Today at Brainstorm Comics we have something special for you! We were brought several copies of an amazing new comic called AMONG THE WILLOWS, written by Frederick locals Adam Meadors and Sam Romesburg. These guys teamed up with artists Renzo Podesta and Bruno Chiroleu to create a character-driven western story.
This book is great, but don’t just take our word for it, check out this review!
And if that’s not enough for you, we met up with Adam and Sam to discuss Among the Willows. They gave us the ins and outs of the story, their influences, the characters, and how it all came together!
So without further ado, let’s hear what they have to say.
Who are some influences in your writing, and how do you think those influences manifest themselves in Among the Willows?
Sam: I’ve said it before, but at the risk of sounding cliché, I’m a Kirkman fan. I just love very twist-heavy character driven stories, and that’s what we wanted ATW to be. This is more of a story about people than a story about the Wild West.
Adam: Well I’m a huge Star Wars fan and the one thing I absolutely love about Star Wars is the depth of the world it takes place in. I love that there’s back story for everything and how involved the story is in the lore of the universe. I believe it serves to make the main story of Star Wars even more epic. You know every little detail out there in the galaxy far far away hangs in the balance of the events happening in the story. Secondly, Star Wars is a saga and I LOVE sagas. It’s seeing the long path of the hero from beginning, middle, and end. Seeing the journey play out, all the triumphs and hardships, that is what makes a worthy ending. It’s hard to relate these to Among the Willows, since there’s only one issue out currently, but these two elements are hugely influential to me when writing this story. I want to build this world our characters live in. Expand it out beneath the feet of the main story. Make it living and breathing, paying attention to all the little nooks and corners of the story. All this to build up to the vision and scope I see Among the Willows in. In my mind I view Among the Willows as a western saga. A tale of great ethos, pathos, and logos.
When and how did you decide to start writing Among the Willows?
Were you avid comic readers prior? What are some of your favorite books?
Sam: We definitely both grew up with comics. Adam is definitely more of the avid modern reader, however I do ok for myself! I think most of my comic days were growing up reading the comic strips in the newspapers that came to my house. I have every Calvin and Hobbes strip in book form and I read them to this day. As far as comic culture, any interest I have is credited directly to my Dad. My dad grew up a super fan and is actually an incredible artist as well. He’s like a comic encyclopedia. (And how our books got to Brainstorm! – Thanks Dad!) That being said, my interest in writing is directly from my Mom. She’s a career educator, and was a journalist in the military for a little bit as well. Needless to say, before I turned papers in at school growing up, chances are they had been edited until I got the final blessing from the Momma. At the time it wasn’t the best, but I couldn’t be more thankful now! (Yes, I sent these answers to her to edit before sending them back. Old habits!) Favorite books: Lately, just really good character driven thought provoking books. Southern Cross, Kill or Be Killed, Y the Last Man and The Walking Dead are currently what are taking up my time.
Adam: The concept was created by Sam and I in late 2013 but that’s all it was – there was not flesh and barely any bones to it at all. In the time afterwards, Among the Willows was always an idea that we would come back to every now and again and hash new story’s out. Through time it slowly took form but it wasn’t a priority in our lives. Around early 2016 or so Sam sent me a rough draft script that would eventually become issue one, and after reading it I immediately was sold on the idea of actually making this a real comic book. That is when it officially became a priority. Growing up I was always attracted to comics but rarely had the opportunity to read any. But when I did I would read them over and over again. There was one that was a staple of my childhood and that was Calvin and Hobbes. I owned and had read every collection by the time I was in third grade. When I was in middle school I brought my copy of the comic adaptation of Attack of the Clones to school and while I was reading it a girl made fun of me in front of the whole class, embarrassing the hell out of me. After this event I lost touch with the medium until I turned 20. At this time I had a job and expendable income and slowly but surely I rekindled my love for comics. All in all looking back at this I believe it is a life lesson nearly a decade in the making, be unabashedly yourself. If you like something, LIKE it.
So the main characters are Adam and Sam, maybe not-so-coincidentally. Were the names a chance to project yourselves into a comic book world? What traits do you think Adam and Sam share with you guys, as their real world counterparts?
Sam: Sort of? I think it started out that way. In all honesty this story was born out of an extremely elaborate joke Adam and I were telling each other while on the road during one of our bands tours. We thought it was funny to imagine us as cowboys in this crazy funny story – however from there the story began to manifest and take shape into something far more serious and cool and I think the names just stuck through the process. However I hardly ever think of our characters as Sam and Adam, more so “Mathis and Dawson” whenever we speak about the book. That being said, much like with the names, I think our characters started out with our personality traits then evolved over time. There are definitely parts of each of us still embedded in these two, but at this point they are absolutely their own characters. I think
Adam: So this is a remnant from the very birth and conception of Among the Willows. It was born out of being in a band and going on tour. In attempts to kill down time on a long drive or before a show started we’d build these characters and create stories for them. The names Sam Mathis and Adam Dawson were cowboy names we made for ourselves in the very beginning. Speaking for myself, I look at Adam Dawson as his own character. While we might share the same first name I can say morally and philosophically we are apart. All the characters in Among the Willows are products of their time and their environments. I can attest Adam Dawson and myself (Adam Meadors) have two very different lives.
How long do you see Among the Willows going? Is it a mini-series or a “until we run out of story” type of thing like The Walking Dead?
