In the debut issue of their creator-owned Image Comics series “Revival,” writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton turned the world upside for the citizens of a fictionalized version of the real-life town of Wausau, Wisconsin. They did this by bringing Wausau’s recently deceased residents back to life; not as flesh-hungry zombies but as Revivers, beings who retained their full consciousness and tried to go back to their normal lives.
Over the course of twenty issues, Seeley and Norton explored the mysteries of this “Revival Day” and the problems, crimes and secrets that arose from it through a cast of intriguing characters like the Cypress family: patriarch Sheriff Wayne; his daughter, Officer Dana, who’s been assigned to a Reviver crimes task force; and Em (AKA Martha), Wayne’s other daughter who unbeknownst to him is a Reviver.
With June’s “Revival” #21, readers will get their first look at how the phenomenon of Revival Day impacted the outside when an undead-related crime pops outside of Wausau, which had been quarantined by the U.S. government, forcing Dana Cypress to hit the streets of New York City to investigate. CBR News spoke with co-creators Seeley and Norton about Dana’s trip and some of the mysteries in Wausau that will unfold and move forward during her absence.
CBR News: Tim and Mike, let’s start with the big development from “Revival” #20, the fact that Officer Dana Cypress is headed to New York City to help investigate a possible Reviver in the Big Apple. How does it feel to have a major character venturing outside of Wausau? How long has this particular story been in the works?
Mike Norton: The idea of finding out what is happening outside of Wisconsin was something we’ve been planning from the beginning. But I think the idea is to show how scared Dana is of the big city, not how NYC is scared of this event. New Yorkers are hard to impress.
Tim Seeley: Yeah, this plot was actually part of the story from the beginning, but we kept pushing it back, partially because we had so much story, and partially because it didn’t fit thematically until now. We really wanted to show how the events that happened in Wausau, which until now, we’ve really only seen in Wausau have affected the rest of the world. And, as a guy who moved to New York from Wausau at the age of 21, and had my mind blown, I felt like I had a lot of ideas for how Dana would react.
Tim, what’s it like for Dana to be in New York City? Will she be experiencing a bit of culture shock? Mike, what particular areas of New York are you bringing to life in these issues? Which elements of the city do you want to capture in your depiction of it for this story?
Norton: We’re gonna be all over the place. Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx. The place is big and loud and a little much for a small town outsider. I’m just trying to show that sensory overload Dana goes through on her first visit.
Seeley: Yeah, we really want to show that reaction I think small towners have to New York, which is just that it’s so much. I’m now totally used to NYC, but I remember so clearly what I felt like the first day I was there — that sense that I was surrounded for miles by people and cars and buildings. It’s its own kind of prison in some ways, and for Dana, who is coming from a quarantine, that seems weirdly familiar.
What else can you tell us about Dana’s adventures in New York? How will they compare to some of the other crimes she’s investigated in Wausau?
Seeley: Well, we wanted to play with the fact that when Dana is in her element, she knows the rules. She knows how people in her hometown operate — what they want. And, when she’s in NY, she has to learn on her feet, and understand a new set of rules. And I think that’s going to let us show just how smart and competent a police officer Dana is, while also showing the weaknesses that can come from someone so focused on her family at the expense of others.
“Revival” #20 also introduced FBI agents Frederickson and Pug. Will Dana be working alongside them in New York? What else can you tell us about these characters? Are they parodies or homages to “The X-Files'” Mulder and Scully as their physical appearances suggest?
Norton: They’re actually based physically on real people. The Mulder and Scully thing couldn’t be avoided though. Sorry about that!
Seeley: [Laughs] Yeah, no “X-Files” homage intended, though I was a big fan of that show. We wanted them to feel like real people despite not having a lot of time with them, so we based them on real people.
I imagine all sorts of strangeness will be going on in Wausau while Dana is in New York. Let’s talk about some of the recent developments with the characters who remain there starting with Dana’s sister Em’s meeting with Rhodey Rasch. Refresh my memory, is Rhodey the first Reviver we’ve met that really seems to enjoy his undead status? Mike, which elements of Rhodey did you really want to make sure you captured and brought forward in your design of the character?
