A Chat with Tom Bilyeu

Story by Savannah Ho

Thousands of nerds and geeks alike gathered at the Los Angeles Convention Center to attend LA Comic Con, a celebration of superheroes, super villains, and their imaginative creators.  This year’s show was jam-packed with panels hosted by a plethora of superstars within the comic books industry.

Impact Theory, a new start-up company, was also present at the convention, bringing attention to their latest project: Neon Future.  This new comic series is the brainchild of popular EDM artist Steve Aoki and produced by Impact Theory.  I got an exclusive interview with Impact Theory’s founder, Tom Bilyeu, where we discussed elements of Neon Future.

DIG: Was it always known at the beginning of the series that Steve Aoki would be inserted in the comic series as a character, and how similar is the character Kita Sovee to Steve Aoki?

Tom Bilyeu: Yes, in fact, Kita Sovee is an anagram for Steve Aoki that Steve came up with when he was 14.  The way Kita is techno-optimistic is very much aligned with how Steve feels about the future of mankind with technology and how he believes the advancement of tech is only going to be beneficial for us.  Despite looking like Steve, Kita is heavily modeled after Nelson Mandela and his ideals about solving problems through peaceful means.

Picture from Impact Theory Comics

Picture from Impact Theory Comics

DIG: Kita Sovee is seen on the cover and in the series always wearing the same necklace in the shape of some symbol.  What does this symbol mean?

Tom: Now that’s the trifold yin yang.  It represents the three parts of humanity: the past, present, and what’s possible.  The series focuses on ideals that offer not just black and white options, and this is one of them.  Clay, the main character, is forced to choose how he wants to live his life now that Kita has changed him into what he’s hated all his life, someone fused with technology.

DIG: Also seen on the cover is a billboard in the background with binary code on it that translates to “HOPE.” Whose clever idea was that?

Tom: Now that little Easter egg was my idea.  I thought it’d be cool to insert some technology jokes and elements into the cover since Neon Future is all about those.

DIG: Speaking of technology, security cameras are prevalent in the illustrations of the series.  Is that alluding to the “Big Brother” theme made famous by George Orwell’s dystopian book 1984?

Tom: Yes and no.  We wanted to illustrate the idea that Kita is always being watched and hunted and we decided that security cameras were a good manifestation of that.  The U.S. government is authoritarian in the series, but the focus isn’t so much on that as it on how humans will deal with technology becoming so advanced.  There are two sides to how the general public addresses this: adapting or rebelling.

DIG: Going off that idea of two sides, could you explain the story behind the blade and the butterfly logo that shows up quite often in the series?

Tom: Yeah! So, in the series, Kita presents the main character Clay the choice between the butterfly and the blade, and essentially that’s a representation of how we go through life. Do we choose the blade, the way of violence and fighting for what we want, or do we choose the butterfly, the way of adapting and taking what’s given to us and using that to evolve into a better version of ourselves?

Talk about food for thought!  After our little chat, I left the Impact Theory booth wondering about what Tom said last.  There are tons of Tumblr posts that are reposted saying that you should fight for what you love.  At the same time, there are just as many posts saying you should take what life throws at you in stride.  In any case, I believe there’s something for everyone in the Neon Future comic series.  Which would you choose, the butterfly or the blade?

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