It’s a scary thing, the apocalypse. Will it come by fire or storm? Will it be mankind’s doing, or will something else be the world’s end? The only things scarier and more uncertain are the lengths people will go to to ensure their survival. Bunkers. Weapons. Shelter. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when “Comeback” writer Ed Brisson and newcomer artist Johnnie Christmas have their say come July 10 when “Sheltered” hits stands courtesy of Image Comics.
The ongoing “Sheltered” is about a group of “Preppers” living in the fictional town of Safe Haven. When the story begins the townspeople are gearing up and hunkering down for the apocalypse, and the series understandably features plenty of enclosed spaces, hair-triggers and the intensity of a community focused on preparing for the end of days. What makes one vigilant and not paranoid when faced with these encroaching themes and this day-to-day life? How do different views come into play in such a tightly wound environment? Brisson and Christmas joined CBR News to talk about preparing for the apocalypse and what it means to be “Sheltered.”
CBR News: Ed, there have been so many post-apocalyptic stories, but a story about preparing for the apocalypse? Not so common. Tell us more about the story and why you decided to take this angle.
Ed Brisson: Initially I was setting out to write a post-apocalyptic story. I didn’t have a firm idea, but it’s something that’s always interested me. I love anything post-apoc — from high class joints like “The Road” to B-Movie fare like “1990: The Bronx Warriors” and everything inbetween. But, without a story idea, I decided to dive into research and spent a lot of time reading up on Preppers — people preparing for societal meltdown or end of world scenarios. The hope was that by reading about what they were preparing for would spark something. I wanted to know what they thought things would look like after an “apocalypse.”
Instead, I became fascinated with Preppers as a culture — especially with the children raised in this environment: with a severe distrust of the government and the inevitable end of the world always hanging over your head.
From there, “Sheltered” started to form. A story about kids who think that the end is around the corner, who are not necessarily fully prepared and who have to make decisions that initially might not make sense to us, but come from a place of extreme practicality.
What forces are against the story’s leads, Lucas and Victoria?
Brisson: Lucas faces several. First, he’s forced with a tough decision — one that decides the fate of all those around him. It’s strictly about survival and how far he’ll go to secure that. From then on, it’s about living with that decision and how he, and others cope with it (hint: not everyone copes well). I don’t want to give away too much about that. Anyone who reads the first issue will know what’s what.
Victoria is an outsider. She’s the newest kid on the compound. She moved there with her engineer father who is helping the residents of Safe Haven ensure that everything is built properly — you know, doing engineer-y stuff. Anyhow, she’s already an outsider when the shit hits the fan and does not agree with the actions taken (to put it lightly) and is quickly considered a threat herself.
In the story, you pit children against adults. Scary stuff. But children one day replace us, don’t they? Is this story a commentary on that eventual replacement, albeit a horrifying one?
Brisson: Not really. It touches on how environment can shape a person — especially impressionable kids. Victoria, being a recent arrival/newcomer has a different point of view than the rest of the kids of Safe Haven. The other kids have been there for years. They’re fully immersed in that mind set. The story follows how the two conflicting opinions play out — in brutal, brutal ways.
Johnnie, how did Ed approach you about the project? And how did you go about tackling a world filled with paranoia?
Johnnie Christmas: Actually, in a roundabout sort of way, I approached Ed. Back when he made “Murder Book” #1, he gave me a copy to check out, and I was floored! Pretty soon after that we put together a pitch. “Sheltered” was our second pitch. He’s the first writer I’ve ever approached to collaborate with.
As for the paranoia, we’ve got a fair share of high fences, dense forest and confined underground spaces packed in these pages. However, some of these characters think they’re being “vigilant” not “paranoid,” others disagree. So we present some pretty compelling evidence to support both points of view. Visually, I don’t want the reader to come to a conclusion too soon either way.
What type of research did you two do? Was there any source material you looked at to prepare for the story?
Brisson: I listen to a ton of Prepper podcasts and watch just about any documentary I can on the subject. I’ve borrowed so many books on the subject from the library that I’m sure I’m on some sort of watch list at this point. I’ve tried to absorb as much information about it as possible and am using that to help guide the story to some extent.
I’ve been trying to visit a real-life bunker, but haven’t had much luck.
Christmas: Oh man, I’ve collected tons of survival guide and weapons magazines. A couple times I’ve had to explain to friends why I’ve got stockpiles of these things laying around!
What’s the back and forth like between the two of you?
Christmas: It’s pretty open, I think it helps that we both live in the same town. We shoot ideas back and forth all along the way: Ed tosses story ideas and I give my thoughts, I toss visuals and Ed gives his thoughts. It’s relaxed yet very effective.
Brisson: We’re also harassing each other back and forth through text messages quite a bit. I’ve saved some of them and will be reprinting them in the back of an upcoming issue of “Sheltered” (probably #4).
But, living in the same town is great. We meet up for coffee or (more often) beer and work through anything to do with the book. It’s really relaxed.
Ed, this is your second book with Image. What’s your secret? Have you found a publisher that gets your voice — your approach?
Brisson: Luck. Pounds and pounds of luck.
“Comeback” did well enough that I think Image was willing to see what else I could come up with. Image is the company that I’ve wanted to work with since they started back in the ’90s. I was a teen when they formed and was in love with the original founders. That I have a book coming out through Image (my second, even!) really is a dream come true.
For obvious reasons, a story about the impending apocalypse is not going to end well. How do you manage to focus on anything but the impending doom?
Brisson: There’s plenty of time before the initial event that is at the core of the story and the apocalypse. Lots of time for doubt, fear and in-fighting. This story is really about the relationship between the kids and how they can be driven to do terrible things to survive. The end they fear is not as important to the story as is how they deal with the threat of it.
“Sheltered” #1 goes on sale July 10.