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Author Archive for Keith Davidsen

Gorgeous Fantasy Project Season’s End Hits Kickstarter

I love finding new Kickstarter projects and sharing them with the Little Bleeders, as I did this past Wednesday with the grindhouse film You’re !@#$’n Dead! As a platform for funding creative projects, Kickstarter’s the perfect opportunity for the little guys, the grunts, the starving artists (and writers, and whatever) who need a push.

Which brings us to Season’s End, by the talented creative team of artist Blake Wheeler (the narrator of the below Kickstarter video) and writer Jason Pell (Zombie Highway, Woody and the Noble).

I’m a huge fan of traditional fantasy settings, and Season’s End — with its atmospheric story and innately tense character dynamics — certainly holds an appeal to old-school enthusiasts like myself. Plus, the prose story partnered with rich paintings works so well for fantasy, where it might otherwise fail in other genres.  The premise:

The world has grown dark and magic has become tainted and dangerous. A young man, Mimdal, is the last living priest that can perform the miracles of old. He and his protector, the soldier Adrielle, are enlisted to find out why the gods have fallen silent. Along with the brutish Dunlari and his savage captive, Grib, the dark wizard Falhern, and Lidderly, the secretive bard, they seek the terrible truth. The new gods have come.


Pell and Wheeler have put together a nice package of benefits for supporters of their Kickstarter project, both affordable and rewarding.  Check it out!


Scott Murphy Interview: The Fate of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: The Clone Wars is Decided

As with every time I’ve ever traveled to San Diego Comic-Con, so much happens before, during, and after that it’s sometimes very difficult to address everything I’d intended. Such was the case with my interview with Scott Murphy, co-writer (alongside Zak Penn) of the Hero Worship series from Avatar Press. Happily, since these batch of interview responses pertain to his work on such shows as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Angel, the interview is just as relevant today as it was when I conducted it last month! (Whew!)

Among his many accomplishments writing professionally for the film and television industries, Murphy was instrumental in bringing George Lucas‘s vision to CG life during the first season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. And while he certainly wouldn’t reveal Lucasfilm secrets (for fear of being hunted down by bounty hunters across the galaxy) in our interview, he did provide some very interesting perspectives on the Clone Wars era, the development of the television program, and how Lucasfilm will handle the eventual absence of Anakin Skywalker’s padawan Ahsoka Tano from the overall Star Wars mythology.

So without further ado, here’s Scott Murphy…


 

…on joining the Star Wars: The Clone Wars writing staff:

 

…on his prior film and television writing:

 

…on his experiences working alongside Joss Whedon on Angel:

 

…on the Angel episode, “Carpe Noctem”:

 

…on the storytelling process of Star Wars, and the involvement of George Lucas:

 

…on depictions of the series’ protagonists and secondary characters:

 

…on the fate of Ahsoka Tano, the Skywalker padawan whose absence in Revenge of the Sith (following her Clone Wars experiences) is a big mystery to Star Wars fans:

 

…on the most challenging characters to write for The Clone Wars:

 

…on his contributions to the overall Star Wars mythology:

 

…on how merchandising plays a role in the storytelling:


Cosplay Round-Up: Toronto Fan Expo 2012

A glimpse of the cosplay scene from this past weekend’s Toronto Fan Expo 2012. These shots are the best I could manage from being stuck at the booth throughout the show, but it was loaded with costumes. A few fun tidbits:

  • The kid dressed as Deadpool is HILARIOUS.  Go find the picture down below and read his caption sign.  Trust me, you’ll laugh.
  • Awwwww, I made a memory for the couple dressed as Thor and Enchantress.  As they were posing, it was clear they were in a relationship, so I said, “I see that the Enchantress has you under a spell…” which resulted in public snogging.  I’m normally against that, but thought it was sweet.
  • Canadians have a lot of love for Captain America, oddly enough.  There are a couple in these pics, but there were a whole lot more I couldn’t take shots of from my vantage point.  Pity poor Captain Canuck… there was only one of him.  Why no Major Mapleleaf?  Or Major Mapleleaf II?

Enjoy!


You’re !@#$’n Dead! Grindhouse Film Enlists Dawn’s Joe Linsner and… Dr. Doom?

“If you push someone over the edge, make sure they can’t crawl back up.”

There’s an awesome new grindhouse flick coming. You’re !@#$’n Dead! is a bloody, no-holds-barred revenge flick… or at least, it will be. So far, this independent feature film has put together some pretty impressive preview materials, and is looking to fan support via Kickstarter to help the production really kick into high gear. Their Kickstarter campaign will run through September 12, 2012.

The premise:

When Lexi’s younger sister makes a surprise visit to town, both girls accidentally stumble on to their town’s dirty secret and become the targets of a group of criminals looking to tie up loose ends. When Lexi’s sister is taken by the criminals, Lexi has one night to hunt down the men responsible and get her sister back alive.

Here are two trailers, the first capturing a modern aesthetic and the second dripping with retro goodness…

Seek Pictures and Golden Tiger Productions recently announced that Dawn‘s Joseph Michael Linsner is lending his support, creating exclusive artwork as a limited poster print that will contribute to the film’s fundraising campaign.  There’s another interesting tangential comic book-related tidbit which I’ll get to down below, but first, I want to present the chat I had with Jay Spence, writer and director of You’re !@#$’n Dead!


