So, here's the introduction for this week's Wasteland Vol. 11: Floodland (Oni Press) that I pitched, but didn't end up getting used for one reason or another.
When I bought Wasteland
#1 at San Diego Comic Con in 2006, I had never heard of Antony Johnston or
Christopher Mitten. That’s my fault.
But, I had another skill which didn’t fail me. It sounds horrible to admit, but when you’re
a grizzled old comic book critic like me who’s been at it for over 10 years,
you actually can start to judge a book
by its cover. With about a 97% accuracy rate, I can tell instantly if I’m going
to like a book or not with a mere glance.
I knew I was going to like Wasteland immediately.
There was the post-apocalyptic drifter. There were the
scattered tribes of people struggling to survive. There was the mysterious hook of an event only
whispered about in laconic tones as “The Big Wet.” Then there was the downright
dangerous art of Chris Mitten, full of sharp lines and even sharper deeds. Mitten’s
lines played like flinty ink on crumpled parchment, illustrating a lost
manuscript chronicling The End Of The World As We Know It.
That’s all it took. I chatted briefly with Antony, Chris, and
(then) cover artist Ben Templesmith, got my copy of #1 signed, and went about
my way. My instincts were right. They say that “good” sci-fi begins with
nothing more than a compelling “what if?” premise, and Wasteland followed suit. In a tradition of high-quality,
high-interest sci-fi, it was also an examination of evolving social paradigms.
It was a parable about lost opportunities. It was a general warning about man’s
ability to muck about in things we don’t fully comprehend, that precarious
preoccupation with “could we?” instead of “should we?”
It wasn’t just a cautionary tale of apocalyptic proportions;
it was ultimately a humanitarian story about what it means to simply exist on
There’s been some terrific artists who’ve graced the pages
of Wasteland over the years (Justin
Greenwood, Carla Speed McNeil, and Sandy Jarrell, to name a few favorites), but
the most prominent is the co-creator of the series, Christopher Mitten. Chris
is a genuinely nice guy, and you’d never know it judging solely by the disturbing
images he likes to draw. His visuals move fluidly between a stripped-down
abstract sensibility and more ornate design elements full of pattern and
texture, revealing emotional truths.
The work you’ll find from Antony and Chris is a true
collaborative effort, a partnership which has now transcended Wasteland and marched forward to other
projects. You see, other artists have a relatively easy go at the craft. The
writer will create a script with instructions like: “Draw Batman.” “Draw a city.” “Draw an explosion.” But, these
things are known commodities.
Antony worked with Chris to create the unknown, imagery that
was altogether foreign. His scripts often said: “Draw Sand-Eaters.” “Draw The Dog Tribes.” “Draw The End of The
Goat-Fucking World.” These things simply didn’t exist. There was no sensory
point of reference. Chris had to invent them. They were wholly conjured from
the arcane phantasmagoria of Chris Mitten’s mind.
The term “world-building” gets thrown around a lot in the
industry. There’s no mistaking that Antony is one of the best practitioners working today. Antony’s characters talk to each
other, not at the audience. Antony won’t define acronyms for the reader. It’s
maddening at times. With a Tolkien-esque affinity for languages, he infuses his
worlds with degenerated speech patterns, new colloquialisms, and cryptic clues
that are never spelled out for the audience. The answers are doled out
naturally over time. His characters will typically operate under the guise of
old rivalries, entrenched dogma, and enticing back stories that take place long
before events in the book. As readers, we connect the dots through casual
conversations and inference, not staged monologues which advance the plot or
If exposition is a poison, Antony’s scripts are the
There’s also an expansive quality to the writing that makes
the world feel as if it extends beyond the panel borders. The way he writes is
about long-term vs. short-term gain. He invests time front-loading the world
with research and maps and histories we might never see fully rendered on the
page, but it’s also an investment in an the audience’s ability to parse meaning
from an immersive experience. Antony makes a foundational assumption that his readers
are a fairly intelligent lot. It’s an unspoken agreement between creator and
consumer, an interactive process which engages the reader and allows a sense of
discovery. That’s the key.
Now it’s time to discover it for yourself, here at The End
Of All Things.
I’ve reviewed all 60 issues of Wasteland over the years. At this point, there’s nothing left for
me to say. There’s no review. There’s no critique. There’s no clever insight.
There’s just this:
stage left as one of the great modern epics.