Badass Comic Assassins

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Nathan Bright had it all: an awesome girlfriend, a kickass dog, and a job as the number one weatherman on terraformed Mars. But when he’s accused of carrying out the worst terrorist attack in human history-an event that wiped out nearly the entire population of Earth; Nathan becomes the most wanted man alive and a target of a manhunt that spans the galaxy. But is Nathan truly responsible for such a horrific crime? And why can’t he remember? So, that’s the story behind “THE WEATHERMAN” series.

Author Jody LeHeup was an editor in the X-Office at Marvel and at Valiant Entertainment and writer/co-creator of SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER and THE WEATHERMAN, both from Image Comics. Illustrator Nathan Fox is a visual storyist and founding chair of the MFA Visual Narrative program at the School of Visual Arts. His clients include Nickelodeon, the NY Times, Rockstar Games, Sony, Esquire & Rolling Stone Magazine, Scholastic Graphics, AMC, Image, Marvel & DC/Vertigo Comics, to Murals for Ivan Ramen & skateboard decks for Instant Winner & Real SF to name a few. Their collaboration, in it’s most simplistic form, is Jody is the writer and Nathan is the artist. LeHeup conceives of the story, world, and characters and Fox brings those things to life with his own equally important visual storytelling choices–design, acting, selling of emotional moments, dynamism in action scenes. Beyond the creative aspects, they are also business partners.

I spoke to LeHeup and Fox about the motive behind the future to come of the comic.

What has been your intention in creating the Weatherman series?

LeHeup: That’s a great question with a lot of different answers. The short version is that when I started THE WEATHERMAN, I was returning to the writing desk after years of work-for-hire editing at Marvel and Valiant. I’d just written my first book SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER the year before I wanted to write something that would allow me to explore bigger intellectual concepts and more complex emotional themes. I had all these ideas and concepts and characters and world details that I needed to get out of my head so I needed to build an epic sci-fi adventure thriller to house them all. But as I would discover over the course of writing the book, I had some personal trauma and existential fears I needed to work through as well, and the only way to do it was to write the story of THE WEATHERMAN. Now that it’s (mostly) written, my intention is to partner with the greatest minds in comics, help us make the best comic we’re capable of making, and share it with as many people as possible.

Fox: When Jody first approached me about the series, I must admit I was in a bit hesitant at first, timing wise. I had stepped away from comics for a while, focusing on teaching and freelance work. I had just started writing again and was thinking about finally taking a leap into creator-owned comics when Jody called. But once i read the full pitch and first issue scripts I knew I had to jump off this crazy-awesome Weatherman cliff. Turned out we had a lot in common in how when it came to storytelling and the book was asking the same questions that I was exploring in my own work. The more we talked the more in sync it all got and I knew it was a story I had to tell and a story that I felt I had something to really contribute to. And to Jody’s credit, his scripts are some of the best writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. It’s been an inspiring collaboration and one that I continue to learn a lot from.

What is the division of talent and labor between your team?

LeHeup: Our team is currently made up of seven of the most badass comics assassins in existence plus me and I wake up every day grateful for the opportunity to share the page with them. I’m the writer, Nathan is the artist and he and I are co-creators of THE WEATHERMAN. Nathan is an actual genius and the V.I.P. of our whole operation. Storytelling, acting, design, illustration, comedy, dynamic action, world building—Nathan is a master at it all. But I think the most exciting part of working with Nathan is just how well we complement each other creatively. He’s the perfect fit for my writing and for this book. Working with him is a dream come true.

Fox: Thanks man. Much love back atcha. I wake up feeling the same. The rest of our Volume 1 collaborators are colorist Dave Stewart, letterer Steve Wands, designer Tom Muller, editor Sebastian Girner, digital content manager Josh Johns. All of whom brought their A-game and just absolutely crushed their respective roles. It’s rare to be working with a creative team at this level and Jody and I are honored by the opportunity.

How would you describe each issue? What are the differences and similarities?

LeHeup: It’s difficult to speak to the differences and similarities because they’re all of a piece—all part of telling one overarching story. The series is planned to be three volumes of roughly six issues each and those first six were released in the summer/fall of 2018. The collected edition of Volume 1 drops this February. We’ll be back with Volume 2 in the spring of 2019. I will say though that each issue has its own flavor and conflicts and we’re sort of becoming known for some seriously dramatic cliffhanger endings. Which is fun.

Fox: Yeah, the gist of our series is it’s a kind of science-fiction thriller that takes place in the far future. Earth’s been destroyed by the worst terrorist attack In human history and all that’s left of humanity are now living on terraformed Mars. All those people are angry because the people that did it are still out there and their afraid of another attack. In that environment we’re introduced to a fun-loving local weatherman named Nathan Bright. Nathan’s got a cool girlfriend, a kickass dog, and an unorthodox style as a weatherman—more of a comedian or radio shock jock than a meteorologist. But he loves to put smiles on people’s faces.

LeHeup: Right. Things start to get weird when seemingly out of nowhere Nathan is accused of masterminding the attack on Earth. Which according to him is completely crazy. He DEFINITELY thinks people have the wrong guy. The problem is there’s a giant hole in Nathan’s memory and he can’t actually remember if he did it or not. So Nathan’s forced on the run—totally unprepared for life as the galaxy’s most wanted—on a journey to find the truth and the key to stopping a second extinction level attack.

Fox: But that’s just the starting point. Things get reall
y bonkers when we begin to fill in the blanks.

Is there room for another contributor?

LeHeup: Probably not in terms of writing and drawing. At least in the comics space. Nathan and I are pretty locked in and happy with the work we’re doing. Not sure adding an additional voice makes sense at this point. That said we work with a ton of incredible variant cover artists—including the legendary Marcos Martín who did our Cover B’s for Volume 1. Each of our guest artists brings their own style and panache to THE WEATHERMAN concept. It’s always fun to see the world and characters Nathan and I have built through their eyes.

You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows: Any overt or cover reference to Dylan’s famous lyric?

LeHeup: Not specifically no though Dylan is obviously a legend. It’s interesting you should bring up that lyric though. In THE WEATHERMAN we’re dealing with a number of complex themes like our failure to see each other’s pain leading to cycles of violence, how much damage we’re willing to do in the name of justice, and what it truly means to be redeemed. The story of Nathan Bright is the story of us in many ways and hopefully there’s something we can learn from his experience. So maybe we do need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows after all.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Design / Designer as Entrepreneur program, and writes frequently for EYE and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 190 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal, is in the Art Directors Hall of Fame and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →