Brian Wood Talks "Citizen Zee"

"DMZ," the six year long ongoing Vertigo series, is officially ending with issue #72 in December of this year. Currently wrapping its penultimate story arc, "Free States Rising," the title's creator and writer Brian Wood decided to focus issue #66, the series' final "solo" issue, illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli, on DMZ's famous med student-turned-medic: Zee Hernandez.

"We have this history of Zee one-shots, beginning with [issue] #11, and then with #41. I wanted to do one more, since I enjoy writing them so much and I like exploring her history," Wood told CBR News when asked about the upcoming issue, entitled "Citizen Zee."

For those new to the comic, "DMZ" takes place in an America embroiled in civil war, triggered by bitter dissatisfaction over the nation's pre-emptive overseas conflicts. Seen through the eyes of embedded journalist Matty Roth, Manhattan becomes the dividing line between the United States and the secessionist Free States of America.

"The FSA have always been in Manhattan, just like the US troops have always been. Manhattan is where they met, mixed it up and got bogged down. But I won't end the series with that status quo," said Wood, promising a resolution, "in some form or fashion."

"There are really two things happening in the series: the story of the war and the story of Matty, or Matty and Zee," he continued. "Each gets plenty of room to conclude. I would almost call [issue] #65 the 'first ending' of the series, with #72 the 'second ending.'"

To that end, "Citizen Zee" will be part of the Matty/Zee relationship wrap-up. "Much like the 'MIA' story [which] was Matty struggling for focus after the 'event' of issue #49, this Zee story will be the same. A lot of really horrible stuff happened in #49, and given Zee's close relationship with the city, it had to have been devastating for her," said Wood. "She needs to rebuild, both her soul and, perhaps, her relationship with Matty."

The "event" Wood refers to is Matty's accidental massacre of civilians during the end days of the Parco administration. "I wanted Matty to commit this ultimate act of betrayal to the DMZ," said Wood. "All the goodwill he has earned up until now, he just abused his power and killed a bunch of civilians. There's nothing worse he could have done -- he might as well have pulled the trigger himself." As well as destroying Zee's goodwill, the incident profoundly affected the way Wood wrote his protagonist.

"[Matty's] changed hugely. I use a certain term when talking about his arc, his story in 'DMZ,' which is his 'rise and fall.' He started out really naive and partisan and got this huge amount of power early on. That power corrupted, and Parco further took advantage, leading to even more toxic power and, eventually, a crashing down," said Wood. The writer then admitted that Zee's character growth was harder to quantify.

"I don't know how much Zee's changed, actually. I think any change [she's experienced] you could chalk up to her time spent with Matty, his influence, but she's not budged at all in her core attitudes and beliefs as a result. I think her weakest moment was how she stayed with Matty far longer than she should have during the Parco months," the writer told CBR. Wood also revealed that despite six years of writing her, Zee still remains something of a mystery.

"Zee fascinates me as a writer. It may sound funny to hear me say this, but I don't actually know her that well. She was mysterious from the get go and as such I never really wrote her out in great detail," said Wood. While in previous interviews Wood has called Zee the "human embodiment of the city," the writer stopped short of declaring her the moral center of the DMZ.

"I think she represents an ideal," said Wood. "Much of the city is innocent civilians, but not all of them, so I don't think anyone can represent the DMZ as a whole. What she is is independent, skeptical, cynical and stubborn, all things I would use to describe the DMZ -- and the real life NYC, come to think of it."

The Vertigo writer also stated that after "Citizen Zee," the series will jump straight into the very last "DMZ" arc, titled "The Five Nations Of New York."

"What that means exactly I am leaving up to speculation," Wood teased. On a more serious note, with America's recent military involvement in Libya, Wood believes the ideas behind "DMZ" are as pertinent to society now as when the comic first launched in 2005.

"I think it's really relevant, although one of the biggest struggles in writing 'DMZ' is to keep up," Wood said. He continued, "Certain aspects of the story from the first year can seem quaint in retrospect. We become so numb to things, like the horrors of war and torture. Our last president admitted to torture and, in large part, no one cared -- or, rather, no one cared enough to do much about it. Writing these same themes and events into 'DMZ' in a way that (hopefully!) doesn't cause that same apathy in the reader is harder than people think." Citing Guantanamo Bay and 9-11, Wood acknowledged he could "speculate forever" on the roots of this apathy.

"Since 9-11, I think a lot of Americans feel that whoever is the target of US military action is probably already guilty, so they get what's coming to them...but I like to think those Americans represent a minority," said Wood. "In the majority of cases, and I'm including myself, I think we have just been overexposed. That, and since our government doesn't really represent us and is not held accountable in most cases, we feel like there is no point in getting too upset about it."

Reflecting on "DMZ" as whole, Wood stated that though he was proud of the work, he believed the time was ripe to end the series. "The concept of 'DMZ' is so vast and open, there was never going to be a way to fully write it out," said Wood. "In the end, I wrote a 1560-page story and I'm pretty proud of it. It's a huge accomplishment for a creator-owned series."

After six years, one could draw the conclusion that, like Matty Roth, Wood has become another writer embedded in the world of "DMZ." Keeping this in mind, CBR asked Wood where he falls on the "DMZ" political spectrum: would he stay in NYC, like Zee? Or would he side with either the Free States or the USA?

"Both sides suck," said Wood. "There are no good guys, no red or blue, Democrat or Republican; I blur the lines and confuse the ideologies on purposes. Everyone's a warmonger, everyone's corrupt. I'd like to think I would keep my head down and stay in the city, but what I would really want to do is do what Matty's mother did: ride the war out in Europe. Maybe find a nice socialist country in Scandinavia where something like 'DMZ' would never happen!"

"DMZ" issue #66, "Citizen Zee," hits stores June 22

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