Recently, I conducted an interview with comic writer and playwright, Sean Lewis and artist Hayden Sherman, the creators of the up-coming comic series, The Few. This dystopian tale from Image Comics looks to be an exciting series and it was a pleasure to find out more about it and its creators.
Word of the Nerd Interviews Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman of The Few Series from Image Comics
Thanks for allowing me to interview you. I’ve been an Image fan for a while now and it’s always cool to see the talent that comes through there. You two are obviously no exception to that. Let’s start off with what this series is about, because at first glance it seems a mix of family and survival.
SL: I was always interested in militias and survivalists. I knew I wanted to make a book about that. I’m also a New Yorker who has found himself deep in the midwest (Iowa) for the past few years and I began thinking about the level of animosity different parts of the country views each other. So, I just asked myself: what if a group got into power and decided it was more economically and socially sound for them to cut off states and people they saw as dead weight? What if a large swath of America became a badlands where cults and militias and survivalists lived with no set government regulating them? Who and what would emerge from that? In that mind set emerged Edan Hale, the book’s protagonist. She is a soldier from the government that still exists monitoring one of the cults in the badlands. When she witnesses a massacre she finds herself doing the one thing she was ordered not to- involve herself- running off with the child. As the cult she infiltrated pursue her she comes across two teen brothers, survivalists, living in the woods. They see this woman holding nothing but a baby in a gas mask and they are left with a choice: help or let her fend for herself.
As writer and artist, what inspirations did you draw on for this story?
SL: I spent a lot of time listening to punk rock (Black Flag) and alternative hip hop (Aesop Rock and El-P) and tried to let those songs inform the paramilitary state of the government. Both sets of artists have a real paranoia and bleak futuristic response to the world we live in. I went back and looked at books like WAR IS A FORCE THAT GIVES US MEANING which is a fascinating non fiction book about why we fight wars, why we want and need to dominate one another and also I re-read HANDMAID’S TALE just to look at a really philosophical take on the dystopian novel. I knew I wanted to make a world that felt realistic but removed- something we could see happening and believe in but that was still far enough in the future that we wanted to understand its intricacies.
HS: For my part a fair amount of inspiration came from places like Mad Max, Grendel: War Child, and Batman: Year 100 to name a few. All of those stories take a vaguely familiar world and then tilt it just enough to become something new. That’s something that I find very compelling and felt right at home in The Few, that the world these characters live in would be nearly recognizable as our own, only with certain parts enhanced or else altogether forgotten. In the same way, I don’t really distinguish the events in this book as happening in a set year or era even, it’s all just some point in the future, perhaps sooner perhaps later, but by not tying myself to a set date I become free to try out different things and perhaps even mix eras without seemingly breaking continuity.
How did you two get partnered up on this project? Did either of you know the other’s work beforehand?
SL: I found Hayden’s portfolio online and immediately his line work was so unique I wanted to find a project to do together. I had been working on a few ideas and THE FEW seemed to fit the best with the art he was already creating. So I sent him a cold email with the idea of the book and the fact that I had creepily stalked his material online and asked him if he wanted to try making a book together. He said yes. And it’s been a really easy relationship since.
HS: Exactly what Sean said, I got an email out of the blue where he gave me the pitch, and after a quick look at his previous book Saints I was in! The opportunity to create a comic about militias and survivalists, and trust that it would be a compelling read in Sean’s hands, it was very easy to say yes to.
What made this story something to put on the page?
SL: I think more than ever divisiveness has become our culture. We readily join and root for teams- political or otherwise- and we very easily demonize and dehumanize people who don’t agree with us. I see it on my own social media, everyday. My relatives or co-workers post political missives and declare that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is either stupid or evil or racist or whatever. And it doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum they fall, each side does it. But where does that anger and division lead? When you no longer what to listen to anyone who disagrees with you what world do you have? I find it really scary. So I wrote the world that happens AFTER that. After we’ve decided that some people aren’t worth living with what do we have? And… on a strictly aesthetic level Hayden’s work is so insanely good it has to be seen. I mean, someone had to write a book for what he can do shine.
HS: On one hand, this is a very classic dystopian sort of tale, while on the other this is a very relevant discussion of perspective. One that seems to only become more relevant each day. The ability to tell this story, and center it around a diverse cast where each individual’s motivations a presented thoughtfully, is incredible. Sean’s handling of these topics is superb, from the first script drafts it was clear that this story ought to be told, so for me I just had to know I could support that theme visually. Once the world was defined and the characters designed it only made sense to put the story out into the world.
This seems like a team effort, did you work together to get the look and feel of the characters or setting?
SL: For sure, we sent work back and forth. I wrote detailed short stories with heavy description of the world and the characters. Then we would talk about each individual character and Hayden would send along drafts of the designs as they progressed. I think one of the joys of creator owned work is you’re doing it together from the ground up, so you’re both invested.
HS: Absolutely, from the beginning it was a back and forth conversation trading ideas and images, we’d talk for a bit, I’d send over some sketches, talk more, more sketches, and just build this world from the ground. It’s the first real collaboration I’ve had in a project of this scale and the results are great fun, what we’ve created together feels like a world in its own now.
Sean, how does your sensibility as a playwright affect your writing of comics?
SL: I think it makes me very comfortable with dialogue and world building. I also trust the reader a lot- because the art is so concise I want to let it tell a lot of the story. I want you to experience it as Edan does, in real time- like theater. Theater is a “real time” medium, meaning what is occurring tot he characters is happening within the set period of time you sit there (as opposed to a movie which can jump back and forth in time). I think that makes me think about immediacy and dramatic tension a lot more.
Hayden, how did you find your distinctive style?
HS: The style I work in for The Few comes very much out of my own philosophy/temperament as a creator and then a certain set of rules I put down for myself to guide my way through this book. Each comic I work on I want to have, on some level, a distinct feel for itself. In the case of The Few I read Sean’s script for the series and it was immediately clear to me just how bleak and harrowing this world is. Every character in this world is focused on making it to the next day, they hope for the best, but ultimately their sights are set on staying alive. That was something I really wanted to come out in the artwork, so I reduced the page size from what I usually draw at and timed myself on each page so that a pencilled and inked page should be done somewhere within four hours. It was a bizarre sort of way to work at first, but it’s come to define The Few for me, everything is about constantly moving, staying in the moment, the art is then a natural extension of that.
Is there anything else we need to know about the series?
SL: If you love Mad Max and Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD this is probably gonna make you very happy.
The Few from Image Comics goes on sale in print and digital formats on January 18th, 2017.
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