Something that immediately struck me about The Wilds is that the characters we meet are diverse -- obviously. But it stands out because zombie, post-apocalyptic, and survival stories often center white, cis, straight, Western people, with marginalized folks sidelined, dead and dying, or not even present in the background. How did this aspect of the post-apocalyptic genre affect the development of The Wilds, if at all?
Louise: Diversity can really be a buzzword right now. Which is particularly frustrating since there is a lot of course correction that needs to happen with regard to representation in media. This is especially clear with horror; no one is exempt for the existential horror, but some people have more opportunity to express that horror than others.
Ayala: I am not really a fan of the word diversity, for many reasons. I prefer the words normalization -- because let’s be real, most of this planet is not white, and less of it than we are lead to believe are men -- and inclusion.
There were three reasons why this book focuses on the people it does.
One, because I lost count of the people who like to shout down people asking for representation to just make their own thing. PoC, LGBTQ+ people, and women do “make their own,” all the damn time. But since people like to pretend that isn’t the case, I say, OK, let’s make more. More books, movies, shows, comics, and podcasts centered around brown and queer people.
Second, because this book is thematically about the trials and hardships and crushing expectations marginalized people face. It would make no sense to make the main focus then a white cis het person -- especially not a white cis het man.
Third, we literally exist and are everywhere. It is remarkably disingenuous to present entire worlds that have little to no brown and queer people, or women. Specific communities and stories? Sure, of course. But worlds? Especially when talking about surviving perilous circumstances. It is laughable to think that brown and queer people would disappear if things got hard.
I guess there is also a fourth reason -- why not? Why not be inclusive when given the option?
With the exception of interiors and close ups, almost every panel in this issue includes foliage, either lush and alive or in piles of dead leaves. Human settlements are separated by forests. Plants grow up the sides of buildings and on the zombies’ bodies. But this doesn’t have a threatening effect, the book doesn’t feel crowded by nature. Tell me about about how you constructed these places and scenes, and what you wanted to achieve with them.
Pearson: I love nature, I tried to take as many opportunities as I could to draw a world that’s overgrown and taken back by nature. In The Wilds, a lot of the story revolves around the apocalyptic setting, and the zombies/abominations, looking the way they are, really needed to feel at home in the world. Putting a lot of details like wildlife, overgrown and abandoned buildings I felt helped get an idea of what the world used to be, and what it is now.
There’s a softness to the color art in The Wilds. As with that omnipresent foliage, light and shadow aren’t being used to convey threat. Instead, we’re treated to bright sunrises, golden afternoons, gray-green nights, and few dark corners. It’s more melancholy than menacing. Why did you choose this palette? Was this a long process of color tests, or did The Wilds just demand this look?
Louise: I try to avoid doing things without reason. My understanding of the philosophy of the book is built into the color. I think a lot of this will become more clear as the story rolls on, I don’t want to give too much away! Emily had some color plans in her original character designs, so I did my best to marry her vision and the philosophy of the book. I wanted to draw a strong division between interior and exterior spaces in ways that are evocative of the moods and philosophy.
I think the lettering contributes to the “lightness” of this book. Captions are in dusty pastels. Sound effects are in white, outlining with colors picked up from the surrounding color art. They aren’t showy and never dominate a panel; often they’re obscured by flower petals or panel borders. And speech effects are confined to tails, rather than the whole balloon. Overall, the effect is subtle. Tell me a bit about developing the lettering style for The Wilds and what you wanted to achieve.
Jim Campbell: The main thing I wanted to do with the lettering was for it to stay the hell out of the way! This is such a lovely looking book, the last thing I wanted, really, was for people to even register the lettering as they read it.
The white sound effect with colors picked up from the art is a thing I do. I get a bit miffed when letterers get asked to work on books without ever having sight of the colors (you’d be surprised how often this happens) because of course you want the lettering to work with the color palette of the book! I generally like to leave the FX white because it ties them visually to the balloons -- the reader instinctively knows that speech balloons aren’t actual objects within the panel, and I like to associate the FX with that. Also, it means I know it won’t clash with the art!
What do you have planned for The Wilds? Is it the kind of comic you’d love to work on for ages and ages, or do you have the ending already worked out?
Ayala: I could work in this universe for the rest of my life. I have a notebook full of characters and story ideas that could take us, as it stands, through 60 issues. They are not all about the characters in this particular storyline (in fact, only a few of them are). That being said, this particular story has a beginning, middle, and end. If we only get the one arc, I want people to be able to read it and be happy with it as a story.
Finally, that was quite a cliffhanger you left us with at the end of issue one. First of all, how dare you? Second of all, what can you tell me about what we can look forward to in upcoming issues?
Vita: Haha, it wasn’t, wasn’t it? I’ve had that image in my head for almost a decade, and I am so glad I got to use it in the first issue. People can expect to meet and get a feeling for the other Runners in the Compound -- there just wasn’t enough room in the first issue to do that. There is more action (a horde scene that Emily absolutely crushed), we get to see more of Daisy and Heather’s relationship, and we see a bit more of the Compound itself. I hope everyone enjoys it, because the team has worked very hard on it!
The Wilds #1 is available now from Black Mask Studios.