Brian Wood & Andrea Mutti Take to the Seas in Rebels: These Free and Independent States

Plus a Free Download of the Full First Issue of Rebels

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Brian Wood & Andrea Mutti Take to the Seas in <i>Rebels: These Free and Independent States</i>

Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti are fast on their way toward honorary American History doctorates given their work on the Dark Horse revolutionary war series, Rebels, and its naval-warfare follow-up, Rebels: These Free and Independent States. Like in his beloved Vertigo Viking saga Northlanders, Wood pulls what is known about the era and introduces original characters to offer a new take on familiar sagas.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States introduces John Abbott, the son of Seth and Mercy from the first Rebels series. John is something of a shipbuilding savant—a skill that will prove vital as new battlefields open up during the War of 1812. With the second installment of the five-issue mini-series hitting stands this month, Paste chatted with Wood and Mutti about working within historical frameworks, how the modern-day political climate reflects the past and whether either of the creators have sea legs.

In the spirit of freedom, we’ve also included this link to download the entire first issue of the original Rebels series for free, to whet your appetite for further revolutionary adventures.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States #2 Cover Art by Matt Taylor


Paste: Brian, you’ve done a lot of historical work throughout your career—what interests you about revisiting the past and highlighting or crafting new narratives? How closely do you attempt to stick to what’s factually verifiable for a book like Rebels?

Brian Wood: I love history because it’s terrific storytelling. I never cease to be amazed at how relevant historical events are today because almost everything that can happen has happened at some point. I usually look at history for inspiration and ideas even when the project in question isn’t historical—I call it my secret weapon. I know some writers read the newspaper for story inspiration, or the obituaries, or whatever. I read history books.

My two historical projects are Northlanders, about Vikings, and Rebels, about the American Revolution. In terms of things being factually verifiable, those two eras couldn’t be more different. There is almost no written record of the Vikings—the sagas were written as fiction, hundreds of years after the fact, and not many artifacts survived. Comparatively, 1776 America has so much written history and is relatively easy for people to research. Writing about Vikings involves a decent amount of speculation, invention and guesswork. This freedom as a writer allows you to explore without getting dinged right and left for your historical errors. Rebels doesn’t afford me the same freedom.

This makes Rebels more of a challenge and it’s part of the reason I write fictional characters and around events that are less known, less overexposed in popular culture. It gives me some freedom as a writer, and it also gives the reader, hopefully, something that feels fresh.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States Interior Art by Andrea Mutti & Lauren Affe

Paste: It goes without saying that we’re currently living through a pretty intense period of American history. Have the events of the last year or two changed how you approach a story set during the early years of the country, with Americans resisting tyrants?

Wood: The last few years haven’t changed how I approach Rebels too much because I came up with Rebels around the height of the Tea Party on the political spectrum. The Tea Party used colonial history to push their agenda, claiming it as their own, putting out dumb YouTube ads in costume, firing muskets, really trying to make it seem like the mothers and fathers of our nation would somehow endorse them, if they could. It really rubbed me the wrong way because I’ve always been a patriotic American and a left-leaning person, politically. Suddenly it was being suggested that holding those two positions wasn’t possible, and suddenly American history was partisan. I reject that. American history belongs to all of us.

Paste: The Massive, one of your previous Dark Horse series, saw the release of a miniseries after the ongoing concluded. Is that what we’re seeing with These Free and Independent States? Are you hoping to continue the book as a series of standalone miniseries?

Wood: Rebels was conceived as an ongoing series like my Northlanders book. The industry’s changed a bit and it’s now much more common and more accepted for creators to schedule in breaks. We’ll do a third series if we can. The more history we can tell, the better.

Paste: Andrea, what sort of research goes into capturing historical authenticity? Do you find it creatively stimulating to work within certain style guidelines for the era, or do you prefer the flexibility of more fantastic tales?

Andrea Mutti: I am really open to everything, but I think that my passion for history is clear! Researching something real is both a challenge and an opportunity. I’ve had the opportunity to take a creative journey and test new styles. I hope my art conveys the same emotion that I feel as I read the script.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States Interior Art by Andrea Mutti & Lauren Affe

Paste: What’s the working relationship like between the two of you and colorist Lauren Affe? Is there a lot of back and forth to ensure accuracy and intention?

Wood: There’s really not much back and forth at all. Lauren pretty much nailed it on her first pass. There are always a few tweaks—I get hung up on certain details, since I grew up in New England. There are specifics to the colors of foliage, of trees and the skies that I like to see represented, but it’s like one or two notes per issue.

Generally, I am a firm believer in the “get out of the way” style of collaboration. I think I learned the value of that when I was doing Demo with Becky Cloonan. We left each other alone to do the best work we could, and it was great.

Mutti: Lauren is a great colorist. She’s totally professional and always open to collaborate. I am so glad to have her onboard. There’s an Italian proverb that says, “You fight better a stormy sea when you have a great crew.”

Paste: Most of the first issue centers on John Abbott. What can you tell us about the real man and how your portrayal differs? Here he seems like something of a shipbuilding savant.

Wood: John Abbott’s a fictional person, the son of Seth and Mercy from the first series. And yeah, he’s absolutely a savant. I think in the modern era, he’d be somewhere on the Autism spectrum.

Rebels: These Free and Independent States Interior Art by Andrea Mutti & Lauren Affe

Paste: Do either of you have high-seas experience, or are you landlubbers? Why go naval with this outing?

Wood: I’m personally terrified of the ocean. No joke. I’m a lakes and rivers kind of guy. When I take my kids to the beach all I can think about is riptides pulling them to their deaths.

And the War of 1812 is one of those things that everyone’s heard of, but it’s vague, it’s fuzzy as to what it was all about. When I tell people that the U.S. fought a whole entire other war against England, they look pretty surprised. Ship battles in the Great Lakes. Something called the Quasi-War against the French in the Caribbean. The Barbary pirates taking out American shipping right, left and center. There was a lot going on, and we just barely scratch the surface here.

Mutti: I love the sea! I can spend hours watching the waves or the horizon and I feel a sense of peace. I really enjoy fishing with my sons. Last summer we went fishing in Florida, and it was a wonderful experience!

Paste: Aside from historical adventures, what’s next on the horizon for both of you?

Wood: Right now, I have Briggs Land and Aliens: Defiance at Dark Horse, Black Road at Image, John Carter at Dynamite and Robotech for Titan. I’m keeping busy.

Mutti: I’m at the end of Highlander’s issues and I have a few sci-fi projects coming up. I always wait for a new call from Brian because it’s the best crew ever!

Rebels: These Free and Independent States Interior Art by Andrea Mutti & Lauren Affe