As First Second celebrates their tenth anniversary of publishing excellent graphic novels, we wanted to chime in with our congratulations. This year, they’re publishing the fantastic Nameless City, by First Second stalwart Faith Erin Hicks. You’ll find a review in our upcoming March 15 issue, Spotlight on Graphic Novels, along with an interview with Hicks digging into the backstory of Nameless City. The magazine mails (and the digital edition goes live) on March 8—but why wait till then? To give you a taste of the forthcoming issue and shine a light on First Second’s excellent work, here’s a preview of what Hicks had to say.
Faith Erin Hicks is a veteran at contemporary settings. Her character-rich stories, cinematic plotting, and expressive artwork have played out in high schools, a wind-swept small town, and a skyscraper-filled city, among other locations, and that’s what makes her latest offering, The Nameless City, such an exciting departure.
Set in a fictional city in a long-ago era in a country similar to China, the story follows Kai, training to be warrior like the rest of his people, who recently conquered the city, and Rat, a street urchin who spends her days racing across rooftops and scrounging for food wherever she can. The city itself is as important a figure as any person: ideally situated on a mountain pass, it’s gone through a revolving-door of conquerors and occupiers, all of whom give the city a new name when they claim their victory. Its original inhabitants, however, prefer to keep it nameless.
The city at the center of Hicks’ series starter may not be real, but its influences surely are. “I really wanted the city setting in the comic to have a specific look rooted in Chinese history,” she says, and that required a lot of research. “I spent literally months scouring the Internet and my local library for reference material.” Visually, it’s easy to see that research at work in the architecture, clothing, and decor of the city, though sometimes the payoff was tiny. “At one point in the first book, Kai is carrying around a small basket—I spent hours online looking at different photos of historical Asian baskets before deciding on a design.”
Stay tuned for more of this interview, plus lots of other great graphic-novel content, in just a few weeks.