The visual most people have of a comic book is of a brightly colored superhero flying over the city, fist-fighting an equally brightly colored supervillain. A fan of the medium is already aware of the amount of personal, story-driven works present in modern comics, but a large part of the audience only sees comics as Superman or Archie. Dallas-based Unearthly Comics' new series, City of Hate, is neither.
City of Hate follows special agent Watts, a new transfer to Dallas, as he’s assigned to his first major case, what looks to be a regular bank robbery. As the details of the robbery start to connect in all of the wrong ways, Watts has to quickly learn who he can and cannot trust within the ranks of Dallas law enforcement. In an age when public perception is as important as the facts, Watts tries to uncover the corruption at play before he’s counted as another victim of it.
Jason Nancarrow, writer of City of Hate, has been writing for Unearthly Comics about five years, starting around the time Mike Wolfman and Scott Beecher formed the comic company. Nancarrow originally conceived the crime story to be one comic, but artist Beecher spread the narrative over three issues. Nancarrow estimates the process of writing and drawing the series took two years.
“I wanted it to be kind of a love letter to the city,” Nancarrow says, "even though it critiques a lot of areas of the city that I see faults in. I think I tried to make it a three-dimensional area.”
City of Hate reads like a spiritual cousin of the popular HBO series The Wire, with infighting in law enforcement almost as much of an obstacle to solving the crime as the criminals. Fans of the show would feel at home within the pages of the series.
“I wanted it to be kind of a love letter to the city, even though it critiques a lot of areas of the city that I see faults in. I think I tried to make it a three-dimensional area.” – Jason Nancarrow
“I consider it the best TV show of all time,” Nancarrow says. “I made a subtle callout to the show during the scene where Watts goes to the property room. He is greeted by Les, a reference to Lester Freeman of The Wire.”
Beecher made sure to capture the look of Dallas although he lives in Rome, Texas.
“I wanted to go for more realism with this project,” Beecher says, “just to expand on my skills. To stretch my storytelling technique and add more details and backgrounds. Make it more of a lived-in world. A lot of it starts with a lot of references, but then I’ll go back and, depending on how I want the scene to look, use a little more artistic license to change a couple of things here and there.”
Unearthly’s plan for the series is to have it printed in one volume for purchase in stores, and it is submitting City of Hate to Diamond Publishing, the main vendor comic book stores use. The process from submitting the work to seeing it widely distributed by Diamond takes four to six weeks, Beecher estimates.
Until then, the creators at Unearthly Comics are busy working on other projects.
“I’m working on a horror — think Con Air meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Beecher says. "It’ll be fun. I want to stretch into us producing either larger one-shot comics or stick to the two-three issue miniseries format. So it’s like a movie in a book type of thing; it’s a complete story people can pick up and have faith they can have the whole story without having to wait six months.”
Unearthly Comics can be found in local independent-friendly retailers such as Keith’s Comics and Awesome Comics, but the easiest way to purchase copies of City of Hate and other Unearthly is through the company's website.