Crossgen

Fan Expo Canada 2011: Route 666

Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Peter Nguyen travel down the highway of your nightmares in a new Crossgen limited series

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By Jim Beard

In February 2012, the signpost up ahead will read ROUTE 666. The newest Crossgen title arrives as a four-issue limited series with writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Peter Nguyen at the wheel–and a supernatural highway of fear before them.

Route 666 design sketches by Peter Nguyen

“It's set all along the actual, literal Route 66 highway that runs across the [United States],” notes Aguirre-Sacasa of the book. “The story starts in a small town, just outside of Chicago, and ends where 66 ends, at the Pacific Ocean. One of the things I was itching to do is write a series that traveled, that wasn't tied to one specific location and that was a chase story, almost.

“So Route 66—specifically, the Route 66 of yesteryear, right before the era of super-highways took over—became a kind of literal roadmap. I started doing some research, read some books about what 66 was like in its heyday—this series is actually set just past its heyday, as the so-called ‘mother-road’ starting to die out—and started plotting out locations and possible events.”

The plot of ROUTE 666 revolves around the characters of U.S. Marshall Evan Cisco and his deputy, 18 year-old Cassie Starkweather, both of whom seem awfully familiar with the paranormal and supernatural.

“I think it's safe to say that both Cassie and Cisco are damaged people,” says Aguirre-Sacasa. “Neither of them really talks about their feelings, not to each other, nor to other people. I think that's why they're such close friends, in fact. They're haunted by their mutual tragedies, somewhat estranged from the other people with whom they interact on a daily basis. What cuts them off [from] their emotions is what links them together.

Route 666 design sketches by Peter Nguyen

“Cassie's a kind [of] empath. She picks up psychic energy. She can ‘read’ people and ‘sense’ traces of energy. If something violent happens somewhere, it leaves psychic residue. Cassie can see that. If someone's hiding something—if someone were possessed by the devil, let's say—Cassie would be able to see some distortion affecting their aura.”

The writer describes the young woman’s abilities as “slippery, but perhaps useful to Marshall Cisco when he’s called to investigate a satanic ritual gone wrong at a local drive-in.”

“The older she gets, the better at using it she gets,” he offers. “But remember, she's still a teenager. Also, I think because Cassie ‘traffics’ in emotions, her inclination is not to express her own. It's a heavy lid she's keeping on her feelings, and once pried open, who knows what might scurry out.

“[The drive-in] is an extremely heavy assignment. Lots of teens are involved, lots of bloodshed. More troublingly, it suggests a pattern of evil that runs deep and wide across the country. So needless to say, they're taking it extremely seriously. Also, what they come to realize is, this crime may be linked to some of Cassie's personal demons, as well.”

Along for the spooky ride, artist Peter Nguyen has already impressed his collaborator with a deft handling of the complicated relationships and period atmosphere of ROUTE 666.

Route 666 design sketches by Peter Nguyen

“Peter's fantastic,” praises Aguirre-Sacasa. “I wasn't too familiar with his work before Marvel match-made us, but it's an excellent fit. The piece has some noir elements, as I've said, and is also—I hope—incredibly moody, so we need an artist who's a terrific stylist as well as storyteller, and that's Peter. I think a lot of people are going to be talking about him after this series, well-deservedly.”

Set in an era when America stood as a very different country than in the present day, in terms of morals and viewpoints, ROUTE 666 presented Aguirre-Sacasa with a chance to dig into a fascinating time in history.

“The period is very interesting to me,” he states. “It's set in the 1950’s, when there was an Idea—and an Ideal—of America that doesn't exist anymore. Also, this is a crime story, with some American Gothic-type of elements to it, which I like. I can be a little tougher with my writing, a little more hardboiled, which makes for a nice change of pace. There's a rural quality to the setting, too, which appeals. It feels a little bit lonelier, so I can be less talky, a little more visual; a little less dialogue-driven.”

Can’t make it to the convention? Follow along with our liveblogs above and at marvel.com/fanexpo2011. And don't forget the Marvel Events App & events.marvel.com, the best way to get exclusive videos, real-time announcements from the convention floor and up-to-the-minute panel, in-booth and signing schedules of all your favorite Marvel creators!

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