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Interview: Brian Wood on The New York Five from Vertigo

The sequel to The New York Four is almost here.

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In 2008, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's The New York Four was published through Minx, an imprint of DC Comics aimed at younger readers. The plan was for four books but unfortunately, the Minx line was canceled in late 2008. Now thanks to Vertigo, the long-awaited sequel, The New York Five, will be released this Wednesday, January 26.  
We had the opportunity to ask Brian some questions about the new series and what you can expect from it. 
Comic Vine: The New York Five is a sequel to The New York Four, what was your inspiration for the first series published through Minx?
Brian Wood: The New York Four was actually a book that was pitched to me by the editor, Shelly Bond. She was starting off the Minx imprint. She approached me because she wanted a New York book. Which is, I guess, something I'm well suited for. She wanted it to be, I think she used the phrase, "an insider's guide to New York City" however I perceived that. So that's where it kind of began.   
It was just me sitting down thinking, okay, this is a young adult book, set in New York. Through various versions of pitches and drafts of emails sent back and forth I arrived at the story of the first year of college thing. 

CV: The New York Five takes place right after, right?
BW: It does. The original plan was to do four books. One book to focus on each of the four girls. This is why the first book, The New York Four, ended on a something of a cliffhanger, which has been haunting me to this day. It is also why I'm glad I get a chance to wrap it up as opposed to just leaving it hanging there. Even if I don't do the four books I can still finish the storylines I began. 

It's very much like a sequel. It picks right up where we left off. I have the recap thing in the first issue to get people up to speed. The New York Five will end the storyline. It's a sequel and a conclusion. I'm gonna play it safe and assume there won't be any books after this. (laughs
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CV: You basically have a lot of female characters here? Do you have some secret insight into the way female minds work?
BW: No. There's no secret insight, and I get asked this often. The secret is to not write them as women. It's kind of a snappy answer but what I mean by that is to just steer so clear of anything that might be a stereotype. I sort of approach them almost like gender-neutral. Once it's done, if I have to adjust anything, I can, but I usually don't. I write them pretty "normal" that way and it works out. I guess if there's anything else I have going on, I was raised by my mother and sister so if there's any in grained knowledge or sensibility I may have from that but that would be so deep in my subconscious I don't know if I could even identify it. I really just try to write them fairly straight, not try to rely on a stereotype. They're not going to go out shopping or wash each other's hair. (laughs) Nothing extreme like that. 
CV: What can you tell us about The New York Five and how will it differ from The New York Four?
BW: The biggest difference, and this isn't really that big of a difference, is the fact that now it's on the Vertigo label and out of the Minx format. There's a little more flexibility in terms of tone. I would still call The New York Five a young adult book but Minx was aimed pretty young. I feel like it was aimed at like a twelve-year-old girl, the Minx line overall. I didn't feel restricted to that now. I talked to [artist] Ryan Kelly and we knew immediately we didn't want to make it a mature book. But we could elevate the target audience and the tone and go for more of a mature story in terms of the sophistication. Not in terms of language or anything. So that's the biggest thing. It's probably more in line with a book Ryan and I did, Local, than it is with anything else. We kind of aimed for that tone.

The other thing is obviously it's called The New York Five, so there's a fifth character, which we introduce pretty much right off the bat. Other than that, like I said, it's the conclusion of the story and I really wanted to finish it off. It's not going to be that radical of a departure. 
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CV: You've worked with Ryan a bunch of times, does that make this project go faster, easier, smoother?
BW: Yeah, it does. Ryan and I have worked on every book of mine, except Demo, since we began. He's done arcs in DMZ and Northlanders. We've worked together really easily from the start. I write him a kind of script format that I write for Becky Cloonan on Demo, which is a very relaxed kind of script. It gives a lot more freedom over the page in terms of panel counts and things like that. It's a lot easier for me to write and he appreciates having the flexibility it gives him. It's a very pleasant experience. It's a lot of fun. Now we can almost read each other's mind at this point. He nails everything 99.9% of the time right on target. 

CV: Did you add any tweaks to the story? Was this the way you envisioned it when you were working on The New York Four?
BW: No, that's another big change. Like I said, the original plan was a book for each of the characters. I'm assuming I'm not going to get a chance to do four books total so for this sequel, I didn't just make it about one girl. It's about all four of them, pretty much equally. There's a degree of tweaking there. I had to sort of re-concieve some of the story, shorten it a bit, simplify them, hopefully in a very good way. I had to take a harsh look and say what might have been a hundred twenty page story for one girl now has to be just a storyline that shares that one hundred twenty pages. 
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CV: Is there a reason you're sticking with black-and-white?
BW: I guess just the continuity of it. Ryan and I like working in black-and-white. I think his art is very suited for it. It's very dense and lush, he uses a lot of tones. Our dream, I have no idea if this will happen, but our dream is at some point to have The New York Four and The New York Five in one book. Or at the very least in identical volumes on the shelf so we didn't want one to be so different from the next.  
And it keeps the cost down. This new series is a thirty-two page story inside of a thirty-two page comic. Which means there aren't any ads. So keeping it black-and-white we can keep the price at $2.99. I think it's a good balance. 
CV: Has Ryan's art style changed at all when you look at the characters from the two books?
BW: No, he keeps it pretty tight. I always think the guy gets better and better and I know he was really looking forward to this. I feel like he's put a lot of energy into this. But we want to maintain the visual continuity so it's gotta look pretty much like the first one. 
CV: This is going to begin their second semester, how much time is going to go by in the four issues?
BW: Pretty much that, a second semester. It will take them through the end of their freshmen year. 
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CV: You say you're making plans for this to be the last story, do you have other plans if sales are great and the opportunity arises?
BW: I don't have other plans in that they're not written out or anything. But originally I wanted this to be an ongoing series of books. If this does very very very well and everybody likes it and if DC wants more, I don't doubt that I could come up with more. But again, I kind of counted on that the first time. Then there was the ending and it was all up in the air for a while and I don't want to repeat that or take that risk.

Just because it's a Vertigo book, it's not a mature book. There's a lot of story in each of these issues. Every other DC book is now a twenty page book and this is thirty-two at the same price. Not to sound too much like a salesman (laughs) but I do think that's a notable thing. 
CV: Thanks Brian. 32-pages with no ads for $2.99 sounds like a great deal. Good luck on the book.