There’s no shortage of reinterpretations of Romeo And Juliet—William Shakespeare’s version was itself a new take on an already established story—but few have the style, energy, and imagination of The New World, a new Image Comics series from writer Aleš Kot, artist Tradd Moore, colorist Heather Moore, letterer Clayton Cowles, and designer Tom Muller. Debuting on July 25th with a 60-page first issue, The New World tells the tale of two star-crossed lovers in a futuristic America rebuilt after nuclear devastation, bringing together a wanted hacker and the police officer/reality TV star tasked with hunting him down. July is a big month for Kot, and the first collection of his other current Image series, Days Of Hate, goes on sale the week before The New World #1 hits stands.
The inspiration for The New World stemmed from Kot’s desire to explore the dichotomy of love and war: “The idealism of believing in love and the terror of being in the midst of humanity while we work overtime to tear ourselves apart,” says Kot. “Contemplating the possibility that these young lovers might have failed if they didn’t (spoilers) kill themselves—or, alternatively, that they might have worked out just fine, or a million other worlds. What would happen?” Folded into this concept are the ideas of turning police into entertainment, the ceaseless cycles of re-traumatization, and how families function in a world divided by borders. It’s pop entertainment with something deeper to explore, and it reads unlike any other comic thanks to Kot’s trust in his extraordinary husband-and-wife art team.
“Tradd’s someone I want to work with throughout my life,” says Kot. “His commitment to art, high standards, creativity and determination inspire me. Why did he feel right? Because we wanted to work together. Everything came from that. Tradd’s not the person who comes second after the writer, we’re both storytellers here. Thinking about his dynamic, inventive, constantly evolving art inspired The New World. Heather—I mean, you saw the colors she’s responsible for. If we are storytellers here, so is she. I knew there would be greatness once we agreed on Heather joining the team, but even knowing that I didn’t expect how fully formed Heather would arrive and how vibrantly, thoughtfully and precisely she’d color her first comic, her first ever issue, and a 60-page one at that.”
When it comes to keeping a story dynamic while tackling heavier subject matter, Kot relies on a mix of characters, world-building, and the magic of collaboration. “If you build, or discover, emotionally interesting, complex and relatable characters and put them into a world you put some serious thought into, a world reflective of your dreams and nightmares and so on, I liken it to watching the scenes play out and transcribing them,” says Kot. “That’s what the first drafts usually are. Because of all the prep work I do, I feel like I’m going for an archeological/paleontological dig on location that I know has treasures underneath. And the quest is to find them and use the right tools to show them to the world with clarity and respect. It’s both building and discovery. It’s intentional, but I also have to let go, let it morph, be its own thing, trust the life it carries. I don’t really feel like there is a line, I don’t really feel like there is a clearly delineated border. How many borders do we really need anyway?”
Tradd Moore is one of the best artists in contemporary comics, and this series is a showcase for his brilliant design skills, allowing him to build an entire world from the ground up. “In The New World, my goal was to design characters that are striking and imitable, and design environments that feel vibrant and personal,” says Tradd Moore. “I want readers to learn about our characters by analyzing their attire and environment, so I placed a lot of visual information on their bodies and in their homes. In my head I’m designing characters and environments in 3D, then representing them in 2D. If you build a 3D layout of a scene in your head, or sketch out a blueprint of an environment, you can move your characters through that environment in a legible way. Beyond that, I have a stream of consciousness approach to design; I go with my gut, and I draw what looks interesting to me. Nearly everything in The New World was designed on my first pass, and most of it was designed on the comic pages—characters, environments, vehicles, all that stuff.”
There’s an awe-inspiring amount of detail in these pages, but what makes the story so thrilling is the exaggeration in Moore’s character work, which fills the book with life. “Details give a reader information, and exaggeration makes the information feel like it’s worth knowing,” says Tradd Moore. “A clever balance between stylization and technical drawing proficiency makes for visuals that are both sturdy and expressive, and that kind of work is alluring to me. I think a core aspect of my own style is a tension between abstraction and structure. They battle for supremacy within me. It’s the age old head vs. heart, left-brain/right brain, math vs. literature dynamic. I believe this tension is teamwork if you play it right, not a battle. My abstract mind and structural mind challenge each other. They’re sparring partners. My discontent fuels my desire to problem solve, and it encourages me to draw things that I find evocative, technically demanding, and visually appealing.”
Tradd Moore and Kot previously collaborated on Zero and Secret Avengers, but The New World pushes their creative relationship to a new level. “Aleš has a distinct, audacious, idiosyncratic creative voice that I connect with,” says Tradd Moore. “I like experiencing individual creativity; I yearn for idiosyncrasy and boldness in art and storytelling, and that’s the kind of stuff Aleš creates. He follows his passions and creative compulsions; he pours his thoughts and feelings and love and conflict on the page. I’m inspired by his creative adventurousness and his visceral connection to life and the present—it makes his stories propulsive, his characters sincere, and his artistic voice compelling to me.”
“Heather has a fierce dedication to learning, growth, and progress—personally, creatively, and socially—that is rare to behold,” says Tradd Moore. “She’s never static, never resting on her laurels. She’s always trying new things and challenging herself creatively and intellectually. She inspires me to reach outside of myself to expand my capabilities and thought. There’s a push and pull between our tastes and styles that yanks us away from creative complacency. We keep each other on our toes, and it makes for electric artwork!”
Heather Moore is an exciting new voice in comics, but she’s been involved in art and design throughout her life, with a background in fine art, art consultation, architecture, interior design, urban studies, and graphic design, and photography. She had colored a few of her husband’s pieces in the past, but this is the first time she’s working with him on an extended project. The results are breathtaking, and this exclusive preview of The New World #1 highlights their bold creative chemistry. “Maintaining a healthy work relationship with your partner can be difficult,” says Heather Moore. “But I think we’ve done a great job tackling this challenge through a process of trial and error, constant communication, and a mutual commitment to flexibility and compromise.”
“The impetus behind my choices is multi-fold,” says Heather Moore. “At times, the palettes emerge organically from a place of feeling—an emotional response to the story. Specifically, this occurs during scenes with heightened emotional interactions between characters, memories, and moments of space-time warping. My inner child often took the reins. Other times, my decisions were informed by my understanding of color theory and the historical context of colors and materials in the built environment, film, fashion, etc. Specific color selections and transitions are employed as a form of resistance, reclamation, and play.”
“Some depict control, surveillance, order, and confinement, whereas others seek to challenge these through moments of color spillage, disruption, counteraction—contesting and/or transforming borders and spatial boundaries in one way or another,” says Heather Moore. “While coloring The New World, I thought a lot about certain aspects of Katherine Shonfield’s Walls Have Feelings and a few other texts, which shaped my approach to Stella and Kirby’s respective interiors and the surrounding urban fabric. Considering the details and palimpsests of homes and cities is perhaps my favorite thing ever. I also attempted to explore the sonic quality of colors in The New World, creating noise and an aural experience through the visual interplay of colors/textures. I’m fascinated by the relationship between color and sound. I hope readers hear a lot from all of us in this story!”
This excerpt showcases that audio-visual dynamic as Stella and Kirby hit the dance floor, and the vibrant palette captures the exuberance of the music while the rendering evokes the vibration of the bass beat. This first issue is jam-packed with thoughtful, unexpected artistic choices like these, making for an unforgettable start to this story of forbidden love.