Dystopian worlds are often created to reflect the real world. These mirror worlds create a reflection of us, letting us look at the choices they make and, hopefully, realizing the problems in ours. THE FEW does just this. It gives us a world not too different from our own, yet it shows what could be if we become stuck on power and control. ComicsVerse was lucky enough to be able to interview Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman about their upcoming release of THE FEW as a trade paperback. And let me tell you, it’s one wild ride.

ComicsVerse (CV): For readers who may not be aware, would you please tell us a little about what THE FEW is about?

Sean Lewis (SL): THE FEW started off as a fantasy book. I live in Iowa and I started to wonder, “what if the country became so divided that the Midwest was just left behind.”

THE FEW takes that idea and throws us into the future where we follow Edan Hale, a soldier for the Palace, who is working undercover in the badlands (or, what was once Flyover Country). She has saved a child from a local massacre at the hands of a rogue cult on the lands and she is being aided by two young brothers who have been trained to be survivalists by their father.

READ: Haven’t read issue #1 yet? Check out what we thought about THE FEW #1!

CV: In your introductions, you each talk about how this story and main characters came into being. I’m curious though: where did the inspiration for Herrod come from?

SL: I grew up in a religious household (First generation Irish Catholic, in the house!) so, weirdly, the story of King Herod was a bedtime story for me. Herod was the King, supposedly, at the birth of Christ. His response was to have all the male children in the land executed.

I wanted a self-proclaimed King/Madmen to kick the book off. I had been thinking about what isolation does. When you are cut off from the rest of the world, what do you do? Often, you go insane. North Korea is an example of this — the world has cut them off, completely and now you have a madman running around with nukes.

So, I thought, if the US just abandoned and sealed off Flyover Country, what would become of people? Herod. A man who believes he is chosen by God to pillage and murder. He can take what he wants. And no one will stop him.

Hayden Sherman (HS): I was raised religious as well (non-denominational Christian, woo!) but have since left that part of me behind. So when Sean brought Herrod to me I couldn’t help but go for that biblical sort-of kingly depiction. I drew a lot of inspiration from old drawings and paintings of ancient kings, in particular, a Gustave Moreau painting that depicts Salome dancing in front of the ancient Herod. The idea became for our Herrod to have dressed himself in a way that he believed a king should look. So he’s a bit scraped together by whatever he could find, but in his mind, he looks as powerful and well-to-do as the great paintings of the ancient Herod.

Herrod
Courtesy of Image Comics

READ: Love Image Comics? Can’t get enough WALKING DEAD? Check out our review of #170!

CV: I noticed your cast of characters is diverse. The three main characters are two black men and a woman. Was this part of your dream? Or is there another reason you picked these characters?

SL: I think Hayden and I were curious from the beginning about the world of the book mirroring the world we live in. I mean if you look at the racial dynamics of our country in the past 50 years they have changed dramatically. So if you looked further into the future the way everything would look would change immensely.

HS: Absolutely. On top of that, when looking at the story it was clear that these characters could really be anyone. So, when these characters could be anyone, it just feels natural for the cast to be diverse. The really strange thing to do would’ve been to make the whole cast one ethnicity. In the world we live in, it only makes sense that our stories reflect the level of diversity that actually exists.

CV: Each comic starts off with a quote from different authors. How did you decide which quotes to choose?

SL: I’m a huge literary nerd. I am obsessed with Cormac McCarthy. I started in theater and loved the Greeks (hence the Aeschylus, quote) and as a sci-fi book, I felt there was a debt owed to some of the masters who came before us (Le Guin’s quote served here).

I wanted them to mirror the book, so the quote gave some context to the overall story. But I also wanted to put it into the same orbit as those works. When I was a kid, comics were a “waste of time,” something teachers and classmates would judge you for. But I learned about mythology and history from comic books. They were literature to me. I spent eighth grade obsessively reading THE GREAT GATSBY and SANDMAN. I didn’t see a difference between the two.

READ: Need more Sci-Fi in your life? Check out our interview with Per Berg as we talk about his Sci-Fi epic, EARTHBOUND!

The comics I aim to make are books that strive to compete with novels. I want the complexity of character, the nuance of the world and the relationship to my daily life to be at the forefront. I learn an incredible amount from stories. If I didn’t, I’d have abandoned them long ago.

Comics can easily just become content and commerce. Everyone gets caught up in the movie and television potential and the amount of great work available right now means good to great books come and go incredibly fast. But I love this. Each comic I write I want to go to battle with Cormac McCarthy, not just Brian K. Vaughan. I think both are great. But the quotes are kind of a stance: I call out the books I love to let them know this is my response.

The Few
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: I was really interested in the panel layout. The large sections of black on some pages seemed to consume the gutters; they’re very interesting and eye-catching. Was there something you were trying to convey with these dark spaces?

