What’s SHOOT THE MESSENGER?
Well, AICN COMICS: SHOOT THE MESSENGER is your weekly one stop shop for comic book -EWS. What’s comic book –EWS? Well, it’s our hodge podge of everything not reviews here at AICN Comics. Sure you can find out the @$$Holes’ critical opinions of your favorite books every Wednesday at AICN Comics. But here, you’ll find special reports such as previews, interviews, special features, and occasionally news gathered here from our online brethren at Newsarama, CBR, Wizard, etc. Sure those guys are the best at reporting news as it breaks. Click on the links for the original stories. This column cuts the crap to run down all the vital information for those of you who don’t follow it as it comes in, and serves it all up with that special ingredient of @$$y goodness.
Ambush Bug talks DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE
with writers Ryan Schifrin & Larry Hama!
Hey folks, Ambush Bug here. This week we take a look at a new book from Archaia called DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE. We previewed this book last week, but for those of you who missed it, I thought I would preview it again in this interview with the writers behind this new and damn cool book. Ryan Schifrin and Larry Hama have paired up before with Devil’s Due’s SPOOKS series. Now they’re back with a high flying adventure one shot, DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE, due out in October and available in this month’s Previews. Let’s see what Ryan and Larry have to say.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): OK, I just finished reading DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE. Can you catch the rest of the world up on what it's all about?RYAN SCHIFRIN (RS): The basic pitch would be: What if Han Solo and Jack Sparrow teamed up and worked for Cthulu? It’s action-adventure, it’s supernatural, it’s horror, it’s about two buddies who keep getting themselves in deep shit, it’s humorous and irreverent.
The two main characters are Moebius and Basil – jewel thieves that have been tricked into working for a mysterious man known as The Collector. He sends them on missions around the globe to steal supernatural artifacts for him. The Collector isn’t what he appears to be. This particular story starts in New Guinea, as our two ‘heroes’ have been captured by headhunters and are about to be sacrificed to a volcano.
BUG: What does the title DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE mean to you?LARRY HAMA (LH): I guess you didn't google it, huh?
RS: In my mind it was about the unholy pact that Basil and Moebius have made with their boss, The Collector. He basically owns their souls. However, I recently Googled it and discovered it’s also a metaphor for masturbation. Too late to change it now!
BUG: This is a one-shot, right? But it definitely reads like a serial. Are more adventures of Moebius and Basil planned? Are they going to be in one-shot form, miniseries, or ongoing?LH: I hope so!
RS: My goal is to create adventures for Moebius and Basil for the rest of my life. Fritz Leiber wrote Fafhrd & Mouser stories starting in 1939 and kept cranking them out until 1988. I started out writing about Baz and Mob in a movie that is basically a prequel to DEVIL’S. It’s called THE BLOODSTONE CAPER (an intentionally pulpy title), and was what I cooked up to direct next after ABOMINABLE. All the scripts that came my way were torture porn type stuff, which I ran away from, so in self-defense I realized I better figure out exactly what kind of stories I do want to tell and starting pondering about why horror has so many iconic villains, but not so many iconic heroes, and how can that be remedied? That was the genesis of this whole thing. In the process, I fell in love with these characters and this world, and kept coming up with more ideas. I’m currently finishing up writing a really epic adventure that is the sequel to DEVIL’S, and I’ve outlined several more stories beyond that. My thought was that, rather than short stories, you could do comics instead. Some stories would fit in a double-sized issue, others would take an entire graphic novel. However, the actual form of media could be anything - Movies, comics, books, video games, television – you can tell these stories in any format. I’d definitely love to do movies starring these characters – that’s the best way to reach a wide audience. But comics or short stories are cool too, whatever avenue is possible to keep the creativity going until they pry the pen from my cold, dead fingers.
BUG: What were your influences in coming up with the premise and lead characters in DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE?RS: For years, I kept getting a glimpse of Moebius and Basil in my mind. The first image I got was these two thieves in a pub, drunk off their asses celebrating and singing a tavern song after they successfully stole a large ruby. I had no idea what the story was, but these two characters felt absolutely real to me, so I kept waiting for more of the story to come. While I was writing, R.A. Salvatore told me to check out Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser. Those stories had the exact tone I was going for. Ultimately, this became a mash-up of that plus Indiana Jones, Sean Connery Bond movies, Coen Brothers dark humor, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, H.P. Lovecraft, film noir, British crime movies a la Guy Ritchie, and a bit of Tarantino as well.
