Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler’s Legend delivered a science fiction tale that grabbed readers and critics alike. The story of a post-apocalyptic world ruled by dogs and cats offered captivating characterizations and amazing art. Produced by Z2 Comics, the new graphic novel collects the first story arc. I took the opportunity to catch up with Sam Sattin about this interesting project.
You cannot read this without thinking about “cat people” vs “dog people” and the observation we make about the difference between the two. Was that emotional terrain something you considered as you put the story together?
Most definitely. An example would be my wife, who was a diehard dog person when I met her. A forsworn enemy of all things cat, she found the entire species alien. Until, that is, we brought a cat (eventually two) home. Now she spends way more time than I ever would trying to find our tuxedo cat Inigo Montoya the most comfortable litter box in all the land (Inigo is also the model for one of Legend’s central characters, Atticus). People seem polarized in their love of animals because they’re polarized in terms of their own personalities. A big theme of Legend is learning to accept the other species, or if not learning to accept, then learning to trust. Some people seem more attuned to dogs, valuing straightforwardness, loyalty, and determination, while those attuned to cats stereotypically tend to be more introspective, preferring quieter, quirkier allies. Legend revels in the differences between the species, but also demonstrates what they have in common. Dogs and cats (and dog and cat people) aren’t the same, but there’s more crossover than we’d like to admit.
Who is your favorite character to write in this series?
My favorite character to write is Bagheera. She’s a boss figure, a monarch,with dictatorial tendencies, and everyone, most everywhere, owes her a favor. To write Bagheera is to write a puppet master. While many other characters might come forth and share what’s on their minds, Bagheera is always holding back, keeping her cards close to her chest. Basically, she’s a brigand, but with a benevolent side, and an eye towards protecting her people. Every time I get to write a Bagheera line, I find myself unpeeling its layers.
We don’t get a lot of back story about the fall of man, only glimpses that contextualize the animal personalities. Will we see more this world? Will it play into your bigger story?
The artist Chris Koehler and I know a lot about the world in which Legend takes place, from the exact causes behind the fall of man (what the animals call the Fault), to the new threats, and fantastical phenomena, created as a result. I would also say that perspective, animal perspective in particular, plays a big part in Legend, and I wouldn’t want to divert from that element by introducing an omniscient historical recount. Without being too cagey, I will say that human observers can gather clues about the history of this world from a close read of the book. Chris places loads of smart visual cues throughout that tell stories in themselves, and reveal secrets. It’s fun to reread and hunt for Easter Eggs.
Legend garnered praise for the emotional narrative you achieved in the story. The personalities of each dog, breed, and species offered insights for on multiple levels. Striking for me is the emphasis on how much the human world informed this new animal world. This is a classic turn, what were you hoping to bring to that tradition in Legend, and what do you think you have yet to achieve?
Humans have come to convince themselves that they’ve achieved dominion over nature. In some ways this is true, but in other ways, pertaining to climate and resources in particular, we’re beginning to realize we’re ultimately at nature’s mercy. Animals, and domesticated animals specifically, have been pulled under mankind’s governance. Our dogs and cats especially are subject to the world we’ve created for them, and what affects us affects them. That said, animals will always remain separate from humans in their instincts and affectations. So on one hand, they are more closely in tune with nature than mankind, and yet, they are closely aligned with man. It’s a precarious place to be in, especially as the pillars of human infrastructure crumble, and you have to learn to recalibrate your species’ function in the world. That’s what I was hoping to bring to that tradition with Legend. The notion that mankind’s surrogates have been abandoned by their wards.
We’re telling a story about what it means to rebuild a broken world when its now-fallen rulers have formed the way you understand it.