An Interview with the Creators of Image’s Newest Hit Comic, Little Bird

Little Bird #1 is available now.

By Zack Quaintance — Little Bird #1 was published yesterday by Image Comics, marking the debut of one of the most imaginative and madcap new series I’ve come across in some time. As I wrote in my Little Bird #1 review, this is a great first issue comic made with a high level of craftsmanship. Simply put, it’s not to be missed.

I liked it so much, in fact, that I was compelled to learn more about the book’s creators. So, I reached out to writer Darcy Van Poelgeest and artist Ian Bertram to literally ask them who exactly are you people and how did you come together to make something so damn good? They were gracious enough to answer that silly question (along with several others). Their answers are below.

Let’s check it out...

Q: Thank you both so much for your time. I read (and loved) Little Bird #1, and I’m excited to learn more about you and your process. Can I start by asking for those who are unfamiliar...who exactly are you people and how did you come together to make something so damn good? 

DVP: I’m a writer and filmmaker and Little Bird is my first trek into the comics-verse. Ian is by far more interesting than I am so I’ll probably just leave it at that. As far how we met; I sort of want to spin something more interesting than the truth here and tell you that Ian and I met on a dating site or something but the truth is I saw his work online and emailed him. After a few extended conversations and a script it was on.

Ian: What can I say about the one and only Darcy Van Peolgeest. He’s a genius. He’s a gentleman. He’s a warrior and truth teller. He’s pure. He. Is. Batman.

And we met when Darcy reached out to me about 5 years ago with the first concept for Little Bird. We just inspired each other and went from there. It’s been a great trip.

Q: I was blown away by the sheer amount of story packed into this debut comic. I did my best in our review to tell the audience why they should read this book, but before we get into other questions about process, what's the pitch for Little Bird #1 you might give to someone wondering whether they should check it out?

DVP: LITTLE BIRD follows a young resistance fighter who battles against an oppressive American Empire while searching for her own identity. A story about a girl who’s been born into a war she can’t quite understand and her journey to end the war and find out who and what she really is. As long as you’re not easily offended - I’m pretty sure most everyone can find a window into this story or just kick back and enjoy the insanity that we’ve created.

Ian: First off, thank you for such an excellent review. One of the things Darcy and I wanted to do was drop the reader into a fully formed world with just a compass. No map. Why are there insane surreal monsters lurking in the basement of this sci-fi prison? What are their monstrous stories? Darcy and I have our ideas about who they are, but it’s so much more fun to let the reader craft their stories. It’s showing the tip of iceberg. Underneath the waves is a vast Lovecraftian shape dropping away from sight and into the ice deep. 

Q: One of the things I really loved about Little Bird was the interesting pastiche of thematic interests, ranging from nationalism to religion to incarceration to man vs. nature...I could keep going. And I think the same can be said of the aesthetic. Yet it all coheres so nicely. With that in mind, what was the collaborative process like and how communicative were you during the writing/illustrating of this book?

DVP: I think the collaboration between Ian and myself is really at the heart of this whole thing, and we’ve discussed this quite a bit. Coming from film my approach was to have everyone as involved as possible. Not to hand off a script and have it continue down an assembly line but to have the script be a living document from where we all worked. That included getting notes and ideas from Ian to add back into the script or just letting him do his thing on certain scenes. I prefer to discuss as much of it as possible because as a director that’s where I was most comfortable - walking through the scene, seeing how Ian felt about it while getting his ideas and working them in so that he’s adding his own voice in there as a storyteller. This extends to the whole team. Everyone was encouraged to have a voice in this. As far as all the thematic interests... I have a very busy mind.

Ian: Agreed. This really was a true collaboration. We felt like we could try anything, which really opened everything up. Nothing was sacred and nothing was profane. We found our characters and world together. Ha, we really spoiled each other, and there is no going back.

Q: Darcy, as I understand it this is your first comic. How did the creative process for you differ from working in film? 

