CBR already brought you news of Dynamite's upcoming miniseries "Dead Irons" in the forms of art director and cover artist Jae LeeÂ and interior artist Jason Shawn Alexander, but for the core of the Western slasher series, readers should look no further than writer James Kuhoric. While the scribe has made his bones in the comics game with licensed comic book series (most notably a recent run on Dynamite's "Army of Darkness" ongoing), "Dead Irons" represents Kuhoric's first major original project, and as he told CBR, there was a reason this story was his first solo outing.
"'Dead Irons' is a story that has been evolving with me for nearly twenty years," the writer explained.Â "To be specific, the characters have been with me that long and their tale of misery grew from there. 'Dead Irons' has always been about the characters and their evolution as a focal point. I've always been fascinated with environmental psychology and examining how external forces can bend and twist a person into a monster. This story takes that notion to the extreme.
"What if you were predisposed to become a monster because of the sadistic childhood you had and compounded that by having the worst kind of curse brought down upon your shoulders? How would you react? Would you try to save your siblings from themselves or would you indulge in the wicked horrors that pull at your heart and tell you to sink your teeth into the nearest innocent bystander? [Lead character] Silas [Irons] lives that dichotomy and must choose between satisfying his bloodlust and finding a way to save his family and himself."
Where the story begins is with Silas Irons, out alone in the Old West after breaking rank from his three similarly supernatural siblings. While his brothers (vampiric Jessie and wolfman Colt) and sister (the ghostly Annie) remain dedicated to terrorizing the innocent with their horrific abilities, Silas rides the line between heroic gunman and out and out monster, which doesn't always make him the best person to cross.
"In the first issue, my favorite scene revolves around Silas," Kuhoric said. "He is ambushed by a group of outlaws that don't realize what he is. The ensuing violence, gunfight, and reveal of his 'cursed state' is extremely powerful. This sequence is exactly like I imagined it and it really reads like a movie scene. 'Dead Irons' is an old school western with modern film making sensibilities and a healthy dose of horror."
The film influence on the telling of the story means that many of the major revelations of "Dead Irons" will play out over the course of the series, including the history of what cursed the Irons family and what their putrid patriarch is up to, although Kuhoric promised worthwhile revelations to all mysteries. "The back story of the Irons siblings is the real raw meat of the 'Dead Irons' tale. I wanted there to be some mystery around who these people are and give fans time to develop an opinion of them based on their actions. Silas is pursuing his siblings, we don't really know why and we don't really know what is wrong with him but its clear something isn't quite right. As the characters are introduced you start to get a feeling for their place in the tale and what their motivations are. Through pointed flashbacks we start to see what happened to these brothers and sister in their childhood that lead to where they are now. It shows you in graphic detail what made them the way they are. But you will have to read through the whole story to get the full picture.
"Trust me, there is so much action, violence, and supernatural horror busting out of this first story arc that it will keep you reading until the final revelations of the past and present are revealed."
In the meantime, curious readers have been teased with both preview art from Jae Lee and Jason Shawn Alexander and a curious tagline that has followed the series through its promotional rounds:Â "99 Innocent Souls, 6 Undead Monsters and 1 Shot to save the world." The undead monsters obviously take the form of the Irons clan (apparentlyÂ numbering one more than readers already know about), but what exactly is the significance of these innocent souls and a single world-saving shot?
"Truth is, of all the preview and promotional material that have been released so far, that one phrase tells more about the overall story than any other," Kuhoric said. "The six undead monsters are the Irons family but neither the innocent souls nor the one shot to save the world have been explained. Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the two things are very closely related. While the underlying story is about the characters, their struggles, history, and their collision course with redemption, the bigger picture is about the horrors set in motion by the Irons patriarch. The power of innocent souls is staggering in supernatural lore. When it is harnessed, bad things happen. Very bad things."
Until the final mysteries find their answers in the hands of readers, Kuhoric and company remain at the drawing board, developing and defining their cast and picking favorites along the way. "It's funny how some people identify with certain characters over others," the writer said. "Silas is the character that I identify the most with of the Irons clan. His internal struggle is classic. Here is someone who has been through hell and clawed his way back to land of the living, but the fury and rage of the grave is still gnawing at him to be released. He has to overcome the horrors of a heinous childhood, one that would scar the most iron-hearted of souls, and fight against the unnatural urges of his curse that threaten to bring out the monster within him.
"Silas is driven by compassion to save his sister from the family curse and from the destructive path Jesse and Colt have taken. Revenge isn't his purpose, at least not initially. I think the biggest difference between Silas and the standard western hero is the depth of his character. He isn't a one-dimensional bounty killer; he's a tormented soul that is shouldering an unthinkable burden.
"Jason and Jae both like Colt a lot and likely for different reasons. If you go back and look at the first character design sketches Jae did, you'll see that he had a very specific look for Colt in his human form. Jae wanted Colt to be the embodiment of an animal - big, brutish, and none too bright. Colt was easily manipulated by the oldest Irons sibling, Jesse, and in many ways is a victim of choosing the wrong brother to side with. "But that happens in many families where allegiances are made out of fear or misguided loyalties. The designs are dead on for what we were calling for. Colt is a brute physically and mentally. But when the transformation occurs, he becomes something raw and feral. Jason is a big fan of werewolves in general, but with Colt he has an opportunity to really develop the character beyond the obvious traits of the beast. I think that is what made the character so appealing to his sensibilities. Both artists did an amazing job of bringing the characters and world of 'Dead Irons' to life."
After two years of development and design work, "Dead Irons" lands in comic stores this February, and after all the wait, James Kuhoric waxed philosophical about the time finally being able tell his story the way he wanted. "I wouldn't say it was tougher than making a story for a licensed character like Ash; in some ways it was actually much more enjoyable because we had the freedom to do what was best for the story without restrictions," he explained. "Since we collectively own the property and the characters, there was no third party to rely on telling us whether or not areas were 'too taboo' or 'too edgy' for their idea of what the licensed book should be. It really gave Jae and Jason license to dig into the gruesome details and visuals I was putting together for the Irons clan. I can't emphasize enough how much effort has gone into making this series the best it can possibly be. Each issue has been re-written and revised to the point where we all felt it was something really special. Everyone has had feedback in the creative process here with the unified intent of making this a really incredible comic.
"I've been really amazed at the final result. For the first time in my career I can say with one hundred percent confidence and honesty that the book is exactly what I envisioned from the start. Jae and Jason have brought this world to live in vivid detail and I've never been more proud of the end product than now."
As for licensed comics, the prolific Kuhoric remarked, "I love writing licensed comics. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a huge television and movies fan - that's a big part of where the fun in writing licensed comics comes from for me. But for a long time I've wanted to create something that we have full control over. The guys at Dynamite loved the story and the vision we came up with for 'Dead Irons.' They've done nothing but encourage Jae, Jason, and me to tell this story right. And that's after seeing the dark places this story goes."
"Dark Irons" #1 goes on sale in February from Dynamite Entertainment.