Critically lauded writer and playwright Sean Hayden (Saints) teams up with newcomer artist Hayden Sherman for a brand new dystopian series that sees a group, The Few, fight for what’s left of America. We were lucky enough to get to chat with both Sean and Hayden about their upcoming project. We discussed what we can expect in the vast and deep world they have constructed and a little bit of what inspired them to create The Few.
BIC: How did you all come up with the idea of The Few?
Sean: Eric Stephenson at Image had mentioned in passing to me if I had ever thought of doing something in genre, like sci-fi. I had a little bit but hadn’t explored it but I had this image stuck in my head: a woman in the woods, running, with a baby in her arms. The baby, for some reason, wearing a gas mask.
I loved the image. So, I started asking myself- who is this woman? Why is she running? Why is the baby wearing a gas mask? Where are they? I loved the landscapes of Montana and had always been interested in the militia movements that happen there. So that became the starting locale. The woman was wearing body armor underneath rags, so I knew she was a soldier dressed up in disguise for some reason and the baby in the gas mask told me there was something wrong with the air.
My gut instincts of militias and soldiers then basically made me feel I was writing about an America at war with itself, split up, where the fly over states became a badlands with no infrastructure or government and the coasts became the center of power and finance.
Basically, this is how i work on stories- I see some images and then I start interviewing myself about what the images mean until answers emerge.
BIC: You mentioned the coasts as the center of power and finance, will we see any kind of radically different technology when we eventually get there?
Sean: Absolutely, even as the Palace soldiers arrive in the badlands the difference in technology is striking. The cities bustle and are packed (think Tokyo or New York) and they feel really alive versus the complete absence we see in the badlands. After all, if America split now and you were told a place was being left behind, wouldn’t you leave if you could.
Hayden: On top of that, you’ll be seeing in these coastal cities that they haven’t just done away with all of the buildings and structures that have been there for so long. This new society is growing on top of the major cities of the east and west coasts, so that the old architecture comes into play with all of the new massive buildings that they’ve introduced. It should be a fun place to visit, at least visually.
BIC: How does your collaboration work? Do you write out the scripts and then have Hayden go at it with the artwork or does Hayden influence the actual script process? Or something completely different?
Sean: It is basically me writing up scripts and sending them to Hayden. We talk a lot about design ahead of time and I made myself really familiar with his portfolio before we started working together so I had a sense of what he was especially adept at that. I then could write certain parts of the story for his strengths.
Hayden: The collaboration has been very fluid from the beginning and it’s some of the most fun I’ve had working from a script. For each issue Sean sends me a script that comes in at about seven or so pages and details everything that happens in the issue for me to interpret. What’s wonderful is Sean doesn’t include page numbers, or panel distinctions, it’s all just event after event. So from there I go through line by line and layout the book, which gives me the opportunity to direct this script and play the scenes how I feel is natural. By the end, what was once a two sentence description can become a six page scene, whatever tells the story best. From there I send Sean the penciled pages and he does a redraft off of those while I’m inking, so I get the final script by the time I get to lettering. An issue is never really 100% locked down until it goes to print! It’s fun keeping everything moving and alive while making the book, some really cool unexpected things come about that way.
BIC: The Few is a dystopian and with almost every dystopian I’ve read whether it’s the Handmaid’s Tale or Anthem or The Sleeper Awakes they look to address specific social ills. What kind of social ills are you looking to address with The Few?
Sean: I am really interested in fascism. I’m also interested in militias and survivalist movements. I think every political party has the possibility, and often the propensity, for fascism. “If you don’t agree with us we will shame you, bully you, command you.” It’s scary to me. I see it on my facebook feed and in the news, both parties, decreeing you are with us or you are against us. It’s ironic for a country that literally has the word UNITED as the first word in their name.
BIC: There seems to be quite a bit of Christian symbolism with an allusion to Moses and even the use of a Biblical character or at least his name, what’s the inspiration behind this?
Sean: Well, ten years of Catholic school will do that. The Moses story was one I heard a lot growing up, my grandmother had a picture book of him floating down the river in a basket and it was read to me everyday. King Herrod was a story as a kid I found fascinating- he showed up in such weird places and made such strange decrees and yet also would be referred to as a strong leader. I also felt that religious fervor can often be found a lot in people who are isolated or beaten down- and the appropriation of religious character (like saying I AM KING HERROD) is an interesting megalomania. When you are surrounded by poor, angry, disenfranchised people how do you organize them? You tell them you are sent from heaven and they are chosen.
Also, OLD TESTAMENT is violent as hell, so a guy who wants to be an Old Testament King is gonna do some bad shit.
BIC: Can we expect more of this moving forward in the series?
Sean: Oh not necessarily. The world of the book gives room for a lot of subcultures within the militia and survivalist set. I think you will see more non-religious factions popping up. Though, HERROD will be around.
BIC: The colors have a Sin City vibe to it with the way much of the colors are washed out. What are some of your influences for the artwork?