BUG: The Collector is an ominous fellow in this book and his origin is only hinted at in this book. Without giving too much away, can you tell me a little about him and what his motivations are?LH: He has the ambitions and motivations of a trans-dimensional monomaniacal cephalopod with delusions of grandeur. How these translate into human rationale is difficult to say without wild conjecture whilst treading in murky waters indeed. Instead of "What Makes Sammy Run," it's more like "what are the thought processes of a hungry female praying mantis?" or "what the heck was OJ thinking?"
RS: Originally I was going to keep The Collector’s origin and motives mysterious to myself, because part of the joy of writing these stories was learning about the characters as you go along. But in order to know what the big picture is all about, I finally had to peek behind the curtain. I will say that he’s not from our dimension, and that he has a Master Plan. He’s building something, this bizarre machine, out of all the supernatural artifacts and objects that Moebius and Basil bring him in each story. Once he’s finished building it….well, you’ll have to wait and see.
BUG: To Larry, though you're no stranger to high adventure stories, this is a bit of a departure from the hard edged action adventure readers may be used to reading in your GI JOE stories. What was it like taking a more comedic, light-hearted approach with this title?LH: I thought those Joe stories WERE comedic and light-hearted!
BUG: To Ryan, you directed the film ABOMINABLE. How is making a comic different than making a movie for you?RS: You aren’t working with actors and you can do it while you’re in your underwear. Seriously, movies and comics aren’t all that different. The writing process is still about characters, character arcs, structure, action and dialogue. Working with the artist is a lot like doing storyboards. I always am sending the colorist pictures from movies, for lighting references. The colorist is basically your D.P. You get to do it from home, which is always nice. You are still collaborating with all kinds of creative geniuses (if you’re lucky). The other nice thing about comics is that you don’t have the chaos of a film set – if things are going to go wrong, if someone drops out, at least it happens in slow motion, and you have weeks or months to fix it.
The downside is that you don’t get the unpredictable cool things that can happen on a movie. You don’t get to see what sort of interesting things an actor will do with the character. You don’t get music and sound design. You don’t get to experience it with a mass audience.
On the plus side, you can blow up as much shit as you want. If you can imagine it, it can be drawn. If you have an epic story that would cost 300 million to make, and you’re dying to tell it, do it as a comic! I found it to be surprisingly gratifying, more than I thought, seeing the stories come to life as comics.
BUG: To both, you guys have collaborated before on SPOOKS and now DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE. Can you tell us about your writing process? Doesn't it get a bit crowded typing all of those stories with four hands on the keyboard?LH: It's a lot of passing back and forth.
RS: I grew up reading all of Larry’s GI JOE comics. He was one of my idols (still is, but don’t tell him). Just getting the opportunity to work with him was a Dream Come True. In the case of SPOOKS I brought him a finished treatment and asked him to help me adapt it into comic book form. In the process of condensing things, he came up with a ton of new and incredible ideas. Our methodology is to email things back and forth until it’s finished. He lives in New York, I live in L.A. So first we’d create a script for the artist, a description of each panel and some temporary dialogue (so the artist knows how much space to leave for balloons etc). Once the artwork is done, I’ll do a pass at the dialogue, then I’ll send it to Larry and he’ll do a pass and send it back, and we’ll do this until it’s time to letter it.
For SPOOKS: OMEGA TEAM, I helped create the team, but I wanted to give Larry his own team that he could do whatever he wanted with, and get out of his way. So I acted more as a supervising producer, and Larry did his thing.
For DEVIL’S, I had a rough treatment, and an existing screenplay of the prequel. So the universe was already defined. But I knew that Larry had read all the Fafhrd & Mouser stories, so I wanted him to have as much creative input as possible. And, oddly enough, in the 1970’s, Larry was a member of the Crusty Bunkers, who inked the SWORD AND SORCERY comics for DC – which were adaptations of the Fafhrd & Mouse stories! Larry came up with a ton of cool ideas for this.
BUG: For both Ryan and Larry, is your relationship like that of Moebius and Basil? If so, who's who?RS: Moebius is who I’d like to be – devil may care attitude, loves adventure and travel, best friend a guy can have, always ready with the witty banter. But Larry will probably say I’m more like The Collector…
LH: Ryan is Moebius. I'm more like The Collector, or the elevator operator.
