For Park Cooper and Barb Lien-Cooper, writing comic books is a family affair. And their latest collaboration, "Half Dead," which the happy couple first conceived of on their honeymoon, is no exception. CBR News spoke with Park about the Dabel Brothers'/Marvel original graphic novel.
"'Half Dead' is the story of two conspiracies, human and vampire, fighting for control of London in the present day with gas attacks, soldiers, suicide options, religious icons, and inhuman science used by both sides to keep their pawns alive and fighting whether they want to or not," Cooper told CBR News. "A ballerina, Romany, comes back from certain death changed into a form to which a clean death might have been preferable. She's just one of a number of people manipulated into fighting a covert war they'd rather run from or die than try to win - sometimes the good guys can be at least as bad as the forces of evil. We tried to bring vampires into a post-9/11 world, really, looking at the news, now more frightening than any horror film: mob violence, dehumanization, torture, secret prisons, suspension of human rights under the name of security, incurable epidemics and so on, and carefully grafted them on to the vampire mythos."
The origins of "Half Dead" can be traced back to the creators' honeymoon, when Park and Barb took to exploring the London underground. "There are little tube mice that live down there at some stations. At one, you could not only see a couple running around but could hear more squeaking from up the line," Park said. "I made a comment about how great a horror effect one could get in a story set at such a station if suddenly all the mice you could hear made a mass exodus and came running out and down the tunnel the other way, at which point the characters could realize that they were all running away from something else horrible that was coming. We didn't exactly use that image, but that feeling helped form the 21st century horror we put into 'Half Dead.'"
"Half Dead" was originally slated to be released under the banner of Speakeasy Comics, but when Speakeasy shut their doors the Coopers had to find it a new home. "Speakeasy's funding dried up, apparently, and suddenly, the books it had accepted were no longer being published," Cooper said. "The Dabel Brothers were contacted, and they picked up the project as a graphic novel instead of a miniseries, which is what it was going to be at Speakeasy. Making it a graphic novel was what we really wanted anyway."
The penciling and inking of "Half Dead" fell to artist Jimmy Bott, whom Barb had met some years earlier. "[Bott] liked the nastier elements of Barb's comic 'Gun Street Girl,' and when collaboration was discussed, we showed him the first issue of 'Half Dead' and he loved it.
"Jimmy found colorists Wes Wong and Dean Welsh, as well as Simon Bowland, and cover artist Lakota Sioux (Afua Richardson) and all the artists who did the art for the chapter divisions and pin-ups," Cooper continued. "Don't think that everyone would have appeared magically – they didn't. Jimmy made that happen as if we were working with a wedding planner: 'I'll do this, and this, and this.' He found out what we wanted and needed, and was so dedicated, he went beyond the call of duty to get the project done. His only priority was the good of the project."
The Coopers' webcomic "Gun Street Girl" was the couple's first foray into comics, and to help proliferate it they created a company called Wicker Man Studios. "My wife Barbara and I started Wicker Man Studios in 2003 in order to show that we weren't only putting out a webcomic," Cooper said. "Gun Street Girl" can be read for free online in black and white, but the creators always intended for the book to see print, and are trying to find a print publisher for the project, where fans can see the project in color. "We wanted to make it so readers buying a print version would be getting something more than what they might have read on the web before we switched to print," Cooper said.
Wicker Man Studios has upcoming projects with Tokyopop and is shopping around a project penned by Barb called "A Measure of Darkness." The Coopers enjoy working with smaller publishers, but have also learned a lesson from the fate of Speakeasy. "With the Dabel Brothers, Marvel, and Tokyopop, we know that those companies are so professional that they're not going anywhere.
"We are delighted by the reliability and, above all, dedication of Ryan Howe on 'Gun Street Girl' and Jimmy Bott and the other artists who worked on 'Half Dead,'" Cooper said. "We're sad that there's only two of them, since we have many, many scripts and projects – superhero, manga, horror, and other -- that we don't have artists for, as the artists we are working with now are busy working on all the projects they can handle. So among the other things we're doing this year is finding print publishers for Gun Street Girl and A Measure of Darkness, and seeking more artists for other projects."
Look for "Half Dead" at a comics shop near you in March of 2007.