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Zack Kaplan Moves Forever Forward in His New Series

In an exclusive interview with CBR, writer Zack Kaplan discusses the origins of his brand-new time travel series, Forever Forward.

Plenty of stories send their protagonists on journeys traveling back into time. But what happens if someone can only move forward in time? That’s the question that writer Zack Kaplan, artist Arjuna Susini, colorist Brad Simpson, letterer Jim Campbell, and designer Tim Daniel will answer in Forever Forward, a new series due out on Wednesday, Aug. 24, from Scout Comics.

CBR caught up with Kaplan to discover more about this unique premise and the origins of the series. He explained that some events from the book coincidentally mirrored real-life news stories and discussed his thoughts on time travel and Back to the Future. Kaplan also shared a look at the first five pages of Forever Forward #1 to help readers gear up for the action-packed series.

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CBR: First off, where did the idea for Forever Forward come from?

Zack Kaplan: You know, I’ve loved time-travel stories ever since I was a kid, but it seems that so many time-travel stories involve going to the past or escaping time loops, and I always wondered about simply time traveling forward into the future. What if you could only go forward? What would we find? Would it be marvelous and shiny? Would we see humanity at its best? To time travel to the future — That possibility set the stage for an amazing adventure story.

Sadly, in recent years, from our world facing this pandemic to war to so many modern existential crises that do not seem to be getting better, I’ve grown a little more concerned about our future. What if our time period now is as good as it gets? What if traveling forward in time just keeps getting worst? In this way, the story felt more like an Odyssey-style mythical tale as our heroes travel through dystopian futures trying to make it back home to their time, if they can.

That was the dystopian adventure story we brought to Scout Comics, who shared in our exciting vision. And the rising publisher was a great home for it, as I have been just wowed with so many of Scout’s exciting sci-fi titles recently! Also, I’d love to mention Forever Forward is impeccably drawn by Arjuna Susini, vividly colored by Brad Simpson, perfectly lettered by Jim Campbell, and imaginatively designed by Tim Daniel. Everyone has really poured their hearts into this series and worked together to elevate this beyond the ordinary into something more. There’s a lot of thought and care curated into the aesthetics and narrative storytelling.

In the first issue, Russian soldiers are seen invading California. Was this inspired by the real-life events of 2022 or did you somehow go into the future, see this, and come back to write it?

God’s honest truth, I conceived of this aspect a couple of years ago, well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but around the 2016 election cycle, when it became clear that Russia was trying to exert its control on the world stage. I had read about the US and Russia conducting war games in the Arctic, and it seemed within the realm of possibility that one day, the US and Russia would face off.

I like imaginative sci-fi, but my hope with Forever Forward was to create future human times that felt both inventive and true to life. I also wanted each of the “times” that the series visits to feel connected, like the story of human history was continuing as we go. Every time’s pivotal crisis, whether Russian invasion, climate catastrophe, or robot rebellions, leads to another fateful chapter. And it doesn’t take long for the story to get absurdly fantastical, all while feeling like we’re following the dots from where we started. We can’t wait to take readers on this incredible ride through the future.

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How much research did you do about time travel?

Oh, I spent a good couple of Summers time traveling to make sure it was very plausible. All jokes aside, I did consider what scientific foundation I was going to put the science, and quantum mechanics seems to already hold quite a foundation. Those little quantum particles do lots of funny things, especially when zapped with lasers or put in vacuums. Besides, traveling back in time is always the questionable thing. Traveling forward in time really just requires slowing down the time around you, so that one second for you is 33 years for the space around you. The idea is kind of like taking a light-speed flight around the galaxy but without moving. It’s sci-fi, of course, but it was fun to think about creating that science.

But I think the story is predominantly an action-adventure story, so you just have to accept that they figured out a little time travel and enjoy the ride. It was also a blast to create those time periods and eras with Arjuna Susini and Brad Simpson. Arjuna is a master of detail, and I may have set out to have him draw more landscapes and double-page spreads than he ever has. From super storms to robots, we have a lot of fun world-building. And then, Brad has to color each of these time periods to give them their own look. We didn’t research per se the future, but we discussed the look of these eras a great deal.

How would this research stand up next to Doc Brown’s?

Oh, nobody’s got an edge on Doc Brown! But funny you should ask, because more than just the science. I have my own time plot elements to juggle, and I don’t have a chalkboard. You see, the heroes of Forever Forward — Dr. Lewis Moody, his longtime crush Natalie, and his three friends — accidentally jump thirty-three years, and there they find a message from Moody’s future self. We don’t know how it got there, but it reads: “The Only Way Back Is Forward.” Moody determines that somehow his future self found a way to travel back in time, and returned them home so that they could write this message to themselves. Yes, yes, it’s a seeming time loop. The question is, “Well, is it, really?”

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Lewis is an interesting character in the series. He seems to be so obsessed with making a difference for the future that he’s forgetting to live in the present. How would you describe him?

That is exactly how I would describe him, and I would say he’s all of us every day [since] we forget to live in the moment. In many ways, Lewis Moody is a flawed hero definitely in need of either a redemption or a comeuppance. He’s so obsessed with making his mark on the future and using his discovery of time travel to benefit mankind, that he is really willing to sacrifice everything, his friends’ safety, his own happiness, and more. The love of his life is right before his eyes, and he’s too focused on his work to dare to embrace that romance. His heart is in the right place, and he genuinely believes this sort of scientific breakthrough can help us learn from our mistakes. But the sad reality is that it’s this very focus on the future to solve our problems that leads to future problems.

The first page of issue #1 features a hopeful monologue that ends with the line, “If we can just make it to tomorrow.” It’s a powerful moment. Please, could you elaborate more on the thought process behind it?

Yes, in short, I believe this is dangerous thinking. The future will solve all of our problems. Climate crisis, foreign enemy threats, the dangers of AI, the divisions in our society, the breakdown of truth; whatever our current problems, tomorrow will surely have the answers. We choose to tolerate the awfulness of the present, but we fail to realize that until we change ourselves, our future will always reflect us. It will never get better until we make it better. And until we do that, the future is destined to get worse and worse, no matter how far we travel through it. The irony is that the moment you start to enjoy your present and care about it, you create a better future.

Forever Forward #1 zips into stores on Aug. 24, from Scout Comics.

Sergio has been writing about pop culture for over 15 years. He has written for the likes of Screen Rant, IGN, Looper, SYFY Wire, and Fortress of Solitude.

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