CHRIS DINGESS: When this arc begins, Lewis, Clark, and crew have formed a bond and become a hardened unit due to the brutality of their previous adventures, including the brutal massacre of the Fezron. The men are trench brothers now.
This is in contrast to the previous expedition of Flewelling and Helm, who went into their mission blind to the horrors waiting for them in the wilderness. They play a large part of this arc and we'll see how they influence Lewis and Clark.
IC: MANIFEST DESTINY has dipped into comedy, adventure, and with the vameter, horror, too. What kind of approach does this new arc take?
DINGESS: There's a lot of adventure and survival horror in this batch of issues, and maybe even a little psychedelic horror thanks to Matt, Tony, Stefano, and Owen. Is that even a thing? Psychedelic Horror?
IC: Matthew, there's definitely some pressure in stories like these to aim for complete historical accuracy. How do you approach designing the characters and world of MANIFEST DESTINY? What's the most important part of your job to you?
MATTHEW ROBERTS: The designs for the book are influenced by a number of things. The obvious things like ships, uniforms, weapons, and buffalo guts involve a lot of research up front. After I get the basics down, it all devolves slightly into my own shorthand version of everything so I can remember most things without continuously looking at reference pictures. A lot of stuff I just imagine what could happen given the resources at the time—so I come up with ugly things like Charbonneau's pointy hat.
The monsters always start with Chris. He's usually pretty specific with what he wants. I take that description and go off on my own tangents. As far as what's the most important part of my job? Telling the story, I guess. Chris is telling a fairly high adventure story but also commenting on some troubled parts of our history. I try to make sure I follow his lead and get the tone of each scene correct. I have to keep myself in check sometimes with the scenes that show our ugly side. I tend to indulge my inner angsty high school poet and sometimes put too fine a point on it. I usually catch myself, and it's mostly me using my own visual metaphors so the readers may not catch it, but Chris has a good balance and I need to make sure I don't tip it because I want to get all Banksy with stuff.
IC: The flashbacks in volume three are interesting, the way you show Collins's history with muted colors balanced with bright reds. Where'd this approach come from?
ROBERTS: Owen Gieni. Owen Gieni is brilliant.
DINGESS: Yeah, Owen's done a brilliant job of establishing time, space, and mood with his colors.
IC: On a similar note, how do you two approach the visual storytelling? Chris, are you suggesting shots and angles?
ROBERTS: Chris is fairly detailed about camera placement. I'll change it occasionally if I think it helps the flow, or page balance, or I need room for lettering or I exercise artistic license to avoid drawing "...and the rest of the crew" again. Hah—honestly most things are how Chris has set them up. After the script I tend to go right to the final page. I do my version of a layout in blue pencil. It's a big scribbly mess while I find my throughline. Usually something will pop out for me to focus on for any given page—whether it's just guiding the eye, making the composition focus around a particular panel, or just pushing as much as I can to the sides so I have room to draw mushrooms in the eye sockets of a deer zombie.
DINGESS: What Matt said! I'll lay out what's in my head and I usually approach it like I would a teleplay and call out shots. Then sometimes I'll add a note: "If that looks good to you or makes sense to you, Matt." I know he has got a great sense of layouts and storytelling, and I lean on that. When Matt changes things, I'll look at it and think, "Oh yeah, this makes sense."
IC: Tell me a little about the cover design for this arc. Who came up with the "big foot" idea?
ROBERTS: I came up with the cover for 19. Once I knew we weren't hiding the monster I figured, "Just go for it." A "big foot" seemed the most obvious form of a billboard I could do. Apparently Mr. Robert Kirkman agreed and suggested I use that design for the whole arc. I wasn't down for that at all but I trust Robert's judgment and once I got into it I was glad we went that way. I work well with limitations most times, and I've ended up with some of my favorite covers so far.
DINGESS: I love the covers for this arc. That's all I can say. I look at each one the guys put out and I'm left slack jawed by how cool they are...
Huh...this interview has really turned into a butt kissing parade, hasn't it?!
IC: Finally, MANIFEST DESTINY is full of monsters. You two started with some familiar faces, branched out into some seriously strange fare, and now you've looped back around to a classic. Any favorites so far, or something you want to tease for the readers?
DINGESS: I still love those damned Buffalotaur...the plant infested deer was badass too. And the ones from this arc..they have a lot going on.
ROBERTS: The frog and the Vameter were tons of fun. No one's seen my favorite yet.
DINGESS: Have I even seen it yet?! If not, gimme a peek!