Image Expo Exclusive: An Apocalyptic Forescast in Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox’s The WeathermanMain Art by Nathan Fox & Dave Stewart Comics Features Jody LeHeup & Nathan Fox
Human memory is fallible, and we’ve all found ourselves in a situation where forgetting something hurts someone we care about: a missed birthday, an anniversary uncelebrated, an important task left unfulfilled. In writer Jody LeHeup and artist Nathan Fox’s The Weatherman, launching in June, protagonist Nathan Bright may have forgotten something a little more serious: carrying out the worst terrorist attack in human history and ending 99% of life on Earth.
Set seven years after the event that nearly doomed the human race, The Weatherman finds Nathan Bright living it up on Mars with a cuddly canine companion, a girlfriend that’s out of his league and a gig as a popular, zany TV weatherman. Before the first issue wraps up, someone Nathan loves is dead in his arms and he finds himself accussed of history’s greatest crime—one he has no memory of committing. In advance of The Weatherman’s announcement at this week’s Image Expo, Paste exchanged emails with LeHeup and Fox to discuss their collaboration, Nathan’s predicament and their forecast for the series ahead.
The Weatherman Promotional Art by Nathan Fox, Dave Stewart & Tom Muller
Paste: Nathan, you’ve been away from full interior projects for a little while. What got you on-board with The Weatherman? How did you, Jody and Dave Stewart connect for this book and how long has it been in the works?
Nathan Fox: Yeah. I guess it has been a while. I’ve done a few small things here and there over the last few years but basically left licensed comic work to focus on editorial illustration, teaching and running the MFA Visual Narrative program at SVA. I needed a break from the work-for-hire hussle and wanted to get back to writing and developing some of my own stories—when Jody called.
Once we met and Jody pitched me The Weatherman it was immediately clear to me that I had to help tell this story. We both have skin in the game when it comes to the themes and questions raised by the book. It’s very personal for both of us. But beyond that Jody has written some of the strongest, craziest and most moving scripts that I could have ever wished to work on as an artist. This thing is just that good and it’s an insane honor to be a part of it.
Dave and I have been trying collaborate again for a while now ever since we did Pigeons From Hell. So he was one of the first colorists we thought of for WM. Fortunately he dug the book and was able to fit us into his bonkers schedule.
Paste: Jody, most readers know you as the co-writer/co-creator of Shirtless Bear-Fighter! But The Weatherman is a very different kind of book. Can you tell us how the books differ in terms of tone?
Jody LeHeup: Yeah, so Shirtless Bear-Fighter! was this crazy, over-the-top fight book parody. Bearody? (Boom! Still got it!) It was us just having fun and making comics as joyful as we knew how. But while there’s more to SBF than gags and bear-fights, it’s not what I would call complex. And it wasn’t meant to be.
The Weatherman is something else entirely. Where it differs from SBF is it’s a science fiction story full of bigger ideas and more complex themes. The characters have more dimension, the world is more fully realized and the stakes couldn’t be higher. That said, The Weatherman is similar to SBF in that it’s fast-paced and action-packed. And fans of my comedy voice on SBF will be pleased to know that there’s plenty of humor in The Weatherman as well to keep things balanced and buoyant.
But make no mistake, while there are tons of colorful, fun moments in The Weatherman, it’s a story that will engage and challenge you in ways that were outside the scope of SBF. It’s a story I’ve been waiting years to tell and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
Paste: The Weatherman takes place on Mars after an as-yet-unexplained cataclysm destroys the majority of life on Earth. Do you think the human race has good odds of reaching Mars before we drive ourselves to extinction? Is this your outlet for colony-life kicks? Are you blowing off a little environmental-panic steam?
LeHeup: The world of The Weatherman is one where humans are starting to terraform and colonize planets but it’s more of a romantic projection than an actual prediction. So yeah, I’d say we’re exploring what that might be like because it makes for some fascinating settings and story dynamics. But the question of “will we make it?” as a species is very much at the heart of this book. Can we overcome what we are? It’s a question I think a lot of us struggle with. Especially now. One of the many reasons that The Weatherman is so relevant.
Fox: Exactly. The cataclysm you mention as readers will learn in the first issue was a terrorist attack—the worst in mankind’s history—that killed 99% of Earth’s population and rendered the planet’s surface uninhabitable. The Weatherman begins seven years after the attack and the people of Mars are still struggling with the loss of so many, with the fear of a second attack, and with their anger over the fact that the people responsible for the first one are still out there. They’re wondering if they’re going to make it as well.
Paste: Protagonist Nathan Bright is living a zany, carefree life when the book opens—a man-child with a high-profile TV weather gig. Out of all possible Martian careers, how did you land on weatherman for Nathan’s job and the book’s title? Does his profession at all prepare him for going on the run across the galaxy?
LeHeup: Right. Well, in the middle of all the fear and grief we’re introduced to Nathan Bright, a character that lives a life at the other end of the spectrum from what the rest of the population is going through. Nathan’s got it all: a great girl, an amazing dog and a job as the number-one weatherman on Mars. He’s fun and funny and makes his living putting smiles on people’s faces at a time when they desperately need to be reminded what joy feels like. For whatever reason, Nathan is able to take this profoundly mundane job and connect with people. And his ability to do that has made him a kind of local celebrity.
Why call the book The Weatherman? Because once you see how consequential Nathan is to the fate of humankind, there simply isn’t another title. This book is about a weatherman named Nathan Bright and the lives he touches for better or worse.
