A Writer's Commentary: Ben Fisher talks The Great Divide #1, on sale today from Dynamite. Grab your copy and follow along. Cover by Mike Henderson and interiors by Adam Markiewicz.
I knew from the first draft of the script that I wanted to open with a "man runs into a bar" joke. It sets a thematic introductory bookend for the issue and also juxtaposes nicely with the gruesome imagery. This contrast is a technique that we utilize frequently.
The Great Divide is a story about deciding to move forward even when all hope is lost, so I didn't want to spend too much time dwelling in the past. But I did want an establishing shot of the Divide first occurring, which gives us a quick introduction to the deadly effects of physical contact as well as the concept of "riders" (absorbing the consciousness of people you've touched). These first few pages build the initial momentum, but also serve to underscore how quickly everything can fall apart in the new world order. This will not be the only panel featuring explode-y eyeballs.
And here we meet Paul Halliday doing what he does best — using humor as a coping mechanism and stealing what he needs to survive. Introducing Paul in mid-theft is important because I didn't want to cast him in the light of a hero. He's not evil, really, but his scavenging existence is relatively simple at this point, unburdened and uncomplicated. I sure hope nothing bad happens to this guy.
We establish a time jump by showing the same bar exterior, now covered with bullet holes and odd markings. I prefer using contextual clues like this instead of simply adding a "# Years Later" caption whenever possible. It also sets up the post-Divide barter economy, with porn being a particularly valuable currency.
A danger with any high concept story is getting bogged down with world-building exposition. I decided to use limited captions in the early part of this issue for reasons that I'll discuss later, and I used Paul's voice so that we learn as much about his personality as we do about his environment. With respect to the art itself, The Great Divide is an exploration of intimacy and close relationships, and I wanted to visually capture how empty and hollow everything can become when those things are removed from the equation.
Ah, the traditional Hollywood romance of Boy meets Girl, Girl smashes Boy's face with a crowbar and steals all his stuff. Maria is the other primary protagonist in The Great Divide, and like Paul, she's no hero. Unlike Paul, she has no problem taking control of a situation.
Look, if you can talk your artist collaborator into drawing a close-up rat face, do it.
One of the quirks that makes The Great Divide an interesting apocalyptic concept for me to explore is that banding together for protection really doesn't work. In fact, it tends to have the opposite effect. But even so, would people be willing to live solitary lives? Is the herd mentality so hard-wired into our DNA that we'd seek each other out, even at the risk of death? As an aside, the third panel, transitioning Paul's captions into dialogue, is a meta-joke about the medium.
Here we meet Carlos, who's going to make Paul's life difficult for a long, long time. These pages also include a few references to "walkabouts" — an unexplained global sleepwalking-like phenomenon that will be explored in future issues. The Vampirella comic is an inside nod to Dynamite. The original script had a few different comic options, to be finalized depending on which publisher we ultimately partnered with.
This first meaningful dialogue between Paul and Maria was important for a number of reasons. It establishes their uneasy relationship, with Maria revealing a bit of vulnerability when she relents to Paul's begging for gloves. We also get our first bit of character background as Paul drops some medical knowledge. (True fact: what Paul says about the pills is generally true, although his description of tetracyn is a bit over-stated. The more you know!)
Sexuality is obviously a recurring theme in The Great Divide. We'll be tackling it from a few different angles throughout the series including, in this case, how live pornography would be impacted. This scene also briefly hints at one of the side effects that accompanies having a rider: acute dyslexia.
A careful observer will notice lots of "interesting" graffiti on various walls in every issue. Adam and I believed that one of the ways sexual frustration would manifest would be in street art.
Now it's Paul's turn to show some vulnerability, agreeing to help Maria despite his better judgment when she pleads with him to save Carlos. These moments set the tone for what is going to be a tumultuous relationship between two strangers who will slowly, begrudgingly, grow closer in a world where "letting someone in" is a death sentence.
I promised more exploding eyes.
So a lot is going on here. Paul is caught up in Maria's heist without having any idea what her actual agenda is, and Carlos is now "trapped" in Paul's head as a rider. From a lettering perspective, we wanted to do something unique with this concept which is why we decided to use captions earlier in the book. The reader can now see that Paul's "inner voice" includes Carlos' thoughts (the latter of which are in his native Colombian). And here we also get Paul telling a joke to bookend with our opening scene.
These chatlogs will be included in every issue, and are an opportunity for anyone interested to learn a bit more about what's going on outside of Paul and Maria's limited world view. And who knows, maybe some of the concepts being discussed, and the people discussing them, will play their own part in future issues. (Spoiler: they totally will).
If I may be serious for a moment, we are genuinely deeply grateful to everyone joining us on our journey with Paul and Maria. We've got some really fun twists and turns looming, and we can't wait to explore them with you!
This commentary was provided by Dynamite Entertainment.