One man's post-apocalyptic wasteland is another's wild west playground. That's part of the story behind writer David Baxter and artist Javier Aranda's "Marksmen" debuting in July. Produced by Image Comics and Benaroya Publishing with a $1 cover price for the first issue, the story follow hero Drake McCoy investigating the wastelands of an Earth eighty years in the future that's not in very good shape thanks to an oil shortage followed by all-out civil war. A true adventurer at heart, McCoy enjoys exploring what's left of a world filled with survivors, intrigue and danger.
"'Marksmen's' world is set about eighty years in the future and is meant to be portrayed as a realistic, post-apocalyptic America which has sustained both an infrastructure collapse from extended recession and a terrible civil war," Baxter told CBR News. "Most of the population has died in the war or starved but there are pockets of survivors in those cities that were able to find ways to sustain themselves. The focus of the series is on the defenders of one of those cities -- New San Diego -- who are called Marksmen. These Marksmen are the descendants of Navy Seals who trained near San Diego and who defended the city when the 'Big Collapse' happened and the country fell into chaos."
Drake McCoy is one of those Marksmen -- one of the best, in fact -- but he's not exactly comfortable with the new world order of things.
"Drake McCoy is a man at odds with the technological utopia he finds himself in," Baxter said. "He's a loner in a city that is totally connected via wireless link and prefers the role of ranger in the wild, searching for lost technology that the city needs. But Drake also doesn't care to 'connect' with his fellow warriors or the scientific elite that he grew up with when he returns home."
Drake's disconnect from his fellow New San Diegans becomes all the more pronounced after running into a group of refugees from another city that managed to survive the apocalypse. However, they might not be exactly who they say they are.
"I don't want to give away too much, but the 'survivors' are not what they seem," Baxter said. "There's Joe, an old cowboy type, and his son Sean who are traveling with the beautiful and dangerous Cambria and a small group of children. They say they are refugees from Lone Star, but they have an agenda that goes beyond seeking sanctuary."
Part of that agenda includes warning Drake and the people of New San Diego about an impending threat from some of their fellow Lone Star residents whose motives are crystal clear and far from hospitable.
"The first issue deals with Drake's discovery of seeming refugees from Lone Star, another city that survived the 'Big Collapse.' He's told that an army is on the way to take New San Diego's solar power technology and he's forced to find out if it's true. Once he confirms this he learns about the leaders of Lone Star, The Duke and Deacon Glenn."
The difference between Lone Star and New San Diego, Baxter said, is based on ideas that have separated people for thousands of years: religion. New San Diego is largely atheistic and founded on scientific practices such as the solar power generators they have erected to sustain their city. Meanwhile, Lone Star is more faith-based. The Duke and Deacon Glenn plan on using that faith to spur the people of Lone Star into attacking New San Diego.
"The Duke is the master manipulator of the duo, while the Deacon actually believes that he is going to save the souls of the science-loving heathens in New San Diego -- even if they all have to die to accomplish this," Baxter said. "They represent a return to the idea of 'might makes right' which is antithetical to the kind of man Drake is. He may be a loner but he still cares for the people of his city and won't let them go undefended."
Luckily for Drake and the people of New San Diego, the Marksmen have more than training and their wits to keep them safe. In fact, they have quite a bit of surviving technology -- from their signature body armor to the all-terrain vehicles they drive. This isn't a typical tech-less future.
"There's very little tech in the series that doesn't already exist, at the very least in prototype form," Baxter said. "The idea is that most of the weapons were stockpiled by the Navy Seals and carefully doled out over the years. The only tech that has really advanced is in the wireless sector but not by much. The addition of 'shades,' basically HUD on glasses lenses is the way everyone stays connected in New San Diego. This is really only a step away from the world of today where, for example, the iPhone or Android phone keeps us all tied to each other. I've tried to keep as current as possible on new technology and include it whenever I can."
The technology helps add to the action, which is as prominent in this action-adventure story as the religious and political conflicts. Baxter was also influenced visually and from a narrative perspective by a number of movies.
"Obviously the Wild West quality of an untamed land gave some of the visual cues for the series, so Western films like 'True Grit' are an influence," Baxter explained. "'Road Warrior' and other classic post-apocalyptic films come into play. I'm a big fan of [Akira] Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' and I've done some subtle homage in the series. [John] Boorman's 'Excalibur' is a favorite film of mine as well, and I use some of the Arthurian themes in the arc of the story."
With so many influences going into the book, Baxter needed an artist who could move effortlessly between events while keeping a consistent style and storytelling flow. He paired up with Javier Aranda after seeing his work on a franchise that has traversed many of the same thematic arenas while boldly going where no man has gone before.
"I had known Javier's work on the Star Trek titles and had always been impressed with his style of visual storytelling," Baxter said. "I was thrilled when my editor, Dave Elliott, said he might be available for 'Marksmen.' He took my words and, with [inker] Gary Leach and cover artist Tomm Coker, brought the world of 'Marksmen' to life for me."
"Marksmen" #1 debuts in July for $1 from Image Comics and Benaroya Publishing.