Following up one of my favorite series of last year, Sean Lewis is set to launch his new Image series “The Few” with artist Hayden Sherman this January 18th. The story is set to follow “two survivalist brothers stumble across an unlikely sight: a woman asleep in the woods holding nothing but a gun and a baby wearing a gas mask.” Readers will get a look at what Sean and Hayden’s America has to offer as the group’s journey takes them across it. Both Hayden and Sean bring their unique style to this new limited maxi series.
In anticipation for this new series I was able to talk briefly to Sean and Hayden about the series, the world of “The Few,” and their work as a creative team. A thanks to both creators and you can find the interview with the guys below. Be sure to pick up Sean and Hayden’s “The Few” in stores and online this December.
What gave birth to the concept of “The Few” and how did you get to this first issue?
Sean Lewis: It started with an image i had in my head of a woman running through the woods holding a baby that was wearing a gas mask. I got really obsessed with this… where were these people? Who were they running from? Why is the baby in a gas mask?
As I asked myself more and more questions like this, the world started to come together. I knew the woman was my main character. I knew the gas mask meant the air quality was shit. I knew that they were in Montana and that they were being chased by a large group. A dangerous a group.
Once I had the story I wrote up a short story of the first issue and started looking for artists. I stumbled onto Hayden’s work online and was immediately struck by the energy and feel of his line work. I dove in and was like I need to get this guy on this book. So I internet stalked him and sent a cold email. Luckily he did not think I was a lunatic. Or he did, and decided to work with me anyway.
Hence issue #1.
Hayden Sherman: It was definitely a welcome surprise, getting his email out of nowhere! From when Sean first laid out the concept for me and then I saw his previous work I knew I wanted to work with him. So right from the beginning I started sending him sketches of what I was thinking, and from there we just started building this world up, trading ideas back and forth until we felt ready to jump into issue #1.
What is the world of “The Few” like?
SL: Welcome to an America that has broken apart! The HAVE’S have decided to stop carrying the HAVE NOT’S and have literally cut the country up. The Coasts are Palace controlled and the South and Midwest have become BADLANDS- locales with no infrastructure or government. What has popped up in these abandoned areas are hordes of cults, gangs, militias… all singular little cells trying to survive and grow to prominence in the veritable wasteland.
There is also a resistance movement in this are gaining traction: a group of people who remember what America was like when it was the “UNITED States.” United being key, who are trying to consolidate all these disparate groups into an army to fight back against the Palace. Currently, they behave like terrorists with bombings and isolated attacks but their plans are much bigger.
We have seen a few dystopian survival style comics in recent years, even at Image. What sets this series apart from other dystopian stories and what have you guys brought to the genre?
SL: I think even more than we planned the book has become incredibly relevant in the past few months. We are seeing divisiveness rise on a daily basis. The fact it focuses on America I think makes the conversation really interesting.
Also, not to brag too much, our weapons and technology are fucking awesome. We have smart bombs in this book that I think are the coolest things ever. And more than anything, I think the writing takes interesting twists in that the characters have to face questions constantly on if what they are doing is right… the Palace may be awful but is being a terrorist better? If the world goes crazy when is it okay to fight and kill without question? The characters feel very real because their consequences are.Continued below
HS: Funny enough, I think what sets this apart most is that you could take out the “dystopian” part and the story would still be interesting. At its core our book focuses on very relevant topics and issues of perspective, how one person’s terrorist can be another person’s hero. Then by setting it in a dystopian world we open ourselves up to being able to play with those themes on a much broader scale, where the actions taken by either side are realized in grand conflicts, massive spaces, and bizarre costumes.
I really like the look and feel of the characters and settings we see in the first issue. Was there an inspiration for the design of the world/characters or a specific look you wanted to achieve?
HS: There were a lot of inspirations going into this, starting with Mad Max, but then spiraling out to other works like Batman: Year 100, Grendel: War Child, and even Alien. All of those stories have a very well realized sense of place in their worlds, with specific details that make the whole feel believable. Then, on top of that, something all of those stories do well is taking a world that feels relatively familiar, and then flipping it on its side, or tilting it just enough to be something altogether different. That was something I felt “The Few” needed from the beginning. With so much of the book taking place in left behind parts of America it becomes very interesting to show typically normal things, and then tilt them just enough to become something strange. After a point it begins to feel like you’re not in America at all, until you come to a small abandoned town and remember where this all takes place and how strange it is that things got this way. More than anything then, that was what impacted the design of the world, that it would look sort of like these people from America’s future took our reality and tilted it just enough to suit themselves.
One of the very first things you notice about the book is the very distinct art style, color palette and aesthetic for the book. What was the team’s approach for the book?
HS: My approach for the book was to look at what’s important to the characters of our story, and use the art as a means of communicating both their desires and the story together. What it came down to was that the characters in this book are focused on the moment, moving from one place to the next, and making certain they’re alive when they get there. To try and get close to that feeling I went ahead and set a time limit for each page to be penciled and inked within, about 4 hours per page, so that in making the book I have to keep myself in that same head space. Keep moving, make the next panel, keep going, tell the story. To me, this lends the story an air of speed and focus, something very important to these characters.
From there I chose to use a limited palette as a window into our main character’s head. Every place that Hale goes she has a response to, some sort of feeling about the place that drives home who she is. The palette then can communicate to the reader what that feeling might be, acting on another level of storytelling on top of the text and images. When Hale is in the forest the palette will go one way, then when she thinks back to the city she came from the palette may be shifting as Hale tries to figure out how she feels about that space. Overall I want the art to play an active roll throughout the book to bring us all that much closer to the characters.
Readers are dropped right into the world and story of the protagonists of The Few. Was there difficulty in creating the narrative you wanted for this issue while managing what you were willing to give readers in the way of exposition and backstory?
SL: I trust readers a lot. I agree that back story is important and necessary. But my biggest interest is always in character. As you said we are in one of many dystopian books. Audiences understand how these books work really well- totalitarian governments are fighting rebels and the why is usually pretty obvious. So for me the plot was less essential which allowed me to go deeper into the characters. We see them making decisions, sacrificing, fighting, threatening, before we even know fully who they are and we start to learn about them through their decisions. And so as the characters ahve to decide if they trust each other, we have to ask ourselves the same questions.Continued below
That’s what is exciting for me, be in congress with the character and discovering the story with them. I want to experience a story more than I want to be told it.
What has the creative process been like between you guys as writer and artist and what do you feel each other brings to the book?
SL: Hayden’s art is just amazing. I mean I knew that the first moment I saw it and his visual design for the different worlds and locales is just stunning. It gives a scope the writing alone cannot achieve.
Our work flow has been really great and easy. We talk by email before each issue and discuss world design and characters. On my end I wrote the six issue arc as one big piece of fiction and have since distilled into scripts/short stories that I sent to Hayden. Then he does the layouts and once they are finished I add the final spoken text.
HS: Sean is an incredible writer, he handles characters and story in a way that I can’t even touch, so getting to work from his scripts is pure fun. The icing on the cake then is that he sends the issue scripts to me without any page numbers or panel distinctions, so I’m free to tell the story as I feel it’s asking to be told. Then, when I send him the pages for him to redraft if he chooses, I can be confident all the while that we’re going to get a solid final product. It’s excellent working with someone you know you can trust.
What is the most important thing you want readers to get out of your work on the first issue?
SL: You are in for a ride. You are basically learning things at the same speed Hale is in. We use the covers for each issue to give clues to how the world became the way it was but really the book is meant in this six issue arc to grow and build issue by issue. I think with comic books i am interested in making deeper stories and really looking at the form and how to take the reader on a fulfilling and exciting journey and also make them active within it, not spoon feeding everything. When I look at the work I am obsessed with right now (MR. ROBOT; Station 11; Watchman) I really love how much I don’t know and the patience the book demands of me while still remaining entertaining. The ride is very fun int he FEW. The payoff is better.
HS: For my part, the most important thing is that the reader gets wrapped up and taken along on the ride. This book has really been designed to bring the readers close to that feeling of surviving and always moving forward, while still giving an intimate connection to our main cast. Hopefully anyone reading it will just be swept into the world of “The Few.”