A Writer’s Commentary: Ben Fisher talks The Great Divide #3, on sale now from Dynamite. Cover and interiors by Andy Markiewicz.
One of the (many) things that I enjoy about writing this series is exploring its unique world order through different lens and personality types. Issue 3 is our first real look into the psyche of “baredevils” — individuals who expose their skin in order to prove their bravery, or show defiance, or simply because they are thrill seekers. We’ve heard reference to them as early as Issue 1, and of course they appear en masse at the end of issue 2, but this is our first peek behind the scenes.
This particular group, led by former MMA fighter Pug, has established human “cock fights” where the audience gambles on who will survive contact (a game they call “linkman”). And because every good game show needs a catchy tagline, Pug came up with “Should thin skin leave you dead / May you find strength inside my head.” He’s poignant, for a brutal sociopath.
Incidentally, the stadium is loosely based around the gymnasium and mascot for Leupp Elementary School, just north of Winslow, Arizona. And those last two panels by Markiewicz are just gorgeous.
I’ve spent a couple issues laying out the basic concepts of the post-Divide world, and now I’m focusing on a couple important nuances. First, that surviving skin contact may not be entirely random, and second, that some people can “handle” more riders in their brain than others. There were certainly prior indicators that this was true, not the least of which being Sebastian’s uncanny ability to kill everyone he touches, seemingly without any loss of sanity or control. But now we hear Eli’s theory that it’s all somehow connected to willpower.
These pages are also the beginning of Eli and Paul’s budding bromance.
You didn’t think we’d drop the Vampirella gag after the first issue, did you?
Now we get another one of Pug’s crowd-pleasing chants: “Only two ways to leave the Pit: Straight into the winner’s head, or straight to hell.” He really does have a gift. We also get some great art by the two Adams, who really shine in these fight scenes.
It’s an odd conceit of comics that characters can talk so much during combat, but I think it works well here, as I imagine Paul and Eli dancing around each other in between punches while they plan an escape.
Of course, in the end, it’s Maria who rescues the dumb boys beating up on each other.
Amusing side note for these panels — in the script, I failed to adequately describe the width of the doors to the gym in issue 2, but Adam saved the day by going back and fixing those panels just before the second issue went to print so that the Jeep could actually fit through the doors in this issue. Communication is key, kids!
Our favorite self-help novelist returns — and now he speaks German. It was Adam’s idea to have Sebastian use a one-finger touch to the baredevil’s temple, and I liked the air of confidence that it portrays.
This is another look into the kinds of twisted games that society plays after the Divide. In this case, people driven mad by an overabundance of riders (what Pug calls being “overbooked”) are sent into the Jaw Field — a football field littered with bear traps. Gamblers can bet on which trap the helpless souls stumble into.
These are the most important moments to me as a writer. It’s not the action (which is certainly fun) or the beautiful set pieces (which are also great, but which ultimately fall almost entirely on the artists) — it’s the glimpses of character revealed in short but layered dialogue and carefully planned panels. It’s letting the audience find meaning between the lines. Between breaths.
These pages give us a bit of backstory on Paul and raise some questions about Eli’s past, but perhaps most importantly, they solidify Eli’s role with the group. He’s sticking around for now, which is good, since I really enjoy writing him. And Paul appears to be coming around from his rejection of “strength in numbers” in issue 1.
Once again, Guzowski makes every scene feel distinct but connected with his palette choices. From a writing perspective, this is where I begin weaving in Paul’s struggle with his feelings for Maria, and not knowing if he’s coming by his emotions honestly or if they’re a residual effect of having Carlos as a rider.
This is also where we establish Eli as being gay. When I first wrote this story arc, I had Eli’s “reveal” as being gay come much later in the series. But as I started writing the scripts, it occurred to me that the mere act of portraying sexuality as something that needed to be “revealed” at all — as if sexual orientation was a shocking plot twist rather than a normal facet of a person’s identity — was the wrong approach.
And from a pure plot perspective, as Eli correctly notes, the clock has run out on normal relationships. Sexuality takes a backseat role in one’s day to day life when skin contact is a death sentence.
Side note: the graffiti on the wall just inside the mall entrance is my sole art contribution for The Great Divide.
A fun silent sequence of Maria, with a rare glimpse behind her armor. Could this have something to do with Seattle?
I offered to re-write this scene so that it would take place outside the bookstore, but Adam assured me he liked drawing hundreds of novels. He said it was a zen thing. Artists are weird, you guys.
These were very difficult pages to write. A lot had to happen, and it all needed to feel natural and clear. We finally meet Victoria and her solar-powered RV, of course — a character who was actually introduced in the chatlog back in issue one. But we also kick off the second act of the story: Victoria thinks she may have discovered a pattern in the walkabouts. In fact, she’s pinpointed a region in rural Oregon that might hold the secrets to understanding how the Divide first started.
We keep hearing about these walkabouts, don’t we? These “unconscious bouts of migration” that seem to occur at random intervals. Boy, I sure hope the next one doesn’t come at an inopportune time.
This is our first glimpse of how religion has changed post-Divide. We hear a passage from the New Psalm of Oral Revelations (literacy is increasingly rare, thanks to dyslexia being a side effect of carrying riders, so the new traditions are handed down orally) and marriage is a purely symbolic gesture.
We’ll explore these concepts in much greater detail soon …
I enjoy framing devices in my scripts, and Paul telling terrible jokes that serve as a parallel to the final panels in each issue has been a fun challenge. Speaking of challenges, we were just starting to learn more about Maria’s backstory and motivations, so it sure would be a shame if something bad happened to her …
I hope this provided some interesting insight into a pivotal issue of The Great Divide. If you have any questions or comments about the series, I can be found on Twitter, patiently waiting for the end of the world: @benjaminpfisher