Aleš Kot and Tradd Moore's The New World is a comic book unlike any other I've read in a long time, beautiful, brutal, heartbreaking, and hopeful it's going to make huge waves when the 80-page first issue hits later this month.
In preparation for the July 25th release I chatted with the writer artist team to talk about dismantling dystopias, creative visions, and the art of collaboration.
In the words of Kot, The New World was a long time coming. "I wrote the first issue in 2014-2015, and we wanted to work together again and create something substantial for a while. Working on the second issue of Zero and collaborating on the Secret Avengers covers felt creatively fulfilling, but what would happen if we really dug in and made this 150-or-so-page miniseries about a reality TV cop and an anarchist hacker who fall in love in a world where the border wall is real and the second civil war happened? What would happen if everybody found out and would be after them? And, also very importantly--just how beautiful and strange and pop and personal could we make The New World be, all at the same time?" Aleš told me.
Previous collaborators, the pair came up with the idea for their new Image comic years ago. "Yeah, The New World goes way back. We had collaborated on projects for a few years--a rejected pitch in 2012, Zero #2 in 2013, Secret Avengers in 2013-2015--and we knew we wanted to do something more. Aleš pitched me some loglines back in 2013 after we did Zero #2, one of them being The New World, and we've been developing it from the ground up together ever since. It's been a deeply, nigh inseparably collaborative process. To use George R.R. Martin's 'Architects Vs Gardeners' metaphor, Aleš and I were both gardeners on this project. We started by sharing seeds--articles, art, news, thoughts, ideas, anything that felt vital and interesting to either of us. I designed some stuff, chiefly Stella and Kirby, our star crossed protagonists, then Aleš wrote the first script, and we've kept on gardening and growing The New World from there. We've thrown everything into this thing, and it has matured into something neither of us foresaw at the beginning," Tradd explained.
Moore's art--colored brilliantly by Heather Moore--is nothing short of stunning. It's a visual world that smacks of modern Mœbius whilst still feeling completely unique. "I went wild when drawing and designing The New World. I let my creative compulsions guide me. Creating art is a passionate and obsessive process for me, so if I feel compelled to go in a direction, I go that way. Dive down every rabbit hole and never look back. My goal was to design characters and environments that are clear, intentional, and imitable. I focused on employing distinct shapes and patterns to make the world highly consistent and comprehensible. I wanted to pack in a lot of visual information, but also maintain complete legibility," Tradd stated. "I wanted the book to feel visually similar to 2D animation. I had drawn the first 3 issues of The New World by the time we brought Heather on board to color. From there, I told her that I'd like the colors to be mostly flat, I gave her some comics I like for reference, and I said,'Go, Heather, go!' And by god, Heather went! She's blown us all away with her work on the book. I think people will be shocked to find that this is her first work in comics."
Moore also gushed about The New World's designer, Tom Muller. "As for Tom, he's been on board since the very beginning, and Tom is as pro as they come. He has, in my opinion, the most distinctive title and book design style in comics. We talked early on about what we wanted the feel of the title design to be: bold, powerful, imminent. Evocative of those brawny '80s action and sci-fi movie titles. With the cover design, I sent some sketches, we all talked it over, Tom made it come to life. Simple as that!" enthused Moore.
The influences Kot and Moore pulled from to invent The New World are vast and far reaching, with both noting the importance of Akira early on. "Otomo definitely came up. Romeo and Juliet. Mad Max. bell hooks. Yuri Herrera's Signs Preceding the End of the World. Thinking about borders, police brutality, re-traumatization via repetition of violent imagery, totalitarianism, my memories of being a kid in Czechoslovakia and Czech Republic and Germany, infatuation, love, relationships, A.I., illusions, reality, more," Aleš shared. For Moore it was about familiarity and freshness. "Yeah, the opening seven pages are a direct homage to Otomo’s Akira, and a stylistic nod to Mœbius. It can be tough to catch a reader's interest with new comics, so we wanted to give people something familiar to sink their teeth into at the beginning to serve as a warm welcome. It's like, 'Hey, you like Otomo? You like Mœbius? Cool, us too, come on in everybody. Now we're going to show you something new,'" Moore explained.
In a world that seems closer and closer to becoming a dystopia on a daily basis, Kot and Moore were more interested in creating a realistic, relatable world than redefining tropes. "Anyone can make a dystopian sci-fi today because you don't really need to particularly exert your imagination to come up with something like that. We're hyper-saturated with it. We're living it. But we're also living in something much more complex at the same time--a world that's teeming with potential and actualization of much more positive ideas and ideals. Totalitarianism thrives on keeping people down and destroying imaginations at a young age. If you lose your imagination, how will you build a better world? How can something be built if we can't imagine it? I wanted to keep that in mind while creating The New World. Also, what does the idea of a new world even mean now for people in the new California where the story is set? It's a loaded phrase, going all the way back to 1492," Aleš stated emphatically.
Tradd agreed. "I didn’t go into The New World with the intent to design a dystopia, or a utopia, just a… topia. We're surrounded by horribleness, and we're surrounded by hope. To build a fiction upon just one or the other feels imbalanced to me. Pessimism, defeatism, fatalism; those are all dead ends. They consume me sometimes, but I have no desire to intentionally live under those mindsets or create fiction that ultimately glorifies or romanticizes them. I have no desire to create discouraging art," Moore revealed. "With The New World, I wanted to present something that felt true to me, something that expresses both negative and positive; terror and joy; crushing social systems and infinite human resilience. The world is already beautiful, surreal, vibrant, brutal, and atrocious; I tried to capture what I could of that and re-present it in an interesting way."
The New World #1 is a fantastic first issue with a lot of promise. I asked the creators what they're most excited about going forward. "I adore the characters we’ve made, and I'm excited to share them with the world. I'm interested to see what people think of them. Also, my style has been undergoing some pretty significant changes throughout the series--I'm looking forward to sharing that," said Moore. As for Aleš, their mind is already in the future. "I'm really proud of how it all ends," Kot teased.
Enjoy a look at the opening, Akira-inspired beginning to The New World in our gallery below!