CHEW & THE MAXX Creators Unite for Caper Of the Year With ELEANOR & THE EGRET

AfterShock Comics May 2017 cover
Credit: AfterShock Comics
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

Paris’ most audacious art thief is at it again in the upcoming Eleanor & The Egret series from AfterShock Comics, but her latest heist has officially put her on the radar of a most dedicated detective. Will she and her accomplice, a cunning and talkative egret be able to get away with it or will the only clue from the crime scene send them to the big house?

Eleanor & The Egret is a surreal magical game of cat and mouse brought to you by John Layman and Sam Keith, debuting April 5

Newsarama had the opportunity to talk to Layman about Eleanor & The Egret and some of the imagery that served as influences and what brought him and Keith together.

Newsarama: John, how would you describe Eleanor & The Egret? Fairytale, caper, something in between?

"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

John Layman: Somewhere in between sounds about right. It’s got equal parts of each. Plus a little romance, and a lot of just general weirdness.

Nrama: So, of all the birds, why specifically an egret?

Layman: That’s a Sam question, and unfortunately he’s shackled to the drawing board at the moment. This book was specifically catered to what Sam wanted to draw, and he was, strangely enough, interested in waterfowl. After a bit of back and forth, we decided upon an egret, but I can’t say there was any specific reason... other than Sam had a hankerin’ to draw an egret.

Nrama: When discussing designs between you guys, what were some of the influences you both wanted to go in on?

Layman: I know Sam had a specific vision for the book, which is a mix of realism mixed with cartoony whimsey. He also had some things he specifically wanted to draw, swamp settings, Art Deco architecture, different animals, specifically birds. It’s always my philosophy you give an artist what he or she wants to draw, and you end up with a happy artist, so we had lots of conversations about what Sam was interested in, and hammered out a story together from there. The entire process was very back-and-forth. Felt like a musical jam session in a lot of ways.

"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

As far as influences for me, I’ve compared this to a Hayao Miyazaki film, which is at least how I approached it. There are a lot of fantastic things in the book, and I don’t want you to think about the hows and whys too much... just accept the inherent strangeness of the world and roll with it.

"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

Nrama: Can we can talk a bit about who Eleanor is? Near the end of the preview, there seems to be a bit of a mystery of her real identity.

Layman: Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail, because finding that out is really what the book is about. Eleanor has a troubled past, and some secrets, mysteries and loss. And during the course of the book you’ll learn these secrets, and follow her as she regains what she’s lost.

Nrama: How did you guys come together for the project? Is the collaboration everything you'd thought it be? 

"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

Layman: Sam and I have been friends for a long time, and had worked on an Aliens book together. Sam called me up out of the blue with the suggestion we team up again, this time for a Big Two book, and we tried to pitch a Batman/Swamp Thing that never got off the ground, and a Rocket Raccoon/Man-Thing story, that also proved not to be… feasible.

I keep in regular touch with Mike Marts, who is both a friend and my favorite editor. He’d just moved over to AfterShock, and suggested it might be more satisfying to stop banging our heads against the doors of the Big Two and cook up something original instead. And so we did!

Nrama: Ronda Pattinson is the colorist here and what do you think she brings out the best of with her style?

Layman: Ronda is a great compliment to Sam. Her work on Eleanor is amazing, both subdued and bright at the same time, and I’m not sure how she does it, but I love it.

Nrama: This is both your first project with AfterShock, how do you feel about the relationship so far?

"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
"Eleanor & The Egret #1" previewz
Credit: Sam Kieth (AfterShock Comics)

Layman: So far, so good. All the people at AfterShock are super great people, and they could not be more supportive of the book. I’m impressed at their output and the quality and variety of their books, and happy to be part of the AfterShock family.

Nrama: John, will Eleanor & The Egret have more of a dark comedy vibe like Chew or will it take on a more whimsical tone?

Credit: AfterShock Comics

Layman: No to darkness. Eleanor was coming together just as was finishing Chew, when I was killing characters I loved left and right, and it was, at least on my part, conceived as a bit of an antidote to all the darkness that was in Chew at the time. I wanted something lighter, happier, and more… ethereal? The goal was to make something strange and beautiful. I think this will be a seen as a change of pace for both Sam and myself. Sam’s stuff tends to be darker than this, usually. This is a deliberate departure for both of us.

Nrama: Lastly, what are you hoping readers get out of Eleanor & The Egret?

Layman: What I hope readers get from all my books: A good time that hopefully sticks with them, and makes them come around for subsequent rereads.

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