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DF Interview: Kyle Higgins brings Cold War-era spying and secrets galore in The Dead Hand
By Byron Brewer
Carter Carlson was a highly decorated operative during the Cold War. But in the fall of 1991, as the Soviet Union collapsed, Carter discovered a secret that not only changed his life... but also altered the course of history. Now, as the mysterious "Dead Hand" threatens to end the world once again, the only thing standing in its way is the relationship between an old spy and a little boy.
From writer Kyle Higgins and artist Stephen Mooney comes a new Image Comics series, The Dead Hand. DF sat down with scribe Kyle Higgins to learn more.
Dynamic Forces: Kyle, please tell us about the genesis of your new book, The Dead Hand. I am assuming the title refers to the Cold War-era automatic nuclear-control system used by the Soviet Union?
Kyle Higgins: It does, in some ways, yes. The book was born out of my fascination with the Cold War, particularly the end of the Soviet Union. Stephen Mooney and I are both big fans of things like James Bond, Metal Gear Solid, and John le Carre. The Dead Hand was a weapons system that the Soviets never actually built… though they did build a semi-autonomous system called Perimeter, which we didn’t learn about until 1993. Our series looks at the possibility of that autonomous version, but through the lens of a town with a huge secret, heightened espionage action, and a fictitious “last mission of the Cold War,” Operation: Dead Hand.
DF: What can you tell us about your protagonist, Carter Carlson? Who is he as a character and what challenges does he face?
Kyle Higgins: Carter grew up in a rather idyllic setting in the early 1960's, was close with his sister, and really wanted to one day become a superhero. However, as he got older and learned what the world was really like, that idealism slowly faded. Carter worked for the U.S. as a secret agent during the Cold War, performing some less than morally ideal missions. When the war ended, Carter got out of the spy game and wound up in this small town called Mountain View, which has a lot of similarities to the place he grew up in. That said, there’s more going on with Carter and Mountain View, which readers will have seen by the end of issue #1.
DF: What other characters can you tell us about in this saga?
Kyle Higgins: We’ve got an interesting cast of supporting characters—all of whom are connected to the spy trade in one way or another—but my favorite is a young boy named Roger. He’s in Mountain View, and in a lot of ways… is both the emotional and thematic core of the series. Carter’s relationship with him is incredibly important.
DF: Like me, you grew up around the tail end of the Cold War, with many of the TV series and movies of the day (James Bond!) centered around the theme, not to mention the real world. How do you personally see this era – very critical to Dead Hand – and the effects it may have had on your life? Is this reflected in the comic?
Kyle Higgins: I’ve always been fascinated by what I call “dark mirror” stories. The idea of a doppelgänger is fascinating to me in any type of story, and during the Cold War… there was no greater doppelgänger to us as a country than the Soviet Union. The relationship between countries, the lies that were told, the missions that people undertook for the “greater good” is all great background material for this story. When people see what exactly is going on in Mountain View, it should frame certain elements of the Cold War in a new way.
DF: Did you and/or artist Stephen Mooney do any research on the intricacies of the Cold War? I know you always make characters’ backgrounds almost a tangible character in and of itself in your works.
Kyle Higgins: Yes, I’ve done quite a bit of research over the years. A lot of that informs our characters’ backgrounds… but more of it informs the setting that our characters now exist and operate in.
DF: Speaking of Stephen, talk about working with he and Jordie Bellaire on this series.
Kyle Higgins: They’re great. They’re both fantastic storytellers, and on a book like this… I just try to stay out of their way, haha. In all seriousness, though, Stephen and I came across this idea of doing montage spreads for each character’s “origin.” They’re incredible, and each issue… end up being my favorite pages. Stephen’s really taken his work to another level on this series.
DF: Just a fanboy question: What was it like to work with Richard Donner, director of 1978’s ultimate superhero film, Superman? A little bird tells me that the film (as it did for a lot of us) inspired you to venture forth into film making and comics. True?
Kyle Higgins: Dick was incredible. I didn’t know him particularly well—I only interned at the company for a couple of months— but his best friend, Tom Mankiewicz, became my mentor. He gave me valuable, valuable storytelling and career advice, and even threw some money my way to help me finish my thesis film, The League… which is what directly led to my career in comics.
DF: Aside from The Dead Hand, what else is coming forth now and soon from the kinetic keyboard of Kyle Higgins?
Kyle Higgins: The biggest thing I’d point to right now is my new film, The Shadow Hours. It’s available through IGN—for free—and at theshadowhours.com. It’s a cool, neo-noir thriller about two brothers with a mysterious condition—only one of them can be awake at a time.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Kyle Higgins for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. The Dead Hand #1 from Image Comics is in stores NOW!
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HADRIAN'S WALL #1 ULTRA-LIMITED SILVER SIGNATURE SERIES EDITION SIGNED BY KYLE HIGGINS
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