After exploring crime in the afterlife and re-imagining Peter Pan through the prism of World War II, writer Kurtis J. Wiebe’s latest comic book trip is one that takes readers to the end of the world. This summer, the “Green Wake” and “Peter Panzerfaust” creator re-teams with “Wake” artist Riley Rossmo on the upcoming Shadowline miniseries “Debris” from Image Comics.
Shipping in July, the four-issue series explores a version of Earth that’s not doing so well. After years of polluting their homeland, humans not only have to deal with the environmental horrors they’ve created, but also a group of very angry Earth spirits dubbed the Colossals. As the odds of survival progressively worsen for mankind, they turn to a young warrior woman named Maya to help save the world.
CBR News spoke with the prolific Wiebe about his latest series, learning how this book spun out of “Green Wake,” the origins of the Collosals and how this project compares to Pixar’s “Wall-E,” another story about a junk-filled, dystopian future.
CBR News: At Image Expo, you described “Debris” as a more violent “Wall-E,” with junk machines trying to clear people off the face of the Earth. Was the movie spark the idea or was it kicking around your head before that?
Kurtis J. Wiebe: Riley [Rossmo] and I had already developed the concept for the series before that connection came about. One of the more difficult things to pull off with a new series that is set in a world outside our own — even a dystopian version — is how that setting will look. We knew we wanted to set Earth in a situation where our garbage output was blanketing the globe but, I mean, how far has it gone? We used “Wall-E” as an example of one extreme and decided to pull it back to something a little more realistic.
Where did the idea for “Debris” originate?
It all came about from an image Riley put together for the “Monsters and Dames” pinup book from ECCC this year. After we made our decision to cancel “Green Wake,” we started talking about working together again, to find something that would essentially replace our series. He offhandedly sent me the pinup and asked if I could use it to form a story idea. It was really atmospheric; a strong, confident woman proudly sitting on a junk dragon that she’d taken down. That was it, where the entire world and story came from.â€¨
During the Image Expo panel, Shadowline founder Jim Valentino described the book as “Red Sonja vs. Transformers.” Would you say that’s pretty accurate?
It definitely gives the reader a visual for how the book will look and feel. There’s a badass redhead warrior woman — who in our series wears actual armor — and there are giant monsters called Colossals, twisted Earth spirits that have risen from the wasteland to destroy humanity. Because they have no corporeal form, they use the waste around them to give themselves bodies. Hence, giant junk monsters.
The story of “Debris” is set very far into humanity’s future, where we’ve destroyed the world with our industrial waste. The surface of the world is dying under the layer of junk left by the human legacy. However, Earth isn’t done fighting and so the natural spirits that once stalked our land have returned. Except, they’ve become demented by the poisoned world they’re coming back to and, driven by their need for pure nature, have become violent monsters. They are driven to destroy those that are responsible for the corruption of nature.
Are the Colossals based on a particular mythology or legend?
I’m a massive mythology nut, always have been. I’m very fond of Scandinavian and European folklore, so I injected a lot of those concepts into the monsters that will appear throughout the series. It’s also very influenced by Native American (Canadian) mythology and even a touch of Mayan for some of the creatures. I like the idea that all these ancient monsters were once part of our world and have returned to end us when we are at our weakest.Â
Tell us about the lead character Maya. Who is she, why does she take the mission to find water — and save the planet — on her shoulders?
Maya is from a village that ekes out an existence in the vast wasteland which also happens to be the last remaining bastion of humanity on the entire planet. They’ve managed to survive from a source of fresh water dug from deep within the Earth, but an event happens in the first issue that robs them of that valuable resource. As the Chief’s right hand, Maya is sent to find the mythical last source of pure water in the world based on ancient stories passed down throughout the ages.
â€¨How has your creative relationship with Riley changed or grown since starting “Green Wake?”
There’s an inherent connection where we both know exactly what we want from the page, going in both directions. We talk a lot about an issue before I sit down to write the script, so it’s in our heads what we hope to achieve before we set out to put it together. In a lot of ways, “Green Wake” taught us how well we work together creatively. We understand each other on numerous levels and have quite a few similar interests as far as books and film go. A shared perspective goes a long way to making a really tight comic.
Why did you and Riley decide to end “Green Wake?”
It was one of those really difficult decisions that Riley and I pained over for a while, but eventually had to admit was inevitable. “Green Wake” had really strong reviews from Issue 1 through 10, and the first two issues were really popular. I think the series had a way of polarizing an audience, and after the second issue our sales dipped and never recovered. We simply couldn’t afford to do it anymore. It was a mutual decision on our part; it wasn’t a case of the publisher axing the series.
Riley tends to color his own work, but for “Debris,” Owen Gieni is handling that job. With Owen currently making a name for himself as the illustrator of “Avengelyne,” how did he end up as “Debris'” colorist?
Riley’s been working extremely hard on refining his art style for this series — when the pages for “Debris” start coming out, you’ll understand. It’s still Riley, but unlike anything you’ve ever seen from him before. The reason we brought Owen Gieni on to color the series was because of his style. Owen really uses bright, vibrant colors that make his pages pop and bring on an almost European feel. That’s visually what we’re aiming for, and from the concept sketches that he’s colored, we’re confident that “Debris” is going to make a huge impact.
Kurtis J. Wiebe and Riley Rossmo’s “Debris” debuts July 25.