Steve Lieber and Jeff Parker discuss how they teamed up with Image for their upcoming series, Underground; set to release this Wednesday.
Andre Lamar: For those unfamiliar with Underground, can you give them a brief synopsis of the plot?
Steve Lieber: Wesley Fischer is a Park Ranger and avid caver in Marion, Kentucky. She wants to stop Stillwater Cave from being turned into a tourist trap but, a lot of the people of Marion disagree.
Jeff Parker: When a local bigwig sends some guys to start blasting in the cave opening to make it more tourist-friendly, Wes and Seth, a fellow ranger, investigate. And that’s when the confrontation spirals into a deadly chase deep under the Kentucky mountains.
AL: How did you and Jeff come together for this project?
JP: Steve looked across the studio to where I was sitting and said “Hey. Story me.”
AL: When did you and Jeff begin working on this comic?
SL: It’s been stewing for years.
AL: At any point did you consider taking a different direction with the art, such as attempting a more cartoony or photo-realistic look?
SL: I think I knew the look I wanted from pretty early on. I’d done a sort of test story or pilot episode about Wesley and Seth for the Four Letter Worlds anthology, and liked the look and feel I had there.
JP: And then I said “draw it real good.”
SL: Well yeah, that too.
JP: I don’t think Steve has ever been interested in photo-realism, but he is using a LOT more live models and real locations in this job than I’ve ever seen him do. It really gives the story authenticity.
AL: Likewise, did Jeff ever take a different direction with the script? If so what changes were made?
JP: We talked it out a lot first, so Lieber knew what to expect. At first I suggested that this all go down at a cave in a nudist colony…
SL: I told him that shit wouldn’t work.
JP: … and then we settled on the Appalachian mountains. I like having the chance to go more realistic and regional for once in a book.
AL: I understand Image Comics is publishing Underground. Although Image is diverse in their array of books from Back to Brooklyn to Elephantmen, was there another potential publisher for this series?
SL: There was a Belgian publisher that had heard about the project and was interested, but that didn’t work out.
JP: In the end, I don’t think there’s any better place for a story like this than Image. We love books like Walking Dead and Viking, and I think the folks who are picking those books up will like ours as well.
AL: How did Image respond to Underground’s concept?
SL: I wasn’t there when Parker showed it to Eric Stephenson at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle.
JP: These things go smoother when Lieber’s not around. I ran into Jay Faerber and told him I couldn’t get in touch with Eric Stephenson at Image, so he solved that for me lickety split. And I had the first two issues there to show Eric who threw a thumb up right away.
SL: Yeah, the first I heard was when you came over to me when I was talking to Eric Trautman and Brandon Jerwa. I couldn’t tell if you were saying you’d just shown it to Image or that they’d just said yes. The Con was crazy busy. Either way, I think the real credit here has to go to Tom Peyer.
JP: Yeah. Peyer doesn’t even know about this book, but I don’t want him to feel left out either.
SL: Yes, knowing where to find a publisher is the first step to selling your project. And that’s one to grow on.
SL: The lack of overt villainy. You’d never know it from talking to Parker, but he’s got a lot of sympathy for people in tough positions.
JP: Well, I do work in the comics industry. I do try to see multiple sides of an issue though, or reverse-engineer how someone ends up in a bad place.
SL: Parker’s generous like that. It’s like he’s running a literary soup kitchen. I’m the guy behind the steam table with a ladle and a weird nickname.
AL: Overall is there a particular theme in the book?
JP: Man vs. Hole!
SL: Technology vs. Horse.
JP: Man vs. Nature, Man, and Ignorance.
SL: Yeah there’s a bunch of answers to that question, but it gets kind of redundant if we’re the ones answering.
AL: Can we expect other projects from you and Jeff in the future?
SL: Oh hell yeah.
Lieber also keeps mentioning the notion of doing a boxing story, but I’m not really feeling it. I’d maybe like to do something set in another country next.
AL: Aside from Underground, what other comics will you be working on?
SL: Underground‘s the only thing on my plate I can talk about right now. There’s a big project coming up that I have to keep quiet about. Once my current commitments are wrapped up though, I’d love to jump in on another superhero title for a while. I miss the monthly thing.
JP: I am writing Agents of Atlas and many other things for Marvel right now. Another favorite project that came out recently was Mysterius the Unfathomable with artist Tom Fowler, soon to be collected by Wildstorm. Those are two of my faves that I hope readers look up.
AL: Thanks guys, for taking the time to talk with me!
SL: Any time, thanks!
JP: Thank you!