Though we haven’t seen it yet, you can feel the twist looming just behind the lush hills of Green Valley. Like a listless 30-something meeting the man of her dreams only to discover he’s a hitman, or the high-school underdog gaining mind-melting powers and transforming into a cruel despot, the knights at the center of this nine-issue maxiseries come from the mind of Max Landis. The writer and pop-culture omnivore behind such films as Chronicle and Mr. Right as well as the comic Superman: American Alien, Landis has united with Amazing Spider-Man artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, inker Cliff Rathburn, colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu and letterer Pat Brosseau to tackle what begins as a Tolkienesque fantasy romp and will end as…something substantially different. (Landis even admits the twists and genre experiments multiple times in the interview below.)
But this new project, whose first issue launches tomorrow from Image imprint Skybound, starts on a purely entertaining note. A circle of legendary knights—Gulliver, Ralphus, Bertwald and Indrid—defend their town from a volley of barbarians with incredulous finesse and arrogance. (The banter on helmet size is also especially endearing.) But solicitation copy warns that “there’s no such thing as wizards, dragons don’t exist, and nothing is as it seems in the town of Green Valley,” so prepare for a huge dose of emotionally crippling post-modernism in the very near future. But, much like Landis, we don’t wish to spoil even the lesser twists that turn this upstart comic into an engaging late-year surprise. Check the interview below for Landis’ thoughts on escapism, Medieval bromance and how he balances his comic/movie/TV-straddling career.
Paste: You came up with the concept of the comic book when you were very, very young: what age are we talking about, and how would you describe yourself as a child?
Max Landis: I was extremely excitable, and wired and very scrambled. I loved my stories though; the edges of the idea for Green Valley, the Knights of Kelodia at least, probably showed up when I was around six or seven. I had a real interest in combining iconographies, although I didn’t think of it that way back then. I was always coming up with stories about aliens and cavemen, or cowboys and zombies, that sort of stuff. Green Valley ultimately reveals itself to be an extension of that.
Paste: Green Valley also shows up on a list of every script you’ve ever written; do you usually give an idea this much iterative love over the decades? What makes this story special compared to others you’ve conceived?
Landis: The characters and the twists. The way the characters feed into the twists, more specifically. There are a couple key images in Green Valley that I find myself thinking about once a month or so; I couldn’t let that stay in my head forever. I keep coming back, also, to one of the central climactic images of Green Valley. I Google it weekly almost to make sure no one has done it yet. I am excited to be the first.
Green Valley #1 Cover Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Paste: Thinking back to the first two issues of Superman: American Alien, and a few of your movie scripts, I think you tend to start your stories from a place of romanticism, escapism or nostalgia before veering into realism. Though I’ve only read the first two issues of Green Valley, it seems like that’s the route you’re taking here as well. What’s your opinion on classic fantasy, in this process? It seems like a genre, that until recently, tends to be associated most with escapism.
Landis: Well Green Valley, thematically, is ultimately about escapism, so your point is well observed. It’s kind of unfair, when all is said and done, to call Green Valley a “fantasy.” There’s certainly fantastical elements, and yeah, you’ve got people on horses, but at the end of the day I can’t really say much about its genre without giving away spoilers.
Paste: I’m also loving the personas here, especially between Ralphus and Bertwald. Was that complex relationship of brotherhood—and if I’m reading this right, potential romance—there from the start when you were a child? How did these characters develop?
Landis: Ha! I think you’re being a little bit ambitious about the sexual politics of my comic, but I appreciate it. I wanted to do a relationship between two guys who used to be rivals, but have completely put that behind them. I often think mended fences are just as interested as broken ones; Ralphus led the army of one of Bertwald’s enemies, and them coming together as friends and allies after that leads to a dynamic that is slowly stretched and tested throughout their experience in Green Valley.
Green Valley #1 Interior Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Paste: Giuseppe Camuncoli’s an interesting pick for this series, as his previous work on Hellblazer and Spider-Man took place in urban fictions. What attracted you to him for this project?
Landis: Um he’s fucking amazing.
Paste: On a macro level, you’ve worked on massive films, you’re currently working in TV and you’re also continuing to publish comics. When you think of a story now, what dictates which medium it will be told through?
Landis: Time. My schedule is insane. If I don’t have time to fully focus and push a story through, it’s a comic. If I can dedicate 75% of myself, it’s a movie. If I’m going in 100%, it’s a TV show.
Green Valley #1 Interior Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli