There's a reckoning coming. When it comes, the best question to ask yourself might be “what side are you on?” – and in the forthcoming new series East of West you might find the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the President of the United States on surprising sides of the ultimate conflict.
Created by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta with Frank Martin doing colors, East of West sees the former Fantastic Four collaborators reuniting to follow a decidedly different quartet with the Four Horsemen. Described as a dystopian western by Image, this series sees Four Horsemen rise up as unlikely heroes after the most powerful men and women in the world band together to bring about the end of the Earth.The beginning of the end starts on March 27th when East of West first issue hits, and Image is releasing a special poster for retailers (seen to the right) at the end of this month. For more, we talked with Hickman and Dragotta about this apocalyptic series that the writer describes as both "hopeful" and "bleak."
Newsarama: What can you tell us about East of West, Jonathan?
Jonathan Hickman: It's a book with big touchstones that resonate, a shared mythology that everyone can immediately click into, and a visual aesthetic that somehow manages to be both commercial and a bit off center at the same time. So, interesting.
East of West is also a book of big themes and big characters, something that's always nice.
But in its simplest, most distilled form, it's a love story that takes place at the end of the world.
Nrama: From what I’ve read, East Of West is about living in what we feel are the end times – with the series literally putting us on the doorstep of the Apocalypse. Have you been thinking a lot about the End Times?
Hickman: I think a lot about how we all hate each other. That seems close enough.Nrama: It does seem that way sometimes if you watch the news.
Nick, designing the look and feel of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse sounds like a big challenge. How’d you tackle developing what these four would look and act like?
Dragotta: It's not really been that much of challenge. For better or worse what they represent pretty much defines them visually and how they act. War, Famine, Conquest, and Death is who they are. They act on their natures and that defines them; that informed the designs. When you see the book you'll know exactly who is who, I hope.
Nrama: Why are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse out to kill the President --- and doesn’t that make them the bad guys?
Hickman: I dunno. Haven't we outgrown the idea that the office of the President is inhabited by good people? These are deeply flawed men who don't trust the citizens they are supposed to represent and seem prone to manipulation instead of honesty, and frequently murder people in other countries. Pick a party, pick a President, they all have bloody mouths.
Dudes need lithium or something.
Anyway, yes, the Horsemen are mostly the bad guys.Nrama: Image describes East of West as having a sci-fi western vibe. How would you describe the tone of the book?
Hickman: Visually that's correct. Tonally, I guess I'd say that it's hopeful masquerading as bleak: Violent but beautiful.
Dragotta: For me the sci-fi western vibe is apt. It has that Hickman bent, where he plays with history, creates new mythologies and then just sees where it goes. It feels very much like an alternate American future. What if the Civil War never ended what would be the repercussions of that as we move forward? Add to the mix all the shit that is swimming in my head from comics, film, books, television, past, present, and future, that's East of West. We’re in it now, it's dark, bleak, and yet full of life.
Hickman: Lots of tiny moments interrupted by sudden bursts of big action.Dragotta: I'm proud to say Frank Martin Jr. Is coloring our book. If you’re familiar with Frank's work you know he brings an added level storytelling to the art. I'm really excited to be working with him. He's brought a bunch of great new ideas to this world in how it looks and feels. And we're just getting started. This book really is a product of all three of us.
Nrama: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you two met while working on Fantastic Four together at Marvel. How soon did the conversation turn to you two collaborating on your own creator-owned project?
Dragotta: After I did Vengeance with Joe Casey at Marvel, it was Joe who really put the bug in my ear to try Image. Just his nature of "do it your own way" was infectious.So I was game to make the jump, the stars aligned with Jonathan on our Fantastic Four run. I think we both felt we were making solid comics, and the readers seemed to really like what we were doing. I think I started working with Jonathan maybe 2 years ago. I can't remember who mentioned creator-owned first but I know it was right after we did Fantastic Four #588. We clicked creatively and people were responding to what we were doing.
Hickman: I think we both knew we had something the first time we worked together and that feeling only increased the more and more we did. The first time was the silent issue of Fantastic Four, by the Spider-man / Human Torch roommate issue hit I was sold on Nick, and then by my final issue of Fantastic Four I was pretty much in love.
We were both at the ImageExpo last year and had lunch. Talked business, talked comics, decided to do something, and that was it.
Comics!Nrama: Nick, from your work on Fantastic Four one of your best traits is your ability to develop the subtle things of a story and really give them a resonance. With such big concepts as the Four Horsemen, the President and the end of the world, how do you keep track of the small things and keep them important?
Dragotta: Thanks, I'm always looking for those moments in any and all stories. What you describe above is really just storytelling and making sure you hit those emotional beats visually to correspond with the dialogue. I think it goes back to gesture and trying to get the reader to identify with a drawing. Got to inject a soul into those cartoons.
With East of West Jonathan has written a bunch of great moments, I'll do my best to hit 'em. You right the big concepts are another challenge all together. There's a lot of concept design in this book, which is something I haven't really done much of. That's been the most challenging and fun part of the book.
I'm really just pulling from everything, seeing where it goes. There's gonna be a point when the deadlines catch us and I won't be able to think it all out anymore. That's when the good stuff happens. We'll get to the point where East of West just becomes instinctual, then we'll be cooking with gas.