A new science fiction series from Image Comics is combining a high concept with a classic joke. Writer Jody Leheup and artist Nathan Fox are telling the story of the most hated weatherman in the world, with the big change that the world is Mars, in their upcoming series The Weatherman.
ComicBook.com had the opportunity to speak with the co-creators as the final order cutoff for the first issue of the series approaches, and to dig into the big ideas as well as what has them most excited. This series looks to be one of the most exciting spring comics debuts, so be sure to check out the interview below and pre-order with your local comic book store.
Also, be sure to check out exclusive new pages from The Weatherman #1 at the bottom of this interview.
ComicBook: There's a high concept to this series and lots going on, but it also sells itself on the old gag about everyone hating the weatherman. Where did the initial seed of an idea for The Weatherman come from?
Jody Leheup: Yeah, except we’re turning the hate for one weatherman in particular up WAY past eleven. More like eleven hundred!
The Weatherman takes place in the far future after almost the entire population of Earth has been destroyed by the worst mass terrorist attack in history. What’s left of humanity is living on terraformed Mars which is now a kind of sister planet to Earth. All those folks are overwhelmed with grief, terrified of another attack, and pissed off because the people that are responsible are still at large.
Nathan Fox: Right, which brings us to our boy Nathan Bright. Nathan’s a local celebrity weatherman living the good life in the Martian city of Redd Bay, Arcadia. He’s got a thing for noodle bowls, a special lady friend, and an unorthodox style as a weatherman that puts smiles on commuters’ faces. Things are going pretty well for Nathan until seemingly out of nowhere he’s accused of masterminding the attack on Earth.
Leheup: Yeah, and of course Nathan is like, “Uh…that’s crazy. You obviously have the wrong guy. Maybe you haven’t met my golden retriever?” The problem is...there’s a big gap in Nathan’s memory...and he can’t actually say if he did it or not.
So Nathan’s forced on the run, completely unprepared to be the solar system’s most wanted man, and has to set off on a journey to fill in the blanks, find the truth, and hopefully find the key to stopping a second attack from happening. All while trying not to be murdered by literally everyone in the universe. So the weatherman hate is strong!!!
Fox: And that’s just the beginning of course. Once we start to answer some of these questions is when our story REALLY starts to heat up. There’s far more to Nathan Bright than there seems.
Jody, your prior series at Image Comics, Shirtless Bear-Fighter, featured a lot of humor. The Weatherman is picking up on some heavier topics, most notably terrorism. How do you continue to infuse your stories with comedy while treading into more serious terrain?
Leheup: Yes, The Weatherman is tonally very different than SBF in that it’s more of a sci-fi thriller than a side-splitting “bearody”™. It’s intense and harrowing at times and more complex with the many different themes we’re exploring. But there’s also a lot of heartfelt humor along the way. In that sense it’s a kind of mix of tones. Korean cinema is actually really good at that as well. But I think that comedy in The Weatherman plays a number of important roles. The first is as a defense mechanism. Comedy can be a kind of denial of one’s circumstances. A way of deflecting pain. That’s certainly the case for Nathan Bright. Nathan laughs or tells a joke because t helps him cope with his new reality. But the comedy is also there because it reminds us of our humanity. Which is important when dealing with high concepts and huge stakes. It’s important to have the grounding and perspective that humor provides. And finally, it balances things out when a story delves into some darker thematic areas. It’s like Joss Whedon says, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
But it’s not like The Weatherman is this story about terrorism with jokes thrown in. It’s a giant future space adventure about a Weatherman on the run for a crime he may or may not have committed. He’ll meet all manner of outlandish and bizarre sci-fi characters, some that want to help him and most that want to murder him in the face. And we have a ton of fun with the fact that Nathan has no business being in this position. My point being that yes, we go to some pretty hardcore places (get ready for it) but we also go to some uplifting ones as well and it’s going to be a blast getting there.
Fox: Speaking of people that want to murder him, we should mention the co-protagonist of our little galactic adventure....the deadly Agent Amanda Cross. Cross is the intelligence agent assigned to building the case against Nathan Bright. For professional but mostly personal reasons, she hates him with every bone in her body. However due to story events she’s going to find herself in the position of having to protect Nathan. So there’s an oil and water dynamic to their relationship that’s very compelling as well.
The solicits for the first issue and early press have all been very clear that Nathan Bright is accused of being a terrorist and that's definitely a charged term. Is there a specific goal or theme you want to address with that framing?
Leheup: Oh absolutely. That framing is no accident. We want you as a reader to occupy two mind spaces at once when considering Nathan Bright’s case. On the one hand you know the hate that people (and even yourself) have for terrorists and terrorism. You (and only you) know what you would do if left alone for five minutes with someone you know committed an act of terrorism. You know what it’s like to want to see people like that pay for what they did. The need for justice not just for your own gratification, but society’s as well. At the same time, we can sympathize with a human being who’s hunted, tormented, even tortured for a crime he didn’t commit.
