I don't know what's creepier - a guy who loves his over-endowed sister a bit too much, or an invading alien force that enjoys the taste of raw flesh. Neither of these are something I'd like to see in person, but in the pages of a comic book? I'd happily fork over $2.99 for that!
And thanks to the efforts of writer Todd Farmer and artist Don Marquez, this is exactly what comic readers are getting today courtesy of "Alien Pig Farm 3000." Published by Image Comics, this book is a product of RAW Studios, whose members include Steve Niles ("30 Days of Night"), Thomas Jane (star of "The Punisher"), and Tim Bradstreet (cover artist of "The Punisher").
CBR News already talked with Niles and Jane about this unique project, so we obviously had to catch up with the minds behind the book. Both Farmer and Marquez were equally excited to let fans know about the comic and how one crazy idea can turn into a thrill-ride reading experience.
CBR News: To begin with, you both have very interesting backgrounds. Can you give our readers a quick bio of yourselves and your experience?
Todd Farmer: In 1996, I loaded the beat up Chevy with my 486 computer and a garbage bag full of clothes and made the journey to LA. Within a couple months, I was chained to a computer writing for Sean "Friday the 13th" Cunningham. I wrote a universally despised draft of "Freddy Vs. Jason," then I wrote a script that become the universally despised "Jason X." Well, maybe not universally...Portugal sort of liked it.
I've adapted books by Whitley Strieber, written on video games, adapted video games for the screen and watched "The Messengers" take the #1 position its opening weekend. I like long walks near the ocean, playing football in the rain and I like to be held after sex.
CBR: Uhhhh … Don, why don't you step in here quick like!
Don Marquez: Most of my childhood memories are of books and comics that I read, movies that I watched, and music that I listened to. In the late 1970s, using the stage name Donnie Jupiter, I wrote songs, sang and played guitar in a psychedelic garage band called the Twinkeyz. We released a few records and it was very exciting and loads of fun, but I never really felt comfortable on stage. In the early '80s, I started trying to get into the comic book "thing." My first work in that field was doing art for an issue of "Thunder Bunny."
Nowadays, I'm a total homebody. I like to read, watch videos and create art.
CBR: Where did the idea for this book come from, including some of the wilder ideas - the brother who wants to run off with his sister, the pig farm, the aliens, etc.?
TF: Initially, the idea came from a sit-down with Tom Jane: What if aliens attacked a Kentucky moonshining town? We giggled. Well, I giggled. He laughed very manly. Niles came up with the title, "Alien Pig Farm 3000." How perfect is that? As for running off with your sister, well, it's Kentucky. I'm from the Blue Grass State. It's a little known fact that one must fornicate with one's sister or cousin in order to receive a valid driver's license. It's just part of the culture.
CBR: So what is the story about, and where does it take place?
TF: We know what happens when aliens attack the White House, and we've a pretty good idea what happens when they attack Sigourney Weaver. This is the story of what happens when they attack a Kentucky pig farming community.
CBR: Who are the main characters in the book?
TF: Johnny Ray gave up a baseball scholarship to help work the family farm and attempt to keep his moronic brother, Elvis, out of trouble. And Elvis is a moron whose big dream was to be the town's leading supplier of moonshine. Their sister Cindy is a foul-mouthed Christian girl with a body that stops traffic. Papa Dad is the family matriarch and a war hero with a weakness for shooting door-to-door salesmen. And Deputy Clyde is the town's protector who's been in love with young Cindy since grade school. They are a group of people with secrets and shotguns.
CBR: Todd, as I understand it this if your first time out writing comics. What surprised you most when you were learning how to script comics? How do you feel the process is different than writing for films?
TF: "Pig Farm" was my first comic. Although I came from film, I did not burst through the doors with a bunch of ego. From the start I was like, "Uh, guys, I don't know what I'm doing…" I could not have done this without Tom and Steve's advice and constant beatings. I made a ton of mistakes, but fortunately, I only need to be told once per mistake. Writers write. It simply required a little tweaking of how one thinks.
What surprised me most was how much like a screenplay the process was. A four-issue series is not unlike a four act screenplay. An ongoing series is not unlike episodic television. That's simplifying, of course, but I saw the similarities and when I did I got very excited.
The biggest difference is the end result. Movies change dramatically from script to film. Screenplays are written by committee these days. There was a time in old Hollywood when a movie was the writer and/or director's vision. In today's Hollywood, everyone has a vision - from the guy or gal who answers the phone to the head of the studio. At some point, the process changed and I never got the memo.
These days it seems the writer is expected to somehow take twenty or thirty visions and roll them into one. And the longer the process takes, the more visions get tossed into the pot. But with comics, the creators actually...create. Love it or hate it, "Pig Farm" is the creation of Tom, Steve, Don and myself. No studio notes, no last minute cuts to please the mysterious MPAA. Of course, there's nowhere near the same money in comics as movies, but the end result is substantially more fulfilling.
