Welcome To The New Ice Age: Jason Shawn Alexander On ‘Frostbite’ [Sci-Fi Week]
Today sees the debut of Joshua Williamson and Jason Shawn Alexander's brand new Vertigo series Frostbite. Set in the near future after the dawn of a New Ice Age, humanity strives to carry on and make the best of it despite a deadly contagious disease that turns people into living statues made of ice.
ComicsAlliance spoke to Alexander about his process and world building, and we have exclusive design pages from the artist, complete with notes on how he works and reworks pages to find the structure he's looking for.
ComicsAlliance: The world of Frostbite is very dystopian. Did you take influence from stories like Snowpiercer and Mad Max, or do you prefer to avoid similar media to create something wholly your own?
Jason Shawn Alexander: I have my own book through Image called Empty Zone that is another dystopian type world. Though I’m sure some things carried over from that, Josh had a very specific idea of where, in time, this story takes place so it was fun creating with that information. As much as I would have loved to pull from those films, they didn’t seem to really fit into what is going on in Frostbite, visually. You can say “Mad Max in the snow,” but blizzard temperatures versus searing desert heat don’t really allow for a lot of crossover.
Artist commentary: "The first version [of this page] felt too 'comic book posed' and the background didn’t feel right."[/caption]
CA: The backstory of Keaton is revealed throughout the first issue and it seems like there’s a lot more to know. How much did you work with Josh to create Keaton, and how much information do you need to know about her backstory before you settle on a design?
JSA: Josh laid out her character really well in the script and through conversation. So far the visual creation, everything I’ve turned in, he’s seemed to like. This story has fit like a glove. We had a talk before we really got started and we knew, right away, we had very similar tastes and desires when it came to comic making. It established a strong line of trust.
The design of the world and characters is fun, but my main goal, visually, is to create real emotion and real drama. Keaton looks like a bad ass. That's easy. But when she turns cold (no pun intended) and kills, or is in pain or experiences loss, those are the pages I focus 200% on. We’ve all seen bad ass characters. I want to make them relatable and real. Josh’s scripts allow me to do just that. So a big part of Keaton’s design is personality, and that’s so much fun to do as a story teller.
CA: How do you allocate time to design work and world-building? Does Keaton get more focus than other characters because of her role as protagonist?
JSA: I like every aspect of the world to feel layered. Even if it’s a small thing like designing the pay heaters in issue #1. I try to consider everything. Josh helps that process a lot with his details in the script. Things like the specific cultures and classes have a part to play in Frostbite, and all of that allows the reader to relate and believe more in the world we’re creating.
CA: There’s a great moment towards the end of the first issue where you see the crew’s transportation. How many revisions and sketches do you go through with something like that before you settle on something everyone is happy with?
JSA: That one was easier because I knew it wasn’t going to be around long. So basically I just went nuts with scale and details. There are vehicle designs, later, that went through a few design stages because they would need to be seen over and over and would need to make sense.
CA: Did you do a lot of research on cities in places like Russia and Argentina that regularly reach temperatures as cold as --- if not more cold than --- Mexico City or Los Angeles in the first issue?
JSA: I didn’t really. The US has always seemed to want to do things its own way. Instead I would get into fantastic conversations from a few sci-fi writers that I’m tight with, and we would sit and discuss and debate what the world would look like, etc.
CA: The two cities that we do see, while both cold, have drastically different temperatures. How do you convert different severities of winter on the page?
JSA: Again, Josh is very helpful with reminders that there is no snow on the ground here and there should be some, there. It helps differentiate class and boroughs in the cities as well.
CA: Color, especially shades of blue and white, plays a big role in Frostbite. What’s your collaboration process like with colorist Luis NCT?
JSA: Luis is my colorist/collaborator on Empty Zone. When Frostbite came my way I knew he had to be on it as well. We have a great working relationship. He’s an accomplished comic artist himself, so we do a lot of back and forth with color design before a finished page goes up. He’s fantastic to work with.
CA: In the world of the comic, Frostbite is a communicable disease and a death sentence. How did you go about designing how that looks on a person, and how people in the story can spot it developing?
JSA: I have a two-year-old daughter. I’ve seen Frozen enough times to quote the movie word for word. When Josh explained what Frostbite, the disease, actually did ,I was excited to try and portray something like that ice statue at the end of the movie as a creeping rash along the body. But a rash that's deep. And horrible. And deadly.
CA: Finally, do you have a favorite design or character that you look forward to when you see they’re going to be on the page you’re currently drawing?
JSA: Bartow is always fun. But issue #3 we start seeing more really fun "gangs," and thats when I get to go ape sh-- and have fun.