Alex de Campi, Carla Speed McNeil, and Jenn Manley Lee have teamed up to create one of the best young adult reads this year, No Mercy. Fresh out of high school, a group of young adults travel to Central America to build schools. After landing in a new and strange country, things take a turn for the worse. Make sure to pick up your copy of No Mercy today and find out what happens next!
The story is like nothing I’ve read before, have you been to Central America before? How did you come up with the story line?
Alex: I’ve travelled a lot. Spent five years in Hong Kong, a year in Manila, some time in Argentina and Mexico City… London for a decade, plus some Eastern Europe… driven from NYC to Mexico City (that was fun)… and that’s on top of summers off from college where I tried to keep it more low-key by doing dumb shit like sneaking across the Russian border. So I’ve been that idiotic teen treating the rest of the world as her playground. I deserved to be thrown in jail. Coming back to the US for me after a good 17 years or so abroad wasn’t really coming home… it was coming to a foreign country that I only dimly remembered, where all the ads on TV during the news were for erection aids and pickup trucks, and there was such a thing as an Almond Joy martini. NO MERCY, for me, is processing a lot of that… creating an adventure / survival story in the classic Sam Peckinpah mode, but then also following on to the consequences of that adventure, both for the kids and for those around them.
We are left with a lot of questions at the end of issue #4, without giving too much away, what’s ahead for readers in issue #5?
Alex: Some answers, though perhaps not the ones you want, or as complete as you want them. Mistrust. Manhandling. And a pretty severe maiming. This book is planned out very far in advance. While of course we freestyle a bit and wander from our path, we have been laying the groundwork for a lot of the things that were coming from Issue 1.
A few topics, like the coke found in the bag quickly disappear and don’t become huge issues at the time. How do problems like that play into the stories going forward?
Alex: I love that scene, Charlene’s big reveal and all the kids just shrug and are like, “whatever.” It’s fun to twist a scene like that. All I have to say is that everything introduced is deliberate, and will have a payoff later down the line.
How far in advance do you plan out issues? Do you have the next 20 issues in mind? Next 10?
Alex: We’ve written up through Issue #9 (the end of this current arc), and I’ve mapped out in detail the next two arcs (so another 8-10 issues) and I have a good idea of the high points of the final two arcs. And, of course, the ending / resolution for every character.
One of the things that drew me to No Mercy was the bright and colorful artwork. What are the influences behind the artwork?
Jenn: For the colors, I looked to the flora of Central America initially with the super vibrant flowers and subdued greens on browns. I then expanded that by looking at the textiles of the region, which also guided me in some of the color combinations.
Do you find that because readers are binge watching TV shows, they feel the need to binge read your graphic novels?
Alex: I think because like a really good cable show, we always end on a huge cliffhanger, there is an urge to binge-read us more than others. It’s that itchy finger “next episode starts in 15 seconds” / OH GO ON THEN instinct. I know our trade sold really, really well and we regularly get emails about “when is #5 coming out?!”. (We had an extra month off because my Gmail decided that Eric Stephenson’s email about solicits for Nov was SPAM, and ate it while I was at SDCC. Thanks, Gmail.)
Jenn: I do think there is a new approach to serialized fiction in general where people like to feel free the experience or consume it as they please, either binging or savoring an episode at a time. Though often, after binging on a season or series, if they are totally hooked, they will look eagerly forward to each subsequent installment and take them as they come, an episode or issue at a time.
What other comics are you guys working on?
Alex: I have three miniseries coming out next year and none have been announced yet. *Weeps*. But soon, my pretties… soon. Meanwhile you can of course pick up Carla and my first work together, which appears in my GN Smoke/Ashes, or my other recent books: Archie vs. Predator and Grindhouse (all, Dark Horse). I also do a fantasy thriller coming, Valentine, on Comixology and Thrillbent — perfect for reading on your phone.
Jenn: Beyond my own web comic, Dicebox, I’m pretty much coloring and set to color about everything Carla is drawing the next year or so, give or take the odd cover or anthology short story.
Our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us, so what comic books and graphic novels do you guys “nerd out” about?
Alex: It takes me a long time to read comics because I’m super broke so have to wait until the library gets them, or I do a books swap with a friend. The books that mean the most to me are Naoki Urasawa’s PLUTO and MONSTER; Jaime Hernandez’ LOCAS; Junji Ito’s UZUMAKI; Bilal’s NIKOPOL and LE SOMMEIL DU MONSTRE books. And FINDER, of course. I like a ton of things and my influences dart from Shoujo manga like MARS to books like NEXUS, but if you really want to get where my visual storytelling comes from, you’ll look at some of the books I mentioned here.
Jenn: I generally nerd out about an artist’s work, in specific the works of Jaime Hernandez, Posey Simmonds, Evan Dahm and many others I am surely forgetting.
NO MERCY #5 is now available for purchase.