Hayden: Comics such as Darwyn Cooke’s Parker, Matt Wagner’s Grendel: Devil by the Deed, and Ashley Wood’s Metal Gear Solid all influenced the colors for The Few in one way or another. More than anything all of those books use color in very specific ways to directly impact how their stories are told. That was something I wanted to bring to The Few from the beginning, to use color as a means of going inside the main character’s head and treating the color as a distinct part of the overall pages to further the storytelling.
BIC: Those are some big names when it comes to colors, are there any influences for your panel design and layout?
Hayden: Sean Murphy and Joe Kubert come to mind for layouts, Joe Kubert especially has done a lot of really cool things with panels to make them fun to look at without being confusing.
BIC: There are also some very unique character costumes, especially for King Herrod and his followers. Where did those ideas come from?
Hayden: Herrod really came into his own own as soon as Sean and I started referring to him as a king, or at least someone who feels he’s a king. So that became something I really wanted to embed in his design, how much he feels he deserves this. There’s a beautiful and eccentrically ornate 19th century painting by Gustave Moreau titled Salome Dancing before Herod that served as the lightning rod of his design and attitude from there.
For Herrod’s followers then I wanted them to be non-distinct from one another on some level, and keep as much of their identity removed from the equation as possible. Throughout the book they’re always wrapped up in cloths or bandages, whatever they can get their hands on, and have built air filters into their suits so they can freely roam the land. I like the idea that these followers could be anyone, whatever happened for them to be recruited we don’t know, but they somehow feel less separate or disturbed when I can’t see their faces. Which makes it all the more terrifying for me, as if they’re always calm.
BIC: You teased an intense back story, is this a theme that we will see recurring moving forward? Do you plan on doing maybe one-shot issues between arcs that take us back into this history?
Sean: I like the one shot idea! That’s not a horrible thought. I’m stealing that. Currently, trademarked for LewisCorp.
BIC: Glad to be of help! Along with the backstory you have a pretty in-depth world, will we get to learn exactly why the world is the way it is? Any hints?
Sean: You will get hints- we are using the inner covers to do some fun stuff to give clues to the audience to let them play detective a little bit. I like that feel- a book where the ride is really awesome but also involves me on an active level. So read those inner covers!
Hayden: As the man said, check out those inner covers! They’re a blast to make and there’ll be a number of hints as to what might’ve happened before. At the same time, the story is very much about how the characters in this world live from one day to the next and try to make it better. Exactly how everything got to be this bad is much less important then. To the characters in the book, this is their world and they’re going to be existing in it and pushing forward. So we’re just going along with them.
BIC: That’s a great idea. I really like how Rucka and Lark have incorporated the covers in Lazarus and Higgins, Siegel, and Reis did a similar thing with C.O.W.L.. And speaking of all of these Image books what’s it like working with Image?
Sean: Unbelievably awesome. I mean, they are the only publisher I have worked with so far but my experience has been incredible. They give a lot of support and a lot of freedom and they love comics and stories and creators. I literally couldn’t have imagined a better relationship.
Hayden: Phenomenal. The people at Image have been so supportive and encouraging from day one. It’s a welcoming environment and they’re there with you every step of the way. Working with a company that really wants you to be an involved creator is nothing short of ideal.
BIC: What was the pitch process like?
Sean: Well, I had already done SAINTS for them. In terms of pitch me and Hayden found each other online and started making the book. We really started making it just on faith that Image would eventually publish it. So every few months I’d bother Eric with story outlines and sketches and say, “Hey this is what we’re working on.” Eventually, we started doing full issues, still on faith that Image would do it. We basically finished the first three issues before we got the official “yes.”
Hayden: Wow! You’re right, we made a full three issues before we got a final word. In retrospect that sounds kinda nuts! But absolutely, we just believed in the book enough to keep making and making and making until, thankfully, Image took us in.
BIC: How many issues have you guys already finished?
Sean: We have four fully done and Hayden, I believe is finishing up art on issue 5 as we speak. I imagine all six will be done by the time the first issue comes out.
Hayden: Issue 5 is chugging along for sure, there’ll be some overlap when it comes out but we’ll be good!
BIC: What were the major hurdles you faced?
Sean: This one has been really smooth. Makes me scared. I might need to ask if you know of hurdles coming up? Knock on wood.
Hayden: I’m finishing off my senior year at the Rhode Island School of Design, so making this book while taking classes and now taking on more comic work has been it’s own kind of hurdle. But where there’s a will there’s a way.
BIC: What other projects are you working on?
Sean: Comic book wise I have a book called COYOTES that will be coming out around early summer that I am working on with an artist named Caitlin Yarsky. It’s a really beautiful girl samurai in the Mexican desert story. Otherwise, I’m jumping from theater project to theater project.
Hayden: Apart from The Few, I’m also pencilling and inking the John Carter: The End series for Dynamite Comics (issue #1 is due out February 8th!) and I’m writing something for myself that’s looking to be a five issue mini-series. So much to do, so little time.
BIC: How can we stay in touch with you guys?
Sean: I am @SeanChrisLewis
Hayden: @cleanlined for me!
The Few #1 arrives on comic book shelves everywhere on January 18th!