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A comic book years in the making will finally hit stores this summer, and it promises to be worth the wait, if the pages below have anything to say about it.
Writer-artist J.H. Williams III, known for his work for DC and many Bat-books, has been working on Echolands with his Batwoman collaborator W. Haden Blackman for close to a decade, with the book officially being announced in 2018. Now, after some fits and starts, a side project and a personal setback, Echolands No. 1 is finally set to be published this summer from Image Comics.
“It’s been a long journey,” Williams tells Heat Vision of the duo’s creator-owned project, which will hit stores Aug. 25 with Dave Stewart on colors and Todd Klein lettering.
Echolands is a mythic fiction mashup of many things Williams and Blackman love: horror movie vampires and werewolves, classic mobsters, robots, Roman demigods, and cowboys, all in the service of telling a story about a young woman named Hope Redhood. She is a thief who, in this case, happens to steal a gem that proves to be the key to unlocking her world’s mystery, crossing the path of a tyrannical wizard in the process. Part of the title’s meaning comes from taking many genres and tropes and giving the familiar a new spin.
Williams has always made every inch of the page his canvas, with intricate and ornate layouts his calling card. Echolands will literally extend that picture as the book will be entirely in landscape, extra-widescreen, double-page spread format. But it’s not simply one giant four-quadrant panel. Williams is using the entire form to squeeze world-building and storytelling into it.
“Sometimes we’ll have 13-, 14-panel spreads,” he says. “When you see it in person, it has a sense of flow from left to right. Some pages have a mural effect, which is not something I expected. Each page is a mini-experiment, you could say.”
And as he says, he had to reorient his brain to draw pages that were not the usual dimensions, even reconsidering dialogue placement.
This in some ways puts pressure on Blackman as co-writer.
“I want to do justice to his art,” says Blackman. “So if there’s going to be text on the page, it better be good.”
The two have spent an inordinate amount of time on world-building, with Blackman leaning on the skills of his day job — president and chief creative officer of video game developer Hanger 13 — to keep track of terms and jargon, hidden histories, intricate backstories and the mysteries they hope to introduce.
Because sometimes art-heavy books can get behind schedule, the duo are working to bank issues ahead of time — they are in the middle of issue No. 7 right now — and will use breaks between arcs to recharge or catch up.
Still, after years of buildup, the duo is both excited and nervous about the project finally coming out. Blackman says August can’t come fast enough.
Williams, meanwhile, isn’t taking for granted having the chance to work on something that is his own creation.
“The closest this is in terms of scope [to anything] I’ve done before is Promethea [his turn-of-the-century comic with Alan Moore], but ultimately what I’m interested in is telling our own stories,” he says. “As fun as it is to work in the Batman or Marvel worlds, nothing quite beats creating something that is yours from the ground up.”
Check out the first few pages, plus a variant cover, below.
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