Mad Max: Fury Road takes place in a world so full of detail and imagination that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that director George Miller has a backstory for just about everything on screen. In the finished film, everything feels like it has a history. Every corner of every frame is alive.

Rather than confine this information to his imagination, Miller has put it in a comic book. Yes, Vertigo comics has published the first of several Fury Road prequel comics, giving us a look at how the insanity of the film came to be. This issue focuses specifically on the characters of Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), but it offers tantalizing details about larger Mad Max universe.

Although Mad Max: Fury Road: Nux and Immortan Joe #1 is the work of writer Nico Lathouris, writer/artist Mark Sexton, and artists Leandro Fernandez, Riccardo Burchielli, and Andrea Mutti, Miller has credit for the story. Don’t let the change in mediums fool you. This is canon ... and we’ve assembled the details that we found the most compelling. If you haven’t seen Mad Max: Fury Road, beware of spoilers. If you want the film to maintain all of its mystique and mystery, scroll no further.

But if you want a proper education on the history of the wasteland, read on!

The “Wordburgers” Maintain the History of the Wasteland

The comic begins with the introduction of a “Wordburger,” an oral storyteller and historian whose entire body is tattooed from head to toe with names of people, places and events. A careful read of his body will reveal quotes from long-dead historical figures, mathematical equations, and familiar names, ranging from Batman to J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s through him that the issue relays its information – he is the framing device that allows us to learn about characters like Immortan Joe and Nux as he shares their origin stories with a captivated audience. Although this is our first proper introduction to the Wordburgers, the idea of heroes and villains becoming myths and legends who live on through oral storytelling was first introduced by the Feral Kid’s narration in The Road Warrior (which elevated Max Rockatansky into something Herculean) and the conclusion of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, where the now-grown children of Sydney tell of Max’s exploits every night.

Laughter Saved Nux From an Early Death

The first tale shared by the Wordburger involves the early days of Nux, the Warboy who ultimately joins Furiosa and sacrifices himself so the rogue Imperator can take the Citadel. Nux and his family were originally among the thousands of ailing, starving people gathered at the base of Immortan Joe’s domain, living in squalor and begging for water. Eventually, Nux’s father embarked on a dangerous job and never returned. His mother, already seriously ill, died soon after.

Too young to comprehend exactly what has happened, the toddler who would become Nux mistook one of Immortan Joe’s henchmen for his dad and grabbed hold of the platform that takes the chosen few to the top of the Citadel. Rather than kick him off, Joe’s men watched gleefully, waiting to see how long he could hold on before he plummeted to his death. When Nux heard the mocking laughter of the Warboys, he joined in, giggling as he slipped ... only to be snatched at the last possible moment by a guard who was impressed by the kid’s nerve. Given the name Nux (because he was “a hard nut to crack”), he was invited to join the Warboys and found a new father figure in Immortan Joe. The rest is history.

The Old World Died Slowly

The Mad Max movies have always been vague about the exact nature of the post-apocalypse, implying that a number of elements came together to end the world. Although the comic doesn’t offer a definitive answer to the question of “Who killed the world?”, it does imply that it didn’t happen overnight. Society slowly crumbled until the day when it was simply no more.

In the pages dedicated to earliest days of Immortan Joe (more on him in a minute), we learn that, on “one ordinary Wednesday,” the power simply went off and never came back on. This was the final push needed to topple an already fragile civilization and anarchy ensued. Violence ruled the streets, with the strongest forming gangs who terrorized the cities before seeking their fortune in the desert wastelands.

Interestingly, this section of the comic looks less like The Road Warrior and Fury Road and more like the original 1979 Mad Max. The timeline of these movies has always been loose and continuity has never been a concern, but this comic gives us nerds some real connecting tissue between the grungy, crumbling society of the first movie and the bonkers post-apocalypse of the later films. One slowly became the other and no one noticed until it was too late.

How Immortan Joe Earned His Reputation

Before he was the masked tyrant of his own debauched kingdom, Immortan Joe was Colonel Joe Moore, a “veteran of the oil wars” and a “hero of the water wars.” When society fell, Joe used his military experience (and a few heavily armed friends) to form his own militant gang of killers, roaming the countryside in search of spoils. As he invaded communities and terrorized their citizens, his ranks swelled and his gang was soon an army. After a survivor of one of his raids told him of a fortress sitting on top of several lifetimes worth of water, Colonel Moore led his men into the desert and to the Citadel ... which was occupied by men who weren’t going to give up their turf so easily.

Thus began the siege of the Citadel, an extended battle that wiped out much of Colonel Moore’s army. However, a crafty nighttime assault gave the Colonel and his men access to the top of the fortress, only for the defenders to push most of the invading forces back. Those who retreated watched from the ground as those who were left behind were executed one-by-one ... until the executions stopped and Colonel Moore emerged, all of his enemies dead at his back. His improbable survival led to his shocked men calling him immortal, which led to his new name, Immortan Joe, which led to the legend that he is a godlike being who cannot be killed, inspiring religious devotion.

The Origin of Gas Town and the Bullet Farm

As Immortan Joe lay siege to the Citadel, he sent out scouting parties to find food and water to keep his men alive. Although the stated mission was unsuccessful, his men did discover a derelict oil refinery to the north and an abandoned lead mine to the west. Once he conquered the Citadel, Immortan Joe claimed these for himself as well. When the refinery was operating again, it became Gas Town. The mine transformed into the Bullet Farm, the center of arms and ammunition manufacturing for Joe’s troops.

The lucky survivor who originally told Joe about the Citadel in the first place was granted control of Gas Town and became known as The People Eater. The Bullet Farm was handed over Major Kalishnikov, one of Joe’s right hand men. And for a few decades, their three-way partnership was wildly effective ... until Furiosa decided to run away with a few of Immortan Joe’s wives, of course.

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