Willa Fowler helped save the world in June's Skyward #14, but with that everything has changed. This week's #15, the series' finale, will follow Willa as she attempts to pick up the pieces and find a new goal in life after the war.
With #15 just hours away, series creators Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett are talking with Newsarama about the end, the development of this zero-gravity series, and what' next - and specifically, the live-action film currently in development at Sony Pictures.
Newsarama: Joe, you, Lee, and Antonio are wrapping up Skyward with this week's #15. What has your experience been like working on this book and balancing with work with TV and Lucifer's schedule?
Joe Henderson: Creatively, it’s helpful for me to work on more than one project at a time. It lets me maintain perspective and keep things fresh. It’s been wonderful bouncing between Lucifer and Skyward because the tones are so different, and yet there’s also weird amounts of overlap, like world-building and character-driven humor.
When it comes to balancing the schedule, what I tried to do was bank a ton of issues of Skyward on hiatuses between seasons of Lucifer. Until the very end, I was always three to four issues ahead of Lee on scripts, because the last thing I wanted was to be the reason the process slowed down. Lee’s job is hard enough without me getting in the way, especially when I’m asking for a giant butterfly war!
At the end, I cut it pretty close script-wise. But I also didn’t want to be too far ahead by then, because I wanted to be in the emotion of wrapping the story up. Writing the final issue was so very wonderful and so very sad.\
Nrama: Now that we're at the tail-end of the latest arc, aptly titled "Fix The World," where do we find Willa, her friends, and even Barrow?
Henderson: Our last issue serves as an epilogue. Willa’s got her Mom back, Edison’s back in Chicago with his parents, and Barrow’s trapped in his own Hell – an underground suburbia that doesn’t care about his power and fortune.
But the world’s a mess – thanks to Willa’s adventure, the Farm doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no more food for the city. There’s a power vacuum in Chicago with Barrow gone. And the underground city is all the more terrified of the outside world.
I really wanted to explore the theme of fear in this book. The final arc is called “Fix the World,” but the lesson of the final arc is – you can’t. The world’s always been broken. After G-day, it just got broken in a different way. There is no such thing as a perfect world. But you can strive within whatever imperfect world you find yourself in to make it better.
Nrama: Lee, when you're not doing sequential pages, you've also established yourself as a movie poster artist and even limited print runs. You just did some pieces for the Bottleneck Gallery in New York. So when it came to the covers of Skyward, what was at the top of your list you wanted to convey?
Lee Garbett: The Skyward covers almost always focused on Willa as she’s our hero and our emotional hook - but I was also mindful of making sure there was a sense of world-building there too. Over the 15 issues, there’s no shot of anyone on the ground.
In fact we rarely even see the ground and something is always in motion.
The first five covers I had in mind pretty much from the outset. Each has a story element to them, I’d say, but issue’s 1 and 2 were mainly focused on Willa and getting across her spirit and how cool a low G world was for her. From three, started to get more into story elements too.
Nrama: When you started Skyward, did you have an endgame in mind? Did you do a deep dive into the science involved that would possibly be able to reverse the zero-g?
Henderson: We’d always planned on a 15-issue story with three arcs. I knew the first arc was about the city, the second arc would be a road trip, and the third arc would reveal the underground city and tie it all together.
But a lot changed along the way. Nate was supposed to go on the journey with Willa. Lilly was never supposed to come back. I didn’t realize it would be giant bugs in the second arc until I found in my research that gravity might be a reason bugs are small. I always love having a roadmap but allowing for the characters or world to pivot the story in exciting directions.
As for the science, oh yeah, I did tons of research and reached out to scientists, trying to explore every explanation possible. It’s actually one of the reasons the book took so long to come to life; I got hung up on finding an explanation. But the truth of it is – our high concept is an impossibility. So there is no genuinely satisfying answer to why it would happen.
Then I looked back at Y: The Last Man and studied how they did it. They offered potential explanations, but never confirmed what happened. Ultimately, I feel like their argument was that what’s most important is the journey, not the explanation. I dug that approach and copied it. Hey, if you’re going to steal, steal from the best.
Nrama: How would you describe Willa and Edison's relationship after the Battle of Chicago?
Henderson: They’re dating! Which makes me so happy. I really wanted to give Willa a win after all her journeys. She lost her Dad, faced her fears, went through a bit of hell. Now she gets her Mom back and gets the guy. Yay happy ending!
Or at least, if the book ended with issue #14 it would be. But we have a final issue where we see that it’s not really a happy ending. Life’s complicated. She got a happy ending, but Willa’s true ending is a new beginning. And you can’t always get everything you want…
Nrama: What do you think you've learned about the biggest difference is working in creator-owned comic books and TV for licensed properties?
Henderson: There are fewer notes in creator-owned comics, that’s for sure! But what comes with that is a need to self-edit, and empower those around you to make sure you deliver your best work. While the notes process in TV can be overwhelming, it also forces you to defend your thesis over and over again. It’s useful to create a version of that process in creator-owned comics so that you know you’re telling the best version of your story.
You also have more flexibility on what you can do with the characters, but that’s also a double-edged sword. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. For example, when we brought Lilly back, Lee and I were both excited but skeptical about it – were we going to undermine our entire book by doing so? After Lee and I were happy, I vetted it through our editor, Rick, as well, to make sure it made sense and added to the story. That process of vetting the idea helped shape Lilly’s story and breathed even more life into it.
Nrama: Joe, on your Twitter profile, your icon is standing with the Writer's Guild of America. Why is that important to you?
Henderson: The writers in the WGA are currently in a stand-off with their agents. There’s a lot going on it, but the simple version is this – agents are supposed to work for writers, in exchange for 10% of our income. But now a lot of agencies are becoming producers as well, which means they become our bosses. This is a fight for creative control and to empower writers, and I feel very strongly that it’s a necessary one.
Nrama: Lee, designing this world had to have been difficult at times trying to figure out the functionality of everyday devices that have to now work in this kind of environment. Was there something that had you really stumped at first before you eventually figured it out?
Garbett: Oh yeah, for sure. It all took a lot of working out. As it’s not zero-G the most helpful starting point was to visualize the world as being underwater, so things float but would eventually come to settle somewhere. Then we figured that people would mostly want things to remain the same, so there’d probably be sofas and beds, etc. You don’t just want to drift out of a window while you’re sleeping.
Mostly it was a case of keeping your eye on things. Adding safety belts to seating, making sure drinks had lids, that sort of thing
The biggest problem, I think, came in the second arc. That whole arc was nuts with the low-g farm and insect abattoir but the killer was a romantic dinner scene between Willa and Lucas. As I was laying it out it was dawning on me that none of it would work in the traditional way it does now. It would be impossible to have a beautiful spread of food in this world. So it went from an intimate, firefly-lit dinner for two to an intimate, firefly-lit dinner of tethered hot meal-pouches and wine from a bag - for two.
There are many romantic possibilities in a low-g world but the classic candlelit dinner isn’t one of them.
Nrama: Skyward earned itself an Eisner nomination, and although it didn't win (sorry if it the wound is too fresh) would you both consider working together again?
Garbett: We’re 100% planning on working together again as soon as schedules allow. Joe’s been super-busy with Lucifer season 4 and the upcoming season 5 - not to mention the screenplay for the Skyward movie! and I’ve got a mini-series with Marvel coming up too - but we’re both itching to get back together as soon as we can and we have a couple of projects already cooking.
Henderson: Exactly what Lee said — I’m champing at the bit to get started on our next project! But also feeling incredible pressure to make sure it’s something worthy of following up Skyward. Rest assured, if I have my way, Lee’s stuck with me for many, many projects to come!