CBR: Don, how did you come up with the alien designs?
DM: I think Tom might have mentioned EC comics somewhere along the line, so I tried to inject a bit of that flavor into the look of the aliens. And, even though there were no actual descriptions in the script, there were suggestions in the way the different aliens were carrying on. I worked up the specifics as I was doing thumbnail sketches for the comics.
CBR: Interesting. So the look of these aliens was something lurking in the depths of your mind? Or were you given any concept sketches from Todd or RAW Studios?
DM: This was exactly the kind of stuff that I draw and paint all the time. But these particular creatures were inspired by the script.
There wasn't any previously created concept art that I was aware of. If there was, that would have been cool, but I'm happiest when I'm allowed the most freedom to do my own thing.
CBR: As this comic seems to be a sci-fi/horror/redneck comedy, how do you strike a balance between these elements in the writing and art? What tone are you ultimately looking for?
DM: That's what really made this comic fun for me to work on. I tend to want to exaggerate everything when I draw. That tendency lends itself to the comedic element. But, even though I'm a cartoonist at heart, I sometimes strive for more of the look of realistic illustration. This story allowed me to exercise both those tendencies.
Some of the characters are designed to be more "cartoony"-looking than others. And sometimes the same character will go from kind of straight-looking to cartoonish, or vice-versa, in response to the situation.
In the end, I feel that the horror and menace will have bite if the reader can empathize with the characters.
TF: I think you always start with the characters. You make them real and that means you show their flaws, quirks and idiosyncrasies. Then you drop them into an extraordinary situation and see what they do. In this case, that happens to be an alien infestation. For me, the comedy comes out of the action.
CBR: Is there any movie or comic book out there that you might liken your book to?
DM: I'm thinking "The Dukes Of Hazzard" meets the old "Mars Attacks!" trading cards.
CBR: What do you feel is the "trick" to successful sci-fi or horror in comics?
TF: I wish I knew the trick! All I do - all I've ever done - is write about what scares me, or makes me laugh, or makes me go "cool." Then you hope readers have similar reactions. If enough of them do, then you stumble into success.
DM: The trick is to do a really great job. Of course, that's much easier said than done. All one can do is try.
CBR: What was the process like working with RAW Studios? Was there much interaction with Tom, Steve, and Tim?
TF: Raw is fantastic to work with. I wish my film projects went as smoothly as this one. We banged out the idea together then I would constantly shoot pages back and forth with them. Tom has creepily good ideas, plus he's great with structure and plotting. Steve reinvented the horror comic; therefore, it should come as no surprise that his ideas tend to make one a little queasy; and considering I come from horror as well, that's saying something. Tim's a brilliant artist with an innate ability to visualize what will and won't work. Together, the three of them are one of my favorite people.
DM: I pretty much only had contact with Tom and he was great to work with. He was always enthusiastic and I got the feeling that he was sincere and the comic was important to him. When he thought something that I was doing wasn't working or wasn't quite what he wanted, his suggestions were right on.
CBR: What excites you most about this series?
TF: I am stupidly happy with the comic book process. I love that you can write a story and then have some of the most brilliant artwork sent to you representing that story. And Don's a genius! I can't tell you how many times he would take the ideas I'd scribbled and turned them into something far beyond what I'd ever imagined. It's just overwhelming. I broke "Pig Farm" into a four act structure. In many ways, it is a screenplay. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see that screenplay get made as it was written.
DM: It's hugely exciting for me to be working with such a talented bunch of people. The writing is first rate. The covers are by William Stout and Mark Schultz - two of my absolute favorite artists. The color by Grant Goleash is spectacular. He makes my artwork look better than it really is. And most of the comic books I've worked on before this have been black and white, low distribution efforts. This is a real step up for me.
CBR: Are you working on anything else (either at the moment or after the series finishes)?
DM: I don't have any other major projects that I'm working on, just some miscellaneous freelance work. For the most part, I'm back to working on paintings and drawings as the spirit moves me.
TF: In the film world I'm finishing up a script this week and loving every part of it. It's a horror called "Wolfbane" and I'm almost sad that it's coming to an end - makes me start thinking about a sequel. "Clock Tower" is in preproduction. I'm in the early stages of development on a TV show with the guys and gals over at Benderspink (Management and Productions), and I'm almost done with the script, "Lycan" for Tom (an 1800s werewolf story with James Daly doing the illustrations).
I wrote the screenplay "Thunder" with Dean Lorey ("Nightmare Academy") and we've decided to adapt it as a limited series; same goes for "Narcosis" a story I created with Patrick Lussier ("White Noise: The Light"). All in all it's a very busy time. Add to the above the fact that my wife and I have young five-month-old Izzie Rain joining the Farmer household, we couldn't be happier.
|The first sketches of Cindy (as both a blonde and brunette), Jethro and Mama.|