A Helluva Town: Wood Talks "DMZ"

New York, New York it's a helluva town! The snipers are up and the infected water is down. These are just two of the many problems the average citizen of New York have to contend with in "DMZ," an ongoing series from Vertigo by Brian Wood and artist Riccardo Burchielli, that explores a New York City which has been ravaged by a second American Civil War. CBR News spoke with Wood about the series, which has its first trade paperback collecting issues 1-5 arriving in stores today.

New readers looking to see the sights of the war torn NYC of "DMZ" just need to allow themselves to be immersed in the story and world that Wood and Burchielli have created. "People don't really need to know anything to start reading the series, to pick up the first trade or to start reading from issue #1, except to just go with the story and let it unfold," Wood told CBR News. "The world situation in 'DMZ' is very complex, and the full picture unfolds over the course of the series. The main character, Matty Roth, serves as our guide to the story. We see what he sees, when he sees it."

Matty began the series as a naieve photojournalism intern trapped in the DMZ, but since he chose to stay behind and work as a journalist chronicling life in the devastated region, he has undergone a number of emotional changes. "Matty's in the middle of some long-term changes, but so far we've seen him go from a naive and bored suburbanite who believed everything he saw on the news to a suspicious and cynical guy fast on his way to being a true New Yorker," Wood explained. "His mind is open; he's become very self-aware and also much more accepting of others."

Matty's cynicism will have grown by leaps and bounds by the time "Body of a Journalist," the current five part story arc (of which part three hits stores on June 14th according to the DC Comic's website) in "DMZ" reaches its conclusion. "The start of the second arc sees Matty more established as a rookie journalist, and also introduces the Free Armies, the insurgents, the rebels, the aggressors -- everyone has a different name for them," Wood said. "Matty is caught in the middle as each side of the conflict try to use him against the other.

"Matty's deeply paranoid, realizing that he can't trust anyone, the Americans, the Free Armies, even old friends from back home," Wood continued. "He has his small support group in the city that helps him out with info and medical supplies, but he's pretty much on his own. He's also caught a really nasty infection from drinking bad water, and on top of all the emotional stress he's under, he's constantly dehydrated and vomiting. He's having a pretty bad summer."

As "Body of a Journalist" rockets towards its conclusion, Matty will face many more tests of his mettle, such as falling bombs. "He's determined to make some good out of the situation, to complete his mission and broker the deal that's been dropped into his lap, but with everyone trying to manipulate him, it's frustrating."

By the time "Body of a Journalist" wraps, readers will have learned a lot about the Free Armies and will know as much about them as they do about their American opponents. After "Body," Wood plans on revealing more information about "DMZ's" supporting cast and setting. "We'll have a standalone story that shows Zee before the war, as a med student," Wood said. "And another standalone that's sort of a 'Guide to the DMZ,' as if Matty was editor and sole contributor to a wartime 'Time Out New York.' I'll be drawing that issue myself."

Former med student Zee and Matty's neighbor Wilson are the two most prominent members of "DMZ's" supporting cast, but as the series continues readers can expect Matty to develop relationships with both new characters and familiar faces. "Matty's finding his core group of friends, most notably Zee and Wilson," Wood stated. "As the series progresses, he'll meet more people. His father will always be there, looming in the back of his mind. Also, some of the people's we've met casually in the past will return in larger roles, like Jamal and the sniper. New York is a small town as it is now -- with the population reduced to 400k in 'DMZ', it's even smaller."

In "DMZ," readers will eventually traverse with Matty all the areas of the small town that is New York. "In the immediate future, we'll be taking a look at Ground Zero," Wood said.

Exploring Manhattan through the eyes of Matty allows Wood to tell many types of stories, but ultimately Wood says "DMZ" is about two things. "I don't think there is any doubt that 'DMZ' is an anti-war book. It's also a book that doesn't take sides, so it's anti-war, but not partisan. It's also a New York City book at the same time."

Wood feels that DMZ is a book that has something to offer everyone. "I would hope the story has mass appeal beyond the limits of whatever specific genre one might think applies to it," he said.

Crafting stories with mass appeal is just one of the rewarding and enjoyable aspects of "DMZ" for Wood. Another is working with Vertigo and the creative team that helps him put out the series each month. "Everyone involved, from Will Dennis, Casey Seijas, and Karen Berger, to Riccardo, and Jared and Jeromy have been totally great," Wood said. "It's a good team."

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