Revenge is a powerful motivation. But when you don’t know who wronged you then it becomes all the more challenging, but not impossible.
On May 2, 2012 Image launches a new ongoing series by Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo titled Mind The Gap which follows a young woman named Elle who seriously injured in a seemingly random mugging on the NYC subway. With her both laid up and comatose in a hospital bed and family by her side, her mind finds a way to roam free and try to connect the dots on her condition and the truth behind her fateful attack. Mixing film noir with psychological mystery, writer Jim McCann and artist Rodin Esquejo have plotted out an ambitious and complex story that switches back and forth between the real world and a preternatural spirit world that Elle’s not alone in. Newsarama spoke with the writer back in October when the series was originally announced, and now as the debut draws near we return to get a more in-depth glimpse at this twisted thriller. Newsarama: Mind The Gap is about a woman who’s violently attacked and someone’s out to find her attacker… but unlike other comics it isn’t some male figure coming to the rescue, but the woman herself as a disembodied ghost of a person. Was there any thought for you placed in dashing the stereotype of stories about women in peril with a man out to save them?
Jim McCann: It wasn’t a conscious thought or a contributing factor to the story, honestly. It wasn’t like I was trying to make a statement. For me everything centers on the character, and as soon as the initial idea came into my mind I knew the main character was female. Her entire back-story came to me almost immediately, and I knew where she was going to go as a person.
The mugging that starts this all off isn’t just a random thing; it’s part of a greater mystery. As you can tell from the preview pages that have been released so far, Elle’s locked into an amnesiac state. This woman knows nothing about herself, and has to build her identity back up and become a much stronger person than she may have been before. Identity is a key theme of Mind The Gap.
Nrama: What kind of person was Elle before the mugging that put her in the hospital?
McCann: We’re going to find a lot of that out as the story goes along; she’ll learn about herself through other people talking about her. In the digital preview we ran earlier, you got glimpses of her immediate past. You saw she messed with her best friend and her boyfriend’s ringtones, and has a good sense of humor about her. Elle’s brother has some conflicted feelings about his sister. And there are a number of different people around with different perspective, so that plays heavily into the book. Like I said, identity. How much is someone’s identity purely by themselves and how much is formed by how other people perceive and interact with them?
Although Elle’s body is locked in a coma, she’s able to go into a type of spirit-form and see and hear things in the hospital. With her visitors, we’ll begin to learn about her from second-hand information. And not all of it necessarily jives with one another. You may think you’re one thing, but other people around you might think the totally opposite. It’s an interesting conceit to play with.Nrama: Like you explained, the big leap in this story is that while her body is bound in a coma, her mind is able to wander the world and explore her killer. How can she hope to get to the bottom of things if she can’t interact with the world but be an intangible observer?
McCann: In the preview we released you see that she meets someone else in this mindscape / spirit world she’s able to access now, and her meeting other people in her situation is going to play a big part in this. I wanted to play with this idea that what she’s experiences isn’t just in her mind, but is a shared experience so other people who are hovering near life and death might cross paths with her. And since Elle’s stuck in a hospital, she’s going to meet a lot of people in a situation like hers. And some people, who might eventually come out of it and recover, might remember their interactions with Elle in this spirit world.
There’s another aspect I’m keeping secret, but it’ll be revealed in the first issue. It’s the one secret I’m really happy I haven’t spilled yet about the book.
Nrama: So no chance of telling us here today?
McCann: No. [laughs]
Nrama: Had to ask. Can you tell us about Elle’s family in all this?
McCann: In this mystery, everybody plays a role.
Elle’s mother is a bit of a Korean tiger mom. I’m fortunate to have a lot of friends, including [comic book colorist and webcomic “Fox Sister” writer] Christina Strain, who are Asian-Caucasian and have told me numerous anecdotes and personality traits that a lot of Korean moms share. Elle’s mom is very cold and distant, and has some real reasons for that.
Elle’s father is rather emotional, but carries a sense of guilt over something that hasn’t broken the surface.
Her brother, as seen in the previews is a bit of a douche.
