The United States has suffered a great Second Civil War and in the ashes of this broken land comes a new world. One of stylized violence that gets airtime and where forbidden love blooms. Aleš Kot and Tradd Moore reunite once more to bring readers the aptly-titled The New World, from Image Comics, out this week.
The first issue of the series is a giant-sized introduction to this world and characters and Newsarama caught up with both Kot and Moore about The New World, Tradd’s wife Heather joining the team as the colorist, the type of characters we’re going to meet, and what lies ahead for both of their careers.
Newsarama: So Aleš, Tradd, this project has been in the making for quite some time now. I think even we talked about this to some extent at Baltimore Comic Con a few years back, Tradd. Can you tell us how The New World came to be?
Aleš Kot: The thing I remember the best is just wanting to work with Tradd again! Our collaborations on Zero and Secret Avengers were creatively and humanely deeply satisfying, so I wanted to make something bigger together, and thankfully Tradd felt the same.
From there...I don't really remember how The New World appeared, I just know it did. You could look at it and maybe say ah, I see bits of Mad Max, I see Romeo & Juliet, some Katsuhiro Otomo influence, The Hunger Games, this, that...but I just don't know anymore? The characters became the guiding forces of the story and I went along with it. The older I am, the more certain I am that's the key to telling a story that sticks.
Tradd Moore: Yeah, a major part of working in creative industries is finding creators you’d love to collaborate with and really putting in the work and effort to make the team-up happen. Sometimes the stars align and a project just falls in your lap, but most of the time it takes decisiveness and dedication from a team of passionate individuals to get a project off the ground.
Aleš and I became email pen-pals and friends back when we both got started in the industry back in 2011-2012. Our creative voices clicked, and we’ve been looking for and finding opportunities to collaborate ever since. We pitched a comic in 2012 that got rejected, we made Zero #2 in 2013, which is still one of my favorite single issues I’ve drawn, we worked on Secret Avengers together in 2013-2015, and all the while we were trying to develop something substantial together… enter The New World.
I first put pencil to paper on The New World in 2016, so I suppose you could say that’s when the project got started in earnest. It’s been a long road, and I’m really proud of what we’ve made.
Nrama: What can you say about the world of, well, The New World?
Kot: A reality tv cop with a traumatic past and an anarchist hacker vegan kid hook up at a party and the world freaks the hell out. We're in the New California, the second civil war already happened, and the world is weird and not okay. But there is love. Can it survive? Can it blossom and thrive?
Moore: The New World is surreal and vibrant. It’s full of fun characters, anxious visions, hope, funky clothes, cool armor, police batons that turn into laser swords, and way too many screens.
It’s a near future sci-fi, so it’s not far dissimilar from our own reality… just amped up and bent around, and around, and around. Near future sci-fi is interesting to me because it makes me question my own world. “Wait, is that technology already real? Are these visions already happening? What the fuck is going on around here?” It stimulates me to be active and curious. I remember how unnerved, bewildered, and excited I was the first time I played Metal Gear Solid 2 or watched The Matrix when I was a kid. So yeah, that’s kind of what I wanted to tap into with The New World.
Nrama: Let's talk about protagonist Stella Maris, what's her role in all of this?
Kot: Stella is the cop. She's also someone who got pushed into that role as a kid by someone who was supposed to protect her, but instead caused her tremendous amount of pain. She's messy and unhappy, but she barely allows herself to really fully feel it. And then she hits her limit.
Nrama: Tradd, your wife Heather was the colorist for this, what was the collaboration process like? Was there a learning curve for her or did she pick it up easy?
Moore: It’s been challenging and highly fulfilling collaborating with Heather. She picked it up shockingly fast and easy! The first issue of The New World is 60 pages, so it was a trial by fire, but it gave her a lot of room to find her footing. By the time she was a few scenes in, she was sprinting. I think people are going to be stunned when they see the pages, and more stunned when they discover that this is her first published work in comics.
I mean, Heather has been an artist her whole life - she went to art school, that’s where we met - so producing art isn’t new to her. She draws, she paints, she designs, she photographs, she does it all. She studied historic preservation, she has a master’s degree in architectural history, and she was an art consultant for four years. So there wasn’t much of a learning curve on the creative side. She’s got that color theory shit down!
