Comics is an unpredictable world to wander through. One day everything is understandable and safe, Chew sits on the shelf next to Revival, and the world is as you’d expect. But then one day Mike Norton, Tim Seeley, John Layman and Rob Guillory announce that this May, rather than having everything in its right place… Chew and Revival will be crossing over into the same comic?!
Madness, clearly. But is there a method in that madness? To ask more about May’s flipbook issue which throws Tony Chu into Em Cypress’ world, I spoke to Norton about how the issue came about, what we might expect from the stories, and also what to expect from the next arc of Revival itself.
And – because it would be rude not to – we also spoke about the upcoming fourth volume of his series Battlepug!
Jenny Frison’s cover for the issue
Steve: Who first floated the idea of Chew and Revival crossing over?
Mike: I believe it was John Layman. He posed it to Tim Seeley last year.
Steve: How long did it take to get onboard with the idea? Were you immediately keen?
Mike: I thought it was a terrible idea! Tim brought it up because he believes a good writer can make the craziest ideas work as a story, but I thought it was insane. Revival lives in a place were I didn’t want it disturbed, y’know? We have the whole thing mapped out, and any crossover with and outside property (especially one as wacky as Chew) didn’t make sense.
After I thought about it for a while, I started remembering all the team-ups from indie comics I liked when I was a kid. I remembered how First comics did a whole month where all their titles crossed over with each other and how weird and fun it was.
So, I went back to Tim and told him that if he could make a story that made sense and had no bearing on the actual canon we’ve set up in Revival, I’d be on board. Now, I think we have something that is unique and represents both books well. It’s fun.
Steve: So, the question everybody has been asking me to ask – does this mean that, all this time, eating chicken has been banned in Wisconsin?
Mike: I believe in John and Rob’s book chicken is indeed illegal in Wisconsin… but that may not be stopping the good people of Wausau from eating it.
Steve: The book will be split in half, is that right? How did the plotting and scripting of the story break down? Did you work on the whole story together, or did you each take a half and write that?
Mike: The comic is designed as a flip book, so there are two stories. Since it was John’s idea in the first place, he had his story already done. It’s awesome. Mine and Tim’s has taken a little longer to figure out.
Rob Guillory’s cover for the issue
Steve: Revival and Chew are massively different in style, not least in the art styles of Rob Guillory and yourself. What are you planning to do with your art style for the issue? Are you going to try and mesh your style somewhat with Rob, or do you want to try and create as much of an artistic clash as possible, or?
Mike: We are going to do things the way we always have. I think the fun of the project is seeing how we interpret each other’s worlds. Their story will be very “Chew”, while our will be much darker and more disturbing.
Steve: The big clash in tone is one of the big appeals of this crossover issue – nobody knows how you’re going to pull this off, which is pretty exciting. How has it been to get your hands on the Chew cast, restyle them, and enter them into the insular world of Revival?
Mike: It’s fun as hell. I’m not trying to restyle as much as I am seeing how Tony and co. Look in a more “realistic” environment.
Steve: Were there any characters in particular you knew you wanted to pair up?
Mike: Not exactly – but I love John’s take on Martha Cypress (Em).
Steve: Revival has been told in a town which is roped-off from the rest of the world, with a set cast who are under pressure all the time, and the dramatic stakes rise each issue. Was it a relief to get to puncture that bubble, if just for one issue, and throw some comedy into the story?
Mike: Not exactly. Our part of the story isn’t going to be too lighthearted. But the book itself is a nice break from the darkness of our series.
Steve: The crossover issue aside, Revival’s third arc has concluded, and the trade will be released in just over a month from now. The story has recently started turning to some of the longer running mysteries of the series, such as the identity of Em’s murderer. How far out do you have the series plotted, at this point?
Mike: We have a firm outline for up to around issue 24, which is our approximate halfway point. We have the whole series loosely mapped out after that. We’re just allowing to see where characters may push us to go.
Steve: With the next arc ahead of us, it looks as though you’re going to be exploring several of these threads even further, with a story focusing on Dana, Em, and Cooper. What can we expect from the series going into arc 4?
Mike: Arc four is about our core characters becoming more isolated. Not just the isolation of quarantine, but the alienation that results when people keep secrets from each other. Em’ situation will also be getting worse.
Steve: Chew and Revival are both established, acclaimed series which are now far down their respective stories – if you want to start on either, most people would recommend you read in trades. Does it get difficult when you reach a certain point in the life of a series, where new readers are less able to jump on? Is there a point where sustaining a readership grows harder
Mike: We’ve been talking about this a lot lately. Our book has been doing okay, but the monthly sales are definitely down. I think it’s kind of hard for an ongoing indie book to maintain an audience BECAUSE most people see that it comes out in a timely manner and just take for granted that the book will continue to do so.
A lot the time readers think they’ll maybe wait for the trade or buy all at some point down the line. Hell, I do that myself!
Also, there’s a LOT of great stuff right now. Lots of big names have started doing books at Image since revival started, so I’m sure we’ve probably got a little lost among all the choices out there right now.
We decided from the beginning that we’re going to see this project to the end. We have a great story we want to tell, and luckily reader support seems to be there for it.
Steve: Have you been surprised by some of the directions the series has gone in since it started?
Mike: Sort of, but not really. We’ve known where the story is going, but sometimes Tim throws in some stuff that just makes me think “Wow!” I think he’s allowed for the characters to dictate where he takes it. He’s a very underestimated writer, in my opinion. The guy is really good at what he does.
Steve: Do you think there could be room for other crossovers in future? Battle Pug/Revival?
Mike: I think we’ll leave it at this Revival crossovers. Battlepug can team up with anybody, though!
Steve: Speaking of! Battlepug has now been running for three years, and you’re about to launch into the fourth volume of the story. Where next for the hero and his companions?
Mike: We’re over the halfway point in the Battlepug story at this point. The next (and last) two volumes are going to be about answering some of the questions I’ve set up in the story so far. Things are going to lead up to a big finale, and hopefully people won’t figure out any of the surprises.
Steve: What else do you have coming up in the near future? What can we look forward to?
Mike: I just started a mini series for a publisher I haven’t worked with in a while, but I’ll let them make the announcement for it. Dennis Hopeless is hard at work writing up a new mini- series for our creator-owned superhero book, The Answer!
Other than that, more Revival and Battlepug!