Interview: John Lees on IDW’s Mountainhead

Mountainhead #1

Mountainhead #1


John Lees is the popular writer of Sink, And Then Emily Was Gone, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe. Now he teams with artist Ryan Lee for the psychological thriller/horror story Mountainhead from IDW. Lees shares a peek behind the scenes of this new series with Westfield’s Roger Ash.

Mountainhead #1 preview 1

Mountainhead #1 preview 1


Westfield: What’s the genesis of Mountainhead?

John Lees: Every project I work on is a hodgepodge of influences. With Mountainhead, we drew from a couple of dramatic real-life stories, though going specifically into which ones would involve giving the game away… come back and ask me again once this issue has been released! I’m also a sucker for a snowbound thriller. There’s something ominous in the quiet and isolation that comes with the aesthetic, the potential for pristine white to be splashed with red. Films like The Thing were touchstones, though perhaps the reference point Ryan and I talked about the most was a British TV series called Fortitude, about a murder mystery unfolding in an Arctic island community against the backdrop of something much worse unfolding.

Mountainhead #1 preview 2

Mountainhead #1 preview 2


Westfield: You’re working with artist Ryan Lee on the book. What can you say about your collaboration?

Lees: Working with Ryan has been a blast! I’ve been a fan of Ryan Lee for many years. I love his distinctive, highly rendered style, his offbeat approach to characters. He was on my shortlist of artists I wanted to find a way to work with. So, imagine my delight a couple of years ago when I finally met him for the first time, and he pitched the idea of working with me! And the collaborative process has been fascinating. He has such a creative mind. Every page of script I give him, he’s building on it, weaving in additional panels and adding extra visual flourishes that say something about the world or a character’s mindset, or add to the palpable sense of unease permeating the narrative. Just wait until you see the work he has been doing, ably complimented by colorist Doug Garbark and letterer Shawn Lee. It will blow your mind!

Mountainhead #1 preview 3

Mountainhead #1 preview 3


Westfield: What can you tell us about the story and who are the main characters we’ll meet?

Lees: Our main character is Abraham Stubbs, a teenage boy who has been on the run his whole life, raised to be suspicious of the world around him and always looking over his shoulder. For as long as he can remember, he’s been living off the grid with his father, Noah, burgling houses to survive. Noah is convinced that mainstream society have been indoctrinated by sinister government forces, and that agents of those same forces are pursuing them and all others who won’t fall in line. But Abraham is getting older, and starting to be drawn by the appeal of the world and its comforts he has been taught to reject. And he’s becoming ever more aware of his father’s deteriorating mental state.

Mountainhead #1 preview 4

Mountainhead #1 preview 4


Westfield: This father and son relationship is out of the ordinary. Was it fun writing this different dynamic?

Lees: The relationship between Abraham and Noah Stubbs is at the heart of the story. It’s a relationship fraught with danger and uncertainty, but through it all there’s still love there. How much Abraham has been shaped by Noah, and how much he is his father’s son, will emerge as one of the key conflicts of the series. I’ve mentioned this before, but Abraham and Noah are characters I’ve had in my head for some time, before even Mountainhead existed, so it’s been very rewarding finding such a good plot vehicle to insert them into and unfold their character arc.

Westfield: A Canadian town looks to be an important part of the story. What can you tell us about the town?

Lees: I can tell you that the town is called Braeriach, and it is indeed a Canadian town – at the foot of the Rockies – and is an important part of the story. Beyond that, not much!

Mountainhead #1 preview 5

Mountainhead #1 preview 5


Westfield: Any closing comments?

Lees: I’d just say that I know I’m being quite secretive and evasive in answering some of these questions, but that’s for good reason. I for one never like it when people promote a book, and the whole first issue is just the series synopsis. Mountainhead is a comic full of surprises, one where the status quo is being continually hauled out from under our feet. So, right from the first issue, things will be going in unexpected directions. So, I would advise checking out the first issue to get a clearer idea of where we’re going with this strange, sinister yarn!

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