With the spy genre being as huge as it is right now, the timing seems perfect for a new espionage comic book, We went undercover to speak to Ryan Ellsworth, creator of North Bend, Kickstarter, to discover why this mission should certainly be accomplished.
AP2HYC: So this is set in a not too distant future? Can you elaborate?
Ellsworth: Sure, the story is set around 15 years from now. I guess you could call it sci-fi – but not the spaceships, robots, and chrome type – it has a few futuristic elements, but they are mostly things we already have now, but more advanced. Most people have self-driving cars, or use an Uber-like service consisting of a huge network of self-driving cars. People don’t eat animals a whole lot anymore. Meat is basically 3D printed and is a worthy substitute. So the real thing is pretty expensive. Those type of things aren’t really the focus of the story though, they are mostly background elements. One of the more important elements though is the US has been in a long, exhausting war against Russia, and isn’t doing so hot economically and politically.
AP2HYC: And it’s inspired by real events, such as MKULTRA?
Ellsworth: Yeah, MKUltra was the inspiration behind it. The premise for North Bend, the CIA recruiting a drug agent to test an experimental mind control drug on people, that’s pretty much where it came from. And the protagonist, Brendan, is loosely based on that drug agent. There are a few other events and characters that will appear later that I took inspiration from. The MKUltra program happened largely because the CIA was paranoid Russia was going to figure out the mind control thing first. I liked that political aspect, so I kind of turned it on its head. Overall the story is very fictionalized, but the hope is that it’ll all seem plausible.
AP2HYC: Can you tell us about protagonist Brendan Kruge? Is he a James Bond type character or more grounded in reality?
Ellsworth: You definitely won’t see Brendan jumping a motorcycle onto a moving train. He’s an undercover agent, but it’s not glamorous. Half of his job is sitting behind a desk. At least when we first meet him. But he’s a guy that cares about his country and he wants to do his part. But he also finds his personal beliefs clashing with his duty sometimes. And that will only increase as his involvement with the CIA continues. He’s an Army vet who fought in the War in Russia and was stati13oned at a detention camp for POWs. He got discharged from there following certain “events” which is kind of a sore spot for him. The first issue will go into that a little bit more.
AP2HYC: I couldn’t help but notice that you have a character named after the actor Hal Holbrook?
Ellsworth: Nice catch. That’s kind of a funny accident. I had been working on the story for a while, and the characters were named. And I was watching the movie Lincoln. During the credits I happened to see the name there. But I had no idea who he was, I had to look him up. I don’t know, maybe I heard his name before and subconsciously kept it with me. But I decided to keep it. It’s a good name.
AP2HYC: How does the artwork reflect the gritty tone of the story?
Ellsworth: Rob‘s artwork was pretty unique among everything I received when I was looking for an artist. It has kind of a rough quality to it, but it’s clean at the same time. I’m not the best art critic though, it’s kind of hard for me to describe what it is that gives it that quality. Dee’s color work adds a lot to the tone as well. He gave it a really great, moody vibe.
AP2HYC: Are you planning more for the series in the future?
Ellsworth: The whole series is planned out and is ten issues. The story has a defined arc so the whole thing is pretty set. I’d love to think about what else is possible in the future, but haven’t really thought that far ahead. Right now I’d just be happy with being able to do all ten issues!
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