Image Comics' upcoming psychological thriller NO. 1 WITH A BULLET might not release until November, but we were lucky enough to get the chance to take a sneaky look at this issue this week, as well as have a chat with the book's creators, Jacob Semahn and Jorge Corona.
Described as a "stalker story at heart, with a Black Mirror feel," NO. 1 centres around the misadventures of Nash Huang, a personal assistant to talkshow host and all around nuisance Jad Davies, as she falls victim to a malicious campaign of targeted harassment exacerbated by a new and toxic piece of tech called 'Iris Shutter' - a contact lens that can record and simulate anything at the blink of an eye.
"Fighting to keep her life together after a leaked sex tape goes viral, a clingy super fan is the last thing on Nash’s mind… but that’s exactly when the bodies pile up and the terror begins."
NO. 1 is a particularly pertinent book, arriving at a time where privacy is being steadily eroded and where a pervasive tide of online harassment and abuse only seems to swell with each passing day. The comics industry is no stranger to either occurrence, and so NO. 1 is in itself both a unique and wholly important comic book - a sentiment expressed as much on the page as it is off it.
So, in preparation for the launch of NOWAB we sat down with writer, Jacob Semahn, and artist, Jorge Corona, to find out more about the book, and discuss how relevant it is to the climate the industry currently finds itself in. Read ahead for the interview in full.
Ewan Paterson: So, for those not in the know, what is No. 1 all about? The press release mentioned it having a ‘Black Mirror’ vibe, and I can definitely see that coming through in the first issue.
Jacob Semahn: In a future where contact lenses can now play video, augment reality, and record footage, privacy quickly becomes a thing of the past. No. 1 With a Bullet follows social media darling, Nash Huang, as the world around her crumbles. Her semi-celebrity has turned into full-blown scandal after a sex tape taken with these contact lenses surfaces on the Internet. Struggling to put the pieces to her life together is hard when everyone weighs in with an opinion. But things go full-tilt crazy when her no. 1 fan surfaces... and the bodies pile up.
E. P: Going off the initial press release and the blurb of the first issue, it’s very clear that the Internet and, more importantly, the way we engage with it, is a major topic of concern for you guys. I know you mentioned the Sony patent for the contacts specifically in being a major moment in the book’s inception, but just how exactly did No. 1 come to be?
J. S: I had a stalker story in my back pocket for a while, but nothing that made it stand out as something other than standard popcorn fic. When I read about the Sony patent in 2016, my mind churned a little more. But it was this last year and a half that really solidified it. Seeing how we were divided as a country over this past election… and the part social media played in widening that divide stopped me thinking about it and start writing it. I had a full outline roughed up on November 9th if that tells you anything.
E. P: One thing that I’d also really like to touch on is the way the first issue deals with harassment. We see that when Nash gets home, she immediately turns to her phone and is treated to a tirade of online abuse. With No. 1 being a comic book, and with so many women in the industry suffering that same sort of abuse online, do you feel the fact that it is a comic is a very important aspect in and of itself?
J. S: Yes. We found it important to shine a light on this twisted normalcy that we find ourselves in. We’re constantly yelling or belittling other people on the other side of a tweet or a message for being an object or stupid or naïve, etc. Sometimes those messages are said and done. Other times, they go a bit further to a point of full-blown harassment, stalking or doxxing. This is sadly a reality that we all now live in. A reality where technology is used as a weapon against people. In No. 1 With a Bullet, we explore that culture and why we perpetuate this notion that our lives are not fully lived until they are captured in a 140 characters (edit: now 280!) or a photo.
E. P: It’d be criminal to not talk about the art here as well. That opening where Nash is in VR conjured some truly spooky imagery (aided really well by Hickman’s colours), and it’s really interesting how there was a clear contrast between the audience in the virtual world and the real one. Can we expect to see more of those horror elements when/if we get to experience Iris Shutter again?
Jorge Corona: We wanted to use that first scene where we introduced the IRIS not only as a depiction of the state of technology in this world but also as a narrative parallel to the internal conflict that Nash’s psyche will endure through the course of the story.
Working with colorist, Jen Hickman, allowed for my job to be easier as the colors complement the emotional tones of the story in a perfect way. Allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the emotions of each character.
E. P: What can we expect from No. 1 going forward? Plenty of thrills, spills and chills?
J.S: Haha. I literally wrote that in another interview! Without giving up anything… reality gets weird. People die. Hearts will break.
And that's it! It's a super exciting prospect to see what happens when NOWAB releases on November 1st (even if it will end up breaking hearts). It's a book with lots to say and, in light of the way the technological landscape keeps on changing - as well as the comics industry itself - it carries a salience few other comics can match. Roll on November.
NO. 1 WITH A BULLET releases November 1. For more news, reviews and - of course - interviews, be sure to check out WhatCulture Comics on YouTube (we promise we're cool, honest).