You’re !@#$’n Dead! will be your first feature film. Why did you choose to tell a grindhouse horror/revenge flick as your first film?

I chose this script for two reasons. From the start, I planned for this film to be funded by the fans, and I felt the tone and subject matter of the film would appeal to the online community. These types of films are meant as pure entertainment and I wanted to release a film that people would be excited to support, as well as to watch. Secondly, these films can be a lot of fun for the cast and crew to make, which is a great vibe for any director to have on set. There’s so much diversity of elements in this type of film. There’s a lot of action, with a dose of drama and comedy rolled in, so our cast and crew gets to experience a range that keeps things interesting for everyone involved.

How did the specific concept for You’re !@#$’n Dead! come about?

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to write a wild and gory revenge film. I’m fond of these earlier grindhouse films, mostly because of their attitude toward film-making. Many of the early films were made with next-to-no budget, with outrageous ideas that they were willing to take risks on, and I appreciate that freedom. These films often tell a simple and direct story but they still have the ability to keep audiences engaged simply because of the raw human element being revealed, and I think that element is what makes these movie relevant.

I sat down to plot the story and began the delicate balancing act of avoiding certain clichés while simultaneously embracing those common elements that are true to the genre. I avoided the common “rape scenario” as a catalyst for the story and decided I wanted to focus more on the character’s other emotions rather then focusing only on anger. A lot of these types of films start with the main character being personally attacked as a reason for their revenge, but I felt that a more interesting approach to the story would be to introduce a sister character who means more to our main character then her own life. One of the major themes of the film is the idea of struggle, both physically and emotionally, and that idea is what drove me during the writing process because it was easy for me to relate the same idea to getting the movie made.

What can you tell us about actress Ali Lukowski, and what she has brought to the character of Lexi in her initial trailer appearance, and what you expect what she’ll bring to the feature?

Ali was initially introduced to me by my producer, Corey Williams. She’s a talented and dedicated actress who’s received quite a bit of recognition in the Baltimore film scene over the past few years. Early on, my goal was to cast our female lead right away so the actress could serve as the “face” of our film and become a driving force in promoting our ambitious project. The entertainment market seems to revolve around the visual sense and I felt it was better to give our future fans a visual cue of the film as soon as possible rather then depend on long-winded explanations of what the film will eventually look like.

I was looking for an actress who could understand what we were trying to do with the character beyond the exterior appearance. Lexi, the character, is an angry girl for a variety of reasons besides the major events that insight her spree of violence. It was important to have an actress like Ali to be able to portray that same deep “fire” Lexi has inside her, even during moments where she wasn’t fighting someone. From day one, Ali understood what was going on inside Lexi’s head and she immediately channeled the character for our teaser trailer without saying any dialogue at all.

Can you summarize your Kickstarter program and the benefits of pledging?

Kickstarter.com is a crowd-funding sight built on the idea that creators can reach out to like-minded individuals and encourage these people to contribute to their creative project in exchange for being directly involved in the process. Like others on the site, I’ve set a goal for the amount of money I need in order to complete the film. Fans can then pledge whatever amount they can and, for their troubles, I give my pledgers a variety of rewards which include merchandise, film credit, exclusive artwork, and a DVD copy of the finished film. I set out to offer my pledgers as many rewards as possible and make those rewards as valuable as possible. Even at the smallest pledge amounts, I feel we’re offering something fun. We’re also offering our rewards like an original poster print of the film illustrated by comics legend, Joe Linsner, which will be exclusive to our campaign and wont be sold anywhere else. An important part about Kickstarter.com is that our goal amount is vital to the process and we must receive the entire amount from our fans by the deadline of September 12th in order to continue with the film.

(Here’s their Kickstarter video, by the by.)

How did Joe Linsner become involved in your Kickstarter promotion?

I met Joe through my day job in the comic industry. The film came up in our conversation and he showed interest in the project so, when it came time to develop the Kickstarter rewards, I reached out to him for help. He has been very supportive to our cause and I’m very grateful to him for that.

What are the qualities you feel Linsner is uniquely suited in capturing when he illustrates the heroine of You’re !@#$’n Dead!?

Joe is simply a perfect match for this project. You’re !@#$’n Dead! is a film about an ordinary girl, living a somewhat difficult but ordinary life. Eventually, our character is thrown into an extraordinary situation that forces her to take extreme measures that she never imagined she could, but she’s never the glamorous hero, fighting justice in a slick, leather outfit. Lexi is a character meant as an avatar for the audience and we’re meant to feel all the physical and emotional pain she goes though on screen. Joe is known for illustrating the female form but, most notably, for the way he represents the beauty of real-life woman in contrast to the typical exaggerated females that we see in comics. Joe’s illustration will end up embodying the beauty and strength of the Lexi character without needing to exaggerate her as more than what she is, because the moment we make her a superhero, then we’ve lost sight of our story.

You trained as an animator. Has the animation experience helped in your storytelling and film direction?

I did graduate as an animator at the University of the Arts. One of the first things you learn in animation is the ability to tell a concise and coherent story, and that skill is just as important in live-action filmmaking. Because you spend so much time creating a scene from scratch with illustration or computers, a lot of planning goes into each scene and a lot of care is taken to make sure that every angle and every gesture is telling the story even when characters aren’t speaking. Whether you’re making an action movie or a drama, the subtlety of the characters and their gestures between the action is what gives a film the most meaning to the audience. We can all appreciate the excitement of the action scenes in You’re !@#$’n Dead!, but without the quiet character moments, I feel the movie ends up being a collection of violence without any real payoff. In my opinion, I can direct any genre of film but the story and characters should always connect with the audience in some way, no matter how outrageous the story gets.