Norton: Rhodey was a character I wanted to introduce a while back. The idea of a “Jackass”-style daredevil who couldn’t be killed sounded intriguing. Also good for character stuff. I mean, how annoying would Bam Margera be if he was invulnerable? I wanted to capture his smarm and self-confidence. I think a lot of people seem to like him. But like everything in “Revival,” there’s always a secret.
Seeley: Yeah, Rhodey represents that youthful attitude that you’ll live forever, and what happens when that belief meets reality. He’s the opposite of most of the people in Wausau in our story — they believe this is a spiritual and religious event. And Rhodey doesn’t believe in anything save the here and now.
Rhodey made Em laugh in issue #20 by embroiling her in one of his daredevil stunts. That was nice to see, but I have to wonder, considering his recklessness and some of the turmoil Em is dealing with, is this a relationship I should be rooting for? Terrified of? Or possibly both?
Norton: You will definitely feel one of those three things.
Seeley: [Laughs] I also feel like it’s definitely going to be worse than whatever you’re imagining. [Laughs]
Issue #20 also saw another member of the Cypress family engaged in a dangerous interaction, Sheriff Wayne, who is being blackmailed by his old partner and Wausau’s Mayor, Ken Dillisch. What can you tell us about what Ken said about Wayne in the issue? Was Sheriff Wayne a very different person before the death of his wife?
Norton: There’s a lot of crap the Cypress family has been through before the Revival. Just wait and see what happens now.
Seeley: Yeah, Wayne is a very complex guy with a past that we haven’t really touched on before. And I think part of his disappointment with Dana comes from an understanding — because he used to be someone very different. And he paid for it.
I understand the other major story coming up in Wausau involves CDC worker and friend of Dana Cypress Ibrahim Ramin hunting for the burned Reviver that Dana believes killed Em. What can you tell us about this story? How good of a detective is Ibrahim and how motivated is he to find this killer? Is he on the case simply because of what Dana told him about her sister in issue #19, or is there something else at play?
Norton: This part of our series is all about the secrets that our characters are keeping from each other and how that will alienate a lot of them. You’re gonna learn more about Ibrahim through this. Like many of the others in the story, you may not like what you find out.
Seeley: Yeah, Ibrahim has been the sort of entry point guy up until now. But we’re going to see him take a twist coming up that may change what he means to our story and our cast.
What sorts of hints and teases can you offer up about the other Wausau stories that will be heating up or developing in the next few issues?
Norton: I feel like this arc in particular is getting the ball rolling on what we had intended to do with the series from the start. You’ll see.
Seeley: “Revival” is about the relationships between these people and the community. First we introduced them. Now we’re starting to see how they all weave together, and it’s going to be intense!
Mike, we talked a little bit about bringing to life the New York sequences of the next few issues. What can you tell us about the Wausau sequences? What can we expect from them? Are there any sequences tease that you’re especially pleased to be drawing?
Norton: I love drawing quiet moments. Wausau allows me to scale down and focus on that, but as far as particular moments that I’m pleased to be drawing — I can’t say that’s a thing that I get from the book. Every issue Tim writes something that I’m completely terrified or disgusted to draw, but “pleased” isn’t how I’d describe it. Tim is a monster.
Seeley: [Laughs] I know I’ve done my job when I hear Mike exclaim across the studio, “Dude, that is fucked up.” But, I really like that this book is as much about the small moments, and the lighter laughs as it is about the dark and the twisted stuff. It’s like life that way.
Finally, “Revival” has been going on for a while now and is set in a fictionalized version of a real-life town. I’m curious, what sort of feedback have you gotten about the book from residents of Wausau? Is it widely known in the town? Have you heard from readers who live there?
Norton: I heard a lot of feedback from Wisconsinites at C2E2. So far the response been overwhelmingly positive.
Seeley: Yeah, it’s funny. “Revival” is in the window of the bookstore in downtown Wausau, and it’s a featured item at the gaming/comic book store. It’s pretty cool, and I’m very proud.
Norton: I love making this book.
Seeley: We have to thank all our really loyal readers. This book is a rock when it comes to our sales, and that means you guys are sticking with us, month in and month out. Certainly, we’d love to spread the word, so if you love the book, tell your friends and your comic shop retailer. I want to give Mike as many disturbing and beautiful things to draw as possible, for a long time to come!
“Revival” #21 goes on sale June 18 from Image Comics.