SL: Hayden is next level with his layouts. It was the first thing I noticed when looking at his samples. They were kinetic and cinematic. They gave you scope and energy. I think we both were obsessed with the tone and experience of the book.

Hayden was totally into the level of silence I wanted to create throughout the book. Sci-Fi books, especially about war, are naturally really loud and aggressive. I was interested in loss and consequence. Those are quiet things. We’ve all lost important things — and usually, that’s what leaves us silent. It takes our speech.

The black takes our sight.

HS: Sean hit the nail on the head here. So many of the things that we talk about through this book require a level of reverence or thoughtfulness. These spaces between the panels that you mention can help us slow down the read. There’s something about black that makes us look a bit longer, I feel. As though we’re trying to see through the darkness to make out what’s on the other side. That feeling goes hand-in-hand with the themes that THE FEW largely focuses on.

READ: Have you checked out Skybound Entertainment yet? If not, take a look at our interview with Sean Mackiewicz at SDCC!

CV: Where did you get some of the ideas for the tools the heroes use? Like the bomb that attaches to trees, for example? Or even the snowsuits?

SL: That’s me just having fun. That’s Sean from sixth grade thinking what is a bad ass weapon? I’m not too technologically savvy in real life. I got a pair of Bluetooth headphones and was amazed like a toddler. I started thinking what if you could Bluetooth a missile. I always loved graffiti writers growing up, so I just connected the two. If there was a compound in a paint or marker that a missile could home in on, how amazing would that be? I love those weapons.

I knew the missiles were cool, so I was then given the confidence to keep exploring what kind of weaponry could exist in this world.

HS: They were a lot of fun to design as well. All of the Remainder State’s tech especially, with their generally clunky types of weapons. The homing missile (which Sean brought up) is just a big cylinder with a couple vents on it. I have no idea if it’d physically work, in fact, it probably wouldn’t! But it’s just strange enough to see a big cylinder flying at you that I think it’s worth the leap in logic.

CV: Hayden, your art is very distinct and works so perfectly with the story. What were your inspirations for your art style, both in the comic and in general?

HS: There are a lot of artists that I could list as inspiration, Paul Pope, Ashley Wood, Frank Miller, Sergio Toppi, to name a few. But I would say that the greatest inspiration that I drew from them, overall, would be to make the art feel like the world that’s being depicted. My main concern, whenever I’m drawing, is to make the image feel as much like the scene being depicted as I possibly can. Which leads to the vast open winter landscapes and the massive overwhelming city settings in THE FEW. Each scene had to feel right, everything after that is secondary.

READ: Caught up on THE WICKED + THE DIVINE? Check out our Op-Ed for two different looks at the same text!

I find focusing on the feeling helps tremendously with comics in particular, as comics exist in a very specific and fascinating space for storytelling. A scene can’t be visually abstracted in a film or book or play, in the same way that it can in a comic. In a comic, the whole world you depict is made out of the medium of your choice (ink in this case) and has to be imagined in motion by the reader. The whole thing is an act of pulling the reader in, trying to communicate the feeling of the moment through brush strokes and color, and hoping they can forget the world around them and really believe what’s on the page.

It might be a kind of round-about answer, but I think it’s safe to say that the artists who inspire me most are the ones who can trick me into believing the drawings are real.

Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman
Courtesy of Image Comics

CV: What were your favorite parts of the story to work on and why?

SL: I don’t want to ruin it but in issue 5 when Hale loses everything there are a set of panels, a few pages, where we just live with her. We live with that loss.

I saw that when Hayden sent it on and I said, “We made something special.”

HS: Honestly, I’ve got to agree with Sean on this one. That scene was wonderful to get to make and makes me entirely grateful that we worked with Image for this book. The scene is a fairly long stretch and silent in a way that comics don’t always allow for. Getting to make every issue at whatever page count we thought best, and then Image just letting us go for it, that’s a fantastic thing.

CV: Any other projects you guys working on?

SL: Yes. Hayden sent me art for a new sci-fi series we are working on and it’s basically the best thing either of us has ever done. So, well, there’s that.

HS: Sean’s outdone himself here, I can’t wait to show what we’re working on. But inking issue #1 has just begun, so sit tight!

READ: Still craving more Sci-Fi? Check out our thoughts on ETHER Vol. 1!

CV: Is there anything about THE FEW, or anything else, that you guys want new readers to know?

SL: It’s a really good book. That is what you’re supposed to say, but I have enough self-hate that it’s actually hard for me to come through with that kind of sentence. But without question the book is different and it’s pretty great. I’m very proud of it.

HS: Amen. It’s been incredible to make, so I just hope whoever picks it up for the first time will enjoy reading it as much I’ve enjoyed working on it!

To keep an eye out for what Sean Lewis and Hayden Sherman are working on next, follow them on Twitter! And remember to pick up THE FEW trade, rolling out August 23rd.

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