Are there any other creative-types involved in You’re !@#$’n Dead!?

We’ve been lucky enough to have quite a few other talented people involved in our project. Southern blues-rock band, The Cheaters, will be providing the soundtrack for the film. They are a generous group of guys and I’m grateful they were excited to be a part of this. We’re also excited to have the comedian Jim Meyer involved in the film. Some people online may know him under the alter ego “Dr. Doom”, the creator of the Doom-O-Matic. He’s a very funny and talented comic, as well as a good friend, and audiences should look forward to a good bit of comic relief coming from him.

Speaking of comedian Jim Meyer, he’ll be hosting “Let’s !@#$’n Party!”, the film party and fundraiser promoting You’re !@#$’n Dead! The party takes place on September 8th at Fullerton Pub in Baltimore, MD. Information can be found here.

And just for kicks, you may want to check out the comedic stylings of a Latverian dictator below. If you get a kick out of these clips, just wait ’til you see Jim Meyer’s stand-up without the mask. He’s !@#$’n hilarious!

For more info on You’re !@#$’n Dead!, be sure to visit their website, Kickstarter page, and Facebook page. It’s going to be a fantastic project.


Why Retailers Should Invite Zombies Into Stores on Halloween

Here’s an Avatar plug, straight out of the August Previews catalog, for the horror fans and ambitious retailers among us! Perhaps we should start off by saying:

They’re coming to get you, Barbra. They’re coming for you…

…this time, right in your neighborhood comic shop! On Halloween, zombie lovers across the world will have a new reason to rejoice for undead mayhem on a monthly basis, thanks to the launch of a new, ongoing Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath comic book series. As previously mentioned on Bleeding Cool, Avatar Press will deliver the gore and violence that zombie fans have been craving, courtesy of writer David Hine (Civil War: X-Men, The Darkness).

But that’s not all! Following on the footsteps of its very successful Crossed C-Day promotion earlier this year, Avatar Press is launching the new NOTLD: Aftermath series with a global tie-in event called “Day of the Undead,” set to coincide exactly with Halloween 2012, which falls on a New Comic Wednesday this year!

Here’s the full rundown on the NOTLD tie-in products being released in stores for Halloween:

  • In the August Previews catalog, Avatar has listed a number of $3.99-priced variant editions to Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath (Regular AUG120833, Wraparound AUG120834, and Gore AUG120835). They are encouraging retailers to stock up and give these comics a prominent place on store shelves on Halloween.
  • At an AWESOME value price, Avatar has listed a $2.99-priced graphic novel called NOTLD: Day of the Undead (AUG120838), which contains 64 pages of our best NOTLD tales from the past. This is a great bargain for customers – especially those who come into stores on the spookiest day of the year!
  • Avatar is making a Retailer Promo Kit (AUG120839) available to stores. If a retailer chooses to acquire this kit, they will have everything they need to throw a zombie event in their store, including:

Twenty-five (25) NOTLD temporary tattoos
Twenty-five (25) NOTLD zombie icon buttons
Twenty-five (25) NOTLD stickers
Three (3) NOTLD oversized posters
One (1) NOTLD squishy brain
One (1) NOTLD Volume 3 Trade Paperback ($19.99 retail)
One (1) special retailer-only Classic Movie Poster Edition of the NOTLD: Day of the Undead graphic novel

  • Ken Meyer Jr. (of Warren Ellis’ Atmospherics) will be individually painting every one of the Aftermath #1 Original Painted Art Cover Editions (AUG120837), providing a one-of-a-kind item for the most discerning zombie fans. It’s painted and it’s gorgeous, perfect for the high-end collector!  One painted edition is eligible to retailers for every 15 copies of Aftermath stocked.


Like Crossed C-Day, the level of participation from retailers is completely at their own discretion!  For example, several dozen retailers celebrated C-Day by hosting Crossed cosplayers, acting out Crossed attacks, and even creating films of the in-store shenanigans!  And those stores that participated saw some amazing leaps in Crossed readership as a result.

If you’re a retailer and would like to host a zombie walk, costume contest, or other zombie-themed event in your store on Halloween to promote the Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath comic series, reach out to Avatar Press and let them know!  They will gladly promote your event online at AvatarPress.com, and Bleeding Cool will likely join in on the fun, as well.

There’s only 48 hours left for retailers to place their pre-orders for Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath #1 through Diamond’s August Previews catalog.  Don’t miss out!

 


“Kill, Kill, Kill!” Mike Wolfer Talks the New Direction of STITCHED

I always love to chat with writer/artist Mike Wolfer about the myriad projects he’s attached to. Whether it’s his work on the Boundless Comics beauties Lady Death and War Goddess, or his creepy horror on Avatar’s Stitched and Night of the Living Dead, or his new project in development, Malison Plague, he’s an interesting cat who’s got a lot of great insight into the comics storytelling medium.

