU is entirely our own creation.
GIULIO: There are many themes that each one of us was particularly interested in; to me personally, the one that really captured me was the idea that Homo sapiens have been inhabiting this rock for a very short period of time, not more than 300 thousand years. Imagine us in another million years or two. What would we be able to do? I read the news and I don’t see many hints of our greatness—it seems to me like the decadence of the Roman culture a few thousand years ago. We have a huge potential, but we are wasting it. Imagine if we had living proof not only that we are not that smart, but also that there are other humans who are way smarter than us!
TOMMASO: What we wanted to do thematically was to reflect on our modern society from two main perspectives: first, the incredible degree of disruption that technology has brought to the complicated enough business of being human. And second, how humanity lives with an innate sense of superiority towards the rest of creation, while science is clearly spelling out the opposite every day. Thanks to Giulio, the actual scientist in our creative team, we came up with futuristic ideas that are solid and backed up by modern research. A few times Alex and I would bring up a science-fictional idea, and Giulio would say, “Ha ha! …No”.
ALEX: As for the characters, we have spent hours discussing the use of stereotypes and clichés. As the story is set (mainly) in Africa a century or so from now, we wondered what visual aspects of their cultural heritage people from other parts of the world would carry with them south of the Sahara. Our answer was that, in a quasi-dystopian world like the one we describe, historical “display rules” would be the prerogative of the rich and powerful. In other words, common people would probably abide to social norms which are strictly contingent to their time and space, while someone like Chief Feng would indulge in what we could define as a “cultural cosplay”: a seemingly chaotic display of the historical elements of the millenary culture of East Asia. We wanted to portrait an incredibly rich man desperately trying to cling to sanity through what he thinks is his cultural heritage but which, instead, makes him the stereotype of a stereotype, thus annulling its effects. His own character stereotype is both the reason he exists and is also the thing that is destroying him.
ON OLD FRIENDSHIPS AND NEW METHODS
We are old friends. We all grew up in Italy (Alex and Giulio in Rome, Tommaso in Trento) and after our studies we decided to emigrate and go our separate ways. Giulio and Tommaso first met in the early ‘80s while on vacation with their families. Alex and Tommaso met in 2001 in London. Professionally, Tommaso works in finance in Los Angeles, Alex works in the media and entertainment industry in London, and Giulio works as a neurobiologist in Cambridge, MA. Together, we cover a nice chunk of the human experience!
As a creative team, none of us had any experience of writing something as a team of 3 people. It might sound like a clunky, almost impossible feat, but somehow it came very easy to us. We think it’s because of our long-time friendships. And also because our personalities, in Alex’s words, “are so different from each other that they somehow cover the entire range of possible personalities”. We’ve been working on this project like three sculptors around a massive block of marble, constantly discussing directions, sharing ideas, proposing changes. In a few cases, we had to resort to democracy, where 2 votes win over 1, but thanks to constant communication, the writing process has been miraculously smooth.
Aleksandra had worked with Tommaso on his previous graphic novel, Science and Faith. She has a real genius for drawing faces and facial expressions in a seemingly effortless way: a few quick traits, and it’s done. The way she can play with the richness of grayscale is ridiculously good. The black and white content introduced by two fully black covers was our original vision for the book.
Francesca Colasanti is our letterer. She is an architect with incredibly good taste who, like us, is relatively new to this. Her choices add dynamism to the overall result. We think we could not choose a better person for this delicate and often underrated task.
ON CREATING THROUGH CRISIS
G: It is interesting how reality intruded our novel, without us even asking for it. One of the major technologies we present in GENU is The Eye, a holographic-like cylinder that surrounda people, allowing them to watch the news, talk to people and access Data Earth (which is a virtual reality emanation of the Eye). In GENU, people live connected 24/7 (it sounds familiar doesn’t it?), with very little room for physical interaction.
We hypothesized that this was due to a pandemic that had occurred around 2050, which led to social distancing practices being enforced for a long time. That, unfortunately, sounds very familiar too … but it is bound to happen, in a way it is happening already, with or without COVID-19. I see my kids, sitting next to each other with their friends, each one looking at some sort of screen, not even looking at each other. They can spend a full hour without even saying a word to each other.
In Latin, “genu” is the ablative of the word genus; thus it means ‘regarding the genus’, ‘about the genus’. In this book the genus is Homo, of which Homo sapiens is the only living member … at least, as far as we know.
Want to be considered for The New Comics? Send work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.