Surviving The Spread With Jordan & Hickman [Interview]
January 14, 2016
IMAGE COMICS: SPREAD is oriented toward action/horror, and this issue in particular is focused around tragedy and trauma. How do you approach creating something like this? Where's the line between (for lack of a better comparison) respectful and sensational? Do you find yourself trying to predict reader reactions?
JUSTIN JORDAN: The intent, certainly, is not to be titilating or exploitative. But it's tricky, or was for me, to know where that line was. I think I'm on the non-sensational side of it, but I ultimately don't know. Molly is an interesting character and knowing the circumstances that went into her becoming who she is are worth knowing, but then, I wrote it, so I would think that.
I hope I succeeded, but I don't know.
But I know I can't really predict reader reactions, so we'll see.
JEN HICKMAN: For me the touchstone is, "Can I get the reader to feel what the character is feeling? Can I get them into the same headspace as whoever's story is being told?" In this issue, accomplishing that was a larger challenge than in other projects. Because yeah, the focus is on trauma and tragedy, of a sort that is heavy with the kind of gendered violence and power imbalance that we see and don't address on many different levels in our current Spread-free world. Every reader is going to bring something to this issue. It's maybe a dingier and more depressing horror than we're used to from the series. I don't think the story will sit well with readers, and from my point of view, that's a welcome reaction. Visually, at least, it's what I was going for.
IC: Justin, what made Jen the right person for this tale? Jen, what drew you to this series?
JH: At first I really enjoyed SPREAD because the monsters were gross and cool and the world was intriguing. But the more I read the more I grew attached to its themes. I love the way the kindnesses characters show each other shine brighter in the face of their brutal hellish everyday existence. I love that even though there's a big scary monster at humanity's throat, we're still just as dark a terror as it is. And I love the wacky, often macabre humor that pops up now and then! There's so much good stuff going on in SPREAD. I was incredibly excited to be asked to do an issue for it.
JJ: She's got a very different style than Kyle Strahm, a...prettier, more animated style. Which was exactly what I wanted for Molly's story, as a contrast to how the book usually looks. Plus, I knew Jen had the storytelling chops to do the story justice.
IC: Unless I miss my guess, you mainly color your own work, is that right? What was it like working with Felipe Sobreiro on this story? Did you have to do much work to make sure your style fit the established tone of SPREAD, or did you just trust Felipe to hold things together?
JH: Felipe's colors are AWESOME. This was actually the first time someone else colored my work and it was just the coolest thing in the world! He definitely held things together and brought so much good stuff to my work. It was really an honor to have him on colors.
IC: The fashion in this issue of SPREAD struck me. Everyone's wearing real clothes, essentially—plaids, slim jeans, even the jackets and robes have an interesting amount of detail. What do you look to when designing characters? Do you generally pull designs out of your head, or do you look to something for inspiration?
JH: Some clothing stuff was in the script, and Kyle had some really important input on some of it, but I guess the rest just came out of my head. I didn't really think about it. As far as designing characters went, there are a lot of familiar faces in this issue that had to work in my style, so I did go through and try and recreate whatever was visually most important about them in my own way.
IC: Jen is the second guest artist over the course of SPREAD's run. What's the benefit of bringing in another voice to help you craft this tale?
JJ: On a practical level, it eases the pressure of doing a monthly book. But it also changes the way I tell stories, which I think is good. We can do different things and explore the world in a different way.
IC: As a writer, how do you approach working with a variety of artists on an ongoing series? Do you tailor your scripts differently, or study them to figure out their strengths and weaknesses?
JJ: Some of that happens naturally. I always have an artist in mind when I write something. Since I'm doing all creator-owned these days, that ends up being the artist who does it, which is a nice perk.
But that changes the script. The way I write a scene, even if the events are the same, is different for Jen than it would be if I wrote it for Kyle, and that'd be different than if I wrote for Tradd Moore [of LUTHER STRODE]. And I do study people's work to get a sense of their strengths.
I also have the advantage of being able to find the right artist for the project. Jen was my first and only pick for this issue, because of what the story was going to be. So that helps make for a stronger book.