Beginning in September, Wolfer will take over the writing chores on Stitched, the monthly comic series devised originally by Garth Ennis as a feature film. He had previously handled both the art chores on that book, plus adapting Ennis’ original screenplay to the comic format. The new story arc takes the terror and action to never-before-seen levels and locales, as Wolfer explains below. And he has a special message to all you cupcake lovers out there, too.


 

What should readers know about the previous Stitched storyline, going into the new storyline?

You’re not even going to say, “Hi,” to me first? After all of the interviews we’ve done together, you’re just going to dispense with the pleasantries? I should have known. I’ve seen the hundreds of photos you’ve taken of female cosplayers at conventions. And by the way: Where are all of the NSFW pics that don’t make their way to Bleeding Cool?

 

Yeah, about those… I’m pretty sure you don’t want to know.

Okay, then! Anyhow… Stitched. The new storyline will run from #8 to #13, and is a self-contained storyline of its own, just like the first seven issues. But “Black Drum,” which is what I’m calling this arc, is a direct continuation of the first arc. We don’t see any of the characters from the first story, those who survived (if any), but this story is a natural progression of the premise Garth established. Readers who missed the first one should certainly be teased for missing out on a good thing, but they won’t have to have read it to understand what’s what in the new story. Everything is neatly explained, while we simultaneously blaze ahead with new characters and situations.

 

Although I know that Avatar wouldn’t like you to give too many secrets away, what can you tell us about the new arc?  Where will it take us, and what will be the dramatic premise?

In the first arc, we were introduced to the concept of these supernatural creatures being used as enforcers by a black market slaver in the Afghanistan desert. A group of American and British soldiers who are trying to fight their way out of the country must also survive against these unkillable, super-human monsters, so in the midst of all of that, we see snippets of who really controls the Stitches and how they’re created. But we don’t see just what the black magic is that creates them, which is something twisted and horrible which terrifies those who know about it. Like you said, I can’t say too much without spoiling the finale of the first arc, but the action will shift to a cargo ship bound for Sri Lanka, where a collector of extremely rare antiquities is waiting to take delivery of six very unique relics. Actually, the story opens with guns blazing, because a team of Navy SEALS has tracked the ship and boarded it to try to secure those relics for the U.S. Government.

 

Will there be a difference in tone between the first arc and the second?

There will. The first arc by Garth was essentially a war story with monsters, which worked beautifully, so I’ll be carrying over the military themes into the second arc. But as the story goes along, we’ll be focusing on the dark, supernatural origin of the Stitches, so the direction is going to shift and head deeper and deeper into straight horror. The Stitches were once human, these poor fuckers who were captured and had some hideous black goo poured down their throats before having all of their orifices sewn closed. And whatever that black crap is that they were forced to swallow eats them up from inside, while imbuing them with a supernatural force that makes them invincible. Shoot them, hack off their limbs, crush their heads… Nothing works, they just keep coming. So what we’ll be uncovering is the origin of the force within them that drives them to hate the living and kill, kill, kill.

 

Stitched originated as a film project, launching first with the 15-minute short film and evolving into an ongoing comic series.  Considering that the premise existed in a visual medium before its comics adaptation, what are your thoughts on how those visual cues will continue or change as you move into the new storyline?

I think the major difference is going to be for the artist, Fernando Furukawa. To be honest, as artist on the first arc (in part based on the short film), I really beat myself up trying to adhere as faithfully as I could to what was on-screen. So even though I was drawing and pacing the action in a way that felt comfortable to me, I was still obsessing over minute details, like the likenesses of the actors, the costumes, uniforms, locations, all of it. What Fernando gets to do is work from a blank slate, to create his own unique feel for all of the new characters and locations.

 

The first Stitched run had a resonant cast: the tough-as-nails but injured leader, the initially weak “last girl” who finds new strength, the wise but cold sniper, etc. 

Oh, so you think you have everyone figured out, huh? Have you seen the last issue of the first arc? (Laughs.)

Laugh it up, fuzzball. So, do you think we’ll ever see a return of these characters down the line, or rather, will their influence from the previous storyline survive into the new arc?

No, we won’t see them again. Just like with Garth’s first Crossed story, those characters are off-limits and not to be seen again. Their story has been told, period. But still, I do make reference to them at the beginning of “Black Drum,” because this is a direct continuation of that story, just dealing with a new set of central characters.

 

In moving forward with the new Stitched storyline as its writer, you’re now directing the artist as opposed to actually being the artist.  What are your thoughts on handing off the illustration responsibilities to another artist?

It’s always exciting, and an interesting experience, to write for an artist I haven’t worked with before. You never know what you’ll get, and sometimes it takes a few issues to create a rhythm and understanding of each other’s strengths. Sometimes, in all honesty, that never happens, the successful connection. What I mean is, it starts with the visualization of each panel in my brain, to the transference of those images into words in a script, then that goes into the artist’s brain and finally onto paper.  Sometimes, two people just don’t “see” the same way, or have the same understanding of the personality traits of characters. The artist, in a sense, has to be a bit of a born actor; he or she has to understand when a character should show extravagant behavior, or subtle behavior, depending on that character’s personality and motivation. If a character is happy, smiling and buying an ice cream cone from a vendor, their hands should not be in angry fists. If you saw that in a movie, you’d say, “What a bad actor.” It’s the same thing in comics, but it’s the responsibility of the artist to keep that “actor’s” actions in check and always appropriate.

Which brings me to Fernando Furukawa. From the first page, the first panel, his layouts perfectly captured what I had envisioned, down to the most minute details. And he goes way beyond that, adding a very lush buffet of subtle emotions and expressions which make all of the characters, even secondary background characters, unique. I can’t tell you how excited I am about the art, I’m serious. It’s gorgeous, super-detailed, manga-influenced. The action is hyper-realistic and so well choreographed. It’s seamless and flows incredibly well, like some violent ballet. It’s horrible and beautiful to watch at the same time.

 

Stitched, like Crossed, is a project conceived of by Garth Ennis, but ultimately open to other creators to expand upon.  Are you able to make major contributions to the Stitched back story or must your new vision build only off of what’s been printed before?

Aside from the characters of the first story arc, everything else is wide open, including the origin of the Stitches. When I signed on as writer, Garth said, “It’s all yours, run with it,” but he’s also overseeing the major elements, and offering suggestions or ideas on the core or their story, so yes, I can contribute, but it’s been in collaboration with Garth, because it’s his baby. I’m just helping it grow. The cool thing, and something I’m really psyched about, is that we’re dealing with a whole new mythos. It’s a brand new, iconic monster we’re creating from the ground up, so that alone is really exciting, to be able to create a new Frankenstein, in a sense.

 

I happen to know you’re a huge horror movie fan, especially of classic (or cult) movies from a bygone era.  Are there particular cinematic influences you draw from as you write the new STITCHED stories?

You must be creeping on my Facebook page to know that. Are you stalking me? Oh, wait… I “friended” you, didn’t I?

 

Yep, that’ll teach ya.

Well, it is an interesting question, and I get asked that one a lot, but I don’t have any specific movies, or music, or comics, or novels — nothing — which I use for inspiration. What comes out just comes out naturally. But like you said, I’m a huge fan of old-school horror, particularly from the 70’s, stuff from Hammer Films, Amicus; Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Filipino horror films, I’m all over the map. I was raised on the visual storytelling of those movies, so that’s what seeped into my brain when I was a kid and that’s how I naturally pace my stories today. That’s what scared me then, so that’s how I try to scare readers now. I’m not a fan of, “Page 1, Panel 1: There’s the monster in full view, seen from head to toe.” I just wrote a scene in an upcoming issue where a “deactivated” Stitch is brought to life. Instead of a big splash page showing him jumping out of the crate he’s stored in, I have a shot of the side of the crate, and we can’t see inside it. Then a shot of a human hand shaking the can of pebbles which creates the sound that brings the creature to life. Then the same side shot of the crate, only now the dusty, ancient hand of the creature is rising… And all we see is the hand. That’s it. And to me, that’s scary.

 

Consider the sentence: “If you’re a fan of ____________, you should pick up the new storyline of Stitched.”  What’s a target audience that you would love to see come aboard for the new story, and why?

Hmm… There are so many ways to fill in that blank. How about “horror,” “Garth Ennis,” “Tombs Of The Blind Dead,” “Ringu,” “cupcakes,” “manga,” “shocking gore”… oh, crap, “Mike Wolfer.” I almost forgot that one! “Black Drum” kind of has it all — well, except cupcakes, but who doesn’t like them? The target audience I’d like to reach is obviously the gorehounds. To broaden the scope, I’d also invite the comic sophisticates. I think that many of the uninitiated will find that there’s a whole lot more going on beneath the surface of Stitched than the violence. The Walking Dead has made quite a reputation for itself as “the thinking man’s zombie series.” I think those readers would be very surprised by the depth of the characters and the effectiveness of the slow, simmering suspense we’re presenting in Stitched.

 

When you look at what you’re doing to this new Stitched storyline, what do you think of as your favorite new contribution to the mythos?  Or perhaps a favorite scene or character, if you don’t want to give too much away?

Without a doubt, my favorite contribution would be the origin of the black magic which animates the Stitches. What Garth and I devised for the creation of the vengeful, horrific force encased within these creatures is going to be sad, hideous, and most-likely controversial, but it’s a fantasy scenario based upon a cultural atrocity that’s still practiced in our real world today. It’s not pleasant, but it’s the truth, which makes it all the more frightening, and hopefully, it will get people thinking.

 


 

Stitched #8 Regular Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: JUL120808


 

Stitched #8 Wraparound Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: JUL120809


 

Stitched #8 Gore Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: JUL120810


 

Stitched #8 Ancient Evil Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
Ask Retailer for Pricing, Diamond Item Code: JUL120811


 

Stitched #9 Regular Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: AUG120872


 

Stitched #9 Wraparound Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: AUG120873


 

Stitched #9 Gore Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
$3.99 Retail, Diamond Item Code: AUG120874


 

Stitched #9 Ancient Evil Edition
Written by Mike Wolfer
Cover & Interior Artwork by Fernando Furukawa
Ask Retailer for Pricing, Diamond Item Code: AUG120875


Punk Rock Zombies! David Hine Talks About Halloween’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: AFTERMATH

On Halloween, Avatar Press will launch its new, ongoing Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath series. To support the launch of this monthly horror series, Avatar is reprinting classic NOTLD tales as a value-priced Day of the Undead graphic novel ($2.99 for 64 pages), plus offering a variety of promotional items to retailers to encourage zombie cosplayers, contests, and other undead events at the local comic book shops. David Hine (Civil War: X-Men, The Darkness) has taken the reins on the Aftermath series, and provided some thoughts on the story and legacy of George A. Romero’s original zombie classic.


 

How did you first become involved with the Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath project from Avatar Press?

About a year ago, someone not a million miles from Bleeding Cool dropped my name to Avatar publisher William Christensen as a possible writer on the new Crossed: Badlands bi-monthly.  When William contacted me, he also mentioned that he was working up a new ongoing series based on the Night of the Living Dead and was open to ideas on how to progress the story beyond the setting of the first movie in 1968.  Avatar had already published several mini-series and one-shots, with some of the stories co-written by John Russo (who co-wrote the screenplay for the first movie along with George Romero).  The first collected volume included a prequel to the movie and the second was set shortly after the first outbreak, but shifting the action to Washington, DC.

I’ve been interested in the idea of a community that is quarantined because of an outbreak of disease, since I first read The Plague by Albert Camus, so I pitched an idea for a storyline set in London in 1980 with punk rock and the Brixton riots as a background, where Brixton is basically cordoned off from the rest of London to contain the zombie epidemic, and the inhabitants abandoned to live or die by their own wits.  From a commercial and practical point of view, that setting was not going to work.  It was a little too removed from the majority of our readership and would have been logistical hell for the artists, who would have no knowledge of the time period or the geographical setting.  I switched the setting to the USA, but kept the punk elements and the timeline.  William went for it.

 

What can you tell us about the first storyline in the Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath series? What’s it about, and who are the main characters?

It’s 1980, a little more than 10 years after the first zombie outbreak and people have grown complacent, accepting the official medical view that the disease has been wiped out.  In Los Angeles, a punk band called Creeping Flesh are playing their first big gig and the streets are swarming with their fans, who have the bad taste to wear zombie make-up, causing confusion when reports start to break of a re-occurrence of the zombie epidemic.  The result is the most memorable debut/farewell gig of any punk band in history.

The first arc of the story follows the exodus from Los Angeles, which causes the spread of the disease across the country.  The arc is titled ‘Viva Las Vegas’.  Vegas is seen as a safe haven, at least for a while.  The lead singer and guitarist of Creeping Flesh makes it safely to join her father, who is a Nevada senator.  Circumstances throw together a real mixed bunch of survivors, who in everyday life wouldn’t piss on one another if they were on fire.  There’s a salesman who has built his rep on selling zombie insurance, a retired couple who arrive for their dream holiday on the last plane into Vegas before airspace is shut down, and a professional gambler in town for a poker game that means life or death to him, even before the zombies show up.  And there’s a family that is still recovering from the trauma of being in the middle of the previous outbreak.

 

Will the Aftermath series follow the narrative of any one person throughout, or like Crossed: Badlands, will each storyline follow different characters?

There’s a core group of characters who are introduced through the first arc, but there’s no guarantee how many of them will survive to the second arc.  In future storylines, we’ll be following them as they flee across the USA, trying to stay ahead of the epidemic.  New characters will be introduced for each storyline and some of those will stay. Some, obviously, will not make it.  I think we’re all used to the idea that in an ongoing drama like this, people are going to die.

In the first arc, each episode is told from a different point of view, as the various character arcs overlap.  Their own personal conflicts are already pretty intense and throwing zombies into the mix ramps things up to eleven on the dramatic scale.  Right now, the punk singer Anne Danté looks like the most interesting character, but who knows?  If she has to go, she has to go.

 

Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, and indeed his entire Dead mythology, have iconic status in the horror genre.  What are your thoughts on contributing to its legacy?

I have to confess that the reason this is a very special project to me is that I saw Night of the Living Dead when it first hit the UK movie theatres.  It was a few years later than the USA release, but in those pre-internet days, word of the movie hadn’t filtered through to my neck of the woods.  I saw it as the B-movie on a double-bill with Silent Running.  That was the movie I was waiting for and the opening minutes of Living Dead did not impress.  It was in black-and-white and held all the promise of those god-awful horror movies from the 50′s that provided fodder for the drive-ins.  In fact, it looked like it was made in the 1950’s. About five minutes into the movie, that had all changed.  I was on the edge of my seat, mouth open, a voice in my head repeating, ‘What the fuck?! What the fuck??!!!’ over and over until the closing set of stills, with the meat hooks and those dumb rednecks who just killed the hero after he survived all that zombie shit, dammit!

It’s probably hard for today’s audience to understand or appreciate how groundbreaking this movie was.  It absolutely defined the zombie genre and more than that, the entire horror genre, up to and including the heightened ‘home-movie’ reality of Blair Witch Project.  I don’t remember watching Silent Running at all that day, though it was a perfectly fine movie too.  My brain was set to ‘stunned’ and I never really recovered.  I just hope I can add something to the legacy that will fuck up the head of someone somewhere in the way my head was fucked up all those years ago.

 

Did you have much experience with the Night of the Living Dead comics prior to taking reins on the new Aftermath series?  If so, what are your thoughts?

I read all three series.  The first arc, by John Russo and Mike Wolfer, is particularly interesting.  It’s a prequel to the first movie, so you get to see the back stories of characters like Ben, the Coopers, and Sheriff McClelland.  There’s also a scene in a gas station that is a nod to the movie that must have inspired Romero and Russo.  In Hitchcock’s The Birds, there’s a similar scene where a group of people are trapped in a gas station as the birds attack.  I had never really made the connection before, but if you look at the Hitchcock movie and replace the birds with people you have the same basic plot.

