On January 18th, Image Comics will release The Few, a story about two survavlist brothers in the dystopian future, by writer Sean Lewis and artist Hayden Sherman. We spoke to them both about the new original series, thoughts on the comic book industry, and more!
AiPT!: How did you two connect and decide on this project as the one you’d work on?
Sean Lewis: I literally tracked Hayden down online (post your stuff online artists!). I was really drawn to his style and I had a few comic ideas floating around in my head. The Few being a major one- once I saw his line work I immediately reached out and sent him what I had. It’s been a pretty smooth ride since.
Hayden Sherman: From where I was sitting, I’d just flown back into Providence and was unpacking when an email from Sean popped up. In it he described militias, survivalists, and a grim tone that really got me going, didn’t hurt that the subject line read “Image Comics’ Saints”! From there we just started trading ideas back and forth, talk about the world and the characters, and I’d be sending him sketches of how things could look until we felt like we really had something.
AiPT!: Since this book is about survivalists, how much research did you have to do to prepare? Also, have either of you read the book The Dog Stars?
Lewis: I have not read the book but I have always been fascinated by sub cultures. I have a nephew who was a fire jumper and then lived for awhile in Montana and Oregon- going from woodland to woodland. He’s super fascinating and his ability to “take care of himself” is dumbfounding to me. If the apocalypse comes I’m going to his house.
I had seen some documentaries and read other articles and books on the subject before hand- some on survivalists and others on militias. Life After People and I Shouldn’t Be Alive are really interesting. The books Gathering Storm and Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias are interesting as well. Oh and Chris Hedges’ War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Amazing book.
Sherman: I believe that’s the first I’ve heard of The Dog Stars, looks like it’s worth a read though. Strangely, I don’t think I did quite as much specific research in designing the survivalists in this book, since they felt so far off in the future to me. At the same time, they’re very consciously inspired by other roaming/surviving characters throughout fiction. The best example that comes to mind being Grendel Prime from Matt Wagner’s Grendel: War Child. Just the idea of a character who on occasion really gets his ass handed to him, but he still gets up and still keeps going. Those are the sort of characters we see in The Few, they’re not unfamiliar with terrible things happening to them, but they’re also not going to let that stop them from moving. That defines their design more than anything.
AiPT!: Sean, I’m sorry if you get this a lot but I’m curious, how is the world of playwriting and comics similar and different?
Lewis: Ha! No worries, it’s a good question. Playwriting has a lot more collaborators, so it can move a little slower in coming to a finished product. Usually, it takes about 2-3 years for a play to go from conception to production. Comics have moved a lot faster.
I think playwriting has taught me a lot about world building, dialogue and dramatic tension. Comics have taught me a lot about the visual storytelling and economy. You only have so many panels and so much space to tell the story. So I like to work with the artists a lot on the visual story, really getting us on the same page so that can tell so much of what’s going on. Hayden’s done an incredible job with that.
Also, with comics I have no concern for budget or scale. Plays often confine you to limited locations and number of actors because of economics. Whereas with a comic I can write Hayden and say- “yeah the missile explodes in the middle of the city.” And we can do that and do it well.
I love theater and will always do it but I can’t lie comics may be the most fun I’ve had as a writer.
AiPT!: Hayden, what sort of materials do you use when you work? Your style is so unique!
Sherman: Thank you! When I’m inking I go between pretty much whatever’s on my desk and feels to fit the job. That ends up being things like: Pen nib, calligraphy pen, brush, white gel pen, Pentel brush pen, black Copic markers, white gouache, and the like. After that I’m coloring on Photoshop, so I try to mainly use brushes I make there.
AiPT!: Let’s say a The Few movie is in the works. Who is your dream director for the project?
Lewis: Oh man. I think Bong Joon-ho, who did Snowpiercer, would be amazing. I also love Jeremy Saulnier who did Green Room and Blue Ruin. I think that dude could maybe be a sneaky good sci-fi director.
