14 Jan

The Hollywood Reporter: How ‘Dead Day’ Brings High Concept Twist to a Holiday

Writer Ryan Parrot explains the origins of the new comic book series, in which the dead rise for one day each year.

Closure isn’t quite what people might expect. In AfterShock Comics’ upcoming series Dead Day, the dead rise for one day each year, but their return doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will be able to come to peace with their dearly departed. Especially when some of the departed use their 24 hours to seek revenge.

“I’ve always been a fan of big event-based world building. Ones where a single moment can create a legion of individual stories, and this premise seemed to do that,” writer Ryan Parrott tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I think the inspiration came from the fact that getting older means you start to lose the people you love. I never got a chance to say goodbye to my grandparents before they passed and, I remember for months after their deaths, I would have these insanely vivid dreams were I simply got to talk with them for a few minutes, and then I’d wake up and they were gone. So I thought, what if that actually happened… but worldwide?”

Dead Day marks the third time Parrot has worked with AfterShock Comics. “They’ve always brought a balance of providing creative freedom but keeping you in tune with the commercial sensibilities of the market. They take so many chances in an effort to simply tell a great story. I mean, I’ve done a futuristic robot murder mystery, an evil fairy Shakespearian road trip and now… a psychological horror series about a holiday where the dead rise. AfterShock has shown tremendous faith and commitment to their creators and I will be eternally grateful.”

Illustrating the series will be You Are Obsolete artist Evgeniy Bornyakov and colorist Juancho Velez, with the first issue featuring covers from Andy Clarke with Jose Villarrubia, and Francesco Francavilla. Dead Day No. 1 will be available from comic stores and digitally April 15.

07 Jan

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Disaster Inc.’ Comic Will Pit Ghost Samurai Against Tourists

Writer Joe Harris reveals the origins of the upcoming AfterShock Comics title.

There are some places no one in the world should visit — even as part of an expensive guided tour. The scary truth behind that idea is at the heart of Disaster, Inc., a new AfterShock Comics title set to launch this spring.

The series was inspired by writer Joe Harris’ love of “Akira Kurosawa movies, Toshiro Mifune and stories of the Samurai,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter, but there’s another story behind the story — one that’s arguably more surprising. ”I’ve also been interested in the concept of underground tourism for a while,” Harris explains. “It probably started with stories of people bungeeing off the Brooklyn Bridge at night, or massive raves deep inside the New York City subway tunnels, or the guys who climbed the World Trade Center Freedom Tower before it opened to the public and filmed their BASE jump from the very top.”

Disaster, Inc., however, takes that idea one step further by focusing on a group of extreme “disaster tourists” venturing to a place where they really, really shouldn’t be.

“The story follows a group of disaster tourists who charter this underground organization to guide them inside the Japanese no-man’s land known as the ‘Exclusion Zone’ surrounding the site of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown,” Harris says. “They quickly learn there’s more to worry about than radioactive fallout, or just getting busted, when they find themselves both hunted and haunted by the ghosts of those same warriors who protected this land from invaders for almost a thousand years: the Samurai.”

Illustrating the series is Sebastián Piriz (Headspace, Caped), with covers from Andy Clarke (with Jose Villarrubia on colors) and Cully Hamner.

“Piriz is wonderful artist who’s killing it on both the line art and colors,” Harris shared, adding one final pitch for the book: “It features some pretty creepy supernatural horror and grisly, bloody battles. Also: Samurai swords.”

Disaster, Inc. No. 1 is set to be released digitally and in comic book stores April 1. Before then, look below for some of Piriz’s art from the issue, as well as Clarke and Villarrubia’s main cover.



13 Dec

The Hollywood Reporter: How ‘Join the Future’ Puts Sci-Fi Twist on Western Genre

Writer Zack Kaplan says of the new AfterShock Comics title: “It’s a story about the ever-changing landscape of America.”

In the future, everything will come together under the watchful eye of one of a small handful of mega-corporations that just wants the best for their customers. Well… almost everything. There’s one small town that’s not playing ball, it turns out, and the mayor’s daughter is causing a lot of problems all by herself. What she does forms the basis of AfterShock Comics’ upcoming series, Join the Future.

According to writer Zack Kaplan, the series “captures the classic spirit of the Western, gunslinging excitement and grandiose adventure but with a sci-fi, futuristic twist, as technologically advanced cities reigning supreme in the dying whispers of the all-American small town. I’m excited because it’s more than a story of the city versus the country; it’s a story about the ever changing landscape of America.”

He continued, “At the heart of the series is a girl, strong-willed and hopeful, on a coming-of-age journey to defend her values and define herself against power, technology, corruption and the future itself. How should you or any of us define ourselves in the future, you ask? Well, we invite you to abandon your small-town values, embrace a tomorrow of constant engagement and accept the care of complete technological immersion. Come with us!”

That girl, Clementine Libbey, Kaplan said, is “dynamic, mature, engaging and unrelenting — Mattie Ross from True Grit meets Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She’s the best of all of us, and her story is harsh and dramatic and moving. And I hope readers will be inspired by her, because some ideals are worth fighting for.”

Kaplan joins the art team of Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou for the book.

“When you create an epic Western in the future, simultaneously grounded and grand, that explores futuristic designs and classic Western vistas and atmospheres, you need the perfect team,” Kaplan said, noting that Kowalski and Simpson “have become a powerful duo in the comics industry, working on titles such as Sex, Bloodbourne and The Witcher, known for imaginative world building, impeccably detailed landscapes and inspiring vivid colors. The artwork is majestic, heartfelt and jaw-droppingly gorgeous.”

Readers will have a chance to see for themselves when Join the Futurelaunches March 4 digitally and in comic book stores. But for those who can’t wait that long, look below for an exclusive preview of art from the first issue.

06 Dec

The Hollywood Reporter: How ‘Artemis and the Assassin’ Combines Time Travel With Spy Genre

The pulp adventure from AfterShock Comics begins in March.

An important figure from World War II is under threat from a time-traveling assassin tasked with her murder. And that’s just the beginning of the story of AfterShock Comics’ new pulp comic Artemis and the Assassin.

“The story is about an international group of time-traveling assassins willing to interfere in watershed moments throughout history for a price,” writer Stephanie Phillips explained. “One such assassin, Maya, is tasked with killing the most notorious female spy of WWII, Virginia Hall. When the mission goes awry, Maya’s and Virginia’s lives are changed forever as both women are pitched headlong through time.”

The roots of the series lie in Phillips’ love of old pulps. “I was initially inspired by unexpected team-ups, like Doc Savage and the Shadow,” she said. “There is definitely a lot of pulpy action throughout this story, but I also wanted to take that a step further and add my own mythology to the world of Artemis and the Assassin.”

In the series, Meghan Hetrick and Francesca Fantini provide artwork, with Lauren Affe coloring both artists’ work. “Creating these characters and this world has been a super collaborative process with both artists,” Phillips said. “Writers always have a vision in their mind’s eye for what everything will look like, but both Francesca and Meghan exceeded my expectations. They really made everything come to life, and I’m really proud of what we’ve created.”

Artemis and the Assassin debuts March 18, 2020, digitally and in comic book stores, and Phillips has one final pitch to accompany the preview artwork from Hetrick, Affe and Fantini below. (Also below are covers by Phil Hester and Mark Englert and Dave Johnson.)

“I love writing two very distinct, unique and kick-butt women traveling through time,” Phillips said. “Obviously, there is a lot of tension since Maya’s goal was initially to kill Virginia. I also love the opportunity to place these characters in bizarre situations. With time-traveling on the table, the obstacles and settings are endlessly fun.”

19 Nov

The Hollywood Reporter: How ‘Undone by Blood’ Comic Puts a Twist on the Revenge Western

The meta-textual project hits stores Feb. 12.