Fox: It’s also great title from a subversion of expectation standpoint. Because while the idea of a “weatherman” might sound mundane or nonchalant, the book is the exact opposite. It’s high energy, high stakes, fast paced sci-fi adventure and I cannot wait for folks to see what we have in store for them.
Paste: Let’s talk a little bit about the key event in the first issue, when Nathan is accused of carrying out the attack on Earth—something he seems not to remember. Is Nathan really responsible for essentially ending life on Earth?
LeHeup: That’s a question that we’re going to spend a great deal of time exploring over the course of the series. Is this fun-loving, golden retriever-owning, bad-cocktail-making, noodle bowl-eating, local weatherman Nathan Bright responsible for the worst terrorist attack in human history? And more importantly…why can’t he remember?
Fox: Right. When Nathan’s accused of murdering Earth it’s a total shock to his system. How could he possibly have done something like that when he doesn’t remember doing it? And if he doesn’t remember doing it, can he be held responsible? And that’s just the beginning. Things get real crazy real fast after that.
Paste: Nathan, you’ve drawn some pretty out-there sequences in books like Haunt and Zodiac, and we get to see some hints of that in the first issue’s bounty-hunter clash. What’s coming across your drawing board in the coming months? Does this world contain aliens, robots and other new creations, or does the carnage stay pretty grounded? What’ve you been most thrilled to design so far?
Fox: Oh, man. This book has it all…intergalactic bounty hunters, space cowboys, murder game shows, killer aerial dogfights, psychics, cyborgs, badass spaceships, tiki drinks, drug runners, super soldiers, battle mechs, noodle bars, car chases, cartoon bear-suits, knock-down drag-out laser-knife fights to the death, and so, so, SO much more.
LeHeup: And that’s just the first arc.
Fox: This has been some of the most freeing, challenging and deliciously complex world-building I’ve had to tackle to date. As I said before, Jody’s scripts and this story are an insane joy to contribute to and visualize. This story is beyond up-my-alley creatively and we are both striving to push the envelope on what we’re capable of on this one. So grab a first aid kit, your favorite life vest and buckle up! It’s gonna be a killer ride!
LeHeup: It absolutely cannot be overstated how much Nathan’s art on The Weatherman is going to blow your mind. Like it’s some of the most beautiful comic book art I have ever seen in my life. His illustration, his design, his world building, his absolute mastery of all aspects of sequential storytelling, his composition, the energy of his art…it’s truly astounding. If you’re a fan of comic art it is ESSENTIAL that you own this book.
Speaking of art…the rest of our team is an absolute all-star cast. The man, the myth, the legendary color assassin Dave Stewart is blessing our book with his sweet, sweet hues and they are unreal, my friends. Tom Muller continues to set the standard in comic book design with his outstanding logo and design work. Letterer Steve “Magic” Wands is crushing it with a killer custom font based on Nathan’s hand lettering. And brilliant Editor Sebastian Girner is keeping us on task. These guys make us all look like geniuses and we couldn’t be more excited to have them on board.
Fox: And the AMAZING Marcos Martin will be joining us on as well! We’re going to be doing a couple of different shelf covers for the first arc, one by me and one by Marcos who we just think the world of. He’s already turned in some sketches and people are not ready for how awesome his covers are going to be.
Paste: I also have to ask, Nathan, since you drew Dogs of War—was it hard to draw Nathan Bright’s canine companion in harm’s way for issue #1?
Fox: Ha! A little, yes, but putting the characters in harm’s way is part of making sure readers understand that the world of The Weatherman…NO ONE is safe.
LeHeup: There are going to be moments in this story that make people uncomfortable. But that’s a good thing. We want to engage you. The best stories kick your door down and rip out your heart and that’s our goal here.
Paste: While we see most of the first issue through Nathan Bright’s eyes, there’s more to his date than meets the eye. How big of a role does Amanda Cross play as the series goes on? Is it fair to call her a co-protagonist or is this definitely Nathan’s story?
Fox: Agent Cross is the intelligence field operative building the case against Nathan and as such she hates him with every fiber of her being. So when story events metaphorically handcuff the two together and send them off on a solar system spanning journey to find the truth, sparks are going to FLY. But they’re going to have to figure it out if they’re going to have any hope of stopping a second attack.
It’s a journey both characters will embark on and each will be changed by the other. Or not. Or things might get extra weird…#StayTUNED!
LeHeup: Cross plays an enormous role in this story and it is absolutely fair to call her a co-protagonist. We call her that all the time. In fact this may end up being more Cross’s story than Nathan’s. Nathan’s just the starting point. But The Weatherman is as at least as much about Cross as it is Nathan and her choices in the book will have huge ramifications for both of them. And for the survival of humanity as well.
Paste: What’s the scope of The Weatherman? Do you have an endpoint in sight or are you on-board for as long as readers will have you?
LeHeup: We have a definite endpoint in mind. The series will be three arcs. One arc this year, one next year and the last one the year after that. Each arc will be about six issues long and the first issue drops this June.
Start talking to your retailers now! Let them know you want in on what will definitely be one of the most beautifully illustrated, most talked-about comics in years.
Fox: And follow our official account @WM_Comic on Twitter and Instagram for exclusive art, updates, and behind the scenes looks at The Weatherman. And feel free to @ us with your questions and comments!