Releasing this week from Skybound Entertainment is the hotly-anticipated new horror title “Redneck,” from scribe Donny Cates, and artists Lisandro Estherren and Dee Cunniffe. Set to serve up a vampire tale like no other on the stands, the series centers on a truly unique family of vampires residing in East Texas, following their strange-yet-simple family and the danger that comes crashing on their quiet lives as the series kicks off. The title doesn’t boast the kind of vampires you’re used to from “True Blood” — it’s a whole other horrific beast.
CBR had the opportunity to speak with Cates about his new Southern horror series, in a conversation that spanned the unique origins of the title — and its double-meaning name — in addition to its unique perspective on vampires, the Southern family unit, the ugly-yet-gorgeous art from Estherren and Cunniffe and much, much more.
In addition to the interview, check out some preview pages from “Redneck” #1 provided by Skybound, dispersed below!
CBR: How did you come up with “Redneck”?
Donny Cates: It’s kind of a weird story – well it’s not that weird — I’ve been working on “Redneck” with Skybound since 2015. I just wrote issue 12, I’ve starting issue 13 right now. We’re like crazy far ahead. It was one of those things where, I could give you the philosophical writer thing about where it came from — but it came after I came up with the title. I thought, ‘wait hold on, has someone ever done a Southern vampire book?’ And I was like, ‘well somebody’s got to, and that someone must be me now.’
So I just put up a word document and started writing, and that’s where its genesis came from. But while I started writing it it started to evolve into…before I knew it I was also talking about my own family, and I was also talking about you know, really personal things out of nowhere, and from that kind of funny beginning, “Redneck” turned into the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s the thing I’m the most proud of.
How does “Redneck” put a spin on the conventional vampire?
Cates: First of all, I’m a huge vampire nut. And certainly we’ve seen other [takes on] vampires — “True Blood” did that — but even in “True Blood” they were all really pretty, and well-spoken, and dressed really beautifully, and they were like tapped into the vampire mythology, they knew all of the rules and were part of the coven, and so into being vampires. And that’s just so not the case here.
Whether or not [‘Redneck’] belongs into the grand pantheon of vampire stories is up to people who are not me, but what I like about it is this idea that people couldn’t honestly care less about being vampires. Before being bit, before being turned, they were, you know, a group of just regular people trying to get by in the Old West, and even beyond that, and after being bit, they’re still just kind of the same people, they just don’t age. None of the people in the book know what the “rules” are. There’s a point in the book where somebody straight up asks them ‘are those rules real? With the crosses with the holy water?’ and our main character’s like “I don’t know, I’ve never been stabbed in the heart. But probably.” They’re just so not interested in being vampires.
How would you describe the family unit at the centre of “Redneck”?
Cates: It’s weird. It’s a combination of people that are born into the family, or are sired into the family…They’re all related by blood, because they either bit each other or they are born…the impression that the first issue will give you is that they’re kind of together because something happened…they are hidden away and they have changed their lifestyle to get out of the center of attention, to kind of hide away. And you get the impression that they are together…because as a family they’re safer together….There’s this confusion in the house between this old kind of thinking and the new…
As you see as the book goes forward, there are different members of the family that have different takes…’we should be hunting humans, we should be predators.’ That real kind of family stuff….we all have those people in our family who have ways about thinking about things that aren’t based in reality anymore…the idea of trying to be better than the people that made you works perfect with vampires, but is also a Southern family kind of thing; something that a lot of families in the South deal with.
Pardon the derogatory term, but what’s your experience with “redneck” culture?
Cates: The town that I grew up with…was the inspiration for “King of the Hill,” and it’s just like that. So the simple answer is, go watch “King of the Hill,” you’ll know exactly what my upbringing was like. Dallas, Houston, Austen, all those places…you go about an hour outside of those three cities, things get pretty country and pretty weird pretty quick. The town that “Redneck” [is in] is a real place…it’s where the majority of where my extended family is from, and it’s the place where I grew up in…East Texas especially is a very, rugged, hard place. It’s very closed off….whereas West Texas where “God Country” takes place is very majestic…so yeah, I have a lot of experience with “rednecks.” [laughs]
Why do you find the characters interesting to write about?
Cates: They’re still very much country people. What I like about that is the plainness of it, the simpleness of it. They’re not a complicated people. I love writing them, I love writing what is essentially my own accent. They’re not a complicated people, country-folk, you always kind of know where you stand with them one way or another.
Why are [artist] Lisandro Estherren and [colorist] Dee Cunniffe the right art team for the project?
Cates: So, Lisandro, what I like about him…he draws ugly really beautifully, if that makes any sense. “Southern Bastards” is a good examples of that; he draws really hideous people and locations, but it’s grogeous, like that book is incredibly well-done, and Lisandro to me brings that same kind of vibe to [‘Redneck’]…I never wanted “Redneck” to be pretty, I just wanted normal people hanging out…and his art is also very ominous, it’s also very foreboding, it gives an air of danger…maybe that’s just because I know what’s coming.
And Dee is a continual surprise. I’ve worked with Dee now on two different books, and both of those books he did a completely new thing. He’s such a chameleon. When I brought him on to this book I had no idea what he was going to do, and he came out with these palettes that were muddy and dirty and had a lot of texture to them that just made Lisandro’s art pop even more. And a lot of the storytelling in “Redneck” is done through color. Particularly, the reds and blues have kind of a connotation. So it was very important to nail that color aesthetic because it’s an important thing going forward, the color red and the color blue. As you start to read more of the book, those will be signifiers of broader things. And I’m being intentionally vague. But people will know what I mean when they read it.
Skybound’s “Redneck” #1 by Donny Cates, Lisandro Estherren and Dee Cunniffe hits stands on April 19.