What seems, at first, like a simple quest for revenge in an Arizona town turns out to be something far more complex — and, as the title of AfterShock’s new Western comic book series hints, Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man tells more than just one story as it builds.“The book is about Ethel Grady Lane, a young woman who’s on a quest for revenge,” explained writer Zac Thompson. “A year before the book begins, her entire family was murdered while passing through the town of Sweetheart, Arizona. After feeling like the police have done nothing, Ethel returns to Sweetheart with a revolver in her hand to make things right. She has no idea who she’s looking for, but she’s determined to find the man who killed her family. Her quest for revenge is fueled by the novel she’s reading, Shadow of a Wanted Man — an old-school pulp Western about famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. Sol is the second lead of the book as we follow his own personal quest for revenge alongside Ethel’s.”Added Thompson’s co-writer on the series, Lonnie Nadler, “I’d always been a fan of meta-textual storytelling, which stems from my love of postmodern literature by the likes of Paul Auster and Italo Calvino, and so I’d been wanting to try my hand at telling a story within a story for quite some time. However, it took Zac and I both seeing Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals to realize how we could do this in comics. We both adore that movie, and it really inspired us to challenge ourselves, not only to write something we’ve never tried before but to write something nobody in comics has tried before, to our knowledge. We thought it might be interesting to couple this dual narrative idea with our desire to explore and demythologize the Western.”

Nadler also talked about the art team for the series. “Sami [Kivela] is truly a dream artist for Zac and I, as we approach comics with very similar storytelling sensibilities. Sami has an incredible mind for inventive page layouts, but he’s also so adept at knowing when to slow down and let the quiet moments breathe and speak for themselves. Working on a neo-Western, those two elements were very important to us, because the genre is so meditative at its core. You need to be able to communicate a sense of emotion, whether you’re looking at a landscape or at a person’s face, and Sami is one of the few artists who can accomplish both with ease.”

“We’ve also got the incredible Jason Wordie on colors, which together he and Sami are a dream team,” said Thompson. “They have a real shorthand with one another’s styles that elevates every page. They’ve worked together before, so the collaboration is only getting better here.”

Overall, Thompson said, the writers are excited about the series “because I feel like it’s been ages since we’ve had a proper Western in comics. We’ve gone full Coen brothers, full Sergio Leone, and the town of Sweetheart feels lived in and chewed up. It’s very cinematic and beautiful, with long stretches of silence and a meta-narrative at its heart. I don’t think comic book readers have experienced anything like it.”

The first issue of Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man will be released digitally and in comic book stores Feb. 12, 2020.

12 Nov

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Godkillers’ Comic Mixes Special Forces and Mythological Warfare

“What if the gods of the people we are fighting wars against are just as powerful as ours — maybe more so?” asks writer Mark Sable. “What if our enemies were using them against us?”

War, the famous saying goes, is hell. But in AfterShock Comics’ upcoming series Godkillers, it’s also a number of different spiritual and supernatural concepts and creatures.

The series, created by Mark Sable (Graveyard of Empires, Grounded), Maan House (Spencer & Locke) and Hernan Cabrera (Fashion Beast, Heavy Metal) centers around a U.S. special forces unit tasked with dealing with foes with an unexpected choice of weapon: mythological creatures that the rest of the world doesn’t really believe actually exist.

“I was inspired by a quote attributed to General William J. Boykin, who hunted Pablo Escobar and the Somali warlords responsible for the Blackhawk Down incident,” Sable told The Hollywood Reporter. “When one of the warlords boasted he wouldn’t be caught, Boykin said ‘I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.’ He got in trouble for saying that, and rightly so — it’s offensive. But I thought, what if he was wrong? What if the gods of the people we are fighting wars against are just as powerful as ours — maybe more so? What if our enemies were using them against us? What are the ramifications of that, not just militarily but spiritually?”

At the series’ heart, Sable continued, is Philip Alhazred. “He’s an Arab-American Army Reservist and folklore expert newly assigned to the unit. He struggles with his faith. In part because the War on Terror is largely targeting Islamic insurgents — he feels his loyalty and patriotism being questioned. And on a deeper level, despite the religion he was born into and his expertise in mythology, he doesn’t really believe in the supernatural. When he’s confronted with proof that it exists in the form of monsters, Alhazred is forced to question everything he though he believed in.”

