Middle-of-nowhere towns are often where the most fantastical and terrifying things happen, where a talking fox can be your paper route sidekick and the dust storms kicked up by massive gusts of wind are demons in themselves that know your name.
Welcome to Middlewest.
Brought to life by author Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland, Deadpool), and artist Jorge Corona (No 1. With a Bullet, Feathers, Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack), Middlewest follows Abel, a teen who must make his way through an ancient, unforgiving landscape and face the sorcery lying beneath the scorched farmlands to unearth his family history. Now SYFY WIRE has in on an exclusive preview of Image Comics' new and darkly enchanting series that you’ll find nowhere else.
“I’ve lived in the Midwest almost all my life. It can beautiful at times, but also very eerie and quiet and bleak,” Young said. “There are lot of things hidden out in that vast emptiness, but also the people who populate it.”
Young, who grew up watching, rewinding, and re-watching fantasies with an unexpected dark side, like The Dark Crystal, The NeverEnding Story, Labyrinth, and Don Bluth films such as The Secret of N.I.M.H. and An American Tail, wanted to bring that kind of magic to his own comic. Scenes from the actual Midwest that held a kind of supernatural quality also played into the overall aesthetic and story trajectory. Corona had only driven through the Midwest a few times, while Young had grown up surrounded by the type of backdrops that would later appear in Middlewest. Young’s reference images evoked the kind of shadowy feel they imagined while conceiving the series.
“It was then a lot of research into the most fantastical aspects we wanted to bring into the visuals,” said Corona. “It was a lot of taking from reality and pushing it into the weird kind of farmpunk style we had in mind. It was always important to keep that sense of awe and sometimes threatening feel when you find yourself in that kind of open space, mostly alone with nature.”
Magical realism is the pulse of the story that Corona and Young tell. Wizards and trolls and other beings you only find between the pages of fantasy books will be anything but stereotypical, and neither will the magic itself. You’ll just know it’s a troll when you see it. Young intends for his readers to fall under the spell of that suspension of disbelief that has you convinced what happens just happens that way in this particular universe.
“We want the reader to just buy into that without us using fantasy terminology,” he explained, with Corona adding that “we mostly wanted it to feel natural, almost like tales and legends that you would hear based on real events, always giving it that distinctive feel of the world we were creating.”
Do Corona and Young believe Middlewest is more about the demons you can see, or those that elude the naked eye? Corona sees it being about the invisible threat, that encroaching darkness that entangles itself into the story’s tangible elements as the world surrounding Abel and the other characters reflects the inner struggles they face.
Young feels similarly in that he sees it as making the monsters that gnaw away at us from the inside into visible entities that give a shape to the adverse forces lurking in dry grasses and abandoned barns. Some of these monsters have shadowed generations of a haunted family such as Abel’s.
“I think it’s about trying not to become what you know is inside you, that you’ve seen inside others,” he said. “It’s about learning that there is a fight to be had but not knowing if it’s possible to win it.”
Middlewest #1 will release November 21, with a cover by Mike Huddleston and limited-edition variant covers by Corona and Young.