Scotland’s Loch Ness. England’s Stonehenge. Egypt’s great pyramids. These are just some of the locations famous the world over for the mysteries that surround them. But in Tim Seeley and Mike Norton’s creator-owned crime-horror series “Revival,” published by Image Comics, the world’s most famous mystery spots have been eclipsed by the small town of Wausau, Wisconsin.
The scene of an event called “Revival Day,” which saw a number of the Wausau’s recently-deceased inhabitants come back to life as if their deaths never happened, the city and its inhabitants quickly found themselves quarantined by the U.S. government. Now, a number of people are trying to uncover what caused the dead to return from their graves, including Martha Cypress, AKA Em and a Reviver herself.
Beyond the obvious, other mysteries abound in Wausau as well. Em’s father, Sheriff Wayne Cypress (who is unaware that his daughter is a Reviver), and a CDC worker named Ibrahim Ramin are trying to figure out what’s motivating the town mayor’s suspicious behavior, Officer Dana Cypress is trying to solve the mystery of her sister’s death and reporter May Tao is trying to discover if Em Cypress and other Revivers are a danger to the community — CBR News spoke with Seeley about the mysteries and denizens of “Revival.”
CBR News: “Revival” #14 dropped a lot of clues about what’s going on with the mysterious ghostlike Passengers. Revivers Em Cypress and Jordan Borchardt talk about these beings, and it sounds like they believe the Passengers are essentially the souls of the dead people who got back up on Revival Day and that when these Passengers come back into contact with a Reviver their state of undeath ends. Is that accurate, or is there even more to the Passengers?
Tim Seeley: Yeah, I think that’s the implication that Jordan makes, and Em certainly seems to believe it. I think it lines up pretty well with what readers have seen before, but I can neither confirm or deny!
Fair enough! The Passenger that went after Jordan in issue #14 seemed more childlike than usual. Was it possibly the soul of Jordan herself?
Hmm — it does make sense….
Jordan welcomed the Passenger and embraced what it might do to her, but we’ve seen the Passengers have friendly interactions with living children as well, specifically Dana Cypress’ son Cooper. Is there something about children that makes them easy for the Passengers to communicate with and connect with?
Jordan specifically mentioned that she wasn’t as tied to her life as adults were. She hadn’t lived that long, and she wasn’t quite as attached to her body. So, maybe the “newness” of kids and the fact that they’re not quite as afraid of death or aware of it, makes them closer to the Passengers.
The revelation about what the Passengers might be really seems to have gotten to Em —
I think Em is in a constant state of shock at what she’s now capable of, physically and mentally. She’s probably more shocked about how little she feels about what she did to the Check [Brothers], and what she might be able to do to May.
Meanwhile, Em’s sister, Officer Dana Cypress, is trying to uncover the reason behind Em’s death, and her chief suspect is professor Weimar, Em’s married boyfriend. How would you describe Dana’s current mindset going into issue #17?
She wants to believe it’s Weimar. She’s already judged him for having an extramarital affair with her sister. She’s also really looking for something simple for once, and Weimar being a murderer is nice and simple.
Dana has enlisted the aid of the father of her child, Derrick, who is just an artist, to help in her investigation. What can you say about Derrick’s motivation for helping her?
We’ll see a lot more of Derrick’s motivation in issue #17. He’s a lot more complex than we’ve previously seen.
Meanwhile, Dana’s father, the Sheriff, is trying to uncover why Mayor Ken Dillisch had much of the town’s livestock seized and destroyed. In issue #16 he makes his curiosity known to CDC worker Ibrahim Ramin, after which, he to the Jefferson quote, “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Am I correct in the reference?
Yep! That’s the correct quote! It’s a favorite of a number of far right wing groups and militias. We’ll see a lot more of what [white supremacist] Edmund Holt is up to and what he wants coming up. The growing alliance between Ramin and Sheriff Wayne will be a focus of future issues, as two guys who were originally at odds find they might be only able to trust each other.
The fourth and final person dealing with difficult revelations andâ€¨mysteries is reporter May Tao, who is trying to figure out what’s going on with Em Cypress and what to do with the knowledge that she has uncovered. What can you tell us about May’s feelings towards and suspicions about Em and Revivers?
May is a reporter, and she sees herself as someone dedicated to the truth, but like most any modern reporter, she’s attracted to a bit of sensationalism. She wants the best story, but she also wants the most headlines. Em and the murder of the Checks is a great news story. “Reviver gone mad!” would be a hell of a headline, right?
What do the next few issues of “Revival” deal with? Do the separate investigations of your characters start to converge?
The series will kind of progress from a story about community and living with people into a story about being alone. That theme will be expressed on a bunch of different levels, as each character is forced to separate themselves from each other for various reasons, and that leads them into some dark, icky, grimy places! This is a crime noir after all, right?
The last time we spoke, you mentioned Mike Norton’s strengths as being pretty much everything. So which elements of these upcoming issues do you think he especially knocked out of the park? Are there certain characters and elements you think he really enjoys drawing?
Well, we saw Mike’s strengths at drawing kids on display in recent issues. He made Jordan go from cute to creepy in no time! Mike loves drawing Dana most of all I think, with Lester coming in close behind.
Issue 17 is my favorite issue of the book so far, and Mike does some awesome character work. with his two faves, and all the other people filling this comic too!
What does colorist Mark Englert add to Mike’s work and the overall story you’re telling in “Revival?”
Mark’s real job is making high-end art prints and selling them to the truly hip, but he sneaks in an issue of “Revival” for us every month. We don’t know what we’d do without him. He does a lot of really subtle work in this series, and he really knows when to be restrained and serve the story.
Finally, you’re a quarter of the way through the second year ofâ€¨”Revival” — how far out do you have this series planned? Do you know how and when the story will eventually end? Are we still in “Revival’s” first act?
We know the ending, and by issue 17, readers are closing in on the middle of the “second season.” Mike and I have the book very tightly mapped out through 25, and loosely mapped up through about 55-60 or so! I think the coolest thing is, for us, that everything we’ve shown you matters. So far, each character has a place and a part in our big, epic crime/horror tale!
We’re in that weird place for an ongoing series where readers get distracted by new, shiny things. And that’s totally understandable–we live in a golden era where there are an amazing amount of great comic books! All we ask is that if you love “Revival,” don’t forget to occasionally tell a friend or two, and I promise, if you see me at a Con or say “Hi” on Twitter, I will thank you profusely for doing some legwork for us. We live and die by word-of-mouth, and so far, the readers and the comic press have been great about spreading the word about our very unusual and unique comic book. Keep it up, and we’ll make sure to keep making the best damn series we can! You need to be creeped out, right?