I’ve been following the work of André Lima Araújo for some time now. I was immediately taken with his handle on organic forms in nature as well as inorganic forms. He’s just as adept with animals and trees as he is with gears and sprockets. And sometimes, those worlds merge together in a fascinating way. With the pre-order cut off looming for Titan’s print release of his passion project, Man Plus, I thought it about time we discuss the nature of humanity, its limitations, its possibilities. Because why not?
Welcome to Olissipo City – a shimmering metropolis where technology rules with a heavy hand, and cyborg strike teams are commonplace!
From artist/writer André Lima Araújo (Avengers AI, Ultimate FF), with colors by Arsia Rozegar, comes a tense, cyberpunk thriller set in a future city where the lines between man and machine grow hazier every day.
Paul Montgomery: Let’s start with the name. MAN PLUS. Just how much “plus” are we talking about, with regard to this post-human exploration of yours? What kinds of advances and augmentations are possible in this vision of the future?
André Lima Araújo: The expression ‘Man Plus’ I use was taken from The Future Of The Future, a book by John McHale. In it, he refers to how humans expand and extend themselves by the use of tools, be it conceptual or physical. In a sense, things like language or fire can be examples of those tools, meaning that Man has been Man Plus forever and everyone is, in their way, a man/woman plus. So the book is more about our relationship with technology with this very large point view than about a revolution that happens and everyone becomes a cyborg.
So I aimed at a more natural showcase of the technology in Man Plus. And rather than having people describing it, I want to allow for the reader to see what the characters are using, becoming, living in, consuming and then understand how much “plus” this world is. The more obvious things are there, like cybernetic prosthetics, androids, advanced AI but there’ll be lots of subtle things to discover as well.
PM: How about the human part of the story? Let’s talk about the characters and what they want. Do you think we can relate to their dreams even now?
ALA: Absolutely. The basic thematic is our relationship with technology, so many of the challenges will be relatable. The story presents interesting questions, I think, that we’re already starting to face nowadays, showing people fighting to find and keep their humanity in a world where boundaries are vanishing, something everyone can relate to when we look where we’re heading right now.
PM: I always like to talk to you about inspiration. I know Otomo and Moebius are never too far from your present thoughts, but what other works and experiences made their way into this project?
ALM: Otomo and Moebius are definitely up there, as is, particularly on this case, Masamune Shirow for example. I have many other recurring authors I keep in my mind though, like Hermann, Hiroaki Samura, Naoki Urasawa, Akira Toriyama, Jean Claude Mézières, Frank Quitely and many more. We can also add directors like Riddley Scoot or Stanley Kubrick here, among others.
But apart from the obvious, the glue that came around and provided the substance I was looking for came from my master thesis in architecture. I wrote about the idea of architecture as a prosthetic device, an extension of the human body, a technology rather than an object. This idea came from the readings of people like William J. Mitchell, Marshall McLuhan and John McHale. They gave me the thematics for the cyberpunk story I always wanted to tell.
PM: In the end though, this is all you. In what ways are you pushing yourself as an artist, as a storyteller? What are your ambitions for Andre Plus?
ALM: My ambition as storyteller is, as the name states, to tell a story well, first and foremost. Everything is a tool for that: drawings, text, color, design etc. So my goal is always to improve my ability of conveying the messages I want to pass on, to show the places I imagine, the characters I create and so forth. I always push myself by establishing no limits to what I’ll be drawing or what I’ll be writing about and making it all about the story: if the stories calls for a horse or a car chase, that’s what I’ll draw, no matter how hard; if the narrative goes to obscure places, I’ll do research needed.
I also keep constantly creating new stories of various themes, genres and styles that I’m hoping to publish sooner or later. I have in various degrees of development a post apocalyptic tale, an anthropomorphic animal adventure, a space epic, two mini-series and a couple of things with other writers. That keeps my mind creative and fresh, always on the lookout for references, inspirations and solutions.
Finally, technically speaking, I’m always on the pushing to improve myself on all things: dialogue, plot, anatomy perspective etc. so I can provide a coherent and consistent work to the readers, to the best of my abilities.
PM: I’ll end on the Ebenezer Scrooge question: Is this a glimpse at one of many possible futures, or is all of this inevitable? Is this science fantasy (or nightmare) or is it speculative fiction?
ALM: This is more about what we’re facing now than what we’ll face in the future, which is my favorite kind of science fiction. Predicting the future is a foolish aim for any fiction, there are way too many variables (ask William Gibson why no one has smart phones in Neuromancer) but science fiction is an amazing tool to write and draw about things and problems we already have nowadays. Projecting that narrative into the future allows us to emphasize the themes by evolving the situation into a more heightened, evolved and clear status. Sure, I need to think what things will be like in 2042 in any case, but predicting is not the aim here. It’s also a nice excuse to draw big robots, military cyborgs and cool things all around, which is an important thing to have when you spend day after day working on your stories.
Man Plus is available at manpluscomic.com as a webcomic and in print with many cool extras on January 2016.