It's "Western meets new Ice Age" in the latest title from DC's Vertigo imprint, written by Flash’s Joshua Williamson with art by Jason Shawn Alexander.
Set in a frozen, futuristic environment where people survived the start of an Ice Age and still have modern technology, with the story centering on a tough-as-nails woman named Keaton who leads a crew that transports human cargo across the world's dangerous icy landscapes. But even where humans live is at risk as the story opens, because a new, contagious illness is spreading through humanity - a deadly disease nicknamed "Frostbite" that literally turns people into ice by freezing the moisture in their cells.
In September’s Frostbite #1, readers will learn that the cure to Frostbite may lie in Keaton's hands, as the transporter is hired by two scientists to take them from Mexico to a lab on Alcatraz to work on the cure.
But like any good "Western," the "stagecoach" has some trouble ahead on the ice, because the scientists have a bounty on their heads.
Newsarama talked to Williamson about the six-issue miniseries, how he came up with the idea to place his story in a future world of ice and snow, and whether there might be potential for more stories set in the world of Frostbite.
Newsarama: Josh, I've heard of a lot of "Western meets…" stories, but I don't think I've ever heard of one set on the ice in the future. So kudos for a unique concept. How'd you come up with it?
Joshua Williamson: For a long time, I wanted to do a book in the snow. I know that sounds like a weird way to start it, but all my books usually start with me being obsessed with something. All the creator-owned books I've ever done, it always starts with some element that I'm interested in or sort of obsessing over. And this time, it was the snow.
So I wanted to do a Western in the snow, but I didn't want it to be straight-up post-apocalyptic. I wanted to go kind of past that and show that humanity had survived this new "snowpocalypse" - to go kind of punny there. But yeah, I wanted to show this kind of different world that moves past how we normally see.
And I really liked the idea of doing this in the snow. And then I started thinking about the world, and what I wanted to do with it, and the characters. And once I started thinking about Keaton, the main character - once I started thinking about her experiences and her life and her world, that led me into the story.
It's a very high-concept book, but I still wanted it to be about the characters.
Nrama: Let's talk about Keaton. Who is she?
Williamson: Keaton is a transporter. She transports people from A to B across the ice, across these giant, frozen landscapes.
She's used to this world, that this world can be very harsh and very unforgiving. She has a lot of heart and she wants to help people. She wants to do what she can, but she's aware that there's only so much she can do. People, when they meet her, sort of read her wrong, and she's aware of that.
Nrama: For lack of a better word, she comes across as kind of cold, right?
Williamson: Yeah, she kind of mimics the world around her. The world is very cold and harsh, and she presents her as being the same. But she's much more tortured on the inside. There's much more going on with her.
She grew up on the ice alone - her entire family died out there. So she was having to live in this horrible situation by herself. So when she finally got around people again, it took her awhile to get used to it. She still deals with that as a character.
And she hides a very deep anger that she feels inside. She's good at keeping it at bay and keeping it away from people. But we'll see in the series that there will be moments where she's going to show that anger.
Nrama: The landscape of this frigid world is a really different type of post-apocalyptic visual. How much does the story really depend on the art?
Williamson: Yeah, Jason Shawn Alexander is terrific. We talked a lot in the beginning about the book - and we still do; we go back and forth on things. He looks at really early drafts of each script. So it's not a situation where, like on some books, you know, the editors and I talk about the script and then we give it to the artist. It's not like that. I wanted Jason involved immediately. As soon as I'm involved writing an issue, we make sure he gets a copy of it, so he and I can talk about it and go back and forth.
When I first started talking to Vertigo about the book, we weren't sure who was going to draw it. His name came up really early on, and everyone was really excited about him, and I wasn't sure if he was going to be available or not. But then he was able to sign on.
And we met and had dinner one night, and he and I just immediately clicked.
We talked about our thoughts on storytelling. And the biggest thing with him is, with this awesome inking style he has, he understands negative space.
A book that's going to have so much snow, and I'm going to place so much in the negative space, I really needed someone who understood that. So I was really pumped about working with him.
And it's been awesome. We talk about the scripts, and there are times where I'll email him and say, what do you think about this? There's a scene at the end of Frostbite #2 that was definitely influenced by his input. He was like, “What if we tried this?” And I thought, “That's great! Let's go that direction.”
So he's been awesome to work with. He's really imaginative, and he really gets the story we're telling.
Nrama: This story is about Keaton accomplishing one transport of scientists so they can find a cure for the spreading frostbite that is threatening the world. But once they arrive at their destination, are there more stories in your head? Do you have plans for showing more of this world?
Williamson: This story with Keaton, this initial story is six issues. But one of the things that I thought about when I was developing the world and talking with Jason and talking with Vertigo about it - I was trying to build a world where, if we wanted to, we could tell other stories in that world.
So we'll see what happens. We'll see how the series does. And there's definitely potential and possibility to expand on it. We'll just see how it goes.