At the New York Comic Con, io9 spoke with author Brian Wood (DMZ, Northlanders) and illustrator Becky Cloonan (Demo, American Virgin) about their new Conan The Barbarian series for Dark Horse Comics. The animated duo told io9 about their various upcoming projects (and elaborated on the creative hurdles one encounters when drawing a sexy pirate naturist).
Brian, first tell us about your new comic The Massive, which was just announced over NYCC weekend.
Brian Wood: In terms of tone, it's a continuation with DMZ. Not a literal continuation, it's much more of a global story that deals with the aftermath of a crash on an economic and environmental level. It's as if every forecast for climate change happened immediately, but there's a mystery as to why. That's the underpinning of the series. The cast is a group of environmentalists on a ship, like Greenpeace — because they're on the ship, they're spared this chaos. They're environmentalists who have lost their world. They've failed and are adrift in this new world.
DMZ had a healthy long run. What's the timeline on The Massive?
Brian Wood: It's a monthly ongoing book. I've pitched it out to three years. We're going to start with three short stories. These are the prequel stories setting the stage, and the monthly book starts in June.
Another big project you have coming down the line is Conan the Barbarian. How did that come around?
Brian Wood: Dark Horse asked me to take it on almost a year ago. It took a while, but my schedule eventually freed, and Becky was the obvious choice. Dark Horse's goal is to have not your typical sort of Conan look and vibe. The comic adapts the old story, Queen of the Black Coast. It's a young Conan, he's about 25. He falls in with this pirate band, and the first love of his life is this tough, awesome pirate queen. There's a lot of sex, a lot of adventures — it's this time in his life when he sees the world with a hot girl at his side. It's an adaptation, but we're also creating a lot of new stuff.
Becky, what sort of design are you bringing to the pirate queen, Bêlit?
Becky Cloonan: She's great. It's kind of difficult because she's a sexy, strong character, but you don't oversexualize her because it can easily turn into cheesecake. I'm trying to make her look as dangerous as possible. She's hot, but she also looks like she would kill you just to watch you die.
Brian Wood: In the book itself, she's naked around the clock. Obviously, we can't really draw that, so we have to find creative ways of depicting this. Also, the [Conan] books are really old. Obviously, what's going to fly in the 1930s isn't going to fly now when you show a woman like that. We're trying to find the right balance.
Becky Cloonan: She's supposed to run around topless, but I can't just be like, "Oh, here are two word balloons! Oh, here is a plant in front of the left boob!" I want to find creative ways of depicting this.
Pirate ships aren't known for their nudity-obscuring shrubs and hedges. Any new Demo stories planned for the two of you?
Brian Wood: Nothing is planned, but it's always an open question.
Becky Cloonan: So maybe. Right now, I'm working on another Dark Horse book, The Guild: Zaboo one-shot, which is really fun. I made a minicomic Wolves at my website, it's in the genre of Conan.
Brian Wood: If anybody wants to get a sense of what Becky's Conan will be like, check out that minicomic.
Becky Cloonan: I'm also working on the Victor Von Doom miniseries with Nick Spencer at Marvel. I call it "teen Doom."
Brian Wood: He's naked all the time!
Becky Cloonan: It's all shrubs, hedges, a little manscaping.
I'm imagining teen Doctor Doom as some sort of Latverian techno royalty.
Becky Cloonan: The series is a prequel to Roger Stern and Mike Mignola's Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment series from years back. Doom is in college, Reed is there. Victor goes to Hell the first time to rescue his mother. It's about what shapes him as a supervillain. It's a story that people have gone back to a million times, but Nick has such a great take on it. I crack up whenever he sends me the script. Some people are like, "Emo Doom!" And I'm like, "Whatever!"
Brian Wood: And some people are like "Emo Conan!" because you drew too much hair in his eyes. I actually saw that in a comment, "YOU DREW TOO MUCH HAIR IN HIS FACE!"
Becky Cloonan: Whatever! I didn't want him to look like the Hulk with a bad haircut.
Conan The Barbarian hits store February 8, 2012. The first installment of The Massive will be out in January's issue of Dark Horse Presents. The first issue of Victor Von Doom is out November 9.