Today at San Diego Comic Con, Dark Horse Comics announced that writer Brian Wood and artist Garry Brown will be publishing The Massive: Ninth Wave starting later this year. The Massive: Ninth Wave is a six-issue prequel to Wood and Brown's widely acclaimed series The Massive. It will take place before the environmental disaster known as the crash and feature Callum Israel and his crew working as hardcore eco-warriors at the top of their game in action-focused one-shot stories.
In this exclusive interview, we spoke with Wood and Brown regarding their plans for The Massive: Ninth Wave.
Chase Magnett: The Massive told a complete story in 30 issues that stands very well on its own as a complete volume. What made both of you want to return to these characters and this world?
Brian Wood: The Massive is a complete story that stands on its own perfectly well, but once the dust settled on that series I realized we had an opportunity to tell more stories about these characters set before the environmental cataclysm known as the Crash. Over the course of the 30 issues of The Massive, we made numerous references to how things were "pre-Crash" but we never really showed it. We never saw the members of Ninth Wave in their absolute prime as global defenders of the earth. Personally, I wanted to see that, I wanted to write that.
So it’s a prequel in terms of dates on a timeline, but it really is its own series tonally, narratively, and stylistically. The Massive was dark and tragic, with powerful character arcs and, at times, almost mythic looks at human's place in the worth. Ninth Wave is an action comic, lighter, faster, and episodic in structure.
Garry Brown: I think maybe because we never really got to see them in action, doing what they do etc. Ninth Wave is all about that. The world still exists and we get to see the crew at the top of their game.
Magnett: Are you planning to make Ninth Wave friendly to new readers who may not have yet discovered The Massive?
Wood: Absolutely. It really does not connect narratively to the events of The Massive, so there's no chance of spoilers or anything like that, nor does it assume anyone's read The Massive. I mean, it does kind of drop you right into the action from page one, but that's sort of the point.
Magnett: The Massive: Ninth Wave is structured differently from the original series, replacing 3-6 issue arcs with one-shot issues. It’s not the first time this has been done with The Massive though. You and Kristian Donaldson detailed a few 8-page character profiles in Dark Horse Presents. Will these new issues be character-focused as well?
Wood: We had a few one-shots elsewhere in The Massive as well. Ninth Wave isn't devoid of character development, but its not the primary focus the way it was in The Massive. The event is the focus, the mission, the rescue, the assault, the arrest, etc. What existing readers get to see is a side to all the characters they never saw, a new side. Everyone is in their prime, at the absolute top of their game.
Magnett: Throughout its run The Massive was both a character-focused and -driven series. The members of Ninth Wave represented a variety of philosophies and experiences, and made these conflicting ideologies sympathetic. Can we expect to gain additional insight into Callum Israel and his crew in Ninth Wave?
Wood: I think you get context, and that helps fill in a few gaps in Callum's life, and the lives of the others. Like I said, we got multiple references to the years when Ninth Wave was famous, part of pop culture, running afoul of the FBI, and taking on all manner of environmental criminal, from white collar suits to low-down pirates. Now we get to see all that.
Magnett: Along those lines, will you be introducing new characters in Ninth Wave or exploring the backgrounds of those who didn’t receive a focus in the series?
Wood: We really only have one new character, at least so far. The character of Ryan from The Massive, she wasn't a member of the group at this time so we won't see her. But we will see Georg, someone readers of The Massive know already, and we have a new character called Rimona.
Magnett: This shift in style has also led to a more action-focused narratives. How has that shift changed how you depict and pace each issue?
Brown: For Ninth Wave, I've gone 100% digital with it. No 3D models or anything like that, just it's entirely drawn digitally. I figured it'd be an interesting approach. Since The Massive was set in a post-apocalyptic, chaotic world, it fit to have rough inks. For Ninth Wave, using technology to draw it seemed to make sense to me.
Magnett: There’s a significant shift in focus as well as form occurring in The Massive: Ninth Wave as well. The disasters that Ninth Wave is confronting will no longer be speculative in nature, but based upon current issues and very real battles. Are the stories intended to draw direct parallels to current events that readers will recognize?
Wood: It’s never my intention to get all "ripped from the headlines" but I do think it’s important to write stories that feel real and resonate and feel plausible. And that's been the real trick, to create these types of situations that have urgency while not getting slowed down by a lot of politics.
Magnett: And what kind of research are you putting into creating stories based upon current events?
Wood: I'm just relying on whatever I researched when I was starting The Massive, but I did spend a large amount of time recently watching videos of people who free climb the giant redwoods. That was pretty fascinating. I don't know how many people saw it, but Rafael Grampa did a variant cover for The Massive #3 that showed Callum up in the trees in a Pacific Northwest old growth forest. At the time it was just a cool image, but for Ninth Wave I'm turning that image into a whole story.
Brown: The scripts are really detailed when Brian wants something specific. So I always have a good idea of what/where/who I'm drawing. It was the same on The Massive.
Magnett: All of these stories are being told in single issues, less than two dozen pages, leading to more action-focused narratives. Do you hope that these will serve as a call to action for readers as well?
Wood: I think a lot of this sort of stuff, these themes and causes get the stink of partisan politics all over them, and I'm just trying to stay above that. I went deep into it in The Massive, but Ninth Wave is designed to be its own thing. That said, what a reader gets out of it is really up to them.
Brown:I'd love that, but I doubt it. Humanity is so complacent it's insane. Just look at climate change being 'debunked' by elected morons holding snowballs. Ignorance is bliss.
Magnett: Environmentalism and conservation are obviously significant themes within The Massive and have struck a chord with both of you. What is it about these characters and the stories of Ninth Wave that you think really clicks with evoking those themes?
Wood: What I personally love about these characters is the struggle for personal redemption. The entire cast comes from violent, warlike pasts, and with Ninth Wave they are attempting to rehabilitate themselves and start new lives. I find an almost endless amount of interest and inspiration in that.
Brown:I really like the characters and what they do. There's a definite underdog nature to them. The things they go up against and continue to battle are insurmountable but they keep going anyway.
Magnett: One last question, you had both Dave Stewart and Jordie Bellaire, two of the best colorists in comics, working on The Massive. Do you know who will be coloring The Massive: Ninth Wave?
Wood: Jordie is. And JP Leon is coming back for covers, and Jared K Fletcher on letters. We got as much of the original team back as possible, which was really important to me.