Becky Cloonan's SOUTHERN CROSS is about to start its second arc on Wednesday, September 14th. Zeb Larson asks Becky some questions about where the series is headed in this new arc as well as a few questions about the new PUNISHER arc she's been working on, and the music that she's been listening to lately. ZL: I really enjoyed the sort of “Gothic Horror” angle in the first volume of Southern Cross: the unstable protagonist, the ghostly mystery, even the bizarrely configured ship that is more like a labyrinth. Are we going to see more of that in the second arc?
BC: Thanks! The second arc of Southern Cross takes place on Titan, in the wake of the ship’s disappearance. We’re introduced to a new cast of characters who all work on Romulus, Zemi’s massive oil rig. Romulus is in trouble- conditions are dangerous, the workers are on strike, and with the Southern Cross gone it creates a lot of problems for people who were waiting on supplies. Mystery abounds as we search for the Southern Cross, and the alien artifact that was found on Titan.
ZL: Building off of that, a lot of the tension in the first arc stemmed from the questions about Alex’s mental state, which was compromised at best. Will that take a backseat now that we know something supernatural is out there?
BC: I don’t want to give anything away, but that wasn’t the last we’ll hear from Alex Braith. We learn more about her and her sister Amber through other characters, and we piece together her past. There is a new character on Titan who used to be very close with her, and a returning character from the first arc who smears her name. We are also excited to introduce a bunch of new characters! One of my favorites is Hazel Conroy, a retired detective working on Titan as a personal assistant and chef to the Senior Operations Manager of the rig. She’s in her early 60’s, hard boiled and savvy, and so much fun to write.
ZL: Compromise was another theme in the first volume: everybody was compromised in some way by bad decisions or deals they had made. Can we expect more?
BC: Definitely. Team Southern Cross is all about bad decisions and shit deals! Characters that are not only dealt a bad hand, but pass bad cards in turn. One of the most fun things about this series is dealing with this crazy, deep space, supernatural horror aspect of the story, but then taking a magnifying glass to a few characters lives and looking at how it affects them in very real, human terms. People don’t stop making mistakes just because there’s a ghost haunting the spaceship.
ZL: The last issue ended with another ship’s crew going looking for the Southern Cross. Are they at all prepared for what they’re going to find?
BC: They are so unprepared! Things got weird in the first arc, and we’re getting even weirder this time around. The supernatural rears it’s bizarre, undulating head once again, but there are very earthly dangers (so to speak) lurking on Romulus as well. Our heroes have a lot to contend with!
ZL: One of the things I liked about the art for this book was the “space trucker” aesthetic, which has a sort of Alien feel to it. Is that going to change at all now that we’ve got a new crew coming in?
BC: Not at all! If anything this arc is even more “Space Trucker” than the first! Andy Belanger is just killing the art on this book, I could look at him drawing greasy space grunts all day. Alien was a huge influence on his visual approach to the book, him and Lee Loughridge are a great team. The visual aesthetic is a huge part of Southern Cross, and that is all Andy and Lee.
ZL: It looks as though the first issue of the new season will take us to Titan, and off of that wonderfully claustrophobic ship. How will that change things? What can we expect to see?
BC: Romulus isn’t much different than the Southern Cross. The rig and the ship were both built by the same company- Zemi. Issue one takes us on a tour through the ship and shows off Andy’s incredible draftsmanship. I’m also excited to get off the rig in a few issues and explore the beautiful Titan landscape!
ZL: Going through older interviews, it sounds as though you and Andy worked extremely closely together on the first arc. Had the production changed at all?
BC: One of the joys of working on this book is that I get to work with my best friend. We constantly talk things over, go back and forth on story ideas, new characters and dialogue. I help out visually doing covers and design work too, so I think the book is a solid mix, and a very close collaboration. We started working on this book right after we broke up (we were a couple for a few years), and this book I think helped us save and enrich our friendship, which was so important to both of us.
ZL: Your run on Punisher has been fun and interesting. The Punisher is one of those characters who is extraordinarily malleable depending on the writer. How did you approach the character?
BC: Punisher is one of the most challenging books I’ve ever worked on, precisely for this reason! I didn’t want to do something that’s been done before, but I also didn’t want to reinvent the character. It was a fine line to walk, to make him different enough to stand out, but still a Punisher people recognize, still Frank Castle. In issue 1 he doesn’t say a single word- my run is just as much about the supporting characters (good and bad) as it is about Punisher.
ZL: The Punisher is never a cuddly character, and even on his best days, he’s got a tough set of shoes to step into. Is that difficult as a writer, or fun?
BC: If it’s not challenging, it’s probably not worth doing. I think with every project there is an aspect of banging your head against the wall, but when you finally break through it is so satisfying!
ZL: Apart from the upcoming Southern Cross, are there any other projects that we might see soon?
BC: I’ll be re-releasing a compilation of my mini comics in full color, so for those of you who missed out on my limited release of By Chance or Providence, I got you! I’ve been getting a lot of really cool poster gigs lately too, so it’s nice to focus on my illustration and design. And I have a few big projects on the burner, back to writing and drawing my own stories!! Things that I’ve been sitting on for a few years that I am excited to jump back into.
ZL: On a completely different note, let’s talk music. What are you listening to these days?
BC: Mindkult just released a great EP called “Witch’s Oath” that you can grab on bandcamp, it’s deceptively heavy! Also on the record player are Thou, Roly Porter, Fórn, The Body, Tau Cross, Midnight, and Cough (who I got to do a print for this summer!). All worth checking out, all will crush you under the weight of them. Music is a huge inspiration to me, I think a lot of what I do comes out of what I listen to.