Following the critical claim for W. Maxwell Prince’s recent Image series Ice Cream Man, currently being developed as a TV series, his next comic had a lot to live up to. King of Nowhere, Prince’s new BOOM! Studios series with artists Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins, does so by offering something very different, trading the existential nightmare that is Ice Cream Man for a surrealist cornucopia. It follows Denis Saunders, half-convinced he’s tripping on LSD, who finds himself in an unfamiliar world and gets caught up in a mess he doesn’t fully understand. The series keeps readers on their toes, eager to learn more about the mysterious location known only as Nowhere and why Denis matters to its inhabitants.
I had the opportunity to interview W. Maxwell Prince about the development of King of Nowhere and his approach to crafting such a dream-like story. You can read his responses to my questions below.
How did you connect with BOOM! Studios for King of Nowhere?
Eric (Harburn, BOOM! Senior Editor) and I have known each other for a while, but could never find something to jam on together. But after the relative success of Ice Cream Man (and some very generous words from a fellow creator), he and the BOOM! Studios brass allowed me to just do my thing and explore a story that may not, at first blush, seem like the most viable of comics ideas.
Was King of Nowhere a story you were already thinking about, or one you conceived of specifically for BOOM?
This has been walking around with me for a bit. I always wanted to do a scumbag comic—a story about a fuck-up completely out of his depth. But with ICM, I had lost my appetite for serial storytelling. Eric convinced me to re-examine that reticence and ultimately convinced me to get lost in Nowhere.
Most stories like this open with the protagonist in the real world, but King of Nowhere begins with the character waking up in an alien environment. What appealed to you about breaking from that norm?
To me, all environments are alien. There isn’t a place in this world that isn’t suffused with strangeness. So Denis is waking up as I believe many of us do—confused and assaulted with weird images/ideas.
Did you research the effects of tripping on LSD or did you prefer to leave the visualization entirely to your and Tyler’s imagination?
My “research” for what it’s like to trip occurred throughout my 20’s, and (to the chagrin of my loved ones) also well into my 30’s. But Tyler elevates every weird idea with his wonderful uniquely view of the world.
What appealed to you about Tyler’s art for this story?
I wasn’t planning on doing another book alongside Ice Cream Man, but when Eric offered that I work with Tyler, I could not say no. That should give you an idea of what kind of appeal he has to me.
How did you communicate the surrealist environment to Tyler?
With words! I always do my best to articulate out-there stuff in the scripts, and then leave it to the visual storytellers to have their fun and run it through their brains/eyes/hands.
Did his interpretation of the world affect your writing process or story choices?
I think this is the way it works with all comics: your conception of your story changes as an artist leaves their mark on it. So what was originally going to be Issue 2 (before I had seen a page of Issue 1) changed for me once I started to see Nowhere through Tyler’s hand.
Even though the world is very surreal, every story has stakes. How do you tell a story in such a dreamlike setting, where seemingly anything can happen, that still has weight to it?
I honestly don’t know how to create “stakes” in stories. All I can do is my best: my best at being honest, my best at caring, my best at writing something that someone else will read and hopefully say, “Hey, me too.”
Thanks to W. Maxwell Prince for such an enlightening interview. King of Nowhere hits stores tomorrow, March 4.