Welcome to God Country [Interview]

IMAGE COMICS: "God Country" is a phrase with a lot of history and weight behind it. What significance does it have in this story?

DONNY CATES: The phrase is often used in regards to religious areas or in relation to the Bible Belt. I like to think of our title in the same way that someone would talk about an area prone to wolf attacks—"be careful out there, that's Wolf Country." In that way, the title is more of a threat than anything else. The "god" in question isn't necessarily one you've ever heard of, and it's damn sure not one you'd want to cross.

The title also conjures images of high plains and simple country folks just trying to get by. And our story, above all else, is of a small family dealing with forces beyond their control. Acts of god, if you will...

IC: Why Texas?

CATES: Almost all of my prior work takes place in Texas, or at least had a connection to it. It's my home, and I find it endlessly fascinating. I've always nodded to it in subtle ways, but for this project I really wanted to feature Texas as more than a location—more of a character unto itself.

It was actually a visit out to Marathon, Texas, that inspired the location for this story. As I drove into the area, I was awestruck at how wild and ancient it all seems. West Texas has this air that feels both peaceful but incredibly ominous and dangerous at the same time. It's a part of this country that has never been tamed or conquered.

As I watched a storm roll in one night I imagined the high plains and distant hills as a battleground for ancient and powerful gods. I knew then that this story had to take place in West Texas.

IC: What is going on with the Quinlan family before the story gets revved up?

CATES: Well, they're falling apart. Now that his wife has passed, Emmett Quinlan is the only living connection to the family's past. Suffering mightily from Alzheimer's, he's become a very dangerous and angry man. His son, Roy, is having a difficult time caring for him. Roy is stuck in a very hard situation. His father needs him to care for him, but Roy's wife and young daughter need him too. Janey needs her husband. Deena needs her father.

Roy is stuck in this place where he has to be all of these things at once. He's caught between being a son, a father, and a husband. A great deal of this book is about legacies, about what you give to your family, and ultimately learning how to let go.

And then yeah, a giant magical tornado touches down, and things get a mite bit more complicated...

IC: Geoff, what's your approach to depicting West Texas and the supernatural without throwing the reader off?

GEOFF SHAW: Donny and I took a kind of creative retreat to a tiny little town in deep West Texas called Marathon, and it really inspired us both. While the town itself was super small, the surrounding landscape was mostly untouched and frickin huge!

After climbing a pretty hefty hill (both panting), we looked out over a basin and just took in the immense space. It felt too big for people, but just the right size for gods. To that end, we decided to go predominantly wide-panel and really showcase that scale.

Texas is a primary character for this story—in particular, the Quinlan estate. It's filled with sagebrush, cacti, dust, and history. It's a place you would believe a family has lived for generations, old and textured. On our trip I took loads of photos to make sure this place we were depicting felt authentic. We really wanted the supernatural elements to at once feel totally out of place, and oddly right at home.

IC: Jason, GOD COUNTRY features the dry climes of West Texas, supernatural beings, and deep human drama. How long did it take you to figure out how you wanted to approach Geoff's line art? What are you doing to enhance the storytelling?

JASON WORDIE: As soon as I saw the first of Geoff's pages I had a pretty good idea of the direction I wanted to take. There's a nice grittiness to his inks that I wanted to match, so I used a lot of watercolor textures, splatter brushes, and so forth. I wanted the rendering to be gritty, but it was also important that the colors didn't get too muddy or diluted. The muted colors of the Texas setting allowed for some fun contrast with the brighter supernatural colors.

IC: John, can you talk us through designing the logo? What kind of mood are you going for?

JOHN J. HILL: When we started discussing the branding for the book, the idea was to keep to the general feel of big and bold. Donny really stresses wanting things to be "TEXAS BIG!" in GOD COUNTRY, so that was the goal. You'll especially see this with the cover to #2, which is so big it had to be done in landscape, so you'll be turning the book sideways to get the full cinematic image.

Going really large means keeping it simple so the art doesn't get completely annihilated by too much detail in a logo. And the addition of the Texas star gives it that extra little bit of character. While there were a couple of other ideas being thrown around, the general design of the characters stayed the same for the most part. The layouts were really different, but in the end this worked the best.

IC: In this series, a tornado brings the divine right to the heart of the mundane. Where do we go from here? Are you going to keep a balance of the two, or push our normal characters deep into divine conflict?

CATES: This is a story about the Quinlan family first and foremost. The Quinlans are just simple people trying to get by and they could honestly care less for the schemes and machinations of higher beings. I think that balance between the high and the low, the celestial and the country, is what makes the book special.

These immense beings coming down to earth, proclaiming their lineage and how powerful they are—only to be confronted with the Quinlans, telling them to get off their land because it's private property. That kind of thing is so fun for me.

To put it succinctly, these gods mess with Texas. And, well...we're not overly fond of that kind of thing 'round these parts.

GOD COUNTRY #1 is available for preorder now, and releases 1/11.