For years, many a comic book publisher has courted superstar Bill Willingham, but the writer’s longtime exclusivity contract with DC required the writer to stay in-house until now. When Willingham became available and was approached about writing a book for IDW, he agreed on the condition that the publisher secure Gene Ha to draw it. IDW delivered, and CBR News caught up with Willingham to get the details on his upcoming fantasy series, “Back Roads.”
The title of the series refers to the entry points to a multiverse of fantasy worlds. “The Back Roads are the interdimensional avenues that connect every world in existence,” Willingham said. “How the roads work is a closely guarded secret just now, but for practical reasons for our two main characters, once you are shown how to walk the Back Roads by someone who already knows how, then you will know how to recognize them and access them from then on. In fact, once you are shown the Back Roads, you might wonder how you didn’t notice them all along, since they are clearly there for anyone to see, plain as the nose on your face.”
The two main characters Willingham refers to are Peter Rook and Lera Fell. Rook is a listless traveler, and Fell is “the lovely woman who shows him how to recognize and travel the Back Roads, finally providing Peter a real setting for his terminal wanderlust.” And Willingham said that new main characters would be introduced along the way.
But even for those well-versed in these interdimensional byways, losing one’s way is all too easy. “It’s vital when wandering the Back Roads to keep a clear and accurate journal of your path,” Willingham explained. “Travelers call these journals their ‘rutters,’ and stealing the rutter of another is a popular sort of crime among Travelers.”
Willingham and Ha have had a mutual admiration for each other’s work for many years, and have been trying to collaborate on a project for almost as long. “Since we were both at DC Comics for most of that time, we both naively thought it would be easy to do something together there,” Willingham said. But this was not as easy as the creators had hoped. “For reasons I am still unable to understand, and therefore explain, Gene and I both had to go outside of DC in order to be allowed to work together. IDW came along at the right time and the rest is history -- actually the rest is the future.”
“[Ha] draws like a mad genius and the coolest aspect about "Back Roads" so far is an idea he contributed to the collaboration,” Willingham said. “I only wish I was a better writer to better measure up to his abilities.”
The fantasy worlds that our heroes can visit are limited only by Willingham and Ha’s imaginations. “Anything and anyone can potentially be encountered along these Back Roads,” Willingham told CBR News. The creators intend to weave their windy tale over the course of multiple mini series. “We’ll do as many stories as readers are willing to support and Gene is willing to continue to draw,” Willingham told CBR News. “Each mini series will be something from, ‘The Life and Adventures of Peter Rook, and his loyal companion Iago.’ Make of that what you will.”