By David Dissanayake
East of West is my favorite series currently being published. Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin have quickly become one of the most tremendous powerhouse teams in all of comics, and if you've been reading the series you know why.
If you haven't checked out the series yet, I obviously cannot recommend it highly enough. A heady brew of sci-fi, fantasy, and western, East of West follows Death through an alternate history America as he works counter to the machinations of his horseman siblings who aim to bring about the End of All Things. Deep, complex, subversive, and utterly compelling, East of West is one of this generation's most ambitious and exhilarating comics.
I have been an immense fan of Jonathan Hickman's work since I first read Nightly News years ago. Interviews with him have become recently become fewer and farther between, so you can imagine my excitement when he agreed to do this interview about the end of East of West's first year. We had a brief but fun chat about the history and future of East of West, working with Dragotta, what he's been reading, and -most importantly- the World Cup.
David Dissanayake: So, firstly and most importantly, who is going to win the World Cup?
Jonathan Hickman: Me, I think Argentina is going to win. I don't think Brazil is strong enough, and I think the European teams will falter (And I write this after two very impressive performances — Holland dismantling Spain and Germany sticking it in Portugal). We'll see.
DD: I was hoping you could tell us a little about the roots of East of West. I know that you and Nick wanted to keep working together after your FF work, but I mean more in terms of the development of the story idea itself. Was there a big collaborative approach to the story, or was it something you constructed on your own before bringing it to Nick?
JH: The roots are simple — you had it right — Nick and I just wanted to work together on creating something. I know this seems like a bit of a stretch…or even a bit disheartening for those that really love the book, but all the story stuff comes after you agree to work together.
To be honest, the idea of pitching 'ideas' to various artists to see who might jump on board is the kind of headache I'm just not interested in. It's like talking about what kind of house you want and then looking for a wife that will fit in it.
Ideas are total vapor — the relationship is everything.
Saying that, does anyone know the over/under on how many Nicks in one's life is too many?
DD: Issue #12 was a quite a bombshell, positioning the different societies on the brink of war, and looking ahead at the solicitation for issue 13 it looks like we're approaching the end of Apocalypse: Year One. What does that mean in terms of where we are in the larger story structure? Is this something like the end of the first act?
JH: Yes, this is end of the first act. Starting in issue 16 is 'The Apocalypse: Year Two' (following Year One which was obviously, issues 1-15). We jump forward a few months, where we're deep into labor, birthing the end of the world.
DD: Moving forward, what can you tease about what's coming up in the book? Might we ever get a glimpse of other countries around the world?
JH: I will say this, coming out in October is East of West: The World. It's a stand alone, all-encompassing look at the wider world of East of West. Sort of a part atlas, part encyclopedia, part timeline, and part apocrypha. There's going to be a lot of stuff in there that is pivotal to the series, but, because of the format, it's really easy to get an astronaut's view of the world.
DD: Who are your favorite characters, or the ones you are most proud of? Do you find some are easier to write than others?
JH: I like Archibald. He's fun. I like Xoaolian a lot. She's snappy.
DD: What's it like working with Nick Dragotta? The guy is an absolute BEAST and has proven himself again and again as a master of storytelling, structure, and character design – and it seems he's pretty damn fast too. I'm curious what the creative working relationship between you two is like. Do you write full scripts for him or is it closer to a Marvel style approach?
JH: Oh, Nick's great. Always figuring things out, always grinding away at what makes the characters go…
And, as stated above, the relationship is fine. We disagree, which is healthy, but more often than that we get pumped up by what the other is doing. And we keep the work open…sometimes we work full script, sometimes it's Marvel style, sometimes I get a page and it's something completely unexpected…which is always a blast.
We'll probably work tighter at the beginning of the next arc, but I'm sure things will get looser quickly once we get into it.
DD: What would you say are some big influences on East of West? I've heard you say in other places that Warren Ellis and Grant Morrison are big influences on your work in general, but are there any other influences that went into East of West specifically?
JH: Well, I love those guys, but I don't think they factor here. I actually don't really over think it. I just know that if I need them, the ideas are always there. I liked The Hateful Eight a lot. How about that?
DD: Lastly, what have you been reading/watching/listening to these days? What are you excited about?
JH: I finally got around to reading most of China Miéville's stuff. That was fun, but I'm pretty much mainlining The Beautiful Game right now. Everything else is gray.
The first two trade paperbacks volumes of East of West are available in stores now.
Pre-order issue #14 with Diamond ID: MAY140703
Vol. 3 will be released 9/17/2014. Pre-order a copy with Diamond ID: JUL140478