DVP: Well as I suggested in the last question, it didn’t differ too much in terms of a creative approach. I think in the first issue I tried to do bit more of what I thought it meant to “make a comic” but by the second issue I was able to throw that away a bit (with a lot of encouragement from Ian) and just started working in a way I was more comfortable. That gave Ian more freedom to bring his voice into it as well. Comics are a more intimate format. There’s a creative freedom in working with a small team like this but at the same time being able to achieve something story-wise that would call for a large budget in a film. It was a very freeing experience.

Q: Little Bird #1’s story felt really compressed in a good way to me, a way that’s unique to comics. With only five chapters to work within, how did you both decide what to pack into this first installment, in terms of what to reveal and what to leave for later in the story?

DVP: There’s a lot of comics that would have broken that up into two issues but, and this is maybe a strange thing to say, comics are fucking expensive and we wanted everyone to just get a ton of bang for their buck. It was also important to spend enough time with Little Bird in that first issue so that people become invested in the character. I read a lot of first issues where even though I like a lot of what’s going on; in terms of how the story has been set up, but I don’t give shit about the character so I don’t bother picking up the next one.

And when it comes to deciding what makes it in and what doesn’t… I leave a lot out at times. I’d rather the reader have questions than answers they don’t need. Anyway, I’m rambling. Quick, Ian - say something smart!

Ian: Darcy blew me away by how he was able to pace this book. I would base my pages on his script, and then he would look at the pages I turned in and retrofit the script to the pages. I tried to pack as much visual information into these pages as possible. I wanted to overload readers, and then give them a space to breath. But Darcy brought this to a whole new level. He writes beautifully and the reader knows they are in good hands. Hands that will guide them through a strange and violent world with care.

Q: Ian, I was absolutely floored by the sheer imagination in the artwork, from the clothing to the genetic enhancements we see on some of the characters. I could cite some visual inspirations I thought I saw, but I’d rather just come out and ask: what were some of the works that inspired you in creating Little Bird?

Ian: Thank you! One thing that I did with Little Bird was avoid comics as forms of inspiration. I wanted to have Little Bird be an opportunity to delve into the subconscious and pull out whatever was the most striking. I know there are near infinite numbers of influences floating around down there (every first kiss, every secret, every lie, every death, every dream, every fear, all wrapped in flesh and tentacles and tree bark). I just wanted to see what strange brew would be brought back to the surface. As a general rule anything that made me uncomfortable had to be included. 

Q: Darcy, I guess I’ll ask the same question of you...this is an almost aggressively original world and story, as a writer, were you thinking of any narratives—fictional or otherwise—while scripting this book?  

DVP: I really wasn’t thinking of any existing work unless it was Ian’s. I studied his work and I wrote for him. I treated it as though I work for him and my job is to deliver something to him that inspires him to do great work.

Q: For readers like me who have already finished and loved the first issue, can you tell us anything about what we should expect as Little Bird continues?

DVP: Expect some really gorgeous storytelling from Ian. Expect something vaguely familiar that arrives from a uniquely personal place.

Ian: We definitely keep up the pace as the book goes on. It’s a full tilt ride. Also we really cement the weird physics of the world. Which allows us to experiment with setting and narrative in cool ways.

Q: This comic felt like a bit of a statement for you both within comics, announcing your arrival to broader audiences. I think it’s going to be huge, and, because comics is such a forward-looking medium, I’m already wondering what your ideal follow up projects would be if you had your pick. Anything in mind?

DVP: I’m working on another dream project. I think we tried something interesting with Little Bird and my only goal now is to just push that further. Learn from this experience and make something even more honest, and more fun the next time around. I’m just exploring right now and I’m as curious as anyone to see where it all goes.

Ian: Thank you! I really hope people enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it. Without saying too much there is something next for Darcy and I.

Q: Finally, this is a five-issue miniseries but the world in the first issue seems so vast. What are the chances that this story might extend beyond these first five issues?

DVP: Zack, honestly – we need to speak again when the series is finished!

Ian: Ha, Agreed!

Little Bird #1 is available now from Image Comics.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.