The Last of Us: American Dreams – Interview with Faith Erin Hicks and Neil Druckmann

the last of us american dreams feature

The Last of Us is an upcoming PlayStation 3 game from Naughty Dog, the same team that created the Uncharted franchise. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where survivors become as dangerous as the “infected”. Gamers follow Joel and Ellie as they traverse across infected-America.

We had the chance to chat with Faith Erin Hicks, who is the writer and artist for The Last of Us: American Dreams, a Dark Horse prequel comic book series starring Ellie. She is joined by Naughty Dog creative director/Last of Us writer Neil Druckmann.

John “Spartan” Nguyen: I just read the first issue – like right now. It’s kinda cool to have a prequel based on Ellie. So what was the concept behind the idea?

Neil Druckmann: Well, you know the game stars Joel and Ellie and one of the things I had to figure for working with Ashley Johnson, the actress, is some of the back story for Ellie. What was it like, the day-to-day life, living in this military quarantine zone? So I had some ideas about that, that you couldn’t explore in the game, because in the game, you’re thrust into this adventure right away, so you don’t get to see her day-to-day life. And then when Dark Horse approached us and said they were interested in partnering with us and doing a comic, those ideas were just like, “Oh, we have an opportunity to tell some of that story.” But I really wanted to get a creator-owned artist. Or, as Faith put it, creator-owned creator.

Faith: (laughs)

Neil: And as someone that has created their own world, and I just read Friends With Boys and I was really moved by it, and thought the characters, they way they were expressive and the subtly and pacing of the storytelling would be perfect for something like this.  So we called Dark Horse back and they were excited. They contacted Faith and she wanted to do it.

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So Faith, How did you get on the project?

Faith: Well I think it was late summer of last year. I got an email – I was working with Dark Horse already because they published a collection of my web comic: The Adventures of  Superhero Girl, which is this goofy, silly superhero parody-type comic strip. Then I got an email from my editor on that project, asking if – it was a one line email – all she said was, “Do you play video games?” So I responded, “Yes, of course! I like games, I played them growing up, etc.” She told me that Dark Horse and Naughty Dog were looking for creators to potentially take part in The Last of Us prequel. I was immediately extremely excited and sent her an email with multiple exclamation points to indicate that I was very much interested. I was aware of the game before I came on this project. I saw, I believe it was the E3 trailer, I saw that online.

I just really liked the world that Naughty Dog had created. I found the characters to be very interesting, I loved the idea of this older, tough, grumpy survivor guy and his teenage girl sidekick and surviving in this post-apocalyptic, post-pandemic world. So that was really drew me to the project, the world that Naughty Dog had created. I thought it was so cool. So I spent a day doing some concept art for it and sent those off to Dark Horse. And I believe I got the job based on the concept art. It was just really exciting and kind of out of the blue. I never expected to be working on a project like this, but it’s been a really great project.

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I’ve seen your art style and it’s a different approach for a comic book that’s based on Last of Us.

Faith: Yeah, it’s very different. I have actually done a zombie book before – and I know Last of Us  isn’t zombies, it’s something else, it’s The Infected. I actually did a zombie book. That was my very first published book. It was called Zombies Calling, and it was about these kids at university being trapped at their university during a zombie invasion. It’s kind of funny, I know people are kind of surprised when this ended up being my next project. But a lot of my books are about teenage girls and zombies, so I feel like it’s perfect project for me.

Oh yeah, especially Ellie.

Faith: Exactly, exactly. It’s all about Ellie.

And I was wondering if you got a chance to check out the game while it was still in development?

Faith: No, I haven’t gotten a chance to do that. I got to read the script though.

Neil: Early on, we sent Faith a bunch of our game play videos and the script for the entire game, so she got to read the ending, in August.

Faith: I know how it ends and no, I won’t will tell you. (laughter)

The comic is pretty edgy and is filled with violence and explicit language. Did you decide from the beginning to keep it a hard R?

Faith: (laughter) Okay. I have to tell you – up until this point, most of the comics that I have worked on have been tiered younger. They’ve been for a younger audience. I feel like teenagers and up will enjoy this Last of Us comic, but in my previous work, I hadn’t been allowed to have swearing in it just because of issues with libraries and issues with people having issues with it. You know, people having issues with their kids reading comics that have the F-word in them. I was so excited that I could finally write a comic that had swearing in it. I think when I sent the initial script to Neil, every page had the F-word on it.

I remember this note I got back from Neil that was like, “Less F-words, please!” (laughter) But I was just so excited that I finally got to do a comic that had swearing in it. And I feel like the swearing is realistic. These are teenage girls and they live in a very tough environment. They consider themselves to be tough. That is how “tough” teenage girls talk to each other. Not that I swore up a storm when I was 13, but I did go through my swearing period.

Neil: At least for me, it’s how I used to talk when I was that age. I placed some of the swearing in the game.

You’ve been a bad boy!

Neil: People around the office usually tell me to tone down the swearing, and it’s funny that I had to tell Faith that earlier.

Faith: I was just so excited, I was like, “Yay, I finally get to write a comic” and people are glaring. I don’t normally swear that much in real life.

the last of us american dreams

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John 'Spartan' Nguyen
John 'Spartan' Nguyen 9311 posts

Assassin, scoundrel, head honcho.

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