“All time travel in fiction is bonkers and doesn’t really make much sense!” Luke James Halsall and Cuttlefish talk Out Of Time

Luke James Halsall and Cuttlefish’s hilarious time-travel comic Out Of Time appeared to us out of nowhere at the tail end of last year, but with it only being available at Thought Bubble we’ve not been able to shout about it – until now that is. With a digital (and upcoming print) release from the fine folk at Markosia bringing the world of Redmond, Lizzie, NC-1000 and co to the wider world, we caught up with Luke and Cuttlefish so we could reorder the time stream, discover more about this terrific time-travel tale, and generally make out like we knew how great it was all along!

Let’s start with the inspiration behind it all. It feels very much like a sit com rather than a comic, so how did the idea for the characters come together and why have them all working in a time travel company?

Luke James Halsall: It is a sitcom. That’s the perfect way to describe it. It is heavily influenced by things like Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Red Dwarf, Monty Python and all that kind of stuff. To be honest from my side of things the characters just kinda popped into my head. I remember (well this is how I think it happened  anyway) when I first came up with them. I was lying back listening to the third Hitchhiker’s audio play with my car Weetabix. And as the play continued Redmond suddenly appeared in my brain. Then all the test came out one by one. The time travel bit? Well it just seems to fit together doesn’t it? And I love the absurdity of Redmond’s hate for his work even more when you see the characters he works with. Annette’s design is all down to Cuttlefish. I think (again memory and all) I just said to him that it was a shape changing alien. He did the rest. And what a phenomenal job he did too. I love that every book Annette looks totally different and I never know what Cuttlefish will come up with next. 

Cuttlefish: I don’t really know, I wanted them to be recognisable to the reader and each humorous in their own rights. Also they had to be easy for me to draw. 

Did you deliberately set out to parody certain time travel conventions and cliches, or did they just develop and evolve as the story developed?

LJH: Yes! Very much so. But also geekdom. Like the obsession of dystopia. We didn’t always think the future would be like this? I love playing with these types of things. 

C: Not consciously, I just wanted to put in as many visual gags as I could. A lot did develop with the story. All time travel in fiction is bonkers and doesn’t really make much sense, so I thought that we should be equally bonkers.

Was it always important for you to make the book funny? (Rather than playing it straight and being a more serious sci-fi story?)

LJH: Do you know it wasn’t. Originally I had the germ of the idea-time travelling company that take you to a different time. And that was it. For some time it was kinda a gritty crime thing. But I never got any page of script written (maybe they should appear in another issue at some point!). It just didn’t fit that way. When Redmond and co popped into my head I realised that out of time should be a comedy. The rest is history. 

C: I can’t do serious, I’d like to try one in principle, but I know I’d mess it up, I can never resist squeezing in a gag.

Our favourite character is NC-1000 – but who is your favourite to write/draw? And are there any little touches or characters which you are particularly proud of?

LJH: Oh that’s a tough one. That’s like choosing one of my children. I genuinely love writing all their dialogue. My all time favourite though? Ohhh I think it is a toss up between Redmond and one of the newer characters Dave. Something about a frightened Yorkshire dinosaur entertains me. And Redmond’s tired, dejected look at this world I think brings some real fun elements to the book. 

C: Redmond was my favourite, he’s who I want to be when I grow up. I’m pleased that I made him bald, as being bald is amazing and I think bald people are under-represented in comics. I also like Ms Hinx from the start of issue 2. She encapsulates everything I love about work.

How did the pair of you meet? And how did you start putting together this comic?

LJH: Cuttlefish can correct me but I think that it was through a mutual friend called Gordon Robertson. I remember thinking of out of time and Cuttlefish was my number one choice. I think he suits the book perfectly and I love working with him. He adds so much to the script. I think we have a similar humour and it plays well when working together. 

C: We met through a mutual friend, Gordon who I worked with on Arse Cancer. Luke got in touch with a script and I liked it. 

Cuttlefish you have a really unique style which reminds us a bit of Tom Gauld, but also lots of old school golden age sci-fi – did you use a lot of source material for getting ideas for the technology and the worlds? Or just let your imagination run riot?

C: High praise, I’m a big fan of Tom Gauld, everything he does is brilliant and he always delivers great gags. I was going for a comics golden age look, I did use bits of source material, but only if it suited the story and was easy to draw. I do rely on my imagination a lot, and I’m always very lax in following scripts exactly. So I can add all sorts of things not mentioned in the scripts. This suits an undisciplined rogue like me.

The third issue, is actually issue #4 and plays with the ideas of time travel and alternate realties and even features yourselves in it as the characters look for the missing issue #3 – so what made you choose to create such a weird subject for a story – was it because you knew you could get away with it being a sci-fi comedy? Did you just want to have fun with the time travel conventions?

LJH: Lol. You know I dunno. I like weird as you can probably tell from Out Of Time in general. But I’m not sure where the idea came from. I know the man cave bit is real life. And normal numbering is boring isn’t it? Hey Marvel doesn’t follow the normal numbering conventions so why should we? 

C: Both, I like drawing sci-fi because you can do mostly whatever you want and create look and feel that is individual and makes sense with the story. The other good thing about time travel/teleportation stories is that you can set stories I a variety of different environments; ancient Egypt, alien wars, comic conventions etc. So you get a chance to draw a decent range of things.

The book has been picked up by Markosia and released by them digitally (and also in print?) so how did that happen and has that made your life a bit easier as you don’t have to worry about promoting it now? Where was it available before?

LJH: Markosia is a wonderful company to be working with. I’m very proud that it has been picked up. Me and Cuttlefish had been taking the book on the convention circuit. At Thought Bubble I got talking to Markosia and showed them the book. The rest is history. 

C: I shun must forms of human interaction, so Luke has done all the promotion. He did all the hard work, I just sit in my shed.

And finally what can we look forward to from you next? Will we get more Out Of Time or something completely different?

LJH: I would love to do more out of time and adore working with Cuttlefish. I enjoy these characters so much and new ideas always pop in my head for the gang. I’m working on a few projects at present. One is called Retconned. Stay tuned! 

C: I’m working on something at the moment, with a shadowy Northern comics writer. More details to follow soon…..

You can purchase all three issues of Out Of Time via ComiXology for just £2.99 from here.