When BOOM! Studios announced James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas would come to the publisher for a new, science-fiction project earlier this year, they did it with all the pomp and circumstance usually reserved for "event books" at the big two.
A week of teasers, a Twitter campaign to get people talking about the #WhatIsThisPlace hashtag and a lack of confirmation, even when it became obvious, that the book even was from Tynion and Dialynaas, gave The Woods a sense of scope and mystery...before anybody even knew it was called The Woods.
ComicBook.com, based on clues found on Twitter, was one of the first to report that it would be Tynion and Dialynas on the book and, while nobody would confirm it for us and Tynion tweeted that he'd "never tell" when approached individually, the publisher did retweet our speculation, effectively giving the Internet all the clues they needed to keep right on speculating.
The series felt like some kind of high school drama at first, with yearbook photos popping up as the viral campaign progressed and each one accompanied by a fairly typical high school classification for the kid in the picture: "The Screw-Up," "The Wallflower," "The Control Freak."
Then, there were aliens.
Ultimately the announcement came that the series would be about a Midwestern high school is transported into the middle of an Alien forest.
"This is the story of what happens next,” they teased at the time.
Tynion joined ComicBook.com to talk about the upcoming series, the mysteries at its heart and that red-carpet viral campaign.
ComicBook.com: So first of all, you told me on Twitter that you'll "never tell" about this project. That seems like this might be hard to do...
JAMES TYNION IV: Hahaha… That was before we even announced the title, and well before people knew the basic premise. Mostly I wanted to play with the big mystery we were building up. The fun of the teaser campaign is that it set up something that looked like a pure teenage drama story, with a Breakfast Club style cast of misfits… And then suddenly, we threw a little alien monkey into the mix and anything was possible. A lot of this book is about the mystery of where they've been taken and what kind of journey might be necessary for them to take.
ComicBook.com: How did this project end up at Boom!? Obviously, you've had a lot of success at DC.
JTIV: BOOM! approached me late last spring… The funny thing is that I had actually started chatting with Matt Gagnon four years ago, when I was trying to break into the editorial side of the industry. He reached out to me to have a conversation about what kind of projects I was interested in doing, and the more we talked the more it became clear that we were on the absolute same page about what we wanted out of the comic book industry and how we saw the future of the industry shaping up. It's been an incredible working relationship, and my editors on the series, Eric Harburn and Jasmine Amiri, have become great friends and partners with me on the series. I'm extraordinarily happy to be working with BOOM! on this series, and I promise you this is just the beginning of my work with them.
ComicBook.com: You said the premise of the book is “a Midwestern high school is transported into the middle of an Alien forest. This is the story of what happens next.” So--what DOES happen next in that scenario? It looks from the teaser image that this group of kids are on a journey.
JTIV: A lot of this, you're going to have to wait and see unfold in the title itself. But basically, there are two stories that unfold from the starting point laid out in the first issue of the book. One is the story of these six kids who realize that if they want answers about what brought them to this strange world and why, they're going to have to find them themselves. They set out on a journey into the woods, thinking they know exactly what their dealing with, encapsulating that kind of youthful arrogance that all teenagers feel. That sense that they've prepared so much over the course of their young lives, that they almost certainly have the tools to cope with the unknown. Spoiler alert: They're absolutely wrong. That's the lead story of the series, and what we'll be primarily following over the course of the run. Secondarily, is the turmoil that pops up when a full midwestern high school is transported into an impossibly strange environment. There are hundreds of terrified teenagers within the walls of the school, and a few dozen equally terrified but drastically outnumbered staff members. How do you maintain order? As a teenager, do you still trust the authority of the Principal and teachers when they have no better idea of how to survive than you do?
ComicBook.com: It seems worth noting, since we know so little about the book itself, that only five of the seven characters teased in the last week’s “visual press releases” are standing on that cliff’s edge. Where are Sanami and Doctor Robot?
JTIV: That's definitely a "you'll have to wait and see." But it has all to do with the story we're building, and where the characters are in that story at the outset of the series.
ComicBook.com: During the course of the teaser campaign running up to this announcement, you started with the more typical high school roles in these character images--and built to the weird alien creature. Was there a particular strategy about keeping the nature of the book in the dark a bit for as long as possible?
