Middlewest #1: An interview with Jorge Corona
Middlewest #1 is out today, and if you can find it, you should pick it up. It’s a hard read, full of fear and brokenness; but, it’s a fascinating introduction to what looks to be a deeply personal fantasy. I recently corresponded with series artist Jorge Corona about his work on Middlewest, and here’s what we talked about.
Brian Warshaw: This is a hard book to read, because the relationship between Abel and his father is so broken. [After No. 1 with a Bullet] What made you decide to take on another emotionally difficult book?
Jorge Corona: Honestly, a lot of different things. First of all, Skottie and I had been trying to work on a project together for a few years now, and when I heard the story for Middlewest, it was very hard to say no. Secondly, I love stories where the physical journey is just a vehicle for the more emotional one. There’s a lot of real moments in this book, but there’s a lot of fantasy and adventure in it, too. I thought it was a great balance after NOWAB.
BW: Your aesthetic on Middlewest is not quite as sharp and angular as I recall on NOWAB, or even Nightwing and We Are Robin. Your characters aren’t quite as distorted. Were you making a conscious choice to soften things for this story?
JC: That’s how I like to approach books whenever I’m allowed. Every story and every book is different, and I like to come up with a distinctive personality for each one. For Middlewest, the main thing was to translate the roughness of the environment into the visual language as well. Lots of nature and organic forms, but with a linework that was more expressive than any of my previous works.
BW: This book obviously has a bit of fantasy and magic to it, and we get to see some glimpses of that—most prominently with the giant storm monster. As an artist, is Skottie giving much direction on what he has in mind for that stuff, or is he leaving it up to you?
JC: The great and terrifying thing about working on this book was collaborating with Skottie, an artist that I’ve admired for a long time. But the process was great. Skottie gave me free range in terms of bringing my own thing to it, making sure that it felt my own. We’ve obviously have had back and forths when we were creating the characters, but it was always more of a jam session than anything else.
BW: I want to ask about one sequence in particular. Throughout the book, your perspective always puts Abel beneath his father, looking up at him. Even when Abel is the only character in the panel, we’re looking down on him. Now, I would expect that when he shouts @#%! YOU at the loudest, that you might go for a more imposing perspective, almost to match the power of his words. But you subvert my expectations, and instead continue to have us looking down. That really emphasizes Abel’s weakness compared to his dad’s wrath. Were you making a conscious effort to maintain that—to keep Abel below his dad at all times?
JC: Yes, for the majority of the book I tend to keep Abel below eye level. His character, and his journey, is definitely one of overcoming obstacles and for a boy, especially in this surrounding, the world seems to be too big for him. With his dad, and that particular scene, even though that was a moment of rebellion, it still came from a place of insecurity and ultimately did nothing to level the field between the two characters.
BW: What kind of script does Skottie give you? Full, or more general “Marvel-style”?
JC: It’s definitely a full script. There are some moments here and there that I get to set the pace for some sequences. In general the collaboration has been smooth and we tend to play to each other's strengths.
BW: Jean-Francois definitely adds some relative “softness” as well, compared to the way Jen [Hickman] colored NOWAB. It’s less stark, more rendered here. Did you tell Jean what you had in mind, or is what we’re seeing all him?
JC: At the very beginning, both Skottie and I had an idea into what we thought we could do color-wise, but as soon as we set Jean loose we realized how off we were, haha. Jean has definitely brought a lot of personality to the book. In terms of how different it is from NOWAB, it goes back to that figuring out how to tell the story in the best way possible, and what general feel of the book we wanted, and these two books are polar opposites in terms of theme and genre.
BW: Nate is obviously one of the best in the business—particularly at matching his font choices, balloons, colors, and sound effects with the artwork. Did you guys have much back and forth during the process, or was he pretty much set loose to do his thing?
JC: It was less of a back and forth and more Nate playing around with different styles until we found the right one. We did know that we wanted something a little bit more distinctive for the letter treatment in the book, and having Nate certainly made it easy to get there.
BW: Is there anything you can tell me about the next issue?
JC: I don’t want to go into too much detail but, from issue #2 and on is when we get to see more of that journey that Abel is embarking on, lots of new characters and situations that will expand on the fantasy aspect of Middlewest.
My great thanks to Jorge for taking the time. His artwork in Middlewest #1 is excellent, and the rest of the book is, too. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t already.