“It is hopefully violent and surreal and human. You can expect nothing to be what it looks like. Beyond Nic making it all look pretty amazing.”
Trust us on this: the best-looking new Image ongoing to drop this side of the milky way is Drifter by the creative team that in 2009 brought you Viking, a.k.a. Ivan Brandon, Nic Klein and Tom Muller.
These three gents, handling words, art and design, respectively, have dialed up a sci-fi opus starring Abram Pollux, who crashes and subsequently gets stuck on Ouro, a strange planet where nothing is as it seems.
This is the first time the three of you are doing a book since Viking about five years ago. Did it take some time to feel each other out again, or did you hit the ground running?
IVAN BRANDON: It always takes time to figure out what your collective voice is gonna be… we don’t know every part of what we’re going to do right away. But our process and our relationship are second nature at this point. We know we’re all on the same page, even if we don’t know what that page is gonna look like.
TOM MULLER: What Ivan said. It’s not like we didn’t speak between Viking and Drifter, so in a way it felt like we picked up from where we left off, hopefully a bit smarter than the last time.
This is Ivan’s first Image book in a few years. The company’s cred hasn’t been this high since the founding years. Do you feed off of that as creators in any way?
BRANDON: Well, definitely it’s inspiring to know there’s an audience out there for new stuff. But it’s also energizing to have so many different people pushing outside of the norm of what comics has largely been for most of my life.
NIC KLEIN: Image has always been the only home for creator owned work for me, so it was never a question of how Image’s cred has changed over the years.
Overall, what’s the kind of atmosphere you wanted to establish on Drifter to give the book its own identity versus other sci-fi stories, perhaps directly compared to the ones Image is already publishing, such as Rick Remender’s Black Science and Low?
BRANDON: I love those books, but that’s not really how my brain works… I’m not organized or calculated enough in my workflow to think in terms of what’s out there or what isn’t. I hope my work is unique, but I’m not really measuring it against other comics in that way. I just write the way I know, y’know?
KLEIN: We didn’t make a conscious effort to separate ourselves from other books, I think Drifter being its own story hopefully does that without us trying.
Ivan, how are you handling the genre tropes of outer-space sci-fi? Is there anything you’ve deliberately left out or turned on its head?
BRANDON: My version of space is as clumsy and dirty as our current reality. It’s stunning but imperfect. What I did away with was all the exceptional poise and shine sci-fi can gravitate towards. In our world you tend to get your hands dirty.
Nic, In terms of the art, this book has a decidedly different look than not only Viking, but also some other work you’ve done since, such as Dancer and Doc Savage. In what ways have you tweaked your style?
KLEIN: I try to change my style a little for every book I work on, even between books like Winter Soldier or Captain America there is a difference even though they followed closely to each other. I try to give each book its own voice. I also like experimenting with looks and techniques. There is nothing more boring than stagnation, to me anyways.
For Drifter I wanted to have a painterly feel where some things are concerned, but also line art… I probably had a lot of European books in the back of my head, since there are a lot of sci-fi comics from this continent. Color plays a big part in Drifter’s art because it is a great way to establish atmosphere, and that is one of the most important parts in creating a world.
Tom, how did you go about interpreting the concept to come up with the design elements, from the dotted logo to the subtle pinstripes and such on the covers?
MULLER: It took us a while to arrive at that design. We had been batting back and forth ideas of where we could go with the cover designs, but the initial concepts didn’t feel right.
We kept joking that when I instinctively know how the design (should) work I send over the one design proposal which we run with, but in this case I kept swamping the guys with sketches which were stylistically very far removed from the current designs, until we took a step back and went back to pure design, data visualization language, dot matrix readouts etc — and that’s when it clicked.
There’s a very clearly defined, but flexible design system in place now that is malleable as we go along, from issue to issue, and arc to arc.
You’ve said that the planet Ouro is the real character of your story. Can we compare that to how the monster of the South is really what it’s all about in Southern Bastards?
BRANDON: I don’t think I’d try to make that comparison, but I can say that Ouro isn’t just a surface to walk on. Even in a passive state, it’d be much less hospitable than earth, and Ouro is not at all passive.
Does this also mean that readers can expect Abram Pollux to be changed more by his time on Ouro than the impact he’ll have on his surroundings?
BRANDON: I’d hope that any man learns more from the world than the world learns from him.
What about life on our beautiful blue globe? Everything’s completely eradicated here?
BRANDON: That’s a very good question. [Laughs]
KLEIN: Earth doesn’t really play a significant part in this story, except that it is the starting point of the humans. But judging by how it is now, it probably doesn’t get a lot greater in the future, unless someone figures out how to do positive terra-forming.
How long will the first arc run and what can we expect from it?
BRANDON: The first arc is 5 issues long. It is hopefully violent and surreal and human. You can expect nothing to be what it looks like. Beyond Nic making it all look pretty amazing.
KLEIN: And you can expect a lot of colors.
Ultimately, what do you want Drifter to say about us humans? “Don’t screw up your home planet?”
BRANDON: There’s no real message intended. Just a lot of exploration.
Drifter #1 goes on sale November 12 from Image Comics.