Comic Shots: Moonshine and WINTERWORLD

Each week, the iFanboy “Comic Shots” staff passes along a tasty drink recipe and an even tastier comic book recommendation. The cocktail and the comic can both be enjoyed independently, but they have a common theme and when served together they can make for the perfect reading experience.

Following Ali’s lead from last week, I’m going to take a week off from beer pairings to throw together a cocktail. Admittedly, the cocktail is one that’s a bit self-serving. I’ve fallen in love with moonshine over the last few months, and now is the perfect time to evangelize to the comics-and-libations-loving masses. With Boardwalk Empire out on DVD this week and Justified returning to FX, the air is right to talk about hooch/white lightning/mountain dew.

Unsurprisingly, illegally produced and distributed liquor has been around forever. Or, at least, it’s been around since there have been laws regulating alcohol. Moonshine tends to conjure up images of Appalachia and the American South during Prohibition, but the term was actually coined for Englishmen who ran brandy and gin in the North Sea in the late 1700s. They made and carted around their liquor around under the light of the moon, hence the name. Despite this centuries-old history, moonshine didn’t really come into the popular lexicon until the 1920s when nationwide Prohibition his the states.

Suddenly, liquor produced at any big brewery or distiller was just as illegal as the stuff made by ‘shiners. Business boomed, and lingering dry laws in the southern states after the repeal of prohibition kept the cheap hooch flowing. Even today moonshine is a largely illicit drink; despite laws passed in the 70s to allow people to make beer and wine at home, setting up a still remains off-limits.

What exactly is moonshine? In the broadest sense, it’s white whiskey. Recipes usually call for liquor distilled from corn, wheat, rye and other grains with a healthy dose of sugar. It gets bottled fresh off the still and is practically never aged in barrels, which is why it stays clear while other whiskeys are brown. For liquor drinkers that can get their hands on really well-made moonshine, the lack of any time in a barrel means that the flavors of the grains can really shine through. It also makes for a spirit that can be infused like high end vodka – cranberry, apple and cherry are all popular flavors in commercially-made (and black market) white dog.

Like small-batch beer and cider making a decade ago, craft distilling is rising in popularity. That means that you can go out and buy moonshine from a liquor store today, rather than risk exploding yourself making your own or buying it from the back of a pickup truck. There’s a philosophical argument here about whether you can still call liquor moonshine if it’s made legally, but it’s an argument that I don’t really have the expertise or passion to make. At the end of the day, call the drinks on store shelves whatever you want – moonshine, corn whiskey, or something in between.

Though high-proof moonshine can be enjoyed straight from a mason jar, there is something to be said for cutting the 80+-proof liquor with something in a cocktail. Apple Ale makes for an easy (and dangerously tasty) cocktail that doesn’t sacrifice any of the flavor of the whiskey.

Apple Ale

– 2 oz Apple Pie Moonshine
– Splash of Gingerale
Serve over ice, and garnish with a cherry if you’re so inclined.
That’s it, easy-peasy. While I’m all for the occasional cocktail, you best believe it won’t be complicated.

Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon and Ole Smoky both offer “apple pie” moonshine, which come in uber-classy 750ml mason jars. Junior’s variety is even garnished with a cinnamon stick. If you can’t get your hands on the apple pie-flavored stuff in your area, maybe sit out on the Comic Shots pairing this week and just read the book. A quick Google search for Apple Pie Moonshine will net plenty of recipes, but most involve distilling your own shine – a definite no-no.

While I often pick out a comic and then search for a drink to pair it with, I went the opposite route this week. I’ve been loving the White Lightning I got my hands on, so I started out there and searched for a book. Moonshiners conjure up mental images of lawlessness, scrappy ne’er- do-wells, and rebellion. Surely there’s plenty of that in comics.


Written by Chuck Dixon
Art by Jorge Zaffino
Letters by Tim Harkins
Published by IDW Publishing

It didn’t take long for Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino’s WinterWorld to spring to mind. The 80s classic was out of print for two decades, but IDW published a handsome hardcover in 2010 (and a paperback last year) that collected the original series. Also included in the package is the never-before-published sequel, WinterSea.

Every dystopia has a different flavor. The Hunger Games is a brutal future dictatorship, and The Road is a post-nuclear wasteland. Waterworld, of course, is a flooded earth. Dixon and Zaffino’s take is given away by the title – we’re in a world that’s been gripped by eternal winter. Traders skirt from frozen city to frozen city, and the violent people of the planet eke out a miserable, very cold existence. Dixon is smart enough to not explain just HOW the world got this way, and other than the occasional clue that this was once our world (on discovering a bat: “‘Louisville Slugger.’ What was Louisville?” “It was in Kentucky. Saw it on a map once.” “What’s Kentucky?”) we’re on our own.

