The following is an interview with Quinton Peeples (Runaways, Iron Fist, Flashforward, The Last Ship, Unforgettable) regarding the release of his graphic novel, The Big Country, from publisher Humanoids. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Peeples about the inspiration behind the graphic novel, his creative process in working with artist Dennis Calero to bring the story to life, his unique approach to melding the Western and noir genres, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your debut graphic novel, The Big Country, through publisher Humanoids! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the graphic novel’s premise?
Quinton Peeples: The Big Country is a Texas noir story that revolves around a small-town sheriff who has trouble apprehending a killer because of his own complicated inner life.
BD: Given your Texas roots, what inspired you to tell this story, and what can you tell us about your shared creative process in working with illustrator Dennis Calero?
QP: The inspiration for the story came from my childhood in Texas and the people I grew up around. Everyone in the book is based on an actual person, including Grissom. I was friends with a young man whose grandfather and father had both been in law enforcement, and he was headed to the police academy, as well. A single family being “the law” in a town got my creative juices flowing, and off I went. As for my collaboration with Dennis, I just tried to stay out of the way and be a cheerleader. He’s a trained professional with an impressive skillset. I was available for questions, but wanted him to make this his own. Otherwise, what’s the point of collaboration? The artist does all of the heavy lifting in comics, so I wanted him to enjoy his time on the project by giving him leeway to express himself and have fun.
BD: The Big Country deftly interweaves the noir and Western genres. Do you feel that these disparate genres provided specific tools to you as a storyteller in bringing the story to life?
QP: Both genres deal heavily in male myths – tragic loners, the power of violence, and untrustworthy women who need rescue. I was interested in undermining this mythology while telling a very traditional crime story. So, the genres provided the familiar architecture necessary for me to do something unusual. It starts out as a crime story that deepens into a meditation on violence and its devastating effects, both public and private.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from The Big Country, and do you feel that your working in the sequential art medium (as opposed to TV or film) allowed you to convey a message that may not have had the same impact through another medium?
QP: All great noir stories send you hurtling towards the ending with spare, direct storytelling and then haunt you afterwards because of their tragic characters. I hope The Big Country does just that – keeps you turning the pages and then lingers on the edge of your consciousness for a long time. And I do believe that comics provide an opportunity to tell stories that unfold in a more interior way than movies or television. The conversation is more private – I am speaking directly to an individual reader, and they are allowed to control the experience in a way that isn’t allowed in filmed media. It’s what I love about comics – lingering over a panel or a page. Putting it down, waiting until just the right moment to pick up the story again. There’s simply nothing else like it. The Big Country has passages that are silent. It is very rare that anyone lets you stretch moments out like that, but comics thrive when they are simple visual storytelling controlled by the reader.
BD: What makes Humanoids the perfect home for this graphic novel?
QP: I was interested in doing this with Humanoids for one reason only – quality. The quality of their books across the entire line is unparalleled. The actual object that they create – the book – is always beautiful. The content inside that object is adult, sophisticated, and worth every penny. And then, of course, to be included in a long line of inspirational figures like Moebius, Jodorowsky, Druillet – it was a dream come true.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
QP: Unfortunately, I don’t have any comics work currently in the pipeline, but would love to do more. As far as television is concerned, there are a couple of things on the verge of announcement, so keep your eyes peeled!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about The Big Country?
QP: If you love multi-layered stories filled with complicated characters that keep you guessing, then The Big Country is for you.