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Peering into ‘The Dead Hand’ with Image Comics series writer Kyle Higgins

The excellent spy series is out this week.

One of the great joys in reading comic books is knowing you’re getting a cinematic experience where the creators can do whatever they want. It’s a testing ground for what could potentially be a fantastic movie, but in a way moving pictures may never top what can be done in a comic book.

Kyle Higgins knows a lot about this I’m sure, since he’s also working in Hollywood making movies. He’s worked with multiple publishers at this point on big properties like Power Rangers, but also smaller stories like The Dead Hand. This new spy drama was one of my favorite series in the last year, pushing the genre in new ways. Out in comic shops this week and in bookstores next week, it’s the kind of narrative that’d be a great miniseries and it’s one I just had to talk about with the series writer. His collaboration with Stephen Mooney (a favorite of mine who did great work on Half Past Danger) was magic on this series steeped in Russian spy shenanigans.

AiPT!: The Dead Hand is based on an actual Russian autonomous system in 1993. How long has this story been percolating for you?

Kyle Higgins: A while, actually. The premise of the doomsday weapon– which I first read about several years ago– has been in the back of my mind for a while. One of those “well, that would be cool to use one of these days…” But it wasn’t until Stephen and I started chatting about doing a series together, and went through some of our shared interests and influences, that I dusted it off and started looking for ways to build a world and a story to utilize it. Sometimes an approach like that works, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, Perimeter and The Dead Hand fit in quite well with the other things we were interested in and wanted to explore.

Image Comics

AiPT!: I love how cinematic this series feels. Do you approach this like you would a film project, or does it being a comic change your process?

KH: I mean, I only really know how to write the way that I write, if that makes sense? I do have a screenwriting background, so most of my comics tend to come from a “cinematic” standpoint. That’s just the way I’m wired. That said, I’ve been writing comics full time for quite a few years now– they’re very different mediums, and I’m a huge proponent of utilizing the medium you’re working in, to its fullest advantage. Page turn reveals, cliffhangers, even things gags that utilize sound in unique ways… there are a ton of things that you can ONLY do in a comic book.

AiPT!: This book seems well-timed given the political climate. Has that changed the story as new news comes out?

KH: Not really, to be honest. Stephen and I have been working on it for over two years now. And, two years ago, the world was a very different place.

AiPT!: Mooney’s double-page montage style layouts are gorgeous. What is the creative process like rendering those?

KH: Those are a blast. Actually, after the first one, we did in issue one, we decided to do them in every issue. I would give Stephen some specific notes about who each character was, and then he laid out the montage. I would script voice over once the art was done. It’s a fun, somewhat backward way of working. But I quite enjoy finding ways to stitch things together, thematically.

Image Comics

AiPT!: There are a lot of fresh ideas in this series. How likely is it that we get a sequel or prequel?

KH: Absolutely. I mean, we’d really like to. Unfortunately, it’s going to be “sales depending.” So, please pick up the trade paperback!

AiPT!: The final page twists are excellent and there seems to be an art to it. Do you approach each issue with the twist cliffhanger in mind or does it come as you write the narrative?

KH: I tend to structure for end-of-issue twists. I mean, this is monthly comics, right? That said, sometimes I don’t quite “find” the final button until I’m actually working on the script.

You can purchase The Dead Hand today.


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