EXCLUSIVE: Sebela & Sherman Start a Cold War at AfterShock

Writer Chris Sebela and artist Hayden Sherman are the creative team for a chilling new series at AfterShock Comics, titled Cold War, and CBR has the first details. Set in the future, the series follows a group of people who all sign up to be cryogenically frozen, in the hopes that one day they will all be able to wake up in a future utopia -- with all the rewards and benefits that such a lifestyle would bring.

Of course, there's a twist: On the day they wake up many years later, they quickly realize that the cryonic freezing tests weren't the only thing they've signed up for -- they're immediately forced into a draft for a war which is rapidly spreading around the world. If they can prove themselves in the war, maybe they'll be allowed to live in whatever world is left.

With the first issue set for release on Feb. 14 -- Valentine's Day, how sweet -- the series marks the first collaboration for Sebela and Sherman, with Sherman handling pencils, colors and letters on the book. To find out more about their plans on the series, and how they've found working with AfterShock, CBR spoke to the pair about the comic.

CBR: Cold War is about people who are cryogenically frozen and wake up in the future -- but rather than finding a utopia, they’re thrown straight into a war zone and told to pick up a gun. What interested you in telling a story about that kind of future shock?

Chris Sebela: I think it was the cruel joke nature of it. That you go through all that trouble of getting right to the edge of death, getting your head sawed off and deep frozen in the hopes that someday they’ll find a way to rebuild your body and let you pick up your life where you left off. And when it finally does happen, you’re forced to fight in some war you have zero context for and zero ability to get yourself out of.

But it’s also, in the scheme of things, something that everyone who got thawed out would intrinsically understand. We all know about war and trying to comprehend two sides fighting is way easier than trying to process what the world is like this deep into the future.

What do you see as the core of the book -- are we focusing on the people waking up, the war they’re stuck in, or the world they’re fighting on behalf of?

Sebela: It’s the people waking up who interested me all along. We call them “Cryonauts.” Once the concept was established, then I just started coming up with Cryonauts I thought would be interesting. One character after another started suggesting themselves and then it was about figuring out the lives they lived that lead to them getting frozen and waking up here. We definitely get into the world as we go, but without people as the focus, a hook can only take you so far.

There’s somewhat obviously good reason to think that the future is going to be dystopian, because in fairness, the present is fairly dystopian itself on a day-to-day basis. Are you interested in looking into political and satirical elements within the course of this story, or are you fairly focused on the in-world story instead?

Sebela: As far into the future as we’re going, the stuff that’s going on all around us right now would definitely have some influence over the future, but it’s also got a lot of messed up stuff in the creme filling, so any of that that comes through is minimal at best. There’s a lot of room in this world we’re building to explore some of that stuff, but it’s not my main motivation.

Should we see this as an ensemble or are there specific characters we’re going to be following? Who are the people waking up as Cold War begins?

Sebela: Both. Being that it’s a war, there’s a lot of human cannon fodder that doesn’t last very long. But we have a core cast of characters that we follow.

There’s Rook, the badass ubersoldier who’s been chomping at the bit to get back to war. Vinh, a grandmother who seemingly has no idea how to process all of this. Tikk & Sath, a couple of lovebirds who seem to know more than they’re saying when they’re not making out. John, the coach/dad/nice guy who is trying to keep himself glued together as he has to save his life while taking others'. LQ, a woman of few words and big secrets trying to understand what’s happened to the world. And finally, Polly, my favorite, a teenage girl who didn’t ask to frozen and is supremely mad about the circumstances she woke up here under and plans to let people know about it.

And what is the world they’re waking up into? What kind of style did you both want the series to have, what kind of tone?

Sebela: They wake up onto a battlefield. That’s all. As far as they can see it’s just fighting ahead, behind and all around them. One of the fun things as we go is starting to peel back the curtain a bit on this war and show off some of the world beyond it. Or lack thereof.