Fox: Exactly, so when it comes to Nathan Bright, he exists right on the line. Did he do it? There are certainly people who think he did. There’s evidence to suggest that he did. But is that the whole story? How much damage to other innocent people would you be willing to do in order to balance the scales? And even if he did do it, he clearly doesn’t remember having done it, so should he still be punished? Is that justice? What separates justice from revenge? These questions are very much at the core of The Weatherman. And there’s so much more as well. It’s a very ambitious book.
What made The Weatherman a story that was best suited to comics? Are there particular elements, like the setting on Mars, that demand a lot of attention or specific style?
Leheup: Well I don’t really buy into this idea that a story is “best” in one medium over others. A story that works great as a novel can work great as a movie. A movie can work great as a Broadway production. A comic can make an amazing TV series. It’s all about execution. So I disagree with your premise that The Weatherman’s best form is the comics form. That said I chose comics for a bunch of different reasons. The first is that I just love comics and I’ve been a fan my whole life. Another reason is that I prefer telling story with stylized illustrations rather than photorealism and I prefer visual storytelling to prose. Just look at what WM co-creator and series artist Nathan Fox and colorist Dave Stewart are doing and tell me their amazing work is not the the ideal version of this story.
Comics also on the whole cost less to produce than television or film which means that you can take greater risks (i.e. tell better stories) and there’s a high likelihood that a singular voice or in our case group of voices will make it through the production process intact. The Weatherman is going to challenge and engage people in ways a super expensive, mass appeal blockbuster for example might not be able to support.
But really comics has a long history of exciting, game-changing sci-fi stories associated with it and we’re honored and excited to be able to throw our hat in that ring.
Have you noticed the concept of The Weatherman or creative collaboration on the series impacting your technique or style in comics?
Leheup: I’ve learned so much writing this book and from my collaborators and from Nathan Fox in particular that from a craft standpoint nothing is going to be the same for me after this project. Concept-wise writing this has helped me work through some difficult stuff from my past and better understand certain relationships that are very important to me. And it’s also allowing me to navigate some existential fears I have about us as a species.
Aside from that though, I can’t say enough about my collaborators and what they’ve brought to the table. The word “genius” gets thrown around a lot but Nathan is an actual art genius. Aesthetically his illustration and designs are absolutely electric. But it’s his storytelling that’s really going to blow readers away. The subtleties in his acting, the way he handles emotional moments and comedy...it’s all amazing. And his world building and the dynamism of his action scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen. That’s coming from a life-long fan and veteran comics editor.
Dave Stewart’s colors are stunning as well. I mean you look at Dave’s resume and you think OF COURSE his colors are going to be amazing. But he’s such a great fit with Nathan’s art. Tom Muller’s killer graphic design, Steve “Magic” Wands’ outstanding lettering, Sebastian Girner’s edits...it’s really a dream to work with all these guys.
Fox: I’ve got to second that. The team and this entire process has been one of the most fun, challenging and eye opening projects I’ve had the honor of working on. There are not enough words for how incredibly talented our collaborators are and we’re literally just getting started as we wrap up the first of three arcs.
Creatively the past two years of story and character development has been truly invaluable. Once Nathan and Amanda’s relationship solidified everything just clicked and grew from there. And honestly, The Weatherman has become one of those dream-level opportunities and stories that just hits like lightning as soon as you read page one. Jody’s scripts are equally genius and above and beyond anything I’ve worked on to date. We both connect immediately on the story, each for his own reasons as Jody mentioned, and have no intention of holding anything back. For me it’s feels like one of those rare opportunities and books where you realize you have to be a part of it because you just might have something larger to contribute to the whole. Hopefully it all shows and comes through in-story, on the page, and for the audience as much as it does for us.
Finally, what has you most anxious or excited to see how readers react when they get to see the first issue in just two months?
Leheup: From an anxiety standpoint, I’d say there are two moments--one in issue one and one in issue two--that are going to be pretty controversial. People are going to have some strong reactions and opinions to those moments so we’re looking forward to that when the time comes. In terms of excitement though I cannot wait for readers to experience the totality of the The Weatherman and to see what we’ve been building for the last couple of years. I can honestly say you have never seen anything like this book and if you can stomach a few spots of intensity we’re going to take you on the ride of your life.
Fox: Definitely what Jody said. Issue one comes out June 13th and we have so, so, so much more interior and mind-blowing cover art coming down the pipe so stay tuned! It’s going to be one crazy-freight train of fun you won’t want to miss this summer! And follow our official social media account @WM_Comic for exclusive content, news, and behind the scenes looks at The Weatherman!
(Photo: Image Comics)
The Weatherman #1, Page 6
(Photo: Image Comics)
The Weatherman #1, Page 7
(Photo: Image Comics)
The Weatherman #1, Page 8
The Weatherman #1, Page 120comments
The Weatherman #1, Page 23
The Weatherman #1, Page 24