The concept behind the series, he explained, originated from Sable’s other career. “In addition to my comics writing, I work as a futurist, primarily with The Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project,” Sable said. “There, members of the arts and entertainment community like myself are put together with members of the military, intelligence, scientific and policy-making communities to help envision the future of conflict. And in my case, I hope to prevent it.”

“In talking with military and intelligence personnel, conflict journalists etc., I was shocked just how many countries the U.S. is operating that the media doesn’t give much coverage to,” he went on. “I wanted to explore how our military and intel organizations are not just engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the Philippines, Syria and Ukraine, to name just a few of the places we visit in Godkillers.”

Sable is effusive in his praise for the book’s art team. “Maan House is the illustrator, and he has the ability to simultaneously portray the most complex weapons and vehicles and design the most unsettling monsters while doing some incredibly storytelling,” he enthused. “He’s joined by colorist Hernan Cabrera, who adds a sense of grittiness to battlefields across the world and help keep Maan’s monsters feeling grounded, [and] letterer Thomas Mauer is the unsung hero of the book.”

Main covers for the series come from Jeremy Haun, [with] Nick Filardi on colors. (Tim Bradstreet provides an alternate cover for the first issue.) “Jeremy and I worked together on Two-Face: Year One, which is the DC book I’m most proud of,” Sable said. “That’s also where I met editor Mike Marts. He brought me to Aftershock, and together with Christina Harrington, they constantly make me up my writing game. Nick Filardi is one of the best colorists working today, and has colored more of my creator-owned work than anyone else. This truly is a dream team.”

Godkillers launches Feb. 19, digitally and in comic book stores.

05 Nov

The Hollywood Reporter: How New Time Travel Comic Subverts the Genre

‘The Man Who F#%&ed Up Time’ launches in February.

There are time travel stories in which someone can change history for the better and everything turns out fine. And then there are time travel stories like AfterShock Comics’ upcoming February launch, which tells an entire story in its title alone: The Man Who F#%&ed Up Time.

The series “started off as a funny, goofy idea that hit me when I was brainstorming time travel ideas,” writer/co-creator John Layman (Chew, Outer Darkness) tells The Hollywood Reporter. “First off, the title made me laugh, which is always a good thing, and from there it expanded to an exercise to try to take the notion of butterfly effect to the crazy, most absurd situations possible. One small change to the space-time continuum, and a million crazy repercussions as a result.”

At the center of the series is Sean Bennett, a low-level lab worker who — after a chance meeting with his own future self — decides to use a prototype time machine to fix his life with one small jump back in time just seven days. Things, as you might expect, don’t go to plan.

“When he comes back, all time has been screwed up,” Layman explained. “Dinosaurs walk the earth, [as well as] samurais [and] Vikings, and they are all ruled under the tyrannical iron thumb of Emperor Abraham Lincoln IV. Poor Sean is tasked with setting right the space-time continuum, or face the wrath of the cyborg Future Police. To do this, Sean has to undo everything he did previously, but every action he takes seems to make things worse and worse.”

There’s also an element of mystery to the story, the writer added. “I’m calling it a ‘Butterfly Effect noir,’ because, even amid all the absurdity of fixing a crazy, f#%&ed-up space-time continuum, Sean Bennet also has to get to the bottom of things. If it wasn’t his time-traveling actions that screwed everything up, whose was it? Whodunnit? And why?”

The Man Who F#%&ed Up Time is illustrated by newcomer Karl Mostert, something that Layman pretends to be apologetic about. “This book is his first mainstream gig, and he’s got the unfortunate job of having to draw all the crazy things I through at him, which is essentially everything in all of human history — and more!” he joked, adding, “I have to say, he’s stepped up in a huge way, drawing all the madness I’ve asked him for, and then upping the scale and scope every issue. I suspect when we finally meet face-to-face he’s going to punch me right in the face.”

The series will debut digitally and in comic book stores Feb. 5, 2020. Below, some of Mostert’s interior art for the first issue, as well as his cover, and the variant cover artwork from Larry Stroman (X-Factor, Tribe).

