• J Chestnut

Zero Town

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

I'm proud to say that the first issue of Zero Town is now available! It's a neo-noir mystery involving time travel, the supernatural and mad science. The art is by my good friend Angie Guyton, who has brought this world and characters to life in ways I couldn't even imagine.

Angie and I have wanted to work on something together for years, but things didn't come together until recently. This is the first in a six chapter saga of murder, mystery, humor, and pulp weirdness.

The characters of Tom and Zoe Halliwell have been with me for years. Fraternal twins who couldn't be more different in their temperament and world views, but fiercely loyal to one another. My original vision had them cast as superheroes, but they soon grew beyond that and I found myself constantly searching for the perfect story that they could inhabit.

After finally getting published about a year ago (the short story "Like Clockwork" in the first Writing Bloc Anthology), I felt emboldened to work on bigger projects. I went back to the drawing board and rewrote my novel "To Live and Die in Avalon" and started to hone in on a project fit for Tom and Zoe. I knew I wanted it to be a comic book and that's something Angie had always talked about working on together.

At that time, the idea was still a bit nebulous. I didn't know if I wanted it to take place in modern day Miami or some dystopian version. The great thing about working with Angie is she's not afraid to immediately shoot down anything that won't work, so the dystopian thing was abandoned. This saved me the trouble of trying to make my own version of "Blade Runner" (which is totally what it would have ended up being).

Instead we decided to go the opposite direction and have the story take place in the twenties right before one of the worst hurricanes in history. Not content to just have it be a straight noir tale, we made our characters unwilling time travelers, forced to bounce around time and space solving crimes committed directly or indirectly by other time travelers. Then we layered on some supernatural flavor, the idea that these crimes would weaken time enough to let evil things slip through.

At the core of the story, however, is Tom and Zoe. One is a methodical, if absent-minded detective, the other is an intense "blunt instrument". The joy of working with a professional artist, and especially one that is a good enough friend to not shy away from being honest, is that this became a completely collaborative process. As a writer, you often don't realize that a lot of the stuff you come up with is probably not going to be fun to draw or look at for pages and pages.

Angie, kept things tight and concise, so it would be visually stunning, but also paced evenly. We also constantly found common ground or compromises where they were needed. Since, we wanted the book to be funny, a lot of those compromises came out in witty dialogue or banter, trading away long passages of exposition for simply poking fun at how crazy the world was becoming around our characters.

But, for all the weirdness, Zero Town is still a character-driven story, and it lives or dies by how well we realize our main duo. I'm overjoyed with the results, how Angie's art and ideas have influenced my writing and the direction of the overall narrative. It will be exciting to see how it all turns out, because even though I have a general idea of where things are going, nothing gets set in stone until both writer and artist figure it out together. I thrive on collaboration and this book is proof positive that wonderful things can happen with the right people involved.

The first issue is available to download for free, or you can order one of 100 limited edition signed copies (which I hear are breathtaking) right from Angie's website here.

This is only the beginning.

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Big plans are in the works for both my comic book series with Angie Guyton "Zero Town" and my novel "To Live and Die in Avalon", as well as new content in the form of a series of video blogs and a new