Style and tone-wise, I initially saw it as a supremely bleak book, but I have trouble getting that dark without throwing in a little bit of gallows humor, so now it’s this new thing.

Hayden, you’re all-in with this -- pencils, colors, letters. What’s your approach been on this particular comic? What kind of style did you want to bring to the futuristic setting provided by the central conceit of the story?

Hayden Sherman: With this comic, one of the key things I wanted to bring to it was color. A sort of vibrant color that might even be at odds with the tone in a way. With the last comic that I was all-in on, I went for very very muted colors to establish a sort of desolate future. Now on Cold War, where we find another seemingly corrupt future, I thought it would be interesting to play against type so that the inks are thick and black while coming up against colors that feel like they’re from another time. Something about a chaotic dark future being vibrant just makes it all the more chaotic to me.

As for the style, I wanted to give the world a feeling as though whoever’s orchestrating this war is putting old tech out to pasture while bringing in new and more efficient weapons/soldiers. So there’s a bit of a clash between simple sci-fi design and thick-cabled bulky sci-fi. The world it takes place in is still a pretty big question mark, so it feels fitting that the designs would contradict each other right now. It should be fun to see how it develops.

How did you find each other for this project? What made you want to put this comic together… together?

Sebela: AfterShock introduced us, thinking we’d make a good match on this book. I’m not sure what I visually had in mind for Cold War, but when I saw Hayden’s pages, whatever it was got obliterated by seeing it through his lens. It just felt perfect in a way, like of course it should be this. I got really lucky that Hayden was just finishing up his book The Few and was looking for something new to work on.

Sherman: The concept hooked me right away, with the well-to-do of the present being thawed out and forced into combat in the far-flung future. That’s pure comics, you can only imagine where that might go, and there’s no doubt Chris will bring us through that world in a fun compelling way. So I was in from the jump! I’d been very familiar with Chris’ work for a while before starting this, so getting to work with him was a no-brainer, regardless which story. Getting to work together on Cold War is just an excellent bonus.

How’ve you found the collaborative process so far?

Sherman: Chris is very encouraging, works hard, and is always open to talk about the story. Which is crazy when looking at the workload he’s got on his plate right now. The man’s a machine! It’s a great environment to work in, where we can trust each other to each put our best foot forward.

Sebela: Great, honestly. We had a phone conversation before I started in on the first script and just talked about stuff, put some ideas together. Hayden brought some concept sketches to the table in those early stages that changed my mind about a lot of things I sort of had in the potential stage, and that’s always a promising sign. Since then, I get him the scripts and he goes to town and has been turning in amazing pages that interpret my scripts in the best way, turning them into something brand new. It’s all I could’ve hoped for.

Chris, I know part of your writing process is to create a playlist themed around the story -- what shows up on the Cold War playlist?

Sebela: Lots of stuff, I’m still building it as I write but currently it’s a lot of songs with the word "die" in the title. There’s some songs that fit tone and title-wise like DFA1979’s "Freeze Me" and some less obvious choices like Nouvelle Vague’s cover of "Making Plans for Nigel." Lots of these only make sense to me, but hopefully fit certain scenes or characters -- then there are more obvious choices I couldn’t resist like Janelle Monae’s "Cold War".

How’ve you both found working with AfterShock as a whole? What’s it been like to work on Cold War with their team?

Sherman: AfterShock is awesome. They have great ideas, they allow so much creative freedom, and they’re interested in hearing what you’ve got to say. Most importantly they feel excited to be making comics, which (if you’re gonna be making comics) is really just where you want to be. That they’re letting me have as much fun on this as I am is nuts.

Sebela: It’s been great so far. They loved the book I pitched them and have given us plenty of room to do the book we’re doing. Plus they dig the actual book we’re making. It’s nice to have that support from your publisher where it feels like they support you as a creator and not just the one idea you can get across their desk.

Cold War #1 is scheduled for release on Feb. 14, 2018.

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