Earth is in big trouble thanks to giant monsters obliterating humanity: that's the basic idea behind Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour's upcoming Image Comics/Shadowline one-shot "Enormous." Daniel has experience in the production side of comics, designing logos and interior graphics for various Image titles and writing and designing "The Powers Encyclopedia" and "The Walking Dead Survivor's Guide," but this is the first time he's helmed his own comic. Teamed with fellow comic book newcomer Cheggour, the duo have designs to put the world through the wringer.
Their debut story follows a group of humans doing their best to stay alive in the face of the very real and very gigantic menace of monsters dubbed The Enormous. In support of their one-shot, Daniel and Cheggour have given their potential audience a taste of what to expect through their website. With posts and artwork going back over a year, the site expands on the typical comic book blog by including concept art and pin-ups by artists other than the comic's co-creator, including work by Charlie Adlard ("Walking Dead") and Riley Rossmo ("Rebel Blood") among others.
CBR News spoke with Daniel about joining up with his artistic other half, creating something different from the usual giant monster formula and getting "Enormous" out in front of readers well in advance of the issue's July shipping date.
Before we get to the book itself, let's discuss the "Enormous" website, which is pretty fun and somewhat unique due to the fact that it shares all kinds of concept artwork from a variety of different artists. How did it come about?
Tim Daniel: We have had a pretty strong web presence for some time now. Last spring, even before the book was picked up by Jim Valentino at Shadowline, Mehdi and I were putting the pitch together. That effort generated a lot of material; an 8-page pitch, a 5-page prelude, creature designs, a slew of teasers, character studies -- you name it. When it came time to start producing the book, I wanted a way to grow and stay connected to a base of potential readers.
As a frequent visitor to the WhatNot and Sindiecate art blogs the idea for the "Enormous" Guest-Artist Pin-Up Gallery came about. Enlisting the help of the many artists I've worked with over the last several years seemed a natural solution to filling the void left by Mehdi as he commenced drawing "Enormous." We reached out to this very generous and giving community of artists with the notion being that established pros might enjoy a change of pace, while newcomers could hopefully further expose their work. The effort had to be reciprocal, so every time we've posted a new piece, we're plugging the artist, their books, sites or portfolios. It's proven to be a great excuse to spread the word on books like [Riley] Rossmo's "Rebel Blood" and "Debris", [Nick] Pitarra's "Manhattan Projects," [John] Broglia's "UnMasked" and [Charlie] Adlard's "The Walking Dead."
The site has posts that stretch back over a year. How long have you and Mehdi Cheggour been working on "Enormous?"
Since April of 2011, and we've been promoting the book the entire time. "Enormous" is a one-shot, so the idea was to promote the book as much as possible without bludgeoning folks or spilling all the beans. We recognize the deck is stacked against us. As new creators of a one-shot book, we don't enjoy name recognition or have a chance to build an audience over several issues. That time is now. In general, we can't be too coy or secretive about "Enormous" when there is limited opportunity, limited resources and a high-level of competition to reach an audience. Major motion pictures are teased a year ahead of theatrical release, DC basically twittered their entire line's new launch months in advance and Brian K. Vaughan first exposed "Saga" at SDCC 2011 -- that's the spirit!
Expecting a solicitation in Previews three months prior to street date won't cut it for us. We needed to start building a brand and a potential audience by inviting them along for the ride and personally engaging them. Early adopters and future readers make the best evangelists because they've had the unique opportunity to discover and invest in something long before the rest of the world! We'd like to thank everyone that has taken a moment to support us thus far. If "Enormous" proves successful, it will have hinged on all the support we've received dating back to early Spring 2011.
Was there ever talk of doing more than a one-shot? Do you have plans for follow-up stories if this issue sells well?
When "Enormous" was pitched and developed, Jim and I had some discussion regarding what shape or form it would take. Originally, "Enormous" was conceived as something much larger in scope. I recall Jim mentioning that it should have been entitled "Ambitious," as we had mapped out quite a bit of territory. Ultimately, the fate of a book, whether it is a one-shot or an ongoing series, is determined by the readership. I would be gratified beyond belief if readers gave us reason to carry on beyond July.
