In the Limelight

Author and graphic novelist Justin Gray is currently running a campaign on Kickstarter for Standstill 2. The horror/sci-fi comic is set during a pandemic in which 90% of the people on Earth have stopped moving, are frozen in place, yet still alive. Gray gave Scoop more insight into the comic’s origin and what will come in the next installment.

Scoop: In the Kickstarter campaign, you mentioned living between a famous prison and a nuclear power plant. Did those facilities inspire this story or just shape some of the concepts?
Justin Gray (JG):
Absolutely. Every year I get an emergency booklet detailing what to do in the event of an emergency. I have to fill out a form for my daughter’s school saying it is okay to administer potassium iodine should such an emergency occur. When I started breaking down the larger world of Standstill I realized the power plant would quickly become a factor with no one around to take care of it. I started researching ways to avoid nuclear facilities, gas facilities, and anything that might release toxins and chemicals. It also informed the characters because I wanted to know what kinds of skills would be most beneficial in a situation where living people were paralyzed. 

Scoop: The idea of people being frozen in place but still alive is pretty disturbing. Where did that idea come from?
It was this bizarre anxiety that popped into my head. What if I woke up one morning and the people I loved were stuck? They just stopped moving as if they ran out of batteries and how horrible it would be to find yourself trapped inside your own body. That’s another part of it, like when you’re having a nightmare and you want to wake up but can’t. You want to scream but you can’t. On the other side of that is this character Mason who is doing everything he can to keep his fiancée alive. When I started researching that and thinking about driving across the country, avoiding natural and human made disasters while trying to keep someone alive with no real answer as to what happened or if it could be reversed. It was just too emotional and disturbing not to explore this world. 

Scoop: Where does the second issue begin? Does it directly follow the debut or will it jump ahead?
It picks up immediately after issue 1, but like the first issue there are flashbacks to give a deeper insight to Mason and Luna, how they met, how they fell in love. I wanted this first introduction to the book to be about lovers and the lengths people go to when they want to protect someone who might be slipping from their grasp. There are all of these external factors that impact the world and characters, but I also want there to be an intimacy, a sense that these two isolated people might be all that’s left ‒ at least in Mason’s mind ‒ all that’s left of the human race. 

Scoop: Does the story bounce between different groups of people or will it be focused on one faction of survivors?
What I’m trying to do here in the infancy of the book is to keep it very small with relation to the characters and making it much larger in terms of environment. The world is just starting to fall apart and I like the idea of characters having to deal with isolation just as much as the rest of the elements. I think most people would find the idea of being completely alone all the time very unnerving. There will be opportunities for people to interact in groups, especially when the sci-fi elements begin to bleed into the book, but I don’t want to rush into it. We’ve seen groups of survivors either clashing or trying to form larger groups in this genre. It would take time to develop tribalism in a story like this because the survivors are so spread out. When people do come together it will be for mutual survival and not to take from each other. I say this because there is a much larger threat out there, a reason this is all happening. 

Scoop: Does that mean readers will learn what caused the Standstill?
JG: Yes, there is a point in the series when the definitive cause of this event will be revealed. It doesn’t happen in issue 2, but the long-term plan is to find the right publisher for the Standstill so we can get to that point.

Visit our Mondo Media section to read more about Standstill 2.