Our dramatis personae? Pretty standard for this kind of post-apocalyptic story. We’ve got our (anti-)hero, Scully, a wasteland trader who looks to be out just for himself. There’s Wynn, his plucky female sidekick, whom he become attached to at a speed you only find in comics and action movies. Outside of these two, it’s broadly drawn villains who make WinterWorld a living hell. These notes may sound like complaints, but they really aren’t. WinterWorld is a brisk book that moves along at a breakneak speed, and the characters are easy to latch on to as you enjoy the ride. Scully ends up acting heroic, the villains are villainous, and the book soars.

Did I mention the killer badger? Scully has a pet badger called Rah Rah who just … kills fools. Not everything about the book is exactly standard.

The three-issue WinterWorld sees Scully and Wynn captured and locked away in a massive greenhouse (“The Farm”), a beacon of warmth in the frigid world. It’s not an oasis, however. Other than the controlling Bossman and his minions who reap the benefits of fresh food and warm temperatures, it’s populated by slaves like our heroes. Scully manages to escape captivity at the end of the first act, and the rest of the story concerns his quest to save his companion. The sequel expands the world, expands the relationship between Scully and Wynn, and throws in some pirates for good measure.

In the book, you can see Dixon building the writing muscles he used to great effect in later books for Marvel and DC, and currently shows on GI Joe. In just a few panels, Dixon can build a character, communicate an idea, or build a whole world. WinterWorld doesn’t get as much press as The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, but it was certainly another important book of the 80s that influenced later creators. Even more indispensable is Zaffino, whose art remains astounding decades later. Dixon has repeatedly said that he chose Jorge as an equal collaborator, and you get the impression that the pages are labors of love rather that work for hire. Strong dark lines, lots of black, and hollow faces give the impression of a wintery world that is reaching it’s end.


Josh Christie is a beer guy, but that doesn’t mean he won’t go for the occasional cocktail. Follow him on Twitter for plenty of talk about beer, books, bookselling, and even comics.

Please obey the law and only drink if you are of age. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive. Buy the comics that make you happy. Smile more.



    (May be time to pull out the honest-to-god back-country distilled stuff my friend has, then you’ll see! You’ll all see! I, on the other hand, might be blind.)

  2. I found this HC a few months ago for a great bargain & took a chance on it with no prior knowledge of the book or Zaffino & only a passing one of Dixon. The characterizations & the pacing are as hard & unforgiving as the landscape & in that regard, the book really works. (I usually like a lot more character-building, but in this instance, it didn’t bother me & kind of accented the story better.) The true brilliance here though is Zaffino’s art, as stated in the article. Perfect for the subject matter. Gritty but accessible. And very cool to see the follow-up story printed for the first time. New World Vikings!

  3. Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I picked up WINTERWORLD over the holidays and fell in love instantly. Why every book doesn’t feature a murderous badger sidekick, I’ll never know.

  4. I went to college with a bunch of good old boys so I have had the real deal on numerous occasions. Moonshine will put you on your ass like no other booze. And the apple pie stuff? Dangerously tasty. I don’t know what kind of black magic those people use to make pure grain alcohol taste so good.

    • I’m not sure if I wrote enough about just how good this stuff tastes, either in a cocktail or straight. Junior Johnson is the brand distributed here in Maine, and it’s one of the tastiest liquors I’ve had.

  5. Great post. I fell in love with moonshine during the year I taught GED classes in the Kentucky Appalachias. Never had the legal stuff though, or anything flavored. Not that I have anything against it. I guess I was just an accidental purist.

  6. After season 2 of Justified I hesitate to drink any Apple Pie mixtures 😉

    Great job on the article Josh! One of these days we shall tip many glasses with each other.

  7. I had actual illegal moonshine at a bachealor party back in the 80s. Tasted like hairspray, or rubbing alcohol. Let’s just say the night did not end very well and leave it at that.

  8. I agree Winterworld is a fun romp. It comes closest to me of a scenario that might happen with nuclear winter (I guess you could argue the same with Waterworld and a warming world). It would be nice if Dixon and Zaffino would revisit this world at some point in the future. It’s tough guy fiction and well told, reminding me a bit of Tim Truman’s Scout in some ways.

  9. Winterworld is so, so good. I wish there was more of Zaffino’s work out there.