How did you start working with Cheggour in the first place?
Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, Nick Spencer and Alex Gregg. Mehdi was posting art on the "Morning Glories" Facebook page created and maintained by Alex, a London-based reader. I caught sight of the various pieces Mehdi had drawn and cobbled them all together into a pin-up. I loved his work so much, and it got such great response on the "Morning Glories" page, I immediately messaged Mehdi and asked what he liked drawing and if he'd take a look at a pitch. In the meantime, I sent Mehdi's art to Jim. He was already familiar with Mehdi's work. Everything took off from there.
Okay, on to the actual story of the book. It's not such a great time for humans in "Enormous" -- tell us about the monsters ravaging the earth.
That's one way of putting it! Let's put it this way, too -- human beings tried doing something good, just and right. The results were far less than ideal. By the time we enter the world of "Enormous," being at the bottom of the food-chain is something humans have been experiencing for a while. As a result, there is no consensus around how we're going to survive as a species. There are a few human factions, each operating with a fairly distinct agenda. Mix in these beasts who barely recognize our existence, except as an occasional food source, and that is a recipe for extinction.
With such a huge size difference between the remaining humans and the Enormous, how can anyone hope to fight the monsters on an even footing?
That certainly hits at one of the core conceits of any "giant monster" tale: monster appears, humans fight back, beast dies, united in our shame we learn our lesson. "Enormous" couldn't be further from that, and I couldn't be further from answering your question. I can promise readers that it will be answered in an unexpected manner that won't involve humans riding saddle on some domesticated behemoth.
You mentioned giant monster movie plots as an inspiration behind "The Enormous," but are there specific films that fed into the comic's creation?
I have a lifelong appreciation of giant monster films, so as far as inspiration, it is quite a long list dating back to obvious childhood favorites like "Godzilla," "King Kong," "Gamera," "The Blob," "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and so on. More recently, films like "Cloverfield," "The Mist," "The Host," "Monsters" and "Troll Hunter" have all had repeated viewings in our household. "Enormous" does a fair job of paying respect to both classic and modern monster tales from both film and literature while attempting to find some new ground to stomp around on.
The story's main character, Ellen Grace, has to be pretty hardened to have survived long enough for us to meet her. What else can you tell us about her as a character?Â
I love her? I never want her story to end? She's everything I hope my daughter grows up to be and everything my wife exemplifies. She's caring, compassionate and giving to a fault -- almost. She's courageous, but courage, specific to Ellen, means she's a bit too focused. As such, she's perceived as reckless by a few of her peers. Ellen's carrying a bit of shame, remorse and regret around with her. Those feelings fuel her relentless pursuit of an unattainable goal. If you categorize "hardened" as single-minded in purpose, then Ellen is just that. Personally, I appreciate her desire to do-right by her fellow humans even when it brings about unintended consequences. It doesn't hurt that she bears a remote kinship to some of the great heroines of sci-fi tales of film and print like Ripley, Sarah Connor and Agent 355, all leaders without being "the" leader.
Finally, having spent some time on the production side of comics prior to writing "The Enormous," were you at all prepared for the work involved in creating your own book from the ground up?
Nothing prepared me for writing it, but I sure can conjure up a mean credits page. Where I've really benefited from working with the likes of Valentino, [Brian Michael] Bendis, Spencer, and [Robert] Kirkman is learning how the process works and seeing clearly how every step of assembling a book is related. Each of those creators are very particular in their vision, exceptionally specific, which I think you have to be in order to fully realize what you hope to communicate to the reader. Jim in particular has been instrumental in helping me learn the fundamental aspects of comic book storytelling. I tend to go with my gut on everything, while Jim offers structure and a more measured approach based upon his extensive experience. For a gut-guy like me, that has been both painful and incredibly insightful.
Tim Daniel and Mehdi Cheggour's "Enormous" debuts from Image Comics and Shadowline in July.