Sherman: Ah, Rian Johnson comes to mind right off the bat, I loved his character work and how he set up the world in Looper. I’ve gotta second the vote for Bong Hoon-Jo though, Snowpiercer was excellent, and from a comic no less!
AiPT!: Your book was compared to Mad Max in the description, does that mean we’re in for some vehicular mashup madness?
Lewis: Less vehicle more desolation. I think what I love about those movies is how George Miller turns the emptiness of Australia into a character. Just sand and open fields, no one around, endless expanse… there is something beautiful and haunting in that. Our American settings do the same thing- a character that is both dangerous and foreboding but also stunning.
And I like to think Hale and Charlize could live in the same pantheon of bad ass women.
Sherman: Probably less vehicles on four wheels, and more on just two haha. We’ve got roving troops on motorcycle who canvas the wilderness and cause some trouble, but Sean put it just right, that feeling of space is what makes it most similar I feel. There’s something about a familiar landscape being turned unfamiliar that becomes haunting, those are the sort of forests and towns we get to see in the book.
AiPT!: From the preview pages I’ve seen it looks like color will be used minimally. Would it be accurate to say you’re using color in a symbolic way, or a way to highlight specific elements?
Sherman: Right on the money. The color palettes throughout the book serve to play to Hale’s feelings about her environment. Some of those palettes will stay the same per environment, such as the woods being some variation of muted green, but places like the city she came from may have palettes that shift more as we see them since she’s still figuring out what she thinks there.
The red that cuts through the entire book then is used throughout to tie all of these different, often opposing, characters together. In the end, they’re not all that separate from each other.
AiPT!: What do you wish someone had told you about the comic business when you first started?
Lewis: I am still learning. This is only my second book and I’ve been insanely lucky that both (this and Saints) have been at Image. They’ve been utterly amazing to create work with.
I’d say what has worked is just writing stories I’d want to read. And finding artists I think I’d love to work with.
Sherman: Most likely that it comes in many forms. For a while before starting on The Few I would write and illustrate my own stories, just getting in the practice, figuring out how to make a page, and so forth. Then, since working on The Few, I’ve taken on projects with several other comics companies and it’s fascinating seeing the variety in ways a comic can be made.
Some companies have had me working with licensed characters but give me incredible amounts of creative freedom. Some companies wanted to be kept up to date in each step of the process. And then working with Sean, it’s just wide open. Whereas for one company I’d be given a script that’s a set pages long and has to fit in that way, here Sean hands me a script that’s about seven pages and gives me the rundown of the issue, and then I’m off to interpret that. So the creative freedom is wild, I can add in a six page opener to warm the reader into the issue and still have forty-some pages to use to tell the story!
All that being said, I still write my own stories and turn them into things, it’s just fun to make. So the comics business comes in many forms, all great, all valid, but definitely distinct.
AiPT!: What’s your favorite method of procrastination?
Lewis: Lately, Black Mirror. Though I might be prone to playing John Madden Football circa 2007 (I like to be Jake Plummer).
Sherman: Stranger Things, I’m way behind. But I’ve barely got an episode left so thankfully I was just given seasons one and two of The Flash to watch, I’m catching up!
AiPT!: In the perfect world how long would the series run or do you have a set number of issues to end the series on?
Sherman: Can’t speak for Sean on this one, but I could see it going one of a couple ways. I feel that this story as it stands is concise enough in itself to be just itself. However, it also lays out the groundwork for what could be some very compelling follow ups. If people respond well to this volume I’d be delighted to continue it, that’s probably my perfect world scenario. No idea how long, just more.
Lewis: I agree with Hayden. The book was designed to stand alone at the six issues and be a full story. But it’s been a fun and easy process. Hayden’s art and my words definitely mesh really well. I’m really in love with his art. If people wanted more I’d be down. Either way I’ll hassle Hayden to do another book.
And I like working this way- there’s so much product- that concentrating on these issues makes me really proud of what we’re putting out there. I think I’d love to keep doing this book and others in this way. Continued mini series’ for as long as the story feels exciting and fresh.