There’s a lot of talk this month about the supposed end of the world if you pay any attention to the Mayan calendar, but celebrated comic artist Sam Kieth and writer Chris Ryall are giving readers a glimpse at their own post-apocalyptic scenario in a new series debuting this week from IDW called The Hollows.
Set in Japan just a few years into our future, The Hollows a brilliant scientist named Chris Mayerik who, like many, live above the wasteland that’s left of the world in buildings built in the limbs and inside giant super-trees. The best characters in fiction are those with an over-abundance of curiosity, and Mayerik’s leads him to explore the remnants of civilization that still live on the Earth’s surface and find a haunting and supernatural set of lifeforms that were once human beings.
This creator-owned series debuts today in your local comic shop and on most digital devices, and Newsarama caught up with Keith and Ryall to find out more.
Newsarama: What’s the world like in The Hollows?Chris Ryall: It’s in terrible shape. I won’t say this is a fully post-apocalyptic world, since the story stays contained in Japan and we deliberately don’t look wider than that. But Japan at least is a devastated wasteland. To the degree that the only way for any survivors to make a go of it was to build *up,* in the form of bi-engineered supertrees. It’s within these trees that city-states have been built, miles above the ruins of Tokyo. Of course, not everyone it Tokyo merited a spot in those cities, so some survivors live a hard-scrabble existence down below, in a Tokyo over-run by the Hollows. It’s that vaguely Romero-like point where our story begins.
Nrama: The visual potential of this story seems pretty wide open, from the Japanese local to the supertrees and everything dealing with the radioactive waste. How’d you take advantage of that, and develop it in the first place, Sam?Sam Kieth: Chris has the basic idea... I think it had the Japanese location and a post-apocalyptic situation.. Things awful in the streets and those in the air having it better. I'd toyed with similar ideas myself in the past, Utopian above and pollution-erosion below. I think I swayed it to have a softer edge... less hard sci-fi. With my drawing it from Chris' outline It became more of a softer more fantasy or personal story. I played up the orphaned girl with a weird pet and flying stranger who's torn between helping those below, or just flying over and ignoring them. You can't save everyone if your one guy with a pair of steam-punkish looking mechanical wings. Nrama: How are you influenced by those Japanese elements of the story, Sam?
Kieth: As anyone who's followed my blog knows, I've been on a collision course with Orientalism for a few years now. It was just luck Chris dreamed up these themes in the story, which i intuitively responded too. My friend John Way$hak who saw issue one said he was surprised how much it looks like my sketchbooks. I think what I was trying in the first 30 Days Of Night series, and probably failed at in the second, I finally nailed here.
Fans may love or truly hate it ( as they do everything I draw), but even if they loath it... It *was* intentional this time, and the style in a 'rougher & unfinished' style I really enjoyed working in. I also hope it made it more cohesive when I do all the coloring.
Nrama: The series name, “The Hollows,” what does that refer to in terms of the story itself?
Ryall: It’s the survivors themselves. In fact, there’s a point in the first issue where the survivors, with horrific dawning realization, look at each other and say “We… WE are the true Hollows!”
No, I’m kidding about that—that doesn’t happen at all here. The Hollows are actually these soul-sucking spectral creatures that haunt the devastated grounds far below the trees.Nrama: I’ve read that the main character in this is Craig Mayerik. What can you tell me about him?
Ryall: Craig Mayerik is a man torn between the two worlds. He’s a brilliant scientist living in one of the tree-cities, a husband and father… but he’s never been entirely comfortable with being one of the anointed. And the more these city-states embrace technology and keep improving their lot in life, the more he is taken by the old ways. He literally has a foot in both worlds in this series, and during one of his trips down below (he flies on a Da Vinci-like flying suit while others use jetpacks), he experiences something that profoundly changes him.
Nrama: How did you two end up coming together to do this project in the first place?
Ryall: Really, just through conversations about various projects. I mentioned to Sam I had this idea for something set in Japan almost in unison with him telling me he wanted to do a story set in Japan, and we just got excitedly talking about this from that point. Along the way, we kept finding more and more similarities in the story we wanted to tell, and it all just meshed really nicely. I know Sam doesn’t normally work with a co-writer and doesn’t need to, so I appreciate the fact that he was so wiling to partner up in this way for The Hollows.Nrama: You two worked on this book “Marvel-style,” with you writing an outline for Sam to draw from, then you coming back and adding dialogue. Is this something you’ve done before, and how did it make the project more appealing for you?
Ryall: I’ve never worked that way before, I’ve always written full scripts. But even then, I always fully encourage an artist to tell the story visually the way they see it. If there’s a better way to do it, the script should be the guide, not the law. And Sam definitely has his own ways of telling stories, so this one is sort of a Marvel-style thing, but more than anything, it’s been a case of Sam and I spending lots and lots of time on the phone, sussing the story details out and figuring out how things should flow in each issue. This story is a but more serious and emotionally affecting than other things I’ve done—I really reigned in the sarcasm and goofy humor—so working outside my comfort zone on the scripts as well as the storytelling has been incredibly satisfying to me, a really great creative experience. Not only have our ideas been very much in sync, but Sam is such an endlessly inventive guy that it’s been a real joy working this way.The best part has been the ability to really tailor the words on the back-end to the pages, too. Why didn’t anyone tell me that working this way was so satisfying? Feels more collaborative and freeing, especially on a project that’s become a two-person singular vision. And it’s hopefully the first of many such pairings with Sam—we’ve already been making all kinds of plans for more.
Kieth: Ryall took a leap of faith in allowing me that indulgence. As my thanks I tried to follow his outline as much as possible. He seems unusually open to my suggestions... which increased my wish to make sure he was satisfied too. It's probably the smoothest 'Marvel Style' relationship with a writer I've ever had. If it's not done carefully the writer's cursing under his breath trying to unravel the problems from the artists hijacking his plot or worse... ramming it into the ground. I've been on both sides of this, writer and artists... so I tried extra hard this time.
In closing, I'd like to say to my fans, if this style isn't your cup of tea... don't totally write me off yet. Remember i draw TONS of different styles... check back in, with each different projects I do... someday I MAY do something you dig again. : )
Hey, you never know.. weirder crap has happened.