In our interview with Samuel Sattin (which you can—and should!—read here), the writer spoke about the genesis behind Legend, his and artist Chris Koehler’s new series about a post-apocalyptic Earth being rebuilt by animals, debuting this Wednesday from Z2 Comics.
“Post-apocalyptic Earth being rebuilt by animals.” Say no more, Misters Sattin and Koehler. You’ve struck oil!
We caught up with Mr. Koehler, Mr. Sattin’s creative partner on Legend, to talk about his influences for the book, how the dog breeds featured in the tale influenced their personalities, and how animals are more expressive than humans.
FreakSugar: How would describe Legend?
Chris Koehler: I started out calling it Dogpocalypse, and I still stand by that definition. But if pressed…I’d say it’s a mash up of the Incredible Journey and The Walking Dead. And maybe the Mountains of Madness. And John Carpenter’s the Thing. And the Secret of Nimh.
FS: You were actually Sam’s professor during his time in the MFA program. How did you two come to collaborate together for Legend and how does that past relationship inform how you two work together?
CK: Despite the fact that Sam was a terrible student, we hit it off well. [laughs] But speaking seriously, we have similar pop culture tastes, and I’ve always been a fan of his writing. The fact that we see so eye to eye on things leads to some really stunning work. This project is one of true collaboration, and we have a great time working together.
FS: Legend seems to pull from a variety of genres. How did those genres influence how you approached illustrating the book and the world in which the dogs live?
CK: For some reason I don’t really think about genre influences. I mean, I love film and I read a lot of genre fiction, and I’m sure those things affect the way I work. But it’s not something that makes it to the front of my mind when I work.
FS: I can’t say enough good things about the color pallet the book uses—it’s gorgeous. Why did you decide on those particular colors and how they contribute to the overall tone of the series?
CK: Thank you! Color is really important in Legend. It’s conceptual, as opposed to representational and in many scenes it’s guided by mood. We wanted to illustrate how dogs might see a strange, dangerous world. There are scenes where we de-saturate the colors, for instance, to imply a change in emotion or tone. And then the opposite happens for the same reason.
FS: When coming up with the design of Legend, were you influenced by any particular animal stories or post-apocalyptic tales?
CK: I love the look of Carpenter’s Escape movies and Chris Marker’s Le Jetee was an influence on the way I use value. Princess Mononoke is one of my favorite movies with animals and Miyazaki’s influence is over everything I do.
FS: You manage to infuse a phenomenal amount of emotion into the canines in Legend, while still keeping the book grounded. How did you choose to balance those two elements when approaching the illustrations?
CK: I find that animals are more expressive than humans. You can convey a bigger range of emotions in the face and body alone. But drawing them is a different story. You have to do a lot of research and reference for different animal species and breeds, being that each varies so much. If you don’t do your homework, it can really look off. That said, you can still get away with more irregularities when drawing animals than you can with people. With a person, if an eye is off an eighth of an inch, a viewer will notice. With animals, it’s a little harder to pinpoint inconsistencies.
FS: Following up on that, how did the various breeds used in Legend influence the personalities of each of the characters?
CK: Animals are kind of a blank slate for personification. The breeds we use in Legend are very specific, mostly having to do with the assumptions people make about them. People make different assumptions about pitbulls, for instance, than they do for beagles, and those assumptions effect how readers approach the story. With Legend this is really important. Our pitbull Herman, for example, has a really negative outlook on humans and humanity and has become cynical, while Elsa, our beagle, still doesn’t take off her collar and is more optimistic. A lot of the conflicts that take place between the characters stem from their conflicting views on religion, breed, and pack organization.
FS: Looking ahead, what should readers expect from Legend?
CK: A lot is going into the world-building elements of Legend. It’s the bigness of the world we’re creating that helps build mystery and suspense. We want to put a magnifying glass on a small section of this world, and lift up from there.
Legend #1, written by Samuel Sattin with Chris Koehler on art, hits newsstands this Wednesday from Z2 Comics.
From the official issue description:
What if a biological terror agent wiped out most of humanity, and our domesticated animals were left in charge? How would our dogs and cats set about ruling and rebuilding the world? Ransom, the leader of the Dog Tribe, has been murdered by a creature known as the Endark. An English Pointer named Legend reluctantly rises to lead in his place, vowing to kill the monster once and for all. From acclaimed novelist Samuel Sattin and award-winning illustrator Chris Koehler comes LEGEND, where cat technology rules, dogs partner with hawks, and humans may be the most beastly creatures of all.
Also check out the trailer for Legend #1!