Sam: We have it sectioned into 3 main arcs – each comprised of 6 volumes, each volume containing 6 issues. So if all goes well and we can financially continue to crank these things out, a little over 100. Or maybe cut a little bit to hit exactly 100. Basically, the story definitely has a planned end already, however it’s way off in the future. That being said, the road to get that far in comics is so so difficult and practically unheard of on a first book, but Adam and I are gonna make thing until we physically can’t anymore. We want it for us someday to look back on and remember this crazy story we wrote as friends.
Adam: Among the Willows is an ongoing series. We know where it’s going and we have an idea how it will end. How long it will take to get to that end is unknown. In the world of indie comics where the next issue can take years to come out and other books simply disappear over night, it’s hard to say what the future will hold but we both know this is a story we want to tell and will give arm and leg to see it through.
The art in this series is really something special. How did you hook up with Bruno Chiroleu and Renzo Podesta?
Sam: I really don’t think enough can be said about Bruno Chiroleu and Renzo Podesta – these two take this whole endeavor to a level we didn’t think we could reach (especially at our first go at comics). I found Bruno through a google search of all places. I was looking into comic artists and page rates and how the whole comic process goes down when we were first starting out when I stumbled across Bruno’s deviant art page. I immediately sent it all to Adam and we were sold. After a few emails back and forth not only did we land an artist, but with him he brought his close friend Renzo to tackle the colors. ATW started out as two great friends with a story, and turned into two sets of great friends creating it. They’re both from Argentina and have been super active in comics for years. Bruno right now works on his book “Revista Terminus” (Spanish speaking audience – check it out!!) and Renzo is always working on something crazy and awesome – it’s hard to keep track! He actually colored the Image published book “27”’ awhile back.
Adam: So as I’ve stated before this is our very first comic book. We had no clue where to start from or how to go about this. We did what you do when you don’t know how to do something, we turned to google! We simply started off googling “comic book artists” and we found a good bit. Going through portfolios and emailing a few. Most turned up to dead ends or not too excited. We eventually had it narrowed down to two. There was this old school marvel head from the silver age and Bruno. While discussing the book with the first option he seemed to be quite squeamish and afraid of the graphic route our book was heading in. Going as far as asking us “There won’t be any decapitations will there?” This being a huge turn off for us looked deeper into Bruno. Upon first glance at his portfolio one of the first panels he had displayed was in fact a man getting his head cut off. We really liked his style and after talking to him more he was very helpful and gave us some good rookie advice. We pitched the book to him, sent him a script and soon we got working on issue one. When it came time to find a colorist we had found a panel in Bruno’s portfolio that we absolutely loved the color on. So we inquired who that was and it turned out to be his good friend Renzo Podesta. So to say, the stars really aligned on all this for us.
Without giving away too much, the series begins with Adam and Sam playing a game of cards juxtaposed with a flashback to a tender moment between Sam and his father. The contrast between the innocence of childhood and the more irresponsible act of gambling at a saloon is an important thing to note. Why did you decide to have the series start with those two specific events?
Sam: Ha! This is such a great observation – that particular contrast may have been unintentional, but something I couldn’t be happier that we’re conveying in some way. A lot of our story has to do with this contrast, so I love that you got that from the first scenes.
We absolutely wanted to show the kind of life our characters have steered themselves into in their adulthood, my main reason for the card scene in particular was to sort of pay homage to the great westerns I loved growing up, and how the main protagonists of those stories were introduced. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid started with a game of poker, Doc Holiday’s entrance scene in Tombstone was over a game as well. In fact – the hand Dawson wins with in our comic is the same hand/situation Clint Eastwood wins with in the opening poker scene of “For a Few Dollars More”. I was extremely influenced by the “Dollars” trilogy growing up, and I think it’ll be heavily reflected in issues to come. As far as the flashback, it was the quickest way to get the reader to see Mathis’ father, and to find out he’s been missing and presumed dead since that scene.
Adam: When we first started writing the book we always wanted to pay homage to the western movies we love with the opening rightfully being the first. It’s just like so many other scenes, a game of cards in a saloon, what could be more classic western? The contrast between the the opening scene and the first flashback is huge. As co-writer I can say that it wasn’t intended to be that way, we were just moving the story along and trying to build this world up that is so vivid in our minds. The primary purpose of the flashback is to introduce John Mathis, who plays the role of the mentor, the wise elder trope that all the classic stories have. John delivers his parting words to his son Sam “Do what’s right.” As the story unfolds we’ll see the ways in which these words have resonated in the two main characters through the years. Doing what one thinks is morally right isn’t always looked at the same way by another.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to say about Among the Willows or comics in general?
Sam and Adam: We couldn’t be more excited on what we’re doing! With every issue we write we get even more and more hooked on the story. We really want to create something for everyone here. The span of the book only broadens with each issue, I can assure you that! I feel as if our generation (being millennial) and the younger generation have more or less thrown the western genre into the middle aged white guy end of the pool. That the genre has nothing there for them and frankly I don’t blame them one bit. The genre is known to uphold many negative stereotypes, racism, and to be very misogynistic. Sam and I both came to acknowledge this fact not long after we finished the script of issue one. We set forth with the goal of writing a story true to the core roots of the genre but shaped in the way we look at the world. As I said, something for everyone.
A big thank you to Sam and Adam for taking the time to talk to Brainstorm about their new book, and we’re excited to read issue TWO!
At Brainstorm right now we have SIX copies of #1 for sale! Three of the issues are signed, so get here quickly!
If we happen to run out, you can also grab them directly at this link!