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Speaking of keeping it real, characters that are injured or killed and they stay dead. I'm not pointing fingers, but that's pretty unusual in comics as well.
Definitely. Some characters more than others, but yeah I think especially having been weaned on Marvel and DC comics. And having written for them. Death is always an illusion. Whenever you’re working for a major corporation, that’s just the way it is. I think that a lot of the fiction we’ve grown up with, now death doesn’t mean as much to us because we know that character’s probably going to come back, because that actor is so popular that people are going to want to see Wolverine again. But I like fiction.
This is the point of reading fiction—to prepare us for our own mortality, and that we’re going to lose people that we love. I take death very seriously. If somebody dies in a comic, they’re not going to be resurrected, that’s not the kind of story we’re telling. It’s hard, but it’s also a war comic. And it’s a war comic in the same way I suppose that Casablanca is a war movie. The war is in the background, but it’s about these very deep, personal relationships between people. But regardless, there’s still a war going on and that means people are going to die, and they’re going to die pretty often. It is hard. Harder sometimes for Fiona [Staples], especially, because she puts so much love and care into designing these characters. She’s like, really, The Stalk, you’re going to off her after I put so much work into this!
At least you saved Lying Cat—that was a close call.
That was the one time where I sent Fiona the script and she was like, "Yup, I’m not gonna draw that. Sorry that you’re a monster, I’m not gonna kill off Lying Cat." I had to reassure her that a kitty has nine lives.
Speaking of Fiona, what’s the process like between you two? How much of your script determines her character designs?
It’s been the happiest working relationship of my life. I think we have very different personalities and outlooks, but we’re on the same page when it comes to this book. It’s a really trusting relationship. Before we start each arch, we talk about what themes do we want to explore. I always ask Fiona if there’s stuff that she hated drawing or stuff she’d like to draw more of. We talk kind of generally about story directions. But she’s always like I don’t want any spoilers. I don’t want to know who lives or dies this arc. I want to sort of read your script like a reader and take that energy from what I’ve read and that shock and surprise, and pour it into the pages. She doesn’t like to know plot details, but she’s really important for everything else. The visual look of the book is entirely her. I’m very trusting and I will give her only the barest sketches. At the beginning, I said Marko is a guy with horns and a sword and Alana is a woman with a ray gun and wings and just please do your best to make them beautiful, fully formed, three-dimensional characters, which she does. I try to give her all the information that she needs, also the complete freedom to diverge from it and make these characters her own.