NOTE: The following story contains preview images intended for an adult audience.
One evening in 1995, I successfully convinced my then girlfriend to join me in seeing the David Fincher film “Se7en.” She really wasn’t that interested in seeing the movie, but considering I sat through a chick flick with her the week before, she was happy to go along for the ride. Based on the previews I saw of the film, “Se7en” appeared to set new standards for horror, so my interest was piqued. The film was the latest water cooler topic at my job, so I figured I’d better go see this thing before the identity of killer John Doe was revealed to me.
The movie began and I was instantly enthralled. It’s not often I find myself in a theater and subsequently forget that anyone else is there with me. Nothing could distract me from the gripping story about a serial killer, John Doe, who uses the seven deadly sins as his excuse to cause all sorts of mayhem. The incredible performances and direction, as well as a gruesome story that you just couldn’t turn away from, had me riveted. It was as if it was just me and the film and there was no one else around me.
That is, until the scene where the two detectives investigate the sin of Sloth, when they walk into a room and assume that the person lying in the bed is dead, when suddenly the person rises in a most surprising and shocking manner. It caught me unprepared. I jumped in my seat and let out a high-pitched scream. Once I composed myself, my girlfriend, who barely reacted to the scene, leaned over and whispered, “My God, you screamed like a girl. How embarrassing.” Indeed, it was.
Since then I can’t say a film has scared me in quite the same way, but there’s a good possibility later this year it could happen again, this time in comic form. Zenescope Entertainment will release the first issue of a new, seven issue monthly series this September based on the film “Se7en.” Each issue will explore a different sin in 32 page, full color format with a wide variety of creators bringing their talents to the table. CBR News spoke with Zenescope’s Ralph Tedesco and Joe Tyler to learn more about their plans to bring this big screen thriller to the printed page.
Zenescope acquired the “Se7en” license after having crafted a strong relationship with New Line Cinema when they landed the “Final Destination” license. “We approached them with the idea for ‘Se7en.’ They seemed interested, we did some sample stuff for them and voila, it was a good fit,” Tyler told CBR News. “I can’t say enough about how great New Line has been to work with. They’re fantastic.”
“Honestly ‘Se7en’ was probably the first license we ever talked about acquiring,” Tedesco told CBR News. “We are both huge fans of the movie and it’s one of those what-ifs that we always wanted to explore. What is really going on inside John Doe’s mind? Who is this guy? What drove him to do these horrible things?”
“He’s such an intriguing character that those watching can’t help, but want to know so much more about the guy,” Tyler added. “He’s only on-screen for 15 minutes or so, but you find yourself desperate to learn more.”
“Se7en” the comic series takes place before the deadly sins murders story told in the film, giving readers a chance to learn more about the mysterious John Doe. The first comic features two men – a fat man who hopes to change his life and a killer whose murders would change the world. Fat man, meet John Doe. And thus the sin of Gluttony is up first for examination.
“Without giving too much away all I can say is this series will actually bring the reader into John Doe’s world,” explained Tedesco. “We’re going to look at everything through Doe’s eyes this time rather than from the points of view of Detective Mills and Sommerset, as in the film.”
“Exactly. The whole idea is to get into the mind of this disturbed yet fascinating character and give some insight into what makes him tick,” added Tyler.
“Gluttony” will be explored by “The Gift” creator Raven Gregory. Zenescope has lined up an extensive team of creators that continues to grow. Tyler told CBR News that in addition to Gregory, writer Christian Beranek from “Dracula vs. King Arthur” has agreed to
write a story and the team is in talks with writers Steve Niles and David Wohl to contribute as well. “Artists such as David Seidman and Sean O’Reilly’s Arcana Studio will be collaborating, too,” explained Tedesco. “We just knew what an impact this movie had on gen-eXers and we felt that working with some great writers and artists from our generation could add new ideas to an incredible concept.”
In the film, John Doe keeps some very extensive and obsessive notebooks on each deadly sin and the team has set out to bring each one to life in the pages of “Se7en.” “You’ll see both a sequential storyline peppered with actual notebook pages,” said Tedesco. “We want to give the reader a feel that he or she is actually reading through Doe’s notebooks. We want the reader to really be affected by this man’s thoughts and story. I think it’ll be unlike anything you’ve seen before in comics.”
In addition to developing, editing and publishing the series, Tyler and Tedesco will co-write two of the stories found in “Se7en.” Film director David Fincher and screenwriter Kevin Walker will not be involved in the comic. “We would love it if they were, but knowing how busy both of them are on film projects I think it was just too much to ask,” Tyler explained.
Zenescope is working with a number of creators on “Se7en” who have very different styles and sensibilities. Tedesco said the brief they’re giving their writers is a basic concept to work with, then they get out of their way to let them explore the horror all on their own. “All of our writers are so talented and enthusiastic about this project that we don’t have to really give them too much in terms of direction,” said Tedesco. “There is a specific tone they need to follow to keep the series consistent and we found that each writer we’ve brought on is really nailing that tone.
“As for artists, we just needed to make sure we’re working with reliable talent,” continued Tedesco. “Guys who have a lot of experience in this industry and who get what we’re trying to do, can effectively convey what the writer is putting on paper and then add even more to it with their artwork. It’s such a visually powerful series that getting the right combination of artists was key.
“The covers alone are nothing short of mesmerizing and the interiors are going to be incredibly intense. David Seidman is our cover artist and he’s also doing all of the design work. He’s truly going to blow people away with the stuff he’s doing.”
“Se7en” as a comics title has a great deal of promise to bring in fans from outside the direct market. “We plan on promoting ‘Se7en’ rather heavily – especially within the comic book market through Diamond Previews, as well as through great comic news sources such as CBR,” said Tedesco. “But we’re also really focused on getting the graphic novel into books stores next year where it’ll be available to an even wider audience.
“We recently brought on a new publicist to help market all of our titles, but I still believe the best form of marketing is word of mouth and the only way to get that going is to really deliver what fans want so the buzz can get going on it.”
Zenescope’s “Grimm Fairy Tales” debuted to strong initial numbers for an independently produced comic title and the team is believes they can definitely exceed those numbers with “Se7en.” Tyler said, “The two reasons for that is because A> ‘Se7en’ is such a popular property and B> we’ve been around now for over a year now and Zenescope is quickly garnering a following of some really incredible fans. What we hope is that as more people start reading our titles, they’ll enjoy them enough to try our other books. Again, it really comes back to delivering solid books so people will want to see what else you have going on.”
Before we let the duo go, we asked Tyler and Tedesco to introduce Zenescope to our readers and give us some insight into their their publishing philosophy. “I think our main philosophy is simple- offer intriguing titles that will interest not only long time comic book readers, but will also catch the attention of mainstream audiences,” explained Tyler.
“When the casual fan thinks comic books they think Spider Man, Batman and The X-Men. But there are so many different and interesting genres to explore,” continued Tedesco. “Titles like ‘Se7en,’ ‘Grimm Fairy Tales,’ ‘Final Destination,’ these all have universal appeal which we hope will help lure in new readers while at the same time entertain hard-core fans as well.”