The Death Valley miniseries is a cool premise too, with a Manson Family-style cult.  I guess there were three signifiers for the end of the Love and Peace of the sixties: Altamont, Charles Manson, and Night of the Living Dead .

 

How does the new Aftermath series fit into the overall timeline of the Romero Dead films and the previous Avatar comic series?

This takes place 12 years after the first outbreak as seen in the first Dead movie.  We’re not really referencing the other movies directly, although their iconography permeates every scene.  I love both of the two strands of zombie movies.  Russo went into the self-parody mode with The Return of the Living Dead, but it’s a great movie, maybe my favorite.  It’s genuinely funny and genuinely creepy, and of course, it gave us the BRAAAIINNNNSSS motif and that great line where the zombies send out for a fast food delivery: ‘Send more cops!’  And do I need to mention Trash dancing in the graveyard?

Romero’s movies are the classics of course, and have come to dominate the public consciousness as far as zombies go, defining the rules of the game, just as Bram Stoker’s Dracula defined the rules for vampires. Beyond that, Aftermath is all fresh territory.

 

How did you prepare for writing Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath? Is there a particular writing method or process you use to prepare for writing horror?

I have a different ritual for each of the books I write.  For Night of the Living Dead, I lock myself away in the basement for a week, listening to Throbbing Gristle’s Hamburger Lady on continuous loop, with only a couple of quarts of Jack Daniel’s Old Number 7 Tennessee Whiskey and specially imported Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme bars for sustenance.  That seems to do the trick.

 

What are your thoughts on the Dead film series and Night of the Living Dead comics as period pieces, set in a past era?

I suppose the movies are period pieces now.  They certainly reflect their times, although that sense of social unease that underpins the zombie mythology never seems to go away.  With Aftermath, I’m looking to capture the feel of the punk and post-punk era of the late 70’s early 80’s.  It was a time when the idealism of the 60’s had given way to the nihilism of the Blank Generation and was about to mutate into the selfish consumerism of the Reagan years.  It’s a challenge to write a story in the fairly recent past.  You have to be so careful to avoid anachronisms.  This is a time when we were not always contactable because telephones were not portable and there was no internet. Middle-class housewives, TV personalities and movie stars did not sport tattoos and we didn’t say, “And I was, like, awesome, dude!” (Not that I say that anyway, of course). But did people say “bogus,” “chill,” and “stoked” in 1980?  How big were boom boxes?  Could you still smoke in the movie theatres?  You have to get all that stuff right and I hope we don’t screw up too badly.

 

Avatar Press plans to kick off the Aftermath series in style, launching on Halloween 2012 with variant covers, promotional kits of goodies for retailers, a value-priced reprint collection, and more. What are your thoughts on the NOTLD relaunch campaign?

As long as I get sent a package of all the merchandise, the more the merrier.  I will not be wearing zombie make-up for signings, though.  Sorry.

 

The Walking Dead is the powerhouse zombie title on the comic market today.  What differentiates the monthly Aftermath series from Walking Dead or other zombie titles on the market?

I’m not going to worry too much about making it different to Walking Dead or any of the other zombie books.  After all, Night of the Living Dead is where it all started.  I will do what I always do and write the series in my own style.  My approach to characters is different to Robert Kirkman’s. He’s very much into using dialogue to open up the characters.  I write more stripped-down and opaque dialogue, where my characters are more likely to dissemble or lie outright.  Apart from that, the sex scenes will be a little less discrete and the violence perhaps a little more gleeful.  What all zombie stories have in common is that mass killing of zombies is fun.  We won’t forget that.


Cosplay Round-Up: Chicago Comic-Con 2012

There were a few true gems at Chicago Comic-Con this year. I think my favorites were when Bossk photobombed an unsuspecting Molotov Cocktease, or when the littlest Hulk (so adorable) smashed two puny Lady Deadpools. Enjoy!


First Look at Avatar Covers for November

Avatar Press reveals the issue covers to all its new releases slated to be on store shelves in November, and live for pre-orders from comic shop retailers as of Diamond’s September Previews catalog.

 


 

Stitched Volume 1 Graphic Novel
Written by Garth Ennis and Adapted by Mike Wolfer
Artwork by Mike Wolfer

Softcover Edition, Hardcover Edition, and Signed Hardcover Edition
Illustrated by Mike Wolfer

 


 

Dan the Unharmable #7
Written by David Lapham
Artwork by Rafael Ortiz

Regular Edition, Retro Incentive Edition, and Wraparound Edition
Illustrated by Rafael Ortiz

 


 

Fashion Beast #3
Written by Alan Moore and Adapted by Antony Johnston
Artwork by Facundo Percio

Regular Edition, Haute Couture Incentive Edition, Tarot Incentive Edition, and Wraparound Edition
Illustrated by Facundo Percio

 


 

Night of the Living Dead: Aftermath #2
Written by David Hine
Artwork by German Erramouspe

Regular Edition, Gore Edition, Terror Incentive Edition, and Wraparound Edition
Illustrated by Raulo Caceres


Marc Silvestri Interview on Cyber Force

I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with Top Cow chief and artist extraordinaire, Marc Silvestri, about the new Cyber Force series kicking off this year… completely free for the first five full-size issues. Here’s his video of the Kickstarter program alongside Matt Hawkins, Top Cow President and co-writer on the new series. Below that, you’ll find an insightful little Q&A that sheds some light on the new direction for one of the Image cornerstone titles.

