Post-apocalyptic literature never wavers from exposing the harsh consequences of actions. Environmental disasters, biological pandemics, economic collapse, nuclear armageddon – there’s a massive list of phrases to describe what can be the horrors of cause and effect.
After six years of DMZ, writer Brian Wood is no stranger to stories about strife and its aftermath. Now the Vertigo superstar creator is set to launch another such tale, The Massive, for Dark Horse Comics, but this time the scope is different.
While there are obvious similarities to DMZ, according to Wood “It’s more tonal. I wanted this book to be different, but a book a DMZ reader could easily access.”
“DMZ was a real breakdown on a city size scale,” Wood says. “The Massive is very similar, but it’s a global thing. It’s an economic crash. It’s an environmental crash. It’s really the end of the world.”
Looking back at Wood’s work over the years, it’s a surprising reflection to see his work as “apocalyptic.” He’s the lauded indie creator recognized for his intimate stories that take residence in larger themes. While DMZ dealt with war from a variety of perspectives, it was not distinctively a disasters series – nuclear detonation notwithstanding. But if we stretch the definition of apocalyptic ever so slightly, we can see Wood’s work, from Demo to Local to Northlanders, as dealing with the moment of change and its result. If this is not a fundamental piece of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives, then what is?
Regardless, The Massive is about dealing with the fallout from an ecological disaster. It’s about environmentalists struggling to redefine their mission now that the worst has happened. Prequel stories leading up to the ongoing series are presented in three issues of Dark Horse Presents beginning this week.
The series has been described by Wood as being a combination of action, political, mystery and science fiction stories. That is a diverse number of genres for one ongoing comic. How does a creator keep them straight?
“I outline really well,” Wood says smartly. “The storyarcs I’m keeping small, so I’m able to tell a lot of smaller stories within a larger theme.” (There’s the Brian Wood we all know!) “It’s built-in that I can cover all those genres.”
Aside from the genres and the general tone, a comic series such as this does not get developed in a bubble. Certain global issues have informed what Wood and artistic collaborator Kristian Donaldson are tackling.
“When I was writing the pitch [for The Massive] it was right in the middle of the BP gulf oil accident,” Wood says. “That was definitely on my mind. Then there were the Japanese Tsunamis. There’s definitely stuff that keeps happening.”
What these disasters provide, as terrible as they are, is a reference point for readers. “It’s horrible that these things keep happening,” Wood says reflectively. “But they certainly provide an access point for readers.”
And that is something very important for the writer. “The most important thing a writer needs to do is give the reader a point of access into the story,” he says. “As crazy as the story can be, you have to make it so that the reader can empathize. I feel that’s half the battle.”
An accessible genre-diverse apocalyptic comic book—The Massive might just redefine what we expect from disaster stories.