Interviews: This World Has Teeth – a chat with Ian Edginton
Ian Edginton has lone been a favourite scribe with many of us here, from the inventive sequels to Wells’ War of the Worlds in Scarlet Traces and The Great Game, while his 2000 AD work such as Leviathan and Stickleback are major favourites with the blog crew. Ian has teamed with Francesco Trifolgi recently for one of DC’s much-anticipated new slew of Vertigo titles this autumn with Hinterkind, the first issue of which hit shelves a few days ago (you can read my review here on the blog). Matt Badham, freelance writer, comics supporter and very good friend of the blog spoke to Ian about Hinterkind and his other work and has very kindly shared the interview with ourselves and Down The Tube – over to Matt:
Ian Edginton has written for pretty much every comics publisher there is, producing strips for anthologies such as 2000 AD, Dark Horse Presents and Star Wars Tales as well as numerous one-shots and ongoing series. The latter include Kingdom of the Wicked, a run on X-Force and Scarlet Traces. Here, he talks about Hinterkind, his new ongoing series from Vertigo, as well as several other projects he has coming up.
Matt: What’s the high concept behind Hinterkind?
Ian: It’s years after a non-specified biological event has wiped out 99% of the human population of the Earth. Mother Nature has reclaimed large swathes of land, but what has also come back are the creatures tagged with myths and fables: centaurs, elves, dwarves, vampires, werewolves and all that kind of thing. But they are not faerie-folk characters. It’s not like Fables. These are evolutionary try-outs or dead-ends and the only way that humankind has been able to rationalise them as concepts is by mythologising them. They became our monsters and myths, so there are centaurs but they all have the biological problems that a creature like that would have. We’ve hounded them to the last corners of the world with pogroms and fire and pitchforks. Now the wheel’s turned and they have emerged. The world is a wilderness. Of course, the one thing they hate more than anything else is the human race because of what we did to them.
Matt: It’s humanity on the run.
Ian: Humanity doesn’t really know they’re there. The story centres on a village in Central Park. The city is all over-grown and it’s quite isolated. This girl called Prosper goes in search of her grandfather, who went to help one of the outlying communities in Albany and disappeared. That’s when she becomes aware of the wider world. For example, there are Centaur horse clans in the Mid-West and the Sihde (our elf-folk) who have colonised the West Coast. The humans learn how much America has been taken back by these creatures. It’s been sixty or seventy years since the plague, The Blight, hit and they’ve established a good foothold again.
Matt: It sounds intriguing.
Ian: If you say post-apocalyptic, then people usually think of irradiated wastelands, mutants and giant scorpions and so on. This is more of an eco-apocalypse where we’ve been knocked off our plinth. So, what’s it like to go from being king of the hill to the bottom of the food chain? It’s now a place where social networking means going and knocking on at the house next door rather than tweeting on your iPad. Nowadays everyone is connected to the world by technology, but not necessarily connected to each other. They’ve got their faces stuck in a mobile phone. It’s a really radical shift that is lamented by the parents and grandparents in Hinterkind. Whereas for Prosper and her peers this is just how things have always been. Hinterkind explores how people respond when everything they know has been stripped away.
Matt: What makes Hinterkind stand out from other series?
Ian: I like this idea of using the faerie-folk, but giving them a realistic grounding. Like I said, it’s not Fables. It’s red in tooth and claw. I suppose it’s more Game of Thrones. It has a feudal, medieval feel to it because that’s the way the world is. It’s quite barbaric. There’s a line where the character Jon Hobb says to Prosper, ‘It’s a bad world to be young in.’ The attrition on life is high. Don’t get too attached to any one character. It’s not an Eden: an Arcadian world in which we’ve got rid of industry and pollution, and so everything is okay. There’s high infant mortality. High infection rates. People die of small-pox. It’s a difficult, somewhat cobbled together existence. This world has teeth.
Matt: So, the first arc is Prosper looking for her grandfather.
Ian: We set up New York and the world, and then it focuses on her and her quest. Prosper’s world has been Central Park, which she’s a bit fed up of and wants to leave. Like any young person in their teens and twenties, she has itchy feet and wants to see what’s out there. We follow her as her world-view expands. She goes on an adventure alright but it’s not quite the one she was expecting.
Matt: Please tell me about the art, which looks excellent.