RD: Larry’s a ninja in real life, a total badass - he’s probably killed people with his bare hands, and he can be grumpy like Basil sometimes.
BUG: Can you tell me a little bit about the art of DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE?RS: The pencils and inks are done by Adam Archer, who also did SPOOKS with us. Adam contacted me after I had done ABOMINABLE, to say he was a fan and to send me his portfolio, which included his work on FRIDAY THE 13th for Wildstorm. I really loved his style, and it just so happened we were in the middle of looking for an artist to do SPOOKS.
Our colors are by Lizzy John, who I think is an amazing up and coming talent. I saw her work on REST, and decided then and there that I wanted her to work on DEVIL’S. I thought it was important for DEVIL’S to have a different look than SPOOKS, and her painterly style just struck me as the perfect choice.
LH: It's great. Everybody should own at least three or four copies. Maybe five or six even. What the heck- make it an even dozen!
BUG: Last chance, why should folks beat feet and get to their comic store to pick up DEVIL'S HANDSHAKE, and when can they do that?LH: Because my stuff is always years ahead of its time and nobody will know how totally killer blow-away cool and good it is until years down the pike when you won't be able to afford to buy a mint copy blood for plutonium credits, NOW is the time to bag up a good many copies while the getting is good, yessireebob!
RS: It’s 5 bucks, it’s double-sized and it’ll get your pulse-pounding, your sides splitting, your eyes bulging, your spirits lifting, and could quite possibly alter your life in unexpected ways. I grew up watching movies like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, reading THE HARDY BOYS and I just love adventure stories. There’s a fun factor that I think is missing from a lot of movies and stories today that I wanted to bring back. So I’d ask that people take a gander at DEVIL’S, and if they like it to please spread the word, and I’ll do my best to keep creating fun rides with these characters for as long as I can. And please support indie comics – we know Marvel and DC aren’t going away anytime soon, but all the little guys need some love!
The comic comes out in October – just in time for Halloween.
BUG: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions.RS: Thanks Mark, and thanks for the opportunity! And big thanks to everyone who took the time to read this!
Look for the DEVIL’S HANDSHAKE One Shot in stores from Archaia in October and look for it in this month’s Previews.
Bug talks zombies and vampires
with FVZA’s David Hine!
It's Bug again. This time I'm bringing you a conversation I had with David Hine about his new book from Radical Comics , FVZA. Tales of zombies and vampires are two of my favorite types of horror stories. FVZA's got both of them. Throughout this interview I've interspersed the FVZA Preview Book Radical had available at this year's SDCC, so check out the pages of that book and then read the interview. Let's not waste any more time and check out what Mr. Hine had to say about FVZA.
DAVID HINE (DH): Correct. The acronym stands for Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency. The concept for this series was created by Richard Dargan for the web site fvza.org which has been on line for several years and has a world-wide fan following. What Richard has done is to create an alternative history of the USA where the twin viruses of vampirism and zombieism were imported by the early settlers and spread by them in the same way that immigrants spread smallpox. Early outbreaks were dealt with by bounty hunters and then by local militia. The diseases were remarkably virulent and whole communities could be wiped out or ‘turned’. The way it works is that once infected by a bite or scratch, the victim almost immediately begins to present flu-like symptoms. Within 24 hours, most of the infected would be dead but around 10% survived and became vampires or zombies themselves. At one point there were an estimated 300,000 infected survivors.
After the Civil War the FVZA was set up to co-ordinate the hunting down and extermination of the Undead, while a science branch was tasked to find a vaccine. Once vaccines were available the battle was virtually won. By 1963 President Kennedy was able to declare that the war was over. By the mid-seventies, when years had passed without a confirmed sighting, the FVZA was disbanded. However, former director Hugo Pecos was convinced that there were survivors and that the Undead would return. He has continued to maintain the web site to keep the population vigilant and prepared for a new outbreak. Our story begins in the present day when a new breed of radicalized vampire returns, using the zombie virus as a biological weapon. This is a new strain of the disease that is immune to the existing vaccine.
The FVZA is reformed and the first recruits are Pecos’s own grandchildren, Landra and Vidal. Pecos has brought up his orphaned grandchildren to be the perfect warriors, instilling them with his own obsessive hatred of the Undead and equipping them with all the knowledge and skills they will need to hunt down and destroy the enemy.
