Once Upon A Time In Dystopian America: IMAGE's THE FEW

Image Comics February 2017 cover
Credit: Image Comics
Credit: Hayden Sherman (Image Comics)

In these early days of the new year, many people are wondering what the future will be like - and next week Image will deliver one with America in shambles with Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman's The Few.

Described as "Mad Max action with a Station Eleven sensibility" by the publisher, The Few is about two hardy brothers surviving in a bleak not-so-distand future that are forced to fight for something bigger as they find a mysterious woman and an orphaned child on the run

On the heels of both the presidential election and the holiday season, we spoke with Lewis about his upcoming miniseries and some of the ways in which he drew up on current events and other influences to bring this book together.

Newsarama: Sean, going into a story like this, I’m curious what sort of research you had to complete to prepare for writing The Few?

Sean Lewis: Well, I think I’m really interested in what people believe: religiously, politically, locally…  Human beings are interesting because we start as these clean slates that know nothing - I have a newborn son and I watch him in the world and it’s amazing. He knows what nothing is, no opinions, no relationship - and yet, we become zealots, partisans, politicians… We go from knowing nothing to being certain that we are right about everything.

I read a lot. War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning is an amazing book I went through a lot. As well as Insurgents, Terrorists and Militias. And Terrorists Among Us. I grew up in an Irish American family who had a strong interest in the IRA. So I was always around talk of guerilla warfare, insurgency and the argument of a person being a terrorist or a “freedom fighter.” I think that fine line is really interesting… is someone a terrorist if they attack an institution they see as corrupt? Or are they a freedom fighter? A monster? Or a hero?

Depends on who you ask and what you believe, right?

Credit: Hayden Sherman (Image Comics)

Nrama: As I was reading this issue, the timing seemed a little eerie - on one hand, you have a leader who is seeking out a small child to put him to the sword. This child is on the run with a young woman, and in your story, there are two men who aid the women in finding safety. This runs a fairly close parallel to King Herod and the massacre he committed to find the Christ child in the Christian Bible, no? What was “in the air” for you when writing this story?

Lewis: Irish Catholic, man. Lots of religion in my house. Old Testament were bedtime stories for me, which if you’ve read the Old Testament, those are some graphic and violent things to float off to sleep with.

So, absolutely, it is a nod to King Herod and the Christ child. Partly, as a symbolic device. If the child echoes the Christ figure then he must be pretty important, no?

Nrama: On the other hand, we’ve also just emerged from one of the most divisive presidential elections in history, with Time magazine dubbing our country “The Divided States of America” – a somewhat dystopian view of our country’s future.

Will this series engage in contemporary political discourse in some regard? I know you had to have been working on this months ahead of time, but still, there seemed a few seeds that you were planting in this first issue…

Credit: Hayden Sherman (Image Comics)

Lewis: It’s crazy because Hayden and I have been working on this for well over a year, back when Donald Trump, maybe first announced and no one was taking him seriously. Suddenly, as months went on the world I was writing was becoming much closer to our world than we first planned.

I am originally from New York, and for that matter, the most liberal parts of NY. But for the past eight years I have lived in Iowa. The country my friends talk about in NY is not the country the people I know in Iowa think they are living in. There is strong resentment. There is a very silent class struggle. Our country has major problems with identity politics but what gets talked about a lot less is that Americans hate the poor. Gentrification is never stopped in areas because it gets rid of the poor. We slash social subsidies. We hate the idea of people getting healthcare or other services “they have not earned.”

I just started thinking what if this hate became more pronounced and the wealthy in the country eventually said “the poor should get nothing, not even land.” Where would we end up? It seemed you’d have a few palaces and a lot of barren earth. And you’d have people willing to fight.

And that, in a nutshell, is The Few.

Credit: Image Comics

Nrama: You’re also an established playwright. What was it about The Few that you felt better lent itself to the comics medium versus seeing it unfold on stage?

Lewis: Scope. I wanted to see what the future looked like, create some bad ass weapons and let us run wild across abandoned mountains in Montana and in bustling cities. I knew The Few could be really visually exciting and when I stumbled onto Hayden’s art work I knew it was the right project at the right time. I like collaboration, so when I find an artist I think works perfectly, I run with it.

Nrama: Not that I’m saying you have a golden ticket to anywhere, of course, but it seems you have a few publishing options before you. What is it about the field of comics that brings you back?

Lewis: Well, it’s only my second book but comics are by far the most fun I have had creating something. It is really like Christmas day to get an email from your artist with pages of what you wrote illustrated. And I was a lunatic comic book fan growing up. I mean Neil Gaiman, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, Alan Moore… I was obsessed with comic books. It’s a place where you can really tell complicated, adult stories in thrilling and energetic ways.

Nrama: What creators within comic books would you say have had the greatest influence on your work and how you approach your craft as a writer?

Lewis: I mentioned a few before. Sandman was my intro to comics - my uncle would go into the city and return with stacks of them - so the world building of Gaiman is huge for me. My local pharmacy is where you had to get comics as a kid (before you could drive) and they only carried Marvel books. So you know, as a youngster Chris Claremont’s X-Men runs I read  a lot. The way Alan Moore has been able to bring social commentary into the form- I mean V For Vendetta is so great. Lately, I’m blown away by all the great work going on. I think recently Tom King’s The Vision was something I read and said, oh man, this guy is doing some interesting stuff. There’s a voice to his work that I think is really interesting and clear.

Nrama: You’ll be working on this series alongside Hayden Sherman, who has a pretty distinct style to his line work and coloring. What drew you to his work and why did you think it was the right fit for The Few.

Credit: Image Comics

Lewis: It was just so gritty and rough and the world I was creating was the same. I mean, I’ve looked at a lot of portfolios and his was one that I really did just stop and take my time with. It wasn’t like anything I had seen before. Similar to what I was saying about Tom King’s writing. There was a real point of view in his line work, a character alive in it, not simply technique.

Nrama: And how did you two come together as a creative team?

Lewis: I found him online. So, stalking, basically.

Nrama: Did you deliver a completed script to Hayden or do you find yourself adjusting things as you two work together?

Lewis: I sent him a completed first issue. Then once he was on board I went off and wrote the full six issues and ideas for a world beyond that.

Nrama: Earlier this fall, news broke that your last Image Comics series Saints is in development for television. Any similar plans for The Few?

Lewis: Ha. Um, it’s surreal. I have definitely gotten some West Coast emails about it.

Nrama: As many will attest, readers face an embarrassment of riches when it comes to selecting comics to read from one week to the next, let alone over the course of a year. Once the series wraps at the end of this year, I’m curious what other titles you see The Few standing alongside in bookstores and in reading lists?

Lewis: I will say this as humbly but as honestly as possible. I think everyone who sets out to write a book is trying to write the coolest most groundbreaking piece they can - I know that is always my goal. Saints I wanted to become a cult classic, it’s a weird book, I knew it lived in a world like The Boys or Preacher, but probably with less nihilism. I wanted to be like the great B Movies I grew up watching (Near Dark, et al). The Few, I mean if we knock it out of the park, I’d love it to be in a world like Lone Wolf and Cub. I loved that book so much. If I could create that for the next round of me coming up in the world I’d be so excited.

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