Nrama: [laughs]McCann: Or at least so he appears. He’s younger than Elle, but feels his sister has gotten more attention from their father that he did. He’s definitely the favored child by their mother, but he still carries some resentment. He’s aloof and standoffish, and has pretty much embraced the upper-class lifestyle they come from. Elle, on the other hand, has pretty much rejected her family status. She works in a theatre on the Lower East Side, and that’s where her best friend Joe and her boyfriend Dane come in.
Jo’s kind of the moral compass of the story; she’s the one person we know for a fact couldn’t be the attacker because she receives a phone call from Elle seconds after the attack that wakes her up from a nap. Joe is very fierce and protective of her best friend. They definitely have a long-standing friendship and she’s ready to make whoever did this to Elle pay for what they have done. Her boyfriend Dane, on the other hand, is a “wrong side of the tracks” kind of guy; the strong/silent type. That also makes him a suspect.
As I’ve been saying in several of these interviews, everyone is a suspect and no one is innocent. That extends outside her family, from the doctors on Elle’s case and also to the people she meets in the spirit world. Everyone has their own agendas here, so you can’t know who to trust.
Nrama: And Elle can’t even trust her own memories, because she has amnesia. Is she completely blank in her memory?
McCann: She can sort of remember some things, but nothing in particular. And that’s hard because she’s the one person, who if she had her memories, would know the truth to the mystery. Everything that led up to this attack, and the attack itself, is locked away in her head. She has some stray memories that might have some meaning, but she can’t understand them. That’s why she has to be kind of methodical and procedural with how she uncovers the truth and pieces together the facts.
Nrama: In our interview last year you compared this to Twin Peaks, which was known for its twists and turns. Can we expect some of that here?
McCann: Oh, absolutely. It’s all about. My goal from the beginning is to have a thriller mystery with a beginning, middle and end where everybody has a role to play. For every question that is answered, it raises up two new questions. I do have and ending planned out and plotted up, so I know where this is going. Having a destination in mind allows me to plan clues along the way, some truthful and some red herrings, to weave it into what I hope is an engrossing story. It is Twin Peaks-y, with Memento and Kill Bill thrown in there.
Nrama: As a New York resident yourself, have you seen any altercations like the one that sets off Mind The Gap while on a subway platform?
McCann: No, but it does happen – especially in times where places in New York are devoid of a lot of people. I try not to travel in those times, but having lived in New York the one thing I wanted to get across was the New York experience. That’s why there’s a multi-racial cast and I’m able to use aspects of the city as, in effect, a character.
Nrama: Speaking of characters, count me among the many fans of Rodin Esquejo’s work after seeing him do covers for Morning Glories, but with all the detail I just assumed he wasn’t the kind of guy who could handle a monthly comic. But seeing him on this has dashed my expectations, so how is he shaping up to the challenge that is monthly?McCann: Incredibly well. Beautifully, amazingly well. He’s done sequential work prior to this in Image’s Fractured Fables which was nominated for an Eisner. I got a chance to meet him at Comic-Con International: San Diego and flipped through his sketchbook and portfolio, and I’d been a fan for awhile. And when I thought about combining his work with Sonia Oback’s colors it really clicked for me. Rodin’s beautiful open line art with Sonia’s color rendering really looked ideal for one another.
Even though people know him primarily for his covers, even those tell a story. And as you’ll see in Mind The Gap, it looks and feels real. If someone is wearing a jacket and has their hand in their pocket, it doesn’t look stiff at all. The clothing bends and everything has weight. All of the characters are full of body language, even when they’re not speaking. On top of that, when it comes to portraying the spirit world Rodin nails all the craziness going on and makes it otherworldly and beautiful.
Nrama: Although this isn’t your first ongoing series as Hawkeye & Mockingbird had that honor, Mind The Gap is your first creator-owned ongoing. What’s that challenge like for you, as you’re in effect the writer, editor and creator?
McCann: With Hawkeye & Mockingbird we had 40 years of continuity to fall back on, and previous writers’ stories and a built-in fanbase. So the first challenge with bringing something new to the marketplace is convincing potential readers to try out Mind The Gap. If you’ve liked my work at Marvel or Return of the Dapper Men, come try this. And even if you haven’t read my work before, listen to the story and see if it draws you in. I personally think everyone will love it, and I hope they find out for themselves on May 2nd.