BUG: How is this zombie/vampire story better than the rest of the comics with similar themes out there right now?DH: The sheer wealth of detail that Richard has created for the web site makes for a convincing and consistent background that makes the story totally convincing. I constantly refer to the site when I need to check the science and history. It’s like having a reference library at my fingertips. From my own point of view I have set out to make the story and characters as convincing and engaging as possible. A lot of the existing books and movies concentrate on the ‘heroes’ while the vampires are consummate evil and the zombies reduced to dehumanized cannon fodder. I wanted to tell the story from multiple viewpoints, getting into the heads of the victims and showing that the converted vampires are not intrinsically evil. They have the same values they had before they were turned and they struggle against the blood lust that threatens to overwhelm them. As time passes they do tend to drift towards more bestial behavior but many fight against it and there have been many instances of vampires killing themselves rather than take a life to feed their hunger.
We follow a couple of Goth kids who have been entranced by the romantic fantasy of the vampire. When they become the real thing, they find that it’s not what they imagined and our couple struggles tragically to hold onto their love. Within a few years Vampires lose their hair, their skin becomes translucent and their bones stretch and curve while every ounce of body fat is burned off. They also lose all physical desire and become totally impotent. These vampires are more Nosferatu than Christopher Lee’s Dracula or Tom Cruise’s Lestat.
I also wanted to get into the rotting heads of the newly converted zombies. It takes a while for their brains to lose all rational thought and they try desperately to hold onto their fading humanity. I’ve likened the disease to rapidly accelerated Alzheimer’s coupled with Necrotizing Fasciitis. Imagine watching your own body rot and become infested with maggots, while your memories become clouded and you become overwhelmed with the hunger to eat fresh human meat. We follow a newly turned zombie mother as she tries to look out for her zombie kids.
Meanwhile the FVZA appear at times to be obsessively cruel and heartless, ignoring the civil rights of people who twenty-four hours before may have been ordinary citizens. We do have a couple of totally evil uber-villains in the shape of ancient vampires who have long-since abandoned any trace of humanity, but most of our Undead are sympathetic while some of our ‘heroes’ are seriously flawed. It’s the complexity of the plot and characters that lift this book above the competition if I’ve done my job right.
BUG: What’s it been like for you working for Radical? It seems to be the place where good writers go to write epic and mature stories others are too afraid to touch.DH: It’s been a terrific experience. The whole company is built on prioritizing the creativity and quality of the art and production above everything. The philosophy appears to be that if the books are the best on the shelves they will ultimately be successful, even though the market is so heavily weighted against independent publishers. You’re also right to say that the books tend to be ‘epic’. Radical’s books are always high concept and are chosen specifically to be movie material as well as great comics. But from my point of view it’s the comics that take priority and Radical goes out of their way to get me what I want in terms of the art. The relationship between Art Director Jeremy Berger, Editor Luis Reyes, myself and the art team is very close and we constantly discuss every detail of the production. I’m even involved in the publicity and promotion to a degree that I’ve never had anywhere else.
BUG: Can you tell me a little about the art on the book? It’s simply amazing.DH: We looked at a lot of pencilers for this book but I very quickly settled for Roy Martinez. We worked together previously on SON OF M for Marvel and I was very impressed with the way he made the Inhumans his own. To my mind, his is the finest depiction of Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal and the others as a truly noble and alien race. His storytelling skills are terrific too. That’s always important to me as a writer. There are artists out there who can draw spectacular fight scenes but are crap when it comes to depicting characters interacting. Roy does both. His online portfolio also betrayed a love of horror and particularly zombies so that made him the perfect fit.
After that we had to find the right artist to turn the pencils into color art and this is where Radical really impressed me. I must have seen over a dozen samples by different artists and there were times when it looked like we would never find the perfect match. So many of the best creators are under contract to Marvel and DC now so it’s tough to find really great artists. When I finally saw pages by Kinsun Loh I was gobsmacked. He has some of the best finishes I’ve seen in recent years. The digital art is painterly and atmospheric. He uses a variety of palettes for different scenes that capture the mood perfectly, and he demonstrates that he is a great artist in his own right. I always maintain that a great colorist has to know how to draw and Kinsun really does know how to draw, so he retains all the qualities of Roy’s figure work and expression. They are a perfect team. Then to add the icing to the cake, there are fantastic covers by John Bolton and Clint Langley. These are going to be some of the finest looking books on the shelves.