Ben Fisher, best known for writing Grumpy Cat, is now shifting gears and working on a post-apocalyptic drama series called The Great Divide. He talks with Byron Brewer about the first issue that will be on sale from Dynamite in September. Cover A by Mike Henderson, Cover B by Adam Markiewicz, Cover C by Kyle Strahm.
BYRON BREWER: Ben, Dynamite readers may know you best as a writer on the tremendously popular Grumpy Cat title, but this is something worlds away. Tell us how you came to create The Great Divide as a concept and how it came to Dynamite.
BEN FISHER: As a writer, I’m always interested in exploring how people with different backgrounds and viewpoints interact – particularly if they’re forced to come together under unusual circumstances. That concept holds true whether the premise is comedy or (in this case) post-apocalyptic drama.
One day I was standing on an overcrowded bus heading into downtown Portland, uncomfortable and claustrophobic, and the thought occurred to me: how would the world operate if physical contact was literally a death sentence? Could personal relationships exist if just being in the same room as someone else was a potential risk?
So I reached out to Adam Markiewicz, who really has a gift for letting human emotion shine through his panels, and together we brought the concept to Dynamite. They were immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and we really couldn’t have asked for better partners.
BB: How closely have you Adam collaborated on the look and design for this book? I would imagine atmosphere is important in this type of series.
BF: Atmosphere is essential, absolutely. Adam and I had many discussions about how people completely lacking human contact might express themselves in art, and the post-Divide world is filled with examples of that. We also wanted to capture a society at the beginning stages of admitting defeat – of recognizing that its extinction is a foregone conclusion.
As a matter of pure aesthetics, Adam (along with Adam Guzowski, the book’s colorist) put a ton of consideration into conveying loneliness in their depiction of the landscape.
BB: Tell us, if you will, about the world in which this series takes place.
BF: The series is set in the near future, where all of humanity suffers from a mysterious affliction that causes any skin contact to result in agonizing death. But things only get stranger from there: when two people touch, only one dies, and the victim’s memories transfer to the survivor – usually with devastating effects (such as mental instability and the complete loss of the ability to read and write). To make matters worse, the entire planet periodically enters a temporary sleepwalking trance.
And nobody has any idea why all of this is happening. (Well, okay, Adam and I might have an idea.)
BF: The “Divide” refers to the exact moment when every person simultaneously contracted “dermadik” – a condition that results in instant death upon skin contact. It also refers to the time when “walkabouts” (the unconscious, uncontrollable bouts of migration) first started.
It speaks to the gap in genuine human connection that plagues so many of us in real life, only in this world it has become literalized.
Wait, was that “simply?” Sorry, I’m terrible at following directions.
BB: A post-apocalyptic environment is very popular in today’s comics, it seems. How will The Great Divide set itself apart from those other series?
BF: The concept itself is a bit of a departure from traditional post-apocalyptic stories. We’ve created a fairly unique world and populated it with some very non-traditional characters.
But truthfully, almost every action/adventure/horror story is “pre-apocalyptic,” with the protagonists valiantly struggling to stop the Really Bad Thing. A “post-apocalyptic” story just happens to take place after the Really Bad Thing has already happened. I think there’s a lot of headroom for both.
BB: Who are the protagonists for this horror-fueled sci-fi drama?
BF: At the heart of the story are two people who connect in traditional Hollywood romantic fashion: Paul is an aimless wanderer content to run out the clock on his life. At least, until he meets Maria, who immediately beats him unconscious, robs him, and leaves him for dead.
During their journey, we’ll be introducing a strange and diverse cast, including a former solider who often serves as the group’s moral compass, a sociopath who collects memories, and a “baredevil” who thrives on the adrenaline rush of over-exposure.
BF: That’s exactly right, and the post-Divide world allows us to focus a spotlight on the fears of intimacy and human connection that we all share. That’s the real inspiration for Paul and Maria’s relationship. Getting too close to another person is – literally – dangerous. And all the voices from your past encounters echo around your head until you aren’t sure if your own thoughts and emotions can be trusted.
So it’s the same issues we all face – just with deadlier consequences and the occasional roving marauder.
BB: I understand each issue of The Great Divide will also contain unique bonus content. In fact, #1 includes a download code for “Teowawki,” a doomsday-oriented song written and performed by … Ben Fisher! Tell us about it, and some of the other bonus content which may be coming.
BF: Adam and I wanted to include additional digital content with each issue as our way of thanking readers who choose to spend time with us. The first issue will include a tongue-in-cheek song I wrote about a doomsday prepper on a first date. It felt like a thematically appropriate choice. The second issue will have downloadable pages to a post-apocalyptic adult coloring book drawn by Adam.
We’ve got a lot of fun stuff planned and, as I hope is evident, we’re not letting the dark tone of the book suck all the fun out of the room. The story is filled with bits of humor and lighter moments to offset humanity’s grim situation, and the bonus content will certainly reflect that.
In addition to the digital content, our enthusiasm for The Great Divide has spilled over into our other passions. We’re both musicians (Adam in particular has an ear for ambient soundtracks) and we’ve written a full original score for the series, which we’ll make available online (for free!) to help set the mood.
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