Welcome to another edition of Post-Game. As the title suggests, we’re aping a little NFL-inspired post-game coverage for the realm of comics, allowing a slew of creators to come in and examine their work after the fact. Through this rare instance of hindsight, we can all gain a better appreciation for our favorite stories and series and better grasp the truly nuanced creative process. And unlike with football, we promise no (excessively) wacky graphics or needlessly bulky suits.
For more from the series, check out Anthony Del Col covering Nancy Drew And The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie, David Avallone delving into Doc Savage, Phil Hester dissecting Family Tree, Jeff Parker tackling James Bond Origin and Mark Russell discussing Lone Ranger.
Title: The Great Divide
Creative Team: Written by Ben Fisher and art by Adam Markiewicz
Story Arc: A six-issue miniseries.
Original Release Date: September 2016 to March 2017
Synopsis: A virus infects mankind, brutally eviscerating anyone who dares to make skin-to-skin contact. In this brand-new post-“divide” world, two thieves are forced to save the world through a mad-cap adventure.
AIPT’s Thoughts: By sure happenstance (and the machinations of our misguide species), this three-year-old series is more relevant than ever before. Fisher and Markiewicz create a world grappling with an illness that strikes at the very heart of our need for human contact/stimulus and the terrible things that happen when we’re forced to go without. But even outside this post-COVID world, this story has a timeless quality, a celebration of the misfit and how each of us carry the flame for a better world and the bonds that truly unite us. Oh, and this whole shebang is still weird AF.
How do you feel now that this story’s been told? Is there a sense of relief, or are there any uneasy feelings? Was its creation/development a “good” experience overall?
No matter how many projects I’ve completed, I feel the same panic whenever I open a blank page for a new script. Some part of me is convinced that I only have a specific lifetime word allotment, and this might be the day I hit my cap. So, in one sense, yeah – it’s a relief when *any* story gets told.
The creation of The Great Divide was a joy. It’s such a strange world populated with so many weirdos that I couldn’t help but love telling their stories. And I jump at any opportunity to work with Adam – he has a gift for bringing a sense of urgency and grittiness to the page. And so ruggedly handsome!
But Paul and Maria’s story isn’t finished just yet – we’re currently deep into the second volume, where we pull the camera back a bit and see a bigger picture of what’s going on in the post-Divide world. I think I’m supposed to imply that the “stakes are greater” or some similar sequel cliché, but the world had already ended before the first volume even started. So, let’s just say the characters (both our heroes and the baddies) have bigger, bolder plans this time around.
Are you the type of artist/writer to go back and think about what worked or didn’t with a story or the overall volume? Is that process helpful at all?
It doesn’t help me at all. I just wind up second guessing every choice. Honestly, I’ve found that to be true with almost every aspect of my life: My motto is: Keep moving, don’t look back, no matter how big the explosion, and try to do a little better every day.
My other motto is “take on every challenge like Lee Van Cleef and Bruce Campbell are watching you, judging silently.”
How do you think the overall storyline or larger aesthetic/visual identity played out now that you’re looking at it as a wholly completed project? Has that shifted at all?
The Great Divide was different from a lot of the other comics I’ve written, insofar as I was world-building around a concept that really changed the rules for almost every social norm. Between zero human contact, sudden mass illiteracy, and the constant threat of entering into zombie-like trances for days at a time, very little of what we’d consider “normal” still applied. I read up on psychology, infrastructure, political history – and then filled a stack of journals with what the New World Order might look like.
Of course, the irony of writing a book with the tagline “separation is survival” about a world of self-isolation a year before a real-life global pandemic isn’t lost on me. And it proved that I got at least one prediction wrong: I had assumed that without physical contact, porn would be the most valuable post-apocalyptic currency. Turns out it was toilet paper.
What kind of feedback have you received? Has any of that helped shape some of your thoughts on the larger series/story?
We were lucky enough to receive some wonderful reviews from places and people I really admire. Fangoria had a great write-up when the book first launched, for example, that really helped expose the book to people outside the traditional comic book community. And fans have been so enthusiastic at conventions. It’s a treat listening to theories about the mysteries of the Divide.
What, if anything, surprised you about how the story or visual narrative plays out in hindsight? Is there some reaction or emotion now associated with the series that you might not have felt during the actual creative process?
Despite its high concept trappings, The Great Divide was really about personal connection. And it was gratifying that audiences became invested in those characters. But I think the current state of the world has really caused people (and me!) to view Paul and Maria’s relationship through a different lens. If you’ve only seen your partner via Zoom for three months, the frustration of not being able to touch someone you care about feels much more relatable.
Now that it’s finished, how would you describe the series/story to someone (what’s your best elevator pitch)? Did that change at all from before publication?
You know, I think the elevator pitch would be different now, precisely because of how invested I became in these characters. Originally, the pitch was/is “In a near future where skin contact has become lethal, a wanderer and his unlikely new companions search for the mysterious cause of the end of the world.” But I think now it would be something like “Two post-apocalyptic survivors struggle to make sense of their relationship in a world where intimacy is a deadly.”
Did you have any goals going into the project? Did you “complete” those in some way?
I wanted to tell an allegory, set in a unique world, about the dangers of letting other people get “too close” with racially and sexually inclusive characters. I’d like to think I achieved some measure of that.
I also wanted a splash page with a middle-aged ex-CEO-turned-cult-leader sitting on top of a pile of naked worshipers inside a church. Not everyone gets to check that box.
Is there anything you might do differently in writing/illustrating/coloring/etc.? Some things you wish had played out differently?
There were so many things that I didn’t have time to include in volume one. Mostly, that was out of necessity. You can only fit so much world-building into 120(ish) pages, and I had a large cast of characters to establish. With a lot of that heavy lifting out of way, volume two digs into the weird s--t going on behind the scenes and I get to bounce all these characters (plus some new ones!) off of each other in new and interesting ways.
And don’t count Sebastian out just yet. He still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Inversely, what do you think are the highlights of the story? What are the points in which you excelled as you’re looking at the whole project from a distance?
I’d like to think the character deaths were impactful, and I hope that Paul and Maria’s incredibly complicated relationship felt organic and “real.” I also think the story, as a whole, balanced between adventure and allegory well enough that it will still be a fun, meaningful read for new audiences years from now.
Do you have any final thoughts or observations on the story/series?
I just want to thank everyone who picked up a copy of The Great Divide and took a chance on an unknown property amidst an ocean of new (and good!) books every month. It was so much fun going on that journey, and I can’t wait to pick up where we left off soon.
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