The collaborating part, yeah, that takes getting used to no matter who you’re working with. You have to learn how to best communicate with one another in a way that’s healthy to your work and personal relationships, because they’re not actually separate things. It’s a lot of trial and error. Something so simple as sharing your work space takes time to get used to. But yeah, we’re dedicated to each other, and to the art we’re making, and to being flexible, respectful, and understanding. I really love how our collaboration has shaped up both functionally and visually - I can’t wait for her to share her hard work to the world!
Nrama: What was your design aesthetic going in?
Moore: The design aesthetic of The New World is built upon clarity of visual information. It’s built on intention; I want the visuals and storytelling of this comic to be crystal clear and laser focused. I want The New World to feel animated, so I’ve simplified elements of my style, and elaborated upon others. I’ve focused on my use of shapes, patterns, and perspective. Nearly every panel in the comic was drawn on a grid.
People learn to draw through imitation, so it was important to me for the characters in The New World to be imitable and striking. I want people to see Stella and Kirby and every character in the book and think, “Ooo, I want to draw them!” Or, “Ooo, I want to design my own characters!” That’s one of my fundamental goals in character design - design characters that will get people excited to pick up the pencil and draw themselves.
Nrama: You also have troublemaker Kirby Miyazaki, that name can't be a coincidence so what other inspirations did you want to be included for the look and feel of The New World?
Kot: Pop with heart.
Moore: You know, it’d be cool if someone out there picks up The New World and only sees The New World, but it’s impossible to hide your own loves and inspirations, so I don’t try.
I wear my love on my sleeve when drawing comics - Star Wars, Street Fighter, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, The Fifth Element, old Disney animation, all the usual suspects from my youth. I imagine readers will see connective tissue between my art on The New World and those things. There are some clear shoutouts in the comic, but I don’t want to spoil the experience of unearthing those for readers.
Nrama: What do you like about each other as creators and why this seems like a good team up?
Kot: Tradd's one of my favorite comics artists of all time. We both consider each line, each idea, each moment very deeply. We both pay attention and learn. We're both driven. We have respect for each other. And we're friends who have been through some shit together and, from what I can tell, very much love each other. So all that.
Moore: The feeling is mutual - thank you, Aleš!
Yeah, Aleš is, in my opinion, one of the standout comic writers of our generation, and, likewise, one of my favorite comic writers in general. He shares his heart and mind with people, and his openness and devotion to growth and understanding is inspiring to me. His comics and his idiosyncratic creative voice have had an impact on my life, outlook, and worldview. From the moment I read his work, I knew that we could make something special together. I believe we did so already on Zero #2, and The New World is taking it further.
Sometimes writer/artist teams just inexplicably click - Morrison and Quietly, Azzarello and Risso, Ennis and Dillon--and I feel that resonance with Aleš.
Nrama: Tradd you kinda just vanished off of social media, except your Instagram account. Do you feel like not every comic creator needs things like that or just personal case?
Moore: You know, I don't have sweeping insight on social media and the effects it's having on us; my decision to pull back was personal. For me, it had become an anxiety / depression / paranoia machine. But to each their own - I'm glad it offers people a platform to be seen, heard, and included, and I'm truly grateful that there are good people out there banding together and navigating these treacherous waters by using new media platforms in honest, positive, progressive ways.
I like using social media to support artists, teach art, and help up-and-coming artists be seen and find jobs.
I just encourage people, comic folks and anyone else, to prioritize their health and wellness. It's hard. Analyze the things you do and the things you consume. Seek help and make changes when you're in pain. I'm trying to learn these things. I'm learning that it's not only okay, it's vital, to take breaks, heal, work on yourself, nourish yourself, and love yourself.
Nrama: Lastly, you've both done some Big Two stuff in the past, do both of you have any inclination to return to that kind of material or feel like this is the best route for now? Because you both seem very particular on the projects you take on these days.
Kot: I'd write for Marvel or DC if there was a particular project I'd love to do, yeah. I'm open to it. It's not where the majority of my focus lies nor should lie, but if it's a thing I just fall in love with and have the right idea for, I'm down.
Moore: Yeah, agreed. I'll definitely be returning to Big Two stuff in the future; I have things I want to work on there that are special to me, and I believe I can create meaningful work with those publishers. I'll always be particular with the projects I take on because I think that it would be irresponsible for me to not be particular. I can only draw so much, so I should make astute career choices.
I still like bouncing back and forth between creator-owned and work-for-hire material, and I have a lot of love for what Marvel and DC comics have meant to my life...
But for the time being, there ain't nothin' but The New World.