Cold War. USSR. Black Ops. A suburban town, almost Pleasantville-ish in nature. What do these things have in common? Kyle Higgins and Stephen Mooney are going to show you in The Dead Hand from Image Comics. The first issue hits stores April 11, 2018 and the dynamic creative duo were kind enough to answer some questions about this intriguing new thriller:
Aaron Long: So how did The Dead Hand come together?
Stephen Mooney: Myself and Kyle were shooting the breeze in a bar in New York after a DC function, and we got to talking about some similar interests we held pertaining to spy stories in particular. We realised we both loved the same source material and that we should definitely work together on developing an action espionage book at some point when we were both free. That was in summer 2015 (I think?) and that book is only now about to see the light of day!
Kyle Higgins: I think we started talking over email in the summer of 2015, yeah. But it was the fall of 2014 during NYCC that we first met. If memory serves correctly.
My past Image work has definitely had a slight Cold War, historical fiction spin. This time, I wanted to dive head first into the belly of the beast… but also do something with much more action and suspense. Stephen was coming off Grayson and Half Past Danger, and I felt like the type of heightened, spy thriller action that I was picturing was something he could deliver in spades. Jordie came on shortly there after, and in the fall of 2015… we were off and running.
AL: What can you tell me about Carter Carlson?
KD: Well, he comes from a bit of an idyllic upbringing in Pennsylvania… with a level of naive innocence that was heightened by the early 1960s. After his father died and he eventually went off to the military, he became involved in a black ops group that operated in the 1980s… and whose tactics were sometimes morally complicated. That innocence slowly corroded, and Carter hardened. With the war ending, he got out of the spy game and wound up in the small town of Mountain View, which is where we meet him at the start of this series in 2018. Of course, there’s much more going on with Carter and Mountain View, but readers will have to finish issue 1 to see what I mean. It’s quite a doozy.
AL: What drew you both to the end of The Cold War as a time and setting to kick off this story?
SM: We’re both just in love with the mood and atmosphere that the period of history presents, and more so the potential for a really cool, heightened version of that reality. Kyle did the lion’s share of the work on researching the period and political climates of the time, but we’re both super-interested in the hard to define facts and fictional propaganda of the period. It was just so ripe with intrigue and potential for drama.
KH: Yeah. I’ve always been fascinated by dark mirror stories, and during the 1950s through the 1980s, there was no darker mirror than the Soviet Union. The shifting allegiances and proliferation of resources, weapons, and scientists after the Cold War ended was particularly fascinating to me– I tend to enjoy endings and fall out much more than beginnings.
AL: The Dead Hand takes place in a second setting, is it in 2018/the present?
KH: It is! But… not quite in the way you think. The town of Mountain View is quite remote, and very much stuck in an early 1990’s vibe.
AL: What can you share about the residents of Mountain View?
SM: I can tell you not to trust them.
KH: Yeah, I think that’s fair. The town has all sorts of strangeness going on, and the people there are very much split into two generations– those who came there, and those who were born there. Depending on which you are, you may have different feelings on the world and the town.
AL: Stephen, you just wrapped up a second volume of Half Past Danger, which you write as well as pencil. Does your approach as an artist change when working with a writer?
SM: Oh yeah; hugely. Mostly I’m much less of a control freak on Dead Hand! When you write, draw, letter and sometimes colour on the one book, you just want to be making every decision yourself, and that’s one of the coolest things comics offer as a medium. Some chancer like me can take a pencil and paper and present a finished work, for better or for worse. Dead Hand was obviously much more collaborative, with me trusting and knowing that Kyle is a really excellent scribe who is well able to tell this tale, and mostly to just get the hell out of his way and pick up the baton once it was my turn. That said, we do have a very intertwined process where Kyle will present me with the main beats of any given scenario, I’ll break it down into panels and then Kyle will revisit it to nail down dialogue and rhythm. It’s a very gradual process, but I’m pretty sure it’s led to some of our best work. You throw two of the best professionals in the business in Jordie and Clayton into that mix and you’ve given yourself one hell of a chance to succeed.
AL: Any final words about The Dead Hand?
SM: I think it’s something that people won’t have seen before and a really solid read. Each issue is oversized and hopefully well worth people’s hard earned. I’m really proud of the work, and I think Kyle’s done a killer job on the script. I can’t wait to see what people think!
KH: This is by far the craziest thing I’ve written, with some of the most beautiful art I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t wait for people to finish issue 1 and see what this book REALLY is.
The Dead Hand #1 hits stores April 11, 2018 from Kyle Higgins, Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles.