Scott Westerfeld knows how to write a YA novel. His series Uglies, Pretties, Specials is beloved by teens, and his book Afterworlds is a tribute both to teen writers and to the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Now with Spill Zone, Westerfeld proves that he knows how to write a graphic novel that is just as engaging.
I had a chance to sit down with Westerfeld at Emerald City Comicon to discuss his first foray into comics and it turns out Spill Zone actually started about 10 years ago. Westerfeld started a script for the novel a decade ago and put it away after some notes from a comic writer and friend gently let him know that the script wasn’t ready. Instead, when his novel Uglies was turned into a manga by Del Rey press, he was able to study the process and return to his script with a better understanding of the comics process.
Spill Zone is the story of Addison Merrick, a young woman who lives on the border of a town that has gone through a major radioactive incident. She lives with her younger sister Lexa, and at night, she sneaks into the spill zone to take photos of what was left behind and try to find out what really happened.
The full-color book is beautifully crafted by First Second press, with subtle details like a drip effect on the hardcover surface. Inside the bright, almost neon, colors of the spill zone are contrasted with the muted tones of the “real world”. Originally the real world was supposed to be black and white, but Westerfeld decided to have the spill zone be a hyper-bright, radioactive space contrasted with the muted tones of the real world.
The book is drawn by Alex Puvilland (Shrek 2, Boss Baby) and colored by Hilary Sycamore. Pullivand’s drawings leap off the page, and as Westerfeld told me, he was surprised by the “acting” of Pullivand’s characters and how the characters looked like they were delivering the lines and had real physical presence.
Westerfeld is a writer that truly considers his fans and how they consume and interact with his work. Spill Zone is serialized on the Spill Zone site, and the dedication in this novel is a shout-out to fan artists. Of course, I asked what he’s currently fanning out over right now and he cited shows such as Black Sails, Underground, and Vikings as well as everyone’s favorite obsession, Hamilton. He also recommended Death Note and a manga called NaNa about two Japanese girls both named Nana who, despite their very different personalities, become friends and roommates – apt reading for a YA novelist whose protagonists are almost always young women.
Making the transition from novels to comics is becoming more the norm and Westerfeld is handling this transition deftly. Spill Zone is sure to grab fans of his novels. With a strong, female protagonist like Addison and a compelling backdrop, it’s bound to be on everyone’s bookshelves this spring.
Spill Zone goes on-sale May 2017 and is available for pre-order now.