In crime fiction, burying a dark secret often means killing and burying a body, but for the citizens of a small town in rural Wisconsin, that’s no longer an option. Indeed, that’s the backdrop for writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton’s Image Comics series “Revival.”
In the opening issues of “Revival,” Seeley and Norton introduced readers to their fictionalized version of the real life town of Wausau, Wisconsin, which had been recently quarantined by the Federal government because it was the site of a mysterious event. The event, called Revival Day, caused a number of their dead to return to life as if they never passed away. Readers also met some of the town’s more prominent citizens like Police Officer Dana Cypress, who investigates Reviver based crime, and her sister Martha, revealed to be one of the Revived in the series’ introductory issue. Several months and two major arcs later, “Revival” hit its first year anniversary with its 12th issue.
In honor of the occasion, CBR News spoke with series co-creator Tim Seeley, who looked back over the first year of “Revival,” discussed recent plot points in the series’ 12th issue and teased developments as the book moves into its second year.
CBR News: Tim, “Revival” #12 recently hit stores, marking its first full year of publication. How does it feel to reach that milestone?
Tim Seeley: Really, really good. I mean, it’s getting — I don’t want to say, “easier,” but we definitely live in a time now where there’s more support for independent comics. But, just knowing that we’ve survived the tough times, which are the first 12 issues, and are moving into year two takes a lot of the fears out of us!
Why do you think “Revival” has resonated with readers? What kind of feedback have you been getting from your fans?
I think we filled a niche that maybe didn’t have a comic in it, y’know? We made a quiet, creepy, small town crime comic with some zombie trappings, and I think it’s not a genre that’s bursting with titles. That’s amazing that not only can we make a comic of “Revival’s” genre and approach, but we can have really great sales too!
Our readers have been great — a lot of them seem to relate to a lot of the characters and the setting, and they like to play along with the mystery. I think the feedback we get most though is “Ew. The teeth, man. The teeth.”
[Laughs] How has it been writing the first year of “Revival?” You’ve told stories before with elements of weird mystery and crime, but I don’t believe you’ve done weird crime stories of this type.
This is definitely my first venture into this kind of story. I’ve been kicking the idea around for a few years, so I had a lot of ideas, but planning out the beats, figuring out where to tease the mysteries — that was definitely a learning process.
Another thing that sets Revival apart from your other creator owned work like “Hack/Slash” is that it all takes place primarily in one town: the real-world location of Wausau, Wisconsin. The first year of the series really fleshed out your version of Wausau. How did your version of Wausau take shape? What inspired some of its people and places? How similar is your Wausau to its real-world counterpart?
I set “Revival” is Wausau because I grew up in the area, and I go back there a few times a year to see my family. So, I knew the feel of the place, the kind of people that lived there, and the geography pretty well. That really helped me figure out how the town would react in such a crazy situation.
I think my Wausau is pretty accurate, at least the way I see it. A lot of the characters are inspired by real people, as are a lot of the events. No one believes me, but the zorse [zebra-horse] scene in issue one was inspired by a real event. And all of the places are pretty accurate and based on real places with a few tweaks here and there. And, it’s true, the “Loading Zone,” mentioned in the first issue, does have awesome fish fries.
While you fleshed out the town and its inhabitants, you also seeded clues and deepened the mystery of Revival Day. One of the core elements about this mystery are the strange, wraith-like beings readers keep seeing in the woods. Because of their ghostly forms, I’m sure many might assume the mystery of “Revival” is supernatural in nature, but at this point of the story can readers rule out any sort of real explanation?
We purposely made “the creep” or “the passenger” look somewhere in between a ghost and an alien, which puts about half our readers on the side that this is a sci-fi story, and the other half thinking it’s a supernatural story. And we love it. We know what kind of story this is, but hearing readers’ theories is a lot of fun.
Whatever these beings are is still murky, but one thing that appears to be clear is that they can communicate with humans and have a rudimentary understanding of English. It seems as though the mystery of these beings is twofold — readers shouldn’t just ask who and what they are, they should also question what these beings ultimately want.
Yes! There’s a lot more revealed about the “passengers'” in the next three issues, and I think in some ways, we’ll have given readers all the information they need to figure out what they are — or maybe not.
In “Revival” #12, Dana Cypress came across some information in her young son’s crayon-drawn autobiographical comics that suggested her sister might be someone and something more than the average Reviver. How much does Dana know about what happened between Martha and the Check brothers in “Revival” #11? What’s her mindset going moving forward? Is she angry with her sister, afraid of her, afraid for her — all three?
You nailed it — [it’s] definitely a bit of all of those things, Dana is grateful to Em, certainly — but now she has a whole new world of problems to deal with. She’s a cop, and now she’s not only covering up that her sister is one of the Revivers, but also that she’s responsible for murder, even if it was in self-defense. The next two issues really deal with what happens between Em and Dana, and how Em deals with it herself.
Martha meets Jordan Borchardt in issue #12 — like her, Jordan is also Revived, but she’s a little girl. Is this the first time Martha has met a young girl that came back on Revival Day? How is she feeling in that moment?
Yeah, Jordan is an important character going forward, because she represents how youth deals with death, and in our story, being a Reviver.
Jordan is the youngest Reviver we’ve seen, as it certainly makes sense that most of them would be older people. Em sees some of herself in Jordan, and that’s going to make for a really twisted little story in issue 14.
Will any of “Revival’s” many other characters play significant roles moving forward? In “Revival” #12, it looked like there were some interesting developments set up with CDC member Ibrahim Ramin, Reporter May Tao and Wausau Mayor Ken Dillisch. Will these characters’ stories be at the forefront of the next few issues, or will they simmer in the background?
All of those characters appear in “Revival” over the next issues, because as we’ve established, this is very much a story about a town, and how a lot of different people deal with the Revival Event. Em and Dana are the stars of the book, and it’ll always mostly be about them, but as we tell their stories the other characters lives weave into theirs, which is a lot like life in a small town. We plan on not introducing too many more characters for the next 5 or 6 issues, as the story really focuses on the sisters, their father Sheriff Wayne and May Tao.
What else can you tease about the plot and themes coming down the line in “Revival?” Will you use the same structure of the past few stories, which have revolved around various cases and crimes.
Yes! We like to tell these crime stories against the backdrop of this overarching mystery, getting to know more about our cast with each tale.
“Revival” #13 revolves around Karaoke and you had to write your own song lyrics for the issue. This will be the second time you’ve had to write in verse for this series (you shared one of Martha’s poems previously in the series). Do you enjoy writing in verse? Or is it something that only comes up because of the nature of the characters and the setting?
I tend to think of writing as writing, so if it has to be verse, or dialogue or prose, I’ll adapt to what the story needs. I’m certainly no song writer, but I can fake a pop song, and I’m no poet but I know how they’re supposed to read, so I can fake it. I’m a big faker, is what I’m saying.
We managed to get one of our favorite bands, DOOMTREE to cameo in issue 13, and they let us use some of their lyrics, which works great since they are far better rappers than I am.
How would you describe your collaboration with Mike Norton? Do you write for him in full script, or a looser Marvel style script? What can we expect from his work on the next several issues? Which of his strengths do these stories show off?
The first issue was done in plot/Marvel style, and all the ones that follow have been in my tight, very anal full script style. I wanted to let Mike have a lot of room to figure out the look and feel of the book with his first issue, and then I swooped in and took away all his freedom after that.
Actually, he contributes a lot of ideas to the story, so there’s a fair amount of flexibility so we can use the best ideas. We sit ten feet apart, so it’s a pretty collaborative process. I don’t usually cater my scripts to what an artist’s strengths are, but with Mike I can do that since his strengths are pretty much, y’know, everything. He draws great kids, so I think the next few issues involving Jordan and Cooper are going to look sweet and really creepy.
Finally, time is progressing in “Revival,” but at a much slower rate than in the real world. Revival Day happened shortly after Christmas, and your story began several days after. Readers have only ever seen winter in Wausau. Moving forward, will the town rotate to other seasons, or is the winter setting a core part of the book?
Ha, eventually we’ll run out of winter! But one of our stories does rely on the spring season, so it won’t be snowy forever. Although, coming from Wisconsin, I can tell you it does feel like that.
I want to conclude by thanking everyone who reads our book, and who is out there looking for new comics and new stories! Mike and I love making this book, and the fact that this is the most successful project we’ve done is awesome. We’ve got tons of ideas and here’s the cool thing — we actually know where this is going! So stick with us!
“Revival” #13 hits stores August 21.