Cyber Force has been on hiatus for a little while. Why did the series take the break, and with respect to the new content, what makes now the right time to kick off its new direction?

Yeah, I felt Cyber Force needed a break to distance itself a bit from original series. There are parts of the original run that I never really liked, so this is a good opportunity to take a mulligan and toss them. All the mutant stuff, blue people, characters with weird-ass names had to go. The original unused concepts of Cyber Force are relevant now much more than 20 years ago, so yes, this is a complete redux.

The simple idea of Cyber Force is that technology runs amok, but it’s the nuance and subtleties of human/technological co-dependence that really drives the story. This Cyber Force is about the human race and the rapidly-shrinking distance between our present and our future, not a “humans against mutants” story. For the first time in history, our intelligence has outstripped our natural pace of evolution. Basically, as a species, we’ve timed it all wrong.

Why did you decide to launch the new Cyber Force series through the Kickstarter program and with its nationwide giveaway of its first five issues?

In a market filled with 52 of these or “New X” of those, you’ve got to fight to get noticed, and giving five issues away for free seemed like a pretty good way to do that. If my last name was Romney, maybe I could finance this myself, but it’s not, so social funding makes for a good option. Plus, it gives fans an opportunity to be part of something unique in comics. What’s awesome about this whole project is that it’s being made possible by the lifeblood of our industry: the fans and the retailers. I think that’s pretty cool.

With the free giveaway promotion, you now have the perfect reason for new customers to enter comic shops on a regular basis. What will are the marketing initiatives that you will make to drive those potential new customers to stores?

The retailer is VERY important to use and like I mentioned, we couldn’t do this without their help. For sure the blue-sky scenario is that the Cyber Force project brings traffic to the stores, but we also know there’s more we can do. I feel that most don’t fans realize that retailers still have to pay a certain amount per comic even on “free” comic book day, so we want to help the retailers as much as possible. One of the things we’re doing is offering the retailers special editions that they can sell to make up for their costs ordering the free CF books. And, of course, if we do our jobs right and deliver a great book, fans will hopefully line up even when it’s not free anymore.

What are the benefits of investing in the Kickstarter program? How did you come to the decision that these particular perks would be in play for your Kickstarter, and what are your expectations on fan participation?

When I was a kid, there was a show I wanted to watch that was only available on publicly funded television. That show was Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the only way I could see it was because people pledged to the station that broadcast it. Depending on the amount donated, you got something cool, which is basically the Kickstarter model. I didn’t have much money, but I sent in my five bucks and did my part. And frankly, we’re giving some really sweet and valuable swag in return for people donating. I don’t know the numbers, but let’s just say that the vast majority of people that watch or listen to publicly funded programming don’t pay/donate… but that’s okay because enough people do. No judgments whatsoever, it’s just the way things work. For us, fan participation has been amazing and thanks to them all fans around the world will get Cyber Force for free.

“Bio-Cybernetic Steampunk” is the term you’ve described as the new look for the team. What are the elements that make your characters and/or environment meet that aesthetic? Aside from visuals, does that description apply to how the story itself will be crafted?

One of the things when designing a world is to try to deliver something that hasn’t been done (or at least not done to death). As an artist, I’m somewhat constrained by my own style, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do something that, although identifiable as mine, can’t still be fresh. I love steampunk and the clockwork aesthetic it brings, but the genre’s appeal remains somewhat boutique. And the “bio-mechanical” look of Alien has been done, and done, and done. Including by me. I love both genres but didn’t want to be held to the visual rules of either. Best solution? Mash `em up!

Everything in the new Cyber Force is enmeshed from the ground up. Without spoilers, the bio-cybernetic steampunk aspect will be used allegorically to add to the paranoia that runs deep in the story. In other words, we’re going to be sneaky bastards with our storytelling. No preconceived notion is safe, no anticipated plot turn is safe, and no character is safe.

As we’ve seen with Hollywood films, for instance, sometimes there is a need for a reboot, and sometimes not so much. Given that Cyber Force is a team of characters, when approaching the new series, did you feel that there was a particular hero (or several) whose individual journey of character development had reached its end, thus truly requiring a revamp? On the flip side, were there some characters that — knowing that the reboot was coming – you were hesitant to change, given your own appreciation for what had come before?

Hmm, I’m going to answer that with a cryptic “Muahahahaha!”

The bold new Cyber Force launch seems perfect for introducing new readers to the diverse cast. Are there specific plans in place for spin-offs to build upon your launch initiative? Which of the characters do you feel has the best potential to resonate with new audiences?

We’ll be doing spin-offs ONLY if the fans want them. The new Cyber Force is going to be very deep in character, way more the original ever was, so I can guarantee that there will be characters that fans will really connect to. Matt and I are using Game Of Thrones as our benchmark on how to maintain focus on an epic scale without losing drama or intimacy. We’re going to unwrap the world of Cyber Force through the actions of characters both extraordinary as well as ordinary. This reboot is an origin story in the truest sense to the point that there is no Cyber Force when we start, but there will certainly be the need for one by the fifth issue.