War Stories: Shane-Michael Vidaurri Talks About His OGN ‘Iron: Or, the War After’

“Iron: Or, the War After” is the watercolored OGN from writer-artist Shane-Michael Vidaurri. Vidaurri, who makes his debut at publisher Archaia with the book, uses it to tell the story of espionage, intrigue, and betrayal in the wake of a great war that has brought together the losers, victors, and victims–who all happen to be animals.

Vidaurri was kind enough to speak to MTV Geek recently about working on “Iron,” its production, and some of his motivations and inspirations behind it. Plus, you can enjoy a sample of the book in the piece itself.

“Iron” blends Vidaurri’s watercoloer-painted work with some computer-assisted texturing. “I did that as kind of a time saving measure,” he explains, confessing that the process of painting the book would have been insurmountable. As it stands, Vidaurri plugged away at “Iron” for something like 15 months. The time put in shows: everyone of its furry animal characters and the world they live in have a tangible feel to them without feeling overly-rendered.

Actually getting the book published was a little less of a challenge. Vidaurri had been in regular communication with Archaia-published creator Mark Smylie, even although he didn’t have anything at the time that the company was interested in publishing. I was expecting some last-minute, clever pitch or anything along those lines that got “Iron” published. Instead, what Vidaurri describes is more of an anticlimax and the best lesson for other creators out there: he just kept plugging away at a long-form work that the publisher might be interested in.

Those characters were borne from a series of drawings in his sketchbook that weren’t being used for anything. “I started doing world-building about this war. And it wasn’t really as interesting to me, and it wasn’t really the story I wanted to tell,” he says of that time working on the roughest outlines of the book. It was only in looking beyond the war that was the centerpiece of the story Vidaurri was writing at the time that he was able to find a hook and begin exploring the story which ultimately became “Iron: Or, the War After.”

As for the war itself, it serves as a backdrop to Vidaurri’s tale: like any film in the wake of any major conflict, it was about the impact on its characters, even if you didn’t know what the conflict was that brings them all together (or sets them against one another). Its heroes, not-quite-heroes, and villains including (and especially) Resistance spy Hardin the hare aren’t allowed to fall back on the horrors of the war because we don’t know what the terms of it were, what happened–we’re only left with their motivations in the moment.

“They can use the war as an excuse or say they can get revenge or this and that, but [if the reader doesn’t] know why they’re getting revenge, you just seeing their actions,” Vidaurri elaborates, saying that absent the backstory, the characters’ motivations are questionable based on the information we do have available on them.

I asked why he chose to anthropomorphize his cast of characters, and he pointed to the ease with which animal characters could be used as shorthand for personality types while also subverting reader expectations. Vidaurri says he wanted to lead the reader and make them understand different things about them from the outset: “Like when you see a tiger, you think certain things. And you can use those tools to either reinforce those traits play against them.”

Vidaurri drew inspiration from Greek tragedies like “Antigone,” saying they fed into “Iron” whose characters are doomed from the start. He also singled out the Cold War-era spy classic, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” the John le Carré adapted multiple times across film and television, citing the way the characters in that work are damned by their own actions (and inaction).

“Iron: Or, the War After” is available now from Archaia.

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