This year’s New York Comic Con was filled with comics news and announcements, including several announcements of new projects at Dynamite Entertainment, including a new project from one of comics hottest writers.
Devolution by Rick Remender and Paul Renaud promises to be a unique story from the mind of the creator of Fear Agent and Strange Girl, teaming up with an immensely talented artist. We got the chance to sit down with Remender and Renaud and get the full details on Devolution. Additionally, we got an exclusive teaser image (on the right) as well as preview pages from the first issue and never before seen character design sheets that you can drool over at the bottom of the page.
iFanboy: Where did the origins for Devolution come from? Rick, you’ve worked in a variety of genres, how would you describe Devolution? Seems post-apocalyptic with a touch of classic sci-fi?
Rick Remender: It’s classic science fiction, heavily inspired by my love of EC comic books and the Twilight Zone television series. But I think readers will be surprised by the amount of attention to character development in this series, we have a very interesting ensemble cast and I’m leaning heavily into satire and humor. Mankind had been devolving long before the chemical devolution agent was introduced into the ecosystem and I’m having a lot of fun poking at that.
iF: Paul, what can you tell us about your approach to building the world of Devolution? What inspirations and techniques have gone into bringing this story to reality? How concerned were you with avoiding the previous impressions folks have had with stories like Mad Max and movies of that ilk?
Paul Renaud: When we initially talked about that story, we really wanted to get the feel of the sci fi EC Comics, especially the ones by Williamson/Frazetta/Krenkel. We love the spirit of adventure and discovery that those guys were infusing in every aspect of their comics. The first images that came to me were giant trees, taller than buildings growing inside the cities. I told Rick I wanted to set a background of gigantic proportions where human is the weakest species. Like the world has become King Kong’ Skull Island. The more our guys are moving into the story and into their journey, the bigger it will become.
The only nod to Mad Max we got in there is the sawed off shotgun that we gave to one of our characters in the first sequence. As much as I love the Mad Max movies, I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want car races in the desert, struggle for gas, all that stuff. Comics can get you the most fantastic sets for the same money as long as you’re willing to work the extra hours.
iF: Rick, this isn’t the first time you’ve depicted the world post a cataclysmic event. Strange Girl featured the world after the Rapture, Fear Agent, the world after an alien invasion. What do you have against humanity that you keep tearing the world down around them?
RR: In the first book I ever wrote entirely by myself , Doll and Creature, I created a world where Goth culture and chemically derived monsters became the mainstream norm. Then and now, I have a tendency to start with day glow crazy ideas about how to change the entire world and then the characters start to appear in my mind within that world stage. I think it lends itself to big pulpy comic ideas and I like reimagining the familiar. EC comics dipped in a Robert Williams painting.
I don’t know what it is that draws me over and over again stories dealing with the decimation of human society. I remember reading once somebody theorizing that human’s capacity for imagination only existed to enable us to imagine the future that we might prepare for it. I found that very interesting, the idea that the only reason I can imagine anything is so that I can imagine eventualities in the future and prepare for them. That would explain why my imagination constantly is drawn to post-apocalyptic stories and bleak futures in my creator-owned work. In The End League we have a world dominated by super villains. In Doll and Creature the world has gone Goth/Blade Runner as a new designer drug is turning people into feral Hyde-like creatures. In Fear Agent, aliens destroy the world… twice. In Strange Girl, we have the actual Apocalypse, the Rapture, as God pulls up the chosen few and the rest of us are left to deal with the demonic repercussions. In Last Days of American Crime, society is in such a downward spiral the government is preparing to use mind control to put a stop to talk crime and terrorism… So you know there is definitely a theme here, my mind naturally imagines strange futures. Maybe it’s my mind preparing for the future, but my brain is so broken that Frankenstein keeps showing up. Whatever it is, I guess it’s just what I like to write.
iF: You guys worked together previously with Paul illustrating a Tales of the Fear Agent story in 2006 and at Dynamite on a Red Sonja one-shot back in 2007. Was that the origin of you guys wanting to work together? How did you plan to come together for Devolution and how long has it been in the works for?