30 Oct

AfterShock Comics Talks Taking Chances, the Future, and Putting Storytelling First

It’s been quite a year for the comics industry, and few places are offering as many unique pieces of storytelling and creative opportunities within the comics space as AfterShock Comics. The company has defined itself as a place where creators can go to tell different types of stories that others don’t always embrace, and recently ComicBook.com had the chance to speak with AfterShock CEO Jon Kramer, Publisher and CCO Joe Pruett, and Editor in Chief Mike Marts all about their vision for AfterShock, what it brings to the table, and what the space could use more of.

“As a company, AfterShock focuses all of its collective energy on creating a safe, fun and productive area for creators to come and tell their stories,” Marts said. “In our five years of operation, we’ve accepted pitches from writers which were rejected at other companies, which then went on to become extremely successful brands for our company. We’ve also accepted ideas from creators that they’d been afraid to pitch to other companies—fearing rejection based on content being too daring or risqué. Rather than turning creators away or creating too rigid a house style, AfterShock has instead found ways to cultivate talent and ideas to a point where we’re getting the absolute best from their stockpile of ideas.”

“The great thing about AfterShock is that we aren’t tied to any particular type of storytelling or story as other publisher might be,” Pruett said. “We encourage creators to take chances (how many other mainstream publishers offer that luxury?) and build worlds and characters that they would want to read as a fan. Mike Marts and I have over 50 years of editing and creating comics between us, so we have a wealth of experience discovering and nurturing emerging voices, as well as working the “biggest” names in the comic book business. That’s a lot of experience and value that we both bring to the table.”

AfterShock has been able to build its publishing around those creative premises and stories without much in the way of big events or crossovers, and that’s not by accident.

“We want stories that push the limits and are not just cookie-cutter corporate directives,” Pruett said. “We want something fresh, something unique. Something exciting on its own merit.”

“It’s a pretty simple equation, really. In a world where story is all that matters to us, words like ‘event’ or ‘gimmick’ hold very little importance,” Marts said. “We understand that both readers and retailers are tired of endless crossover events and seeing their favorite titles start over with a new #1 every year…what we provide is the alternative to the big event. Why trick a reader into buying more copies when you can simply tell them a great story? Isn’t that why we’re all doing this in the first place—to tell great stories? Our approach and strategy doesn’t rely on the formula that decides how to string along readers for endless months, milking their wallets along the way. Instead, we focus on delivering high quality product with relatable, relevant stories that fans of ALL genres will enjoy—not just superheroes.

Amongst AfterShock’s current umbrella lies titles like Babyteeth, Animosity, Dark Ark, Knights Temporal, and A Walk Through Hell, which are all quite different from each other in both tone and scope. That variety helps AfterShock’s lineup stand out, but we wanted to know how they go about evaluating a series and figuring out if it’s right for them, as well as the challenges in that process.

“It depends on each individual creator…some writers might bring us a pet project they’ve been nurturing for years, or other creators might turn to us to help develop their next big idea,” Marts said. “But at the core of each creative decision and greenlighting of projects rests the simple notion that We Want To Tell Great Stories. Some might end up in the horror realm, others in sci-fi, others in true crime, but at the end of the day it’s about the stories themselves—the ideas transcend whatever genre they end up in.”

“It all starts with the story. Without a unique, captivating story then you don’t have a chance at success,” Pruett said. “There are certainly creators that we target because of their track record of crafting fantastic ideas, but we’re always open to being approached by emerging talent. We gather together twice a month and go over the creative pitches that have come in recently. We read them individually and we voice our opinions and then vote. Sometimes one of us may be more passionate than others for a certain project, so we present our cases about why we should or shouldn’t accept a submission. Sometimes there’s a project that we all agree is a sure fire hit. Those are the ones that generally go on to fulfill that prophecy.”

There have been some challenges along the way of course, but there has also been some extremely rewarding milestones and moments that the team is immensely proud of, and for Marts one of those is “Winning Diamond’s Small Publisher of the Year award in 2018.” As for Kramer, it’s “Having the retailers recognize through higher orders the value of the AfterShock brand and the quality and sales potential of our individual books.”

As for the next milestone the team wants to hit, it’s about being recognized as a publisher that isn’t going anywhere. “Being treated and accepted as a quality publisher who is here to stay and not just another independent publisher,” Kramer said.

Over recent years fans have become use to seeing some of their favorite characters, stories, and universes expand outside of comics, whether that be in films, TV, video games, or other mediums, and that is definitely a goal of AfterShock as well.

“AfterShock is all about story and if it turns out that our stories travel to other mediums, that means they deserve to,” Kramer said. “It is important to us in many ways. Firstly, to help see the vision of the creators presented in another medium with a broader audience is fantastic. Secondly, it demonstrates AfterShock is good at working with creators to create good stories that travel. Thirdly, presently the way in which the retail market and Diamond work, all the cards are stacked against new publishers so getting wider fan and financial recognition is essential to a publisher’s health. Seamlessly, we have great skill sets in our company, from the comic publishing team to the team that helps transition the comic with creators to film and TV. We have executives in our group like myself, Dan Shires, Ryan Carroll, Jeff Ford, and Lee Kramer, who know how the TV/film world works, knows how to pitch a comic story and can produce our own shows.”

So, we’ve looked at where AfterShock is now, but what about the future? We asked Kramer to take a look forward, and at this same time next year to envision what he hopes to see from the industry as a whole and AfterShock’s place within it.

“For an industry, I hope Diamond has made a concentrated effort to streamline processes and become more service-oriented,” Kramer said. “I hope retailers move out of the past and move forward and give independent publishers a chance to flourish.”

“AfterShock will continue to be the most consistent independent publisher of quality, varied story because of our creative relationships with those we have worked with in the past, and we will continue to grow our roster of new creators,” Kramer said of the company’s long term strategy “AfterShock will have worked with Diamond to serve our retailers more efficiently and effectively. Retailers will embrace the AfterShock Army and in concert with AfterShock, will promote our books to fans. AfterShock will announce its first comics making their way to a theatre near you and to TV’s around the globe, helping to expand the world on the AfterShock brand.”

You can find out even more about AfterShock Comics on their official website, and let us know what your favorite AfterShock series is in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @MattAguilarCB for all things comics!


05 Oct

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Kill a Man’ Graphic Novel to Tackle MMA and LGBTQ Identity (Exclusive)

The new project comes from writers Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson and artist Alec Morgan.

Independent publisher AfterShock Comics will expand its line of original graphic novels next year with a new title combining mixed martial arts with the personal fight of one gay man to be recognized for who he is for the first time. Unveiled at New York Comic Con, Kill a Man is likely to surprise more than a few fans when it hits shelves.

The graphic novel offers the chance for Steve Orlando and artist Alec Morgan to reunite — the two had previously collaborated on DC’s acclaimed Midnighter series — with Phillip Kennedy Johnson joining to co-write with Orlando.

Kill a Man is about forging your own identity in the shadow of the past,” Orlando explained in a statement. “James Bellyi is a fighter, desperate to carry on his family legacy, even though his late father’s reputation was complicated at best. He was an early, iconic MMA fighter, cut down in his prime after slurring his queer opponent. For James, surpassing his father’s potential has been his only goal, being the man his father would have been had he not been killed in the ring. It’s enough that James hides his own secret — he himself is queer, something his father would never accept.”

James’ secret doesn’t stay hidden for too long, however, the writer shared.

“On the cusp of James’s title shot, he’s catfished and outed by his opponent, losing his entire support system, labeled a traitor by his family,” said Orlando. “With no choice but to live on, James turns to the only man left in the world that will still train him on his quest to take back his title shot — the man that killed his father.”

The graphic novel is “a story I’ve wanted to tell since I broke into comics, to capture both the complicated internal and external struggle between identity, family expectation, society, and masculinity,” explained Orlando. “To put our lead through hell, admittedly one of his own making at times, and finally let him be the hero, let a queer man, a queer fighter, go on that heroes journey made famous by Rocky Balboa or Adonis Creed, and come out the side stronger, find family where he had none, and pride where he had shame.”

