This January, Titan Comics releases the first English translation of writers Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and artist Jean-Marc Rochette’s classic French graphic novel “Snowpiercer: The Escape.” “Snowpiercer’s” stock has risen dramatically in the past year thanks to a big-screen adaptation directed by “The Host’s” Joon-ho Bong and starring “Captain America” actor Chris Evans. In it, the last of humanity lives out their lives on a massive train speeding around a world trapped in eternal winter.
Legrand and Rochette chatted with CBR News about “Snowpiercer,” revealing what took their post-apocalyptic tale so long to get an English translation, what it feels like for the book to finally gain traction decades after its original release, tease new material and more.
CBR News: First off, can you describe “Snowpiercer” for newcomers?
Benjamin Legrand: It’s a science fiction story taking place on a huge train running endlessly around the frozen Earth. At the end of the train are the low classes, the middle classes are in the middle and the upper class is at the front, just behind the “sacred engine.” They are the very last survivors. If the train stops, what’s left of humanity will die.
Where did you come up with the idea, along with the late Jacques Lob, for “Snowpiercer?”
Jean-Marc Rochette: It was Jacques Lob’s idea. He first worked on it with a very talented French graphic artist named Alexis, who died at the age of thirty, having drawn only ten pages or so. Then Jacques Lob asked Jean-Marc Rochette to draw his story. That first book was quite a success at the beginning of the 1980s.
Legrand: In those days, I was a young comics and screen writer. For me, Jacques Lob was a master in comic’s script writing, and I began my career in comics at the same time, along with a master in graphics: Jacques Tardi. Our publisher asked Jean-Marc and myself to work together. We did three science fiction graphic novels together. Jacques Lob died in 1990. Then the “Tranperceneige” (“Snowpiercer”) project slowly started its descent into oblivion… A few years later, Jean-Marc asked me to write a sequel, so that Jacques Lob could have a new life, through the revival of his masterpiece. The problem I had was that the end of “Snowpiercer” vol. 1 (meant to be a one-shot) had a pretty definitive ending. Jean-Marc just told me: figure it out!
Then I had this simple idea: The train was not alone. There was another train, bigger, longer, more modern, with a complete social hierarchy inside it — just like in the first one. And the people of this second train were living in a constant fear of hitting the first Snowpiercer, running endlessly, like theirs.
What’s it like to see “Snowpiercer” have such a rebirth of popularity decades after the first volumes initial release?
Rochette: It’s like winning the lottery!
Legrand: It’s been almost four decades! It’s a miracle, especially after the three books almost sank into oblivion. That’s why the whole story of these books is so peculiar. The train always goes through and gets a new life!
The social and political commentary of the book is especially relevant today with economic disparity growing bigger than ever around the world. Do you think these are issues that will always plague society?
Legrand: Of course. Just look around any capital city of the world.
If you were born in this world, which end of the train would you have found yourselves on?
Rochette: Belonging to an ArdÃ¨che peasant family, and born and raised on the outskirts of Grenoble, I would be in the tail!
Legrand: The tail, also. But nobody can chose his place of birth. And you always have to fight to rise somehow.
Given the increased popularity of “Snowpiercer,” are there plans in the works for more follow-up material?
Rochette: There are talks about it with our publisher.
Legrand: Maybe. Who knows? Impossible is not a French word!
How involved were you in the production of the film?
Legrand: I had long talks in Cannes with director Bong Joon-ho, and now his friendship is very precious to me. I had a cameo in the movie.
Rochette: I also appeared in the movie and I was very involved in the production: I drew sketches and paintings that appear in the movie through the character of the Painter. It’s my hand that you see drawing “live” in the movie. It was quite a thrill, and quite a challenge!
What was your evaluation of the final film?
Rochette: 8 on a scale of 10.
Legrand: Just magic, and magnificent. The best adaptation of the three books I could have hoped for.
“Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape” hits shelves on January 29, 2014, with “Volume 2: The Explorers” following on February 25, 2014.