JTIV: Like I said, we wanted to build a real sense of mystery, and play with the expectations of the readers a little. First we wanted to lay out the kind of High School element that we're playing with in the Woods. The idea of these archetypal figures, and their roles in the school environment. What they've been written off by, by their peers or by themselves. And then, in the final image, we show the world this series is going to inhabit. Suddenly all those perceptions don't matter anymore. Everything they've done, every aspect of themselves they hold to be absolute, all of those pieces are going to be thrown into absolute disarray and chaos. That was the core of what we wanted to do with the teaser campaign. The idea of throwing Doctor Robot into the mix, this little creature they'll find early in the series as they journey through the alien woods, was done to help show you guys from the very beginning that this series is designed to defy expectations. We'll set things up one way, and throw a huge dose of crazy at you from left-field to keep the readers on their toes. It's a series of massive revelations and huge mystery.
JTIV: I loved it! It was so much fun seeing people guess at what kind of series this might be, without knowing the crazy science-fiction world that we're setting up for these characters.
ComicBook.com: Is this a limited engagement or is the plan to have it be an ongoing series?
JTIV: There's definitely an end, but that end is a long ways off. As long as people will support it, this series should run for a few years. I have it blocked out for three epic, world-spanning arcs. This is definitely not just a limited run.
ComicBook.com: What's the significance of the #WhatIsThisPlace hashtag?
JTIV: We thought it would be fun to start hinting at the mystery of a huge, strange new world before we started showing people that world.
ComicBook.com: Should we be looking for these characters' "roles" to play a big part in the way they interact with the story, or at least with each other?
JTIV: Mostly their "roles" are a starting point, and their interactions will mostly be centered on the shedding of those roles, and their discovery of their true selves as they enter the Woods. This is a series about self-discovery and adulthood, and a lot about how teenagers view so much of their lives as absolute. They think they know what they want, they think they know how to get to where they want to go, but they're nowhere near as prepared for it as they think they are. Their sense of self, that seems so unbreakable, is often just a shell they've built up to protect themselves before they go out into the real world. The breaking of that shell, and the realization that everyone is kind of just winging it in life, is really what the series is about. It's taking the terror of stepping out into the wild forest of the real world, and literalizing it in the context of a crazy, horrifying alien forest.
ComicBook.com: How's it like working with Michael Dialynas?
JTIV: Michael has been an incredible partner on the series from the second he came onboard. I knew I needed a worldbuilder with me on this series… Someone who could take the insanity that's been building in my head in the two years I've been working on this series and bring it to life with a new voice that takes it in directions I never would have imagined. Starting with his designs on the characters, it was clear he completely understood the tone of this series, and every day that I get pages in from him, I'm blown away anew. The designs of the creatures in the Woods are delightfully strange and terrifying. I remember the weekend I got the full, huge image of the promo art, and I was just grinning ear to ear. I had a friend's birthday party that night, and I think I showed it to every single person there. It was the perfect expression of everything I ever wanted this series to be. Michael is an incredible artist, and there's nobody else I would want to build this world with me.
ComicBook.com: Why don't we see any adults involved in the main party of leads?
JTIV: I know that when I was 17 years old, I would never have even thought to ask a teacher to come along with me on a journey like this. You might love that teacher and trust them implicitly, but it'd be like inviting your dad to come along on a road trip. They feel like they can do this themselves, and even more than that (although they probably wouldn't express it like this), they want to PROVE to themselves that they can do it.
ComicBook.com: How did you pick the school as a whole to be transported, as opposed to a whole city (like in something like Green Lantern: Mosaic) or a smaller, more manageable unit like the Rising Stars kids?
JTIV: I wanted to explore the full chaos of a complete school being transported, but even more than that, this touches on one of the biggest mysteries at the heart of the woods. The reason why a group of a few hundred students, and a few dozen teachers were transported to this alien world is a very, very big question. Personally though, it was a lot to do with the idea of schools as these small, insular communities, and seeing what happens when you strip away the ability for everyone to go home at the end of the night. What happens when a High School needs to become a functioning society on every level? What kind of chaos might arise out of that situation?
ComicBook.com: What's the big takeaway you hope prospective readers have when you're doing promotion for the book?
JTIV: I really hope that people see the epic scope of what we're building here. This is a story about identity in the face of the unknown. This is a story about growing up. This is a story about the human race… And hopefully, this is a story about you, the reader. I want people to see the huge tapestry of this dark alien world and wonder to themselves how they would cope if they were forced into this kind of situation. The Woods is a science fiction epic, with a cast that I hope all of you can find yourselves in, and I want each and every one of you reading this to come along with me and Michael as we embark on the perilous journey ahead.