'Shirtless Bear-Fighter' writer Jody LeHeup and artist Nathan Fox preview their new book
As Earth continues to be ravaged by both climate disasters and contentious politics, the possibility of escaping to Mars seems more enticing every day. Billionaire inventor Elon Musk, for one, talks often about humanity’s need to expand to the red planet if we’re going to survive as a species. But as seen in Image Comics’ The Weatherman, a colorful upcoming sci-fi comic from writer Jody LeHeup (Shirtless Bear-Fighter) and artist Nathan Fox, moving to Mars doesn’t mean things have gotten any easier for humanity.
Take Nathan Bright. As the title suggests, The Weatherman’s protagonist is the premier weatherman for Mars. He loves to inject his presentations with off-kilter humor and wacky improvisation. Though Nathan’s antics irk his co-workers, they’re mostly welcomed by the Mars population, who need all the cheery distraction they can get. Not too long ago, Earth itself was wiped out and its surface made uninhabitable by the worst terror attack in human history. And while Nathan tries to keep his fellow citizens cheerful, it soon becomes clear that he has some mysterious connection to the attack.
“Nathan Bright is a good guy living the good life in the Martian city of Redd Bay, Arcadia. He’s got a great girlfriend, an awesome dog, and — if you ask him — the best job in the world as the city’s premier local weatherman,” LeHeup explains. “But Nathan goes from beloved local celebrity to most wanted man in the galaxy when seemingly out of nowhere he’s accused of masterminding the attack on Earth. Which begs the question, how could Nathan Bright — this sweet, funny, bad-cocktail-making weatherman that brushes his dog’s teeth every morning — possibly be responsible for something like that? The problem is, there’s a giant hole in Nathan’s memory and he can’t actually say whether he did it or not.”
The other main player in The Weatherman is Agent Amanda Cross, the intelligence operative building the case against Nathan. Amanda believes that Nathan is responsible for Earth’s atrocity and wants to see him brought to justice. But soon, she finds herself abandoned by her government, with only Nathan (who has no memory of anything involving the attack) to help her find answers.
In order to develop The Weatherman’s tone and style, LeHeup and Fox say they looked at Cowboy Bebop and Space Dandy for influences, along with Paul Verhoeven movies and Garth Ennis comics. But Fox says the key was making sure sci-fi shenanigans didn’t distract from the core relationship between Nathan and Amanda.
“A lot of it all came from those shared influences and endless, enjoyable discussions about what we didn’t want The Weatherman world to be,” Fox says. “The luxury of time in pre-production and development we had over the last two years really helped us flesh out how we wanted the world to be visualized. Our collaboration in those early months, the back and forth on it all just started to spring and bubble up naturally, especially once we nailed down Nathan and Amanda’s visual development. We really wanted the world and all that needed to inhabit it — the planets, cities, ships and supporting cast, etc. — to flow from and with the story of Nathan and Amanda’s relationship. The rest I guess is our secret sauce and just dreaming up all the crazy-fun, cool stuff we ever wanted to see in this book and where our imagination would take us. This really is a dream project for us both so we’re shooting for the stars and not really holding anything back.”
The Weatherman #1 hits stores June 13. Check out an exclusive preview below.