“Hack/Slash” creator Tim Seeley and “Battlepug” cartoonist Mike Norton spoke with CBR TV at C2E2 about their upcoming creator-owned collaboration “Revival” from Image Comics, growing up in the small town series setting in Wausau, Wisconsin, the draw of the series protagonist and the book’s different take on the undead.
Seeley also expounded on his upcoming Dark Horse vampire series “Ex Sanguine” and its creation as a response to the “Twilight” phenomenon while Norton revealed some of the added bonuses for his creator-owned “Battlepug” hardcover available soon from Dark Horse.
Check out the full interview and transcript below.
CBR TV: What up partners? It’s Kiel Phegley here on CBR TV on the floor of C2E2 2012 and to my left is Mr. Tim Seeley and Mr. Mike Norton, the creators of the upcoming Image comic “Revival” which launches in July. I wanted to start talking because this book was announced and it was announced that it’s taking place in Wausau, Wisconsin, which is your hometown. When it was announced, you guys were talking about the small town horror feel that you wanted to bring to it. A couple of people showed up on the message boards and they were like, “Uh, I looked up on Wikipedia and it says that Wausau, Wisconsin has over 100,000 people in its greater area. How is that a small town?” I challenge you with that, Tim Seeley, what about Wausau is small-townish?
Tim Seeley: The thing is that people consider — Wausau is one town. It is surrounded by probably 30 or 40 smaller towns that rotate around it. So the Wausau area where our comic takes place is in fact full of tons of small towns. I grew up in a town with 400 people. So, Wausau area, yes, there’s a somewhat metropolitan area.
Mike Norton: If Best Buy is metropolitan.
Seeley: Yeah. I mean, I’m not ripping on my hometown. There is a sort of downtown area, but yeah there’s a lot of people spread over a huge area. Basically, Wausau is the biggest city north of that. I mean, until you hit Canada and maybe the Arctic Circle, there is no bigger city, like straight up. There’s no bigger city in Northern Wisconsin than the Wausau area, so it’s pretty much the end of civilization. People calling me out, you want to look it up on Wikipedia, but the town area we take place in is like — the main character works in Rosholt, which is its own little area. It’s small. It’s small and it doesn’t even really in real life have a police force. It has a public — a town hall.
They bring buckets when there’s a fire.
Seeley: It’s pretty small. I mean, it’s as small town America as you can get. You can try to go for minutia, but it’s basically a small town.
And you can go there yourself if you want to see, guy on the message boards!
Norton: People going to Forks for the “Twilight” stuff, we’re going to have a whole revival festival every year.
So what about that town and that area felt like a good match for a horror story where people come back from the dead and kind of pleasantly hang out when they’re back from the dead?
Seeley: The main thing is I always wanted to do something set in my small town that reflected kind of what I always felt as a kid and I’m sure everyone who lives in a small town of 125,000 people — whoever lives in those rural areas, which is you feel trapped there. Especially in winter in Wausau, you can’t go out, the weather’s terrible, there’s something really claustrophobic about it. I kind of want to expand on that idea of feeling trapped in a place. This was even better because the story’s about when all these people come back from the dead and nobody’s sure what to do with them because they’re not running around eating people’s brains, they basically just quarantine the whole area, so people are literally trapped in this small area. It kind of raises the tension, it’s a really good cause for why we have these strange crimes going on and all this stuff. It’s just the perfect setting for a unique horror story that has a different take on zombies.
Mike, on your end, obviously there’s more to this story than just people coming back from the dead. There’s mutilated horses and some kind of weird creeper strange spectral thing in the woods. What are you drawing on most for in terms of having visual impact so it’s not just houses in the snow?
Norton: I am actually a big fan of just drawing houses in the snow. If I could deal without the horses or the ghosts and monsters, I’d be fine. It’s just nobody else would buy it.
It’s a zorse, by the way, it’s not a horse. A hebra! It’s very cool because there’s something cool about having a stark — not desolate, but this rural setting and then having all these weird things show up. It’s an even bigger impact when — the contrast of going to grandma’s house and maybe she might eat your face off. That kind of thing. I like that from out of nowhere sort of vibe that we’ve got going on.
So, “Revival” is going to be on ongoing series and you guys have kind of left it open-ended. You have a story, you want to get it rolling and how long you have to take to get there will be how long it is. What is it about the journey of the main character that we meet in the first issue that you guys felt like, we want to spend the next several years of our lives with this girl?
Seeley: That’s a good question. One of the things that Mike and I talked about when we started the series was that we wanted to do a book that starred female characters and was as much about all the other aspects of macabre stories and all these things as it is about this woman’s relationship with her sister. So, it’s actually more about the two women than it is just about the one of them. You’ll see when you read the first issue what happens in their relationship that sort of changes the way they used to interact and why the main character Dana is so interested in making sure that the Revivers are something she keeps an eye on. Mostly it’s about a family, I think, and the dynamics of a family put in a very stressful situation where they all have their own different stakes in what happens.
Mike, do you draw any personal memories of your own family in these crazy stakes? You’re the guy who draws on folks he knows?
Norton: Well, yeah. None of the people in there directly are based on anybody that I know but I’m actually from a pretty small town in Tennessee also, so I have crazy relatives and I have family that are from similar backgrounds. I have a visual vocabulary I can draw upon. It’s pretty second nature for me.
Unfortunately, unlike Tennessee, which I’ve only been to maybe once so my view of it is all through the movies, it seems like Wausau, Wisconsin doesn’t have people with no shirts and straw hats and those sorts of things, but it’ll work out.
Norton: They do, they just prepare for the cold weather better.
Seeley: That’s the thing when me and Mike talked about it was that he’s from rural Tennessee and I’m from rural Wisconsin and there’s just really no difference. In a lot of ways, rural America is really kind of similar. I think that’s what makes it really universally — no matter where you’re from, you can sort of relate to — even in a neighborhood in a big city, you can still relate to that sort of — everybody knowing your business or having that feeling that you’ll never move on from this area. Your family’s here, all your friends are here and there’s nothing bigger for you to go after. I think people can really relate to that. And all people are weird in their own way everywhere, which is what we’ve discovered.
Well, there’s a couple other things hitting this weekend that we wanted to talk about really quick. Tim, you just announced a book through Dark Horse called “Ex Sanguine,” which — Scott Allie gave the perfect one-sentence pitch on this which is, “It’s like ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy’ meets ‘Natural Born Killers.'” But when “Hack/Slash” came out, it also had a really great high concept pitch but over the years, you’ve dug a lot deeper than I think a lot of people would think of as they hunt slasher movie characters. What to you about “Ex Sanguine” gets a little deeper — that draws you in a little bit more than just saying, “Oh, here’s this crazy thing where it’s vampires and people together?
Seeley: Well, “Ex Sanguine” is definitely going to be something — the approach that we had originally when we first talked about it is we couldn’t figure out why people sort of glommed on to “Twilight” when it’s like if vampires were real, they would never fall for this mopey, sad girl nor would they want to support her by stalking her. We just couldn’t understand the appeal or that idea was even realistic or appealing. After we talked about it, we were like, “If you were someone whose whole job was to kill people all the time, you would get bored by it.” After a certain amount of time, it would just be doldrums or it would be something you had to do just to survive. Our vampire in this case is losing his zest. He’s a predator but he’s a predator that has no reason to do it anymore, he’s just kind of acting out of habit. So when he meets this woman who is a serial killer and her zest for taking life and why she does it is so compelling to him that he kind of becomes obsessed with her. But she’s not a good person. She’s a serial killer. So he kind of gets drawn into this inescapable love thing with this girl who is just terrible for him but she also makes him feel alive. That’s our deeper thing: the dead guy is feeling alive because he’s wrapped up in the world of this crazy girl, which I think everybody can kind of understand. Every guy knows when they dated that terrible crazy girl that their life was amazing for a short amount of time before it was horrible. So that’s the deeper thing behind “Ex Sanguine.” I think everybody can understand that. That’s sort of that — when you get involved with someone that is bad for you, how they make you feel so, just, alive. That’s what I think it is. This is that and just deeper exploration into what makes — there are two characters that are tasked with just tracking these two people down, they’re detectives. Their relationship is sort of strange and they’re obsessed with trying to find these killers, so it’s really just about people and their obsessions with each other and just kind of taking the piss out of the really nonsensical “Twilight” approach to romance which I do not understand.
The other thing I wanted to talk about, Mike, Dark Horse is talking up that they’re releasing a “Battlepug” hardcover. This is a thing that a lot of people have seen online. It is an idea that has had legs. People have followed the strip online, but what have you been doing to plus up the presentation for the hardcover and add some stuff in that people who follow the strip might not have seen?
Norton: There’s a lot of extra material like sketches and stuff that I did beforehand, plus a lot of my weird — I draw pugs even when I’m not drawing them for money. Lots of weird stuff I’ve had in my sketchbooks. Some preliminaries, there’s a forward by Skottie Young in the book and we have a new cover. There’s a lot of stuff like that. Plus, we’ve corrected all of our grammar mistakes, so that’s a big plus. Alan, who is kind of a stickler for stuff, went back and fixed a lot of what he perceived as imperfection in his coloring work, which I thought was spectacular to begin with. It’s not the same strip people have seen, but it’s similar enough. I’m really excited for people who maybe haven’t seen the comic online to actually buy it in the store because there are different audiences for that. I’m really excited to see what they think of it.