Legend is a new comic book that imagines a post-apocalyptic world ruled by previously domesticated dogs and cats. The project, which mixes up science-fiction, fantasy, horror, and social commentary, is the brainchild of writer Sam Sattin and artist Chris Koehler. The tale focuses on the exploits of Legend, the comic’s namesake English Pointer, and faithful canine pals Elsa, Herman, and Daisy as they navigate a ravished realm in an attempt to work out their place and purpose in this newly changed habitat.
Ahead of the comic’s May 4 release, I spoke to Sam about the issues with writing the world from a dog’s-eye view, the challenge of giving various breeds different personalities, and his own endlessly mischievous Beagle. Also, you can check out an exclusive, limited edition version of the cover created by Tyler Boss below (and pre-order your copy over at Fried Pie Comics).
Dogster: Why did you decide to create a comic book with dogs as the main characters?
Sam Sattin: I’ve been reading animal stories all my life. I’ve always been drawn to them. I’ve been tasked to think about why that is lately, and I think it has something to do with the fact that, first, animals have always played an important role in my life, and second, that stories with animals as main characters have always proven memorable to me.
I read a lot of books, and a lot of them end up slipping from my memory as time advances. But animal stories — Animal Farm, Watership Down, Where the Red Fern Grows, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, all of Brian Jacques’ books — those stay with me. I still remember details from them that I don’t often retain from other works. I think this has something to do with how unique and grandiose those stories can be.
Most of the animal books I’ve read tend to have quite important reasons for being written. It seems as if their authors choose them because they feel that human characters couldn’t quite convey the themes they require. Humans tend to want to view themselves as separate from the natural world. Animals, however, we view as more in tune with it, and so demand a certain kind of attention.
Did you consider using any other animals as the main characters?
To be perfectly honest, no! Legend began as an English Pointer and remained such from the project’s inception. The same goes for our Beagle, Elsa (based on my Beagle, Dolly), Daisy the Rottweiler, and Herman the Pit Bull.
One thing you might find funny is that Legend’s original name was Skittles. We had to change it out of the possibility there could be intellectual property issues. But in retrospect, it’s probably a good idea we didn’t title a comic about dogs attempting to survive the fallout from the apocalypse after signature rainbow-colored candies.
How did you go about assigning personalities to the different dog breeds?
As a dog and cat owner myself, I’ve come to notice the differences between various breeds over time, particularly as it pertains to dogs. My wife and I took my mother’s Beagle, Dolly, in after she passed away, and since then we’ve come to understand the resilience, curiosity, and mischievousness of the breed. I was amazed (and troubled) to hear about how Beagles are mistreated in lab testing, and how the breed is submissive and thus “preferred” for experimentation.
But in some ways, that perceived submissiveness speaks to the strength of the breed. They’re hearty, headstrong, and tend not to back down from frightening situations. A Beagle stands strong in the face of adversity — and frightening situations is precisely what Legend is all about.
Then, for instance, we have Herman the Pit Bull, who is tough and ready to fight, but we also want to play against the stereotyping of breeds — you’ll see in his case just how much he’s been through and how much heart he really has.
What was the trickiest part of writing and drawing the world from a dog’s point of view?
In terms of writing, I’d say the biggest challenge is attempting to understand what the priorities of dogs would be in a world that’s been obliterated by humans, their former owners. It’s one thing to try and write from an animal’s point of view, but it’s quite another to understand that point of view as it maneuvers the absence of humanity, and, in Legend’s case, the emergence of new threats they can’t quite comprehend.
In terms of art, Chris concentrates on using non-representational color in order to depict the world as viewed through the eyes of a dog. Dogs view a much more limited set of colors than most humans, based on the number of cones in their eyes. We’re attentive to that notion as we move forward throughout the series.
What sort of atmosphere were you hoping to convey with the art style?
Chris’ vision is one of completely representational color, with colors being moody. I say this in the sense that nothing in the book is colored as it would appear on a normal human spectrum. In Legend, we’ve moved past the world of human beings into something far more mysterious. I think what Chris has done with the art here is extraordinary and emotional.
Speaking of emotions, is it hard to convey them through the facial expressions of a dog?
Chris finds it easier in some ways and more difficult in others. Dogs are so much more expressive than humans. Conveying emotion on their faces is an amazing treat, as you’re able to really play with more exaggerated features like larger eyes and big, expressive mouths. With humans, you have to be much more exact about the way emotion is conveyed. It’s harder to show true sadness in a person, anyway, than it is to show in a dog. You have to be more accurate and more specific.
Finally, you mentioned owning pets yourself. Who do you have at the moment?
I have two cats — a tuxedo and a Russian Blue — and an ancient Beagle who still, at the ripe age of 15, sometimes jumps on the kitchen table or digs through the pantry at night in search of food. She’s a little slower now, but for a long time I became used to waking up with everything from bread loafs to jars of peanut butter in my bed. She’s a generous thief, and I love it.
Legend is published on May 4 by Z2 Comics. You can check out the trailer for the book below.
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