The Violent: Decision-Making Under Duress [Interview]
December 9, 2015
Image Comics: A portion of the cast is made up of people in recovery and those fresh out of jail looking to turn their lives around. Why'd you go with regular people, as opposed to the classic archetypes we often see in these kinds of stories?
Ed Brisson: For me, stories about regular people are more interesting. I think that with crime, you can have it a couple of ways. There's crime like [Michael Mann's] Heat, where you're taking it in and thinking, "YEAH! I wanna rob a bank!" That sort of stuff, while enjoyable, feels a lot like fantasy and escapism. With this series, we're really trying to go the other way, address the harsh realities of the criminal justice system, but spotlighting those who've been through it. This isn't glamorous crime. It's not cool cars and big bank. It's grounded. It's something that could happen to people you know. That relatability, that's the kind of story that really gets me and the kind of story that we want to tell.
IC: By the end of the first issue, pretty much every character is either facing a decision that could lead them to ruin or facing the aftermath of the same. How do you approach a character who is trying to do good, but sometimes slips? How do you avoid them slipping so far or so fast that they instantly become a villain to the readers?
EB: With this series, everyone is doing what they think is best for those around them. Or trying to. If you look at it, no one acts selfishly. There's this near-altruistic thought process behind their actions. But, these are people who don't necessarily have the ability to always be good people—despite their best intentions. Old habits are hard to break and sometimes you're already back, repeating past patterns before you've realized it.
So, yeah, people are going to slip, but I think that as long as readers can see that these motivations are generally coming from a very real place, they're not going to think of any of the characters as villains.
IC: There's a good amount of ambiguity in THE VIOLENT #1. There's just enough plausible deniability to wonder if someone is doing what it looks like they're doing, and whether other characters have really shaped up the way they seem. How do you see this story you're telling here? How would you describe it to other people, in terms of mood or tone?
Adam Gorham: In THE VIOLENT we introduce readers to characters who are on the surface ordinary and are met with sudden harsh realities. The choices they make when confronted with that reality reveals more about themselves and often puts them in worse predicaments than when they started. In that sense, I think our book is comparable to Breaking Bad in terms of tension and suspense as you're seeing characters transform and react to one bad situation after another.
EB: My go-to is that THE VIOLENT is about desperate people in desperate situations doing desperate things. I think the analogy of Breaking Bad that Adam makes is apt. It's that slow slide from being a noble person, just trying to do right by your family, to being this person who's lost touch with their own morality. It's a gradual push, not something that happens suddenly.
Tonally, we really want readers to feel that desperation and hopelessness as the story progresses. It's not going to be all doom and gloom. There will be moments of real hope, but we're going to have to work to get there. We really want this to be a book that readers are going to think about long after they've put it down.
IC: THE VIOLENT is set in Vancouver, and the gentrification of Strathcona is mentioned specifically. Ed, what's Vancouver like in THE VIOLENT? Adam, are you approaching the art from a "let's make sure this is true to life" point of view, or are you more trying to get the feel more than the reality?
EB: Vancouver in the series is Vancouver in real life. It's a place where the dream of buying a home is long dead and even the idea of buying a condo is out of reach for most of us. With increased housing costs (for which there are several theories and no concrete answers), you have the domino effect of sky-rocketing rental costs. So, you've got this downward pressure on lower income families. They're being pushed out of the city and those who're trying to cling on are often just scraping by.
With each arc of THE VIOLENT, we're going to be looking at a different aspect of Vancouver and telling stories that spring from Vancouver's unique make-up. This one touches on the housing crisis and its effects on lower income families. Future arcs will shift the focus. The plan is to paint as complete a picture of the city, through its people, as possible.
THE VIOLENT #1 is available today.