There is a storm coming and it knows Abel’s name, the protagonist of Skottie Young’s(I HATE FAIRYLAND) and Jorge Corona’s (NO. 1 WITH A BULLET) new series MIDDLEWEST. This fantasy series focus’ on the adventures of a young boy named Abel and his friend Fox as they navigate through small town life. But when Abel and his father’s already strained relationship takes an awful and terrifying turn, he may have to leave small town life behind.

ComicsVerse had the chance to talk to Skottie and Jorge about MIDDLEWEST, and what we can expect from the comic.

Middlewest
Courtesy of Image Comics

ComicsVerse (CV): For people who haven’t heard about MIDDLEWEST yet, could you give us about it?

Skottie Young (SY): It’s always hard to answer this question because ultimately we want people to read the book and tell us what the think it’s about. But, I’ll try. It’s part journey story, part coming of age story. Abel is dealing with a broken home and the weight that it puts on a family. Some people break, some don’t. He will eventually have to go on a journey, leaving the small farm town he’s been in and going out into the vast world of the Middlewest. His quest is to find out how to keep from becoming the monster his father is, and the monster he fears is inside him.

CV: MIDDLEWEST reads as a young adult fantasy, but mysterious pink liquid filled canisters are featured everywhere and they seem to power everything. They feel very sci-fy. Can we expect MIDDLEWEST to veer into that genre as well, or are the canisters something else?

SY: It’s more modern fantasy than sci-fi. The pink liquid is Ethol, the fuel of this world. You’ll learn more about that as the story progresses. It plays a major part in the second story arc. Jorge and I really leaned into the 70/30 aspect of things. We want the world to mostly feel like a place you or can I can relate to but then pepper in some extra magic flavor. 70% real, 30% something else.

CV: Abel has a lot to deal with but his father seems to be the biggest issue. The man is horrible. How difficult was it to write those scenes of emotional abuse?

SY: It was tough, for sure. I think anytime you’re trying to tap into personal stories and apply them to a bigger tale you’re telling, it’s a challenge. I definitely needed a few extra hugs after writing some of these scenes. It was hard to know if it was too much or not enough. In the end I just wanted to be honest. That’s the best I could do. Luckily I had someone like Jorge and Jean-Francois on my side to help make moments like that even more powerful.

Middlewest
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: The first of Abel’s friends we are introduced to is a talking fox. I’m not 100% if the fox is real or a product of Abel’s imagination, but it reminds me of Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s conscience. Where did the idea of the fox as a companion come from?

SY: Well, you’ve nailed it. The inspiration was Jiminy Cricket. But instead of being Abel’s conscience, Fox is there to push, challenge, and make Abel see that the world is a tough place to navigate. Fox isn’t there to teach moral lessons, as much as to teach Abel how to live the real world by any means necessary. And as far as if he’s real or not, you’ll be able to answer that for yourself later.

CV: Jorge, I really love your artistic style. Could you tell us a bit about what work goes into your world-building and character design?

Jorge Corona (JC): Especially for this book my main source of inspiration came from the Midwest itself. Taking the familiarity of it and turning it into our own version of it was the biggest challenge for this book. Everything kind of derived from that core idea. The characters are, in a way, a reflection of their surroundings. Abel had to be the grounding force from which the reader would experience the more fantastical aspects of MIDDLEWEST. There was also a lot of inspiration from old animated movies and cartoons that influenced the style I ended up using for the book.

CV: Skottie, you’ve worked with colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Nate Piekos on I HATE FAIRYLAND and BULLY WARS. What do they bring to your projects that you return to them again and again?

SY: This is such an easy question. They’re both as good as you can be in their field. I seriously think Jean is one of the best colorists in this industry. He’s smart, and hardworking and down for whatever. He’s a pro through and through. I could copy and past the same thing with Nate. We are just a well oiled machine at this point. I will make books with these artists as long as they’ll have me.

CV: I think one of the goals of MIDDLEWEST #1 is to get Abel on a journey. He may be running away from his dad, but is he also running towards something?

SY: That’s something that I’ll let you find out as you read. I think in life, even when we run from something, we find what we’re running towards. It will be interesting to see if Abel can find something to run toward.

CV: The Image blurb for MIDDLEWEST states that it ‘beautifully mixes fantasy elements of classic Don Bluth animation and MONSTRESS with the darkness of cult favorites like RETURN TO OZ.’ Are there any Don Bluth films that stand out for you that helped guide your story? And is MIDDLEWEST going to get as creepy and weird as RETURN TO OZ?

SY: AN AMERICAN TAIL and SECRET OF NIMH are two movies I loved growing up and still do. I think they didn’t shy away from the darkness that life can throw at us while keeping a sense of hope, adventure, and wonder. Image saw more RETURN TO OZ than I did while making, but that’s what I love about stories. Everyone sees something different. So while RETURN TO OZ wasn’t on my mind at all while writing this, I love that it invoked that in someone else. That’s the power of story.

Middlewest
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: If you could have a talking animal as a companion, what animal would it be and why?

SY: Easy. I’m from the Midwest….Squirrel.

JC: Oh man, that means it’s an Iguana for me.

CV: Outside of MIDDLEWEST, are there any other projects you are working on that you’d like to mention?

SY: I’m currently writing BULLY WARS with Aaron Conley on art at Image comics. That’s a really fun, all-ages title!

JC: Besides MIDDLEWEST I’m currently working on the covers for the new ADVENTURE TIME Season 11 comics with BOOM! Studios.

MIDDLEWEST #1 by Skottie Young, Jorge Corona, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and Nate Peikos will be available here on November 21st!

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