RR: I’ve been aware of Paul’s work since about 2006. I could tell the guy was going to be a superstar. I begged him to do a Fear Agent short story for me. We didn’t have any money to pay, all of those tales of the fear agent stories were done out of the charity of our friends and colleagues, but I think that the idea of getting to work with legendary writer/artist Hillary Barta enticed Paul to do it. So many of the relationships I made coming up during my Image and Dark Horse days are the ones that I’m still the most comfortable with. And Paul and I hit it off right away. If you seen the story that he and Hillary did you know that he not only showed up but brought his absolute a game.
So around that time Dynamite hired me to do a Battlestar Galactica comic, and they were looking for some artists so I sent them some of Paul’s Fear Agent work. They approached Paul to do a Red Sonja book and Paul requested that I write it, so I did. It’s a Red Sonja one-shot called Vacant Shell and it’s something that I’m still very proud of. Anyway, a few months after we completed that I pitched Paul on the idea of Devolution, and given that he is also a huge nut for EC Comics he jumped right on. I pitched it to Nick in San Diego that year and he liked it as well. But in the time since we haven’t been able to get our schedules to align in a way that allowed Paul the time he needed to do all of the interiors. It just so happened that around this summer Paul scheduled open up and he was able to get working on it. So I dug out the scripts and the outline and started reworking it retooling it and we got to work.
PR: A friend of ours introduced us in 2006 when Rick was working on these Fear Agent short stories, and was looking for artists. We really like each other’s work, and immediately discussed various projects to work on together. We’ve talked about doing Devolution for 5 years or so, but one of us was always too busy at the time. So it was postponed, and postponed again. I was swamped with all my cover work until recently when I decided I needed a break. I felt like I needed to go back drawing a book. I missed that too much. Doing so many covers is a very repetitive task, and you don’t get the feeling you’re actually building anything. Drawing a book like Devolution is so much more rewarding.
iF: You’ve reintroduced a prehistoric world into modern times. What sort of wildlife can we expect? Paul, what’s been your favorite dinosaurs/animals to draw? What have been the most challenging?
PR: We deal with a lot of wild plants, carnivorous flowers, thick brush, and thick vines the size of buildings…but the story being set in Nevada, you’ll get to see a lot of giant cactuses too. Big part of the fun is to get as many animals as possible, of course. Pterodactyls, sabre-toothed tigers. Rick and I have a special fondness for disgusting bugs causing some mean casualties in the group. And, yeah, the giant bugs are the most challenging to draw because the more detailed they are, the more creepy they will get…and we want creepy.
RR: I’m digging through all kinds of various eras of life on earth. A lot of the time while I’m trying to think up monsters and beasts I try and follow back the evolutionary chain from things that currently exist. I took a trip down to the Natural History Museum in San Diego and took a lot of photographs and watch a few films dealing with prehistoric slots and sabertooth tigers and mammoths and things like that. The fun wrinkle that I’ve added to the story is that the devolution agent is also reversed mutating things so not everything that we come in contact with will be real. Some of what we come up with will be Paul and I using our imagination to reverse evolve a mosquito while also reverse mutating a mosquito. So I’ll go online and read up about mosquitoes and how they evolved and how they mate etc and then start sort of adding in things that seem natural but clearly didn’t exist. So it will still look like prehistoric Earth but there’s going to be some fun mutations.
iF: When will Devolution be hitting comic stands and what can we expect from the future of Devolution?
RR: We’re shooting to release in the Summer/Fall of 2013. The series will go as long as we can keep Paul drawing it. I know the ending of the big first chapter and it could definitely stand as the ending of the series, but I have many ideas that could continue from that point as well. Once I got into the outline stage this thing started to grow and grow into something much bigger than I initially intended.
Be on the lookout in 2013 for Devolution from Dynamite, and in the meantime, chew on these preview pages and character design sheets from Paul Renaud: