Mayhew, Frank & Wickline Go "Savage"

Mike Mayhew is well known for his striking cover artwork, often featuring sexy female characters like Vampirella, Mystique and She-Hulk. But this fall, hell be turning his pen to a different subject as he joins forces with comics newcomer Jeff Frank and horror writer Dan Wickline for a four-issue miniseries from Image Comics and Shadowline. Mayhew, Frank and Wickline spoke with CBR News about their new horror tale, "Savage," what readers can expect, what they might be surprised by, and how the project came about.

Mayhew describes "Savage" as combining shocking, brutal horror with over-the top action. "I think of it as a combination of the realism and dynamism of 'Ultimates' with the pathos and gothic horror of Berni Wrightson-era 'Swamp Thing,'" the artist told CBR News. "It features lots of monsters fighting monsters, and wild and wooly action."

The miniseries concerns a race of shape shifters who have been hidden protectors of humanity for thousands of years. Said Frank, "They are the force that stops supernatural monsters from taking over Mankind and turning us into the equivalent of cattle."

"It's a 'passing of the torch' story through big hands," added Wickline. "It's a look at the world that exists just out of the corner of our eyes. It's the beautiful illusion that man exists for a reason and the reality of that reason being dinner."

The story centers on Peter, who leads a quiet, comfortable life with his wife and daughter, but still feels insignificant. "He is the least successful of four brothers," explained Mayhew, "and he just wants to feel important. Along comes Sam, a crazy old guy who leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake all the way to Peter's doorstep."

"Sam has been killing monsters for a long time," continued Frank, "and has decided it's time to train his replacement-Peter. Peter is just your average Joe who always dreamed of being a big, tough guy like his brothers, but he's about to find out living your dream can sometimes turn into a nightmare."

"With Peter the lesson is 'be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it,'" said Mayhew. "In his case he wants a change, and boy does he get one."

"Sam and Peter are different ends of the same rope," Wickline added. "Peter is just coming into this world and as he learns what is going on, so does the reader. But Sam is on the way out. He's ready for his replacement to take over and the years and years of hunting have taken their toll on him both physically and mentally. There is a certain point in life, when so many strange things have happened, that the only thing that would ever surprise you is something being completely normal; that is where Sam is. And this is the road that Peter is about to start down."

Jeff Frank originated the concept for "Savage," finding his inspiration in the idea of the food chain. "In our world, Man thinks he's the top of the food chain because he's the best hunter, but in a world where Monsters hunt men, shouldn't there be something that hunts Monsters?" he said. "I decided to take a kind of ambiguous monster that is not normally thought of as either good or bad and turn them into the ultimate predator of supernatural evil!"

Frank worked on the story with his friend and fellow comics creator, Steve Niles ("30 Days of Night," "Simon Dark"). After working together for a few months, Frank set out to locate and artist for the book and found Mayhew at a California comics convention. Said Mayhew, "He told me his pal, Steve Niles, was attached, and the story sounded good. Eager to do some creator-owned work, I got on board, which seemed like a good idea with someone as experienced as Steve on the project. When things became busy for Steve, writer extraordinaire Dan Wickline stepped in to lend a hand."

"Steve and I go back a few years," said Wickline, "and when he was insanely swamped with work, he asked if I could take a pass on the first script for him. Well, you can probably guess that for Steve 'insanely swamped' is now his everyday workload. I had already met Mike when he did the cover for 'The Unusual Suspects' for me and we had hit it off. So when I got asked to stick around for the rest of the series, I was more than happy to accept."

Wickline explained his role in the creative team, having come on to the book in its later stages. "I'm basically the middleman and script-doctor. Jeff has this brilliant concept and a new writer's enthusiasm, but this is his first time doing a comic. So he takes a run through the script and passes it on to me. I go through making changes to steady up the story beats and the pacing, tweak the dialogue in places, etc. There is a difference between making a story work and making it work in comics. I get it, buff and polish it then send it on to Mike to make the pretty pictures."

Of those "pretty pictures," Mayhew said that he's trying a new art style for the project, which is sure to be unexpected. "It's going to catch folks by surprise if they think they know what to expect from Mike Mayhew. It's all in pen and ink, with lots of heavy brush lines and texture giving the art a gritty and edgy look. This style is working perfectly to suit the tone of this horror book."

Looking to the future, Frank said, "We do have plans for 'Savage,' if this initial series takes off. If there is enough support, the possibilities are endless."

Added Mayhew, "We are establishing a character and mythology that we want to build upon. Jeff, Dan and I are having nothing but fun with this one. We all have respect for each other's ideas, we aren't afraid to be daring, and we are in love with the characters of Peter and Sam. So if 'Savage' is a success, there will be further evolutions of the story after this mini."

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