Added Johnson, “Anyone who keeps up with politics understands that this is an extremely relevant story right now. The U.S. Supreme Court is about to hear a case on whether employees can be fired for being gay. And while MMA is at the height of its popularity, I don’t think it’s a sport or a culture in which a gay male fighter would necessarily feel comfortable coming out.”

He continued, “We’re living in an important and dynamic time in American History, when we have the power and responsibility to decide what kind of nation the United States is going to be going forward. Telling a story with such an unlikely crossover — male queer culture and MMA culture — is Steve’s, Alec’s and my way of making that decision for ourselves.”

The graphic novel is set to be released next summer.

02 Aug

The Hollywood Reporter: How Horror Graphic Novel ‘Horde’ Makes a Real-Life Struggle Scarier

Writer Marguerite Bennett talks about the origins of her upcoming AfterShock Comics project.

When her father dies unexpectedly, a young woman attempts to rebuild her relationship with her mother, but there’s something in the way: all the possessions and belongings her hoarder mother has accumulated over the years. In AfterShock Comics’ upcoming graphic novel Horde, that isn’t intended as a metaphor: Something doesn’t want Ruby to help her mother, and it’s reaching out through the objects that surround them both.

Initially announced last October, Horde — written by DC Bombshells and Animosity writer Marguerite Bennett, with art by Leila Leiz, colors by Guy Major and letters from Marshall Dillon — has now been given a release date, and will be available in October. To mark the occasion, Heat Vision talked to writer Bennett about the project.

Horde is clearly a horror story rooted deep within character, and the subject matter might hit close to home for a number of readers. Is there a personal closeness to this particular story for you as a writer?

There always is.

I think the great evils of the world have always begun with the treatment of people as things. Even in this raw nerve of a familial melodrama, this is the crux — all the suffering, all the frenzy and madness and emotional climax all stem from this. Separate from the tragedy of mental illness is the deliberate dehumanization of human beings.

Where does Rudy, the main character of the story, come from?

Ruby fears that her mother, Mia, values possessions over everything, including her own child. She feels like an object, a souvenir of her mother’s great love affair with Ruby’s father. She feels like a trinket, exoticized and objectified by a woman who used possessions to feel powerful, special, superior and important — uses objects as armor, as proof of her success and lifelines to memory.

Anyone who has felt “collected,” dehumanized, disposable, tokenized may relate. The struggle to define and then seize your own self-worth, to prove yourself to others but especially to the ones who ought to love you above all things is a vicious battle. Ruby is the fear of every overachieving child desperate for love and recognition, filled with anger and grief and still that longing for one last chance.

Horde brings you together with artist Leila Leiz; what is she like as a collaborator, especially on a project like this one?

Leila is brilliant. The script was so monstrously demanding in its density and emotion and madness, and she absolutely killed it. All the detail, all the loveliness with which she renders even the most grotesque things is what makes the book something special, without question. I crammed in so many reference photos, everything from how fashion informed character to the obscene taxidermies scuttling around Mia’s basement, and Leila made them more elegant and terrifying than I could have ever imagined. She is the reason this book exists.

This isn’t your first AfterShock Comics project; you’ve been working with the publisher for years with the series Animosity, and a number of spinoffs that it’s produced. What has the success of that project meant to you?

Animosity is my big baby, where one day, all the animals come online, starting thinking, start talking, start taking revenge, and a dog and his human daughter embark on a cross-country road trip amid black comedy talking animal apocalypse. I never imagined we’d come so far, and I am grateful beyond grateful, beyond the confines and definition of the word, to the readers and fans and wonderful people who have made Sandor and Jesse’s journey possible.

Animosity is a series in which the long game is important; Horde is a one-off graphic novel. What is it like working shortform, versus longform, on projects like this?

I love them both for their different powers — love the tight, complete one-shots that strike like lightning, love the long, elegant twists and turns in the emotional build-up and payoff of a saga. I love the escalating tension of serialized storytelling, and love the closure and completion and bone-deep satisfaction of a book that begins and ends on its own terms. I hope this new format — my first foray into the graphic novel medium — leaves you feeling much the same, though with a bit more horror in your heart and adrenaline in your veins.

Horde will be released October 16. Below, check out interior and cover artwork by Leiz.

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