You might say you had a crazy day every now and then, but it's nothing like what's happening to six people in the upcoming graphic novel Ward 6.
In this standalone OGN scheduled for release in comic stores and Wal-Marts nationwide at the end of January, five residents in an antebellum psychiatric ward find out they're not alone. With nothing to bond them but the memory loss as each other, they bond together to determine a way out. Part Sci-Fi and part psychological thriller, Ward 6 explores the story of these five individuals and the bizarre things they experience in this unusual mental ward.
Ward 6 is part of a second salvo of titles by new comics publisher Kickstart, which is an offshoot of the film company of the same name. The graphic novel is the debut comics work from TV & film writer Kevin Fox and the second in the budding career of illustrator Salvador Navarro. Fox took a break from job as a supervising producer and writer on the Fox show Lie To Me to talk to us about this new comic project and how it came about.
Newsarama: The solicitations of Ward 6 boil it down pretty concisely, calling it "Lost meets X-Files", but how would you describe it Kevin?
Kevin Fox: Ward 6 was inspired by all of the science fiction stories and comics that I grew up on, including the television series The Prisoner, the Ghost in the Shell series by Junichi Fujisaku, Robert Heinlein’s The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag and even to some degree, Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld. These influences might not be apparent on the surface, but thematically, the idea of identity, how we define ourselves, and how circumstance defines who we are run through them all.
Nrama: And how did these influences take you to a mental hospital?
Fox: Setting incredibly brilliant characters inside a psychiatric hospital without the knowledge of who they are or what they had done in the past seemed to me to be an interesting starting point for drama — especially if they are being used by unseen antagonists for nefarious purposes. In my mind, the group we have locked away on Ward 6 are like caged superheroes, each with unique abilities that have been hijacked by their captors.
Nrama: Can you tell us about these captives and their captors
Fox: Sure. Let me give you a breakdown of each character.
Sean is a burly Irishman, educated, but apparently from the working class. He seems to have a vast knowledge of things that might be considered criminal: Guns, how to kill, how to fight, and how to rebel against authority. His only memory is a vague one, of being shot at on a dusty road with a woman that looked remarkably like Kate.
Kate is one of the doctors, the one most sympathetic to the inmates. With fiery red hair and an easy-going disposition, she seems to be their friend, but she has her own shady past, and may have even once been a patient on Ward 6.
Sarais a young woman, barely out of her teens that seems to be schizophrenic and seeing visions of a woman she calls ‘Sophia’. In another day and age she might be seen as a mystic or saint, but on a psych ward, she seems to be just a variation on crazy. Sara also has an obsession with Sean, and even though she considers it a sin, she sleeps with him so they can have private conversations to plan their escape.
Rodrigo is a secretive political animal who at heart is a revolutionary poet in the vein of Che Gueverra and keeps the groups secrets — even from each other. He is in a relationship with Alix, but seems to trust almost no one.Alix is a brilliant Indian-American woman who once had a past in genetics and molecular biology. She is now the caretaker of a small zoo on the property of the institute and runs experiments on the exotic animals kept there. Alix’s memory goes back the furthest, and she has the most deep-rooted fear that the inmates ‘theoretical’ solutions to real world problems are actually being implemented in the outside world.
Nicole is a practical scientist with skills in computers, electrical engineering and systems analysis. Like Nicolai Tesla, who she was named for, her inventions and theories may seem outside the norm, but are just beyond the grasp of most normal people. She has a relationship with Leo.
Leo is the most organized and action-oriented of the inmates besides Sean. His organizational skills are impeccable, but he is a bit paranoid. He can see social relationships where no one else can and can read the emotions of the doctors and patients. With this social intelligence, he has the ability to bring the group together.
Dr. Jerrod is the Doctor all the patients fear, although we will come to realize that perhaps Jerrod is also the puppet of some unseen master. His sadistic tendencies could be seen as a tendency to do to the patients what was once done to him. His character can be seen in the vein of a slightly less sadistic Dr. Mengele...
Nrama: AKA the Angel of Death from the Nazi concentration camps.
What can you tell us about the ward these people are in?
Fox: Ward 6 is just one of nine wards in an experimental facility disguised as a psychiatric hospital. The physical structure looks as if it was built as a Biltmore-like Estate by a robber baron at the end of the nineteenth century, then updated with state of the art security — and is meant as a metaphor for what is actually going on with our characters. I don’t want to get too much into that because it might give away some of the surprise, but let’s just say the characters have solid foundations in the past that have been updated and re-wired. The inmates being held on Ward 6 are all brilliant, with pasts that inform their present abilities, but the conceit is that in these new circumstances, people who were once villains might become heroes, and heroes, put under different pressures might turn out to be villains.
Nrama: It seems this series plays heavily on the idea of suspense and mystery – as a writer, how do you do you keep the suspense high and still hook the reader?
Fox: In many ways, suspense and mystery are instinctual concepts and are dependent upon balance. Everything must be revealed at the appropriate time. Scenes must end before the audience gets ahead of the story and point of view must be very specific and limited. However, a writer can’t ‘cheat’ and deny the audience information purely to withhold it. In my opinion, the truth must be layered in and hidden in plain sight to be fair to the reader, in the way that Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might do it. I really don’t think lying to the reader or hiding information is a fair or entertaining way to build a mystery. That being said, the suspense can be built when the reader knows the solution is in front of them, but they can’t quite see it yet.
Nrama: Your name is new to comics, and although I found out a bit by looking at your IMDB profile, there's got to me more. Give us the tour.
Fox: I’ve been a working writer since 1995, when I sold my first screenplay to New Line Cinema called Fire & Rain. Since then I haven’t held another job, although I’ve switched back and forth between film, where I’ve worked developing scripts and writing specs that have sold to every studio in town, including The Negotiator for New Regency and some early drafts of Alien Vs. Predator for Fox. In television I’ve created some (short-lived) shows for CBS and FOX and written pilots for most of the broadcast networks.
Nrama: What are you working on now that Ward 6 is done?
Fox: Currently I am working on the Fox show Lie to Me and will be publishing my first novel, Notes for Next Time through Algonquin, next year.
Nrama: Before I let you off the hook, it takes a particular type of person to write about a mental ward – and do it right. Where did the idea for something like Ward 6 come about?
Fox: Ward 6 started out as an idea for a television pilot, which is probably where the comparison to Lost came in. I had always wanted to do something where the heroes used specific gifts that were not necessarily superpowers, but were real gifts in the real world, along the lines of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theories. The idea never fully took shape until I started thinking about using the characters as a brain trust for some nefarious group. Of course, to be used effectively, they would need to be tricked or coerced into participating, and what better way to do that than by taking away their memories of who they once were. Once I had that, I only needed the mechanism to make it work and to shroud it in mystery. I hope that when people read the graphic novel, they'll feel that I’ve succeeded.