Ian: Hinterkind is drawn by Francesco Trifogli. He’s very good. Actually, that’s an understatement. There’s a lot of detail in his overgrown New York, for example. You definitely get a sense of the world. And I’ve put things in too. Little touches. They’re walking through New York and part of the subway is flooded, and there’s a heron eating a frog just to show how naturalised it’s all become. Francesco is good at the quiet moments, but he’s also good at action. Towards the end of the first issue, we have a Bridge Troll turn up but it’s got six arms. It’s like a Trapdoor Spider crossed with a Bridge Troll and he’s realised that very well. There’s another dynamic moment where Prosper and her friend Angus are running for their lives over the roofs of scores of rusted and rotting cars to escape a pride of Ligons – Lion and Tiger crossbreeds.
Matt: Representational, illustrative art like Trifogli’s tends to ground fantastical elements. It makes them ‘real’.
Ian: Yes, it does.
Matt: What else are you working on? I’m enjoying the second series of Brass Sun currently running in 2000 AD, with stunning art from Ian Culbard. [Brass Sun is a steampunk opus set in a mechanical solar system that is powered by the 'brass sun' of the title.]
Ian: I’ve just finished the last episode of that. I’m going straight onto the third series now.
Matt: There seems to be an incredible turnover of material at 2000 AD. The fact that you’ve just written the last episode of the second series of Brass Sun, a series that has already started publication in the comic…
Ian: It’s a weekly comic that does five strips a week and so consequentially it eats up material at a phenomenal rate. And the fact it’s all managed solely by [2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine editor] Matt Smith… !
Matt: What’s happening with Stickleback? [This 2000 AD strip follows the adventures of its eponymous crime-lord and is set in a fantastical mirror version of Victorian London.]
Ian: When it returns, it’s going to be in a three-series arc called The Thrupenny Opera. Each series will have its own central story, but there will be that arc that runs across all three. I think it’s important that each series has a story that works on its own so that if you only read one or two of them, you don’t feel gypped.
Matt: I miss Stickleback. I’m looking forward to that.
Ian: I’m also doing some Dredd with Dave Taylor, which I’ve been itching to do for ages.
Matt: What’s it like writing Judge Dredd post-‘Chaos Day’, with the judge system somewhat cowed and most of the city in ruins?
Ian: The population of Mega-City One has gone down to being equivalent to the population of the UK, so huge tracts of the city are empty. There’s no industry. There’s no infrastructure. People can’t go back to the way they were because nobody’s making things. What’s happened to the economy? People will want to go in and asset-strip the bits of the city that are empty. People are going to come in and take droids, for example, because droids are worth a fortune. There’s no one there to stop them. If one or two judges turn up, big deal.
Matt: It sounds like Chaos Day has prompted a lot of story ideas in your mind.
Ian: It’s shaken the bag up and given me some fresh thoughts. There’s no going back to the status quo. Power stations are another one. Who’s maintaining them? It’s all these questions that then prompt stories.
Matt: Is there anything else outside of 2000 AD that you want to mention?
Ian: I’ve finished a 200-page graphic adaptation of the first novel in the Noughts & Crosses trilogy by Malorie Blackman [very popular prose novels for young adults set on an alternate Earth where the race roles have been flipped]. I’ve been working with artist John Aggs on that.
Matt: That’s a big deal, isn’t it? Those books are very successful.
Ian: Yeah. Malorie is the Children’s Laureate. I’ve got my script here with some notes from her and I need to make those changes. That’s probably going to be next year. It’s a big, big book. It’s been a challenge but great fun to do.
Matt: What are the unique challenges of an adaptation?
Ian: I’m adapting a 440-odd page novel with two streams of narrative that spans a number of years. With an adaptation, you’re not doing a line for line, page for page translation of the book. You have to cut things out. You have to move things round and condense them. On a practical level, it’s the mechanics of making that work while staying faithful to the characterisations and feel of the book. And there are lots of fans of Nought & Crosses out there, so the pressure is on to get it right.
Matt: But you’ve got form. You adapted Sherlock Holmes…
Ian: Before this I also did Robert Muchamore’s Cherubs teen-spy novels, which was also with John Aggs. We both broke ground together by working on that.
Matt: Are you going to do any more Holmes adaptations?
Ian: It’s possible. It has been mooted, but that’s all I can say at the moment. It’s not out of the realms of possibility. There’s the new TV series and another movie coming out, so there’s definitely media momentum when it comes to that character.
Matt: It sounds like you’re very busy, Ian. Thanks for taking time out to do this interview for downthetubes and the Forbidden Planet International blog.
Ian: Thank you.