This July, IDW Publishing offers up a new hardcover edition of writers Michael Geszel and Peter Spinetta’s post-apocalyptic graphic novel “Tribes,” featuring pencils by “Coffin Hill” artist Inaki Miranda. Originally released as a softcover book in 2010, “Tribes” takes place centuries after a nano-virus has shortened the human lifespan to just 21 years, forcing the remaining population into warring tribes of children. IDW’s “Special Edition” will feature 25 pages of brand new material by Miranda, including concept art for the upcoming feature film adaptation.
Geszel chatted with CBR News about “Tribes” recently, revealing the status of a feature film adaptation with “Watchmen” screenwriter Alex Tse, candidly opening up about his regrets and revealing how he would have done things differently the second time around.
CBR News: Michael, for people not familiar, what is “Tribes” about?
Michael Geszel: There’s a nano-virus accident that triggers the shortening of the human lifespan. We have these telomeres on our cells, and the virus basically shortens them so we all die at 21, essentially. Our longevity clock is turned back. “Tribes” looks at what people would act like in this situation. People, not kids.
Why is “Tribes” getting re-released now?
“Tribes” was released as a wide-screen graphic novel in June 2010. Now it’s getting a re-release as a deluxe edition hardcover with 25 new pages of material.
The story of “Tribes” is very strange. It was really difficult to get out there the first time. The wide-screen format plus the fact it was a paperback from unknown creators. It was hard to get the orders to get the printings to get the book out there. It did get great reviews though. Five stars from iFanboy and a great review from MTV Splashpage. However, retailers like Barnes and Noble wouldn’t stock it because of the format. It’s really hard to recover from that.
In the meantime, though, Inaki Miranda’s star has really risen. He’s done work for Vertigo, which is marvelous. It was a pleasure to work with him on “Tribes.” Because of the recognition he’s getting, IDW was willing to do a hardcover edition of the book. Now I think with the hardcover edition we might be able to get it stocked. It’ll give people a chance to see it. We have new stuff in there and a new cover, too.
I also basically have Inaki’s last pencils. I don’t actually own the pages, but I mean he doesn’t work in pencil anymore. These 180-plus pages of pencils are his last stuff. Inaki works on a tablet now and inks directly. He’s changed the way he works. He says it’s faster, he really loves it.
In the meantime there’s been some interest in a “Tribes” movie. It’s been up and down. We have some extra designs in the book that might be in a potential “Tribes” movie. They expand the story world.
So where does a “Tribes” movie adaptation currently stand then?
The rights have been optioned by Alex Tse. Alex is screenwriter in Hollywood and known for having a credit on “Watchmen.” He’s a very well-regarded writer who wants to produce. We originally pitched it around with Alex attached and that’s where the extra concept designs came from. Right now I’m supposed to adapt the book for Alex. I’ve been doing some screenwriting but I probably should have stuck to comics which I love doing. I’ve shown Alex some of my work and he thinks we can do an adaptation.
“Tribes” ended on a huge cliffhanger with the main characters literally driving off into the distance. Could you return to finish it someday?
Of course. I just need to produce the comic myself which is financially very difficult. Movie companies would only be interested if the rights are available, which they’re not. Here’s the hope: if this new deluxe edition does decently, there could be a way for me to continue the “Tribes” story. I approached IDW about doing it, but then I really couldn’t make a satisfactory deal with the president. It’s just business though, they’re great guys. But it would be just a Herculean task just to break even right now. There’s so much stuff out there right now, it’s hard to get noticed.
Why did you decide to release “Tribes” in a wide-screen format?
I didn’t help myself going to that wide-screen format, actually. I didn’t do myself any favors. Doing it vertically would have been much easier and much more cost-effective as well. You really have to take that into consideration.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m working with Ben McCool on “The Ghost Eaters,” which we’re developing. We’re about three issues in and are looking for an artist very soon. We also finished the scripts for a 5-issue mini-series called “Vines,” but that is somewhat down the road. We’ve also developed some other ideas together like “The Shelter,” which is about animals in New York who run their own animal shelter. It’s zany.
Looking back, you’ve mentioned some things you would have done differently when creating “Tribes.” What advice would you give to up-and-coming writers or others trying to kickstart a creative project like “Tribes?”
First, you’ve got to be very realistic about the marketplace and you have to control costs. As far as the reality is, just be really shrewd and thrifty. Don’t think you’re going to reinvent the wheel or the rules. Be patient, too. It’s about being persistent and patient with people. You have to find out how the industry ticks.
My main regret and a big lesson was not starting a comic series to be released issue-by-issue mostly to build readership and not fight the economic tides of the comic book industry. Tribes is a rich story world. There’s a ton of story there. The book was always conceived as part one of a three-part narrative. I should have made better choices to maximize reader engagement, i.e. to make it as easy as possible to experience the story in comics. That means the vertical standard format in 22-page issues — serializing the story rollout. And we could have had not quite 50 issues. Instead I created a big widescreen, 200-page (178 comic story pages) graphic novel that was released as a trade and that was murder to sell because retailers do not like to stack horizontals, especially trade paperback “horizontals” from unknown creators. I could not have made it harder on myself if my worst enemy had arranged my story publishing strategy or lack thereof. As a hardcover the new edition has a new shot. Inaki now has a Vertigo monthly (“Coffin Hill”) and that helps too. IDW does a great job with packaging and book production. A new cover helps. All that helps.
“Tribes: The Dog Years Special Edition” is goes on sale June 30 from IDW Publishing.