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Interview: Adam Markiewicz and Ben Fisher, “The Great Divide”

the great divideIt’s the future and it’s a pretty miserable place: there’s a plague that makes physical touch lethal. Much of the world’s population has died, and the few survivors left have come up with a variety of adaptations to avoid contact. Is there a cure? Two young thieves think they’ve found a way back to the old world, but not everyone’s enthused about how things were before the plague…

Learn a lot more abut the story in our exclusive (and funny!) interview with the creators of The Great Divide: writer Ben Fisher and artist Adam Markiewicz.

TFAW: When did you get interested in comics, and what’s the first comic book series you remember really liking?

Adam Markiewicz: When I was 9 years old, my dad bought me a copy of The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #11 and it was loads of fun. The main feature guest starred Iron Man and Black Panther. The back-up story featured Rhino. I immediately went out and bought every Spider-Man comic on the stands. The adjective-less one was my favorite because of the art (this was when Todd McFarlane was drawing it). But I also read X-Men, Superman, Batman, and FF.

Ben Fisher: I definitely lived and breathed Claremont’s X-Men and I loved Giffen’s run on Justice League Europe. Both of those books were really just different spins on the “outside, looking in” motif, and like so many adolescents, I strongly identified with that.

TFAW: Can you tell us a little on how you first got into comics and your road to this new series?

Markiewicz: My first legitimate job in comics was actually with Ben, as the letterer on Smuggling Spirits. From there, I did a bit of freelance but focused mainly on self publishing, including a my webcomic Trench Coat Samurai.

Fisher: I “broke in” to the industry with Mike Henderson (Nailbiter, Illuminati) when we were lucky enough to win a back-up story competition at Viper Comics. Mike and I followed that up with the Smuggling Spirits graphic novel, which is how I met Adam. Flash forward a few years and a few books, and I pitched my Grumpy Cat editor at Dynamite a very, very different style of comic . . . and here we are!

Running away from the tab, detail from "The Great Divide"
Detail #1 from “The Great Divide”

TFAW: The premise of The Great Divide is that there’s a highly contagious pandemic transmitted by physical touch. Where did you come up with the idea for this particular pandemic?

Fisher: The concept is that one day, without warning, every human on the planet is simultaneously afflicted with “dermadik” — a condition that results in instant death when any two people make skin contact. I got the idea on a crowded bus, actually. I started wondering how many fundamental aspects of society would change if being in close quarters became a potential death sentence and the story sort of grew from there. It’s probably also a bit related to my own introversion.

TFAW: There’s no explanation of what happened or why, we’re just dropped into the middle, very similar to The Walking Dead. Are you going to give us backstory as things unfold, or is that another story arc entirely?

Fisher: Oh, absolutely. The first arc finds our protagonists stumbling onto the possible cause of the Divide, but then forces them to confront the difficult question of what to do with that information. And, of course, solving one puzzle often leads to a whole series of new, even stranger, mysteries …

TFAW: Love the Roadkill Saloon as a setting for this portion of the story! Any fun back story on that one?

Fisher: I wish there was — I feel like I should make one up! It’s really just an amalgam of various seedy midwestern biker bars, with a name that would be remembered by the reader (since it’s used to bridge the time between pre- and post-Divide). And I knew from the very first draft that the story needed to open with a “guy goes into a bar” joke.

TFAW: Adam, I really enjoy your style. What other artists influenced and continue to influence you and your style?

Markiewicz: Thank you! My biggest influences have been Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Jaime Hernandez, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Chris Ware, and Shirow Masamune. I still look at their work constantly. When I was a teenager, I was actually more interested in film than comics, so I also take a lot of inspiration from John Carpenter (especially for this series), Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers, David Cronenberg, and Sam Raimi. Recently, I’d say the two artists I look at the most are Mike Henderson (and not just because he’s a friend, but because his work is awesome) and Amy Reeder.

TFAW: Do you use computers, tablets and software, or are you old-school with pens and a scanner?

Markiewicz: I started the series old school, but I recently made the switch to a Cintiq. In fact, I went from real old school — with ink pens and brushes — to using markers and brush pens while drawing issue 1, and now I’m entirely digital. I also do the lettering, which was all digital from the beginning.

TFAW: Right now, the series is planned for a 6-issue run. Do you have ideas for future arcs?

Fisher: Without question. Adam and I truly love this broken, strange world and the people who inhabit it. We’ve outlined plots for a long stretch, with an opportunity to really expand the scope and stakes — so if readers are interested, there’s plenty of story to tell and more arcs will be coming.

Detail #2 from The Great Divide
Detail #2 from “The Great Divide”

TFAW: What has it been like working with the folks over at Dynamite?

Markiewicz: Any publisher that allows the amount of freedom we’ve had is top notch in my book. Especially when you consider that it’s a bit of a risk, backing a story with such unusual subject matter. It’s been great.

Fisher: Dynamite has been an absolutely fantastic teammate throughout the process. Rich Young really championed the book early on in the pitch process and we will always be grateful for that — and to Nick Barrucci for having faith in the type of story we wanted to tell. Keith Davidsen and Anthony Marques have been invaluable keeping everything on track for the big launch in September (I know it’s not easy to corral us). And finally, although he doesn’t work at Dynamite, I’d be remiss to not give a shout out to my story editor, Jon Stark, who has made every script he’s touched better.

TFAW: Who do you think is going to enjoy this series the most?

Fisher: Certainly, anyone who enjoys dystopian subject matter like Walking Dead, Mad Max, or Y: The Last Man should have a good time in this world. But the series also focuses on our common fears of intimacy, human connection, and dysfunctional relationships in general, so fans of books like Sex Criminals and Pretty Deadly will also find our story touches on familiar themes in new ways.

TFAW: What comics are you enjoying right now?

Markiewicz: Hands down, my favorite comic right now is Rocket Girl. Ben also turned me on to Vision, which is an excellent read. I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention Nailbiter, but Lord knows Mike and Josh don’t need me to tell the world. I’ve been enjoying DKIII quite a bit, and Phil Noto‘s doing excellent work on the Poe Dameron book. Honestly, though, I just don’t get enough time to read comics. I’m too busy making them.

Fisher: It’s truly a golden age for comics right now — there are so many great books on the shelf. I know I’m going to get in trouble for leaving brilliant titles off the list. But in addition to Adam’s recommendations, I can’t say enough nice things about Goddamned, East of West, Squirrel Girl, Monstress, and Injection. And I’m genuinely mad that I’m not writing Army of Darkness: Furious Road. It just oozes fun.

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