Picking Up the Pieces: David Lapham Talks "Terror Inc."

It's often been said poetically that "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts," but there is one Marvel Comics character who's literally greater by the sum of his parts. His name is Terror, and in August celebrated "Stray Bullets" creator David Lapham and artist Patrick Zircher will reintroduce readers to him in the pages of "Terror, Inc." a five-issue miniseries from Marvel Comics' MAX line. In this first part of our look at "Terror, Inc." we spoke with David Lapham about the new title.

David Lapham and editor Warren Simon had previously collaborated on books including "Daredevil Vs. Punisher" and "Giant-Size Wolverine," and it was their desire to work together again that lead to "Terror, Inc." "The MAX line seemed like a good fit for me," Lapham told CBR News. "I'm the 'Stray Bullets' guy--truth, justice, and the American way ain't my way. We threw around a couple of characters, one's that were lesser known that I could really take liberties with. Terror was the guy that seemed the most fun; the most violent. I thought I could have a lot of fun with the character; really tear a lot of stuff up.

"His power really borders on the ridiculous," Lapham continued. "Everything's just taken to extremes. He can replace his parts with other people's parts and along with them come that parts abilities and memories. Maybe it's silly, but I like that he can steal a safecracker's hands and then crack a safe. That's funny and that's cool. It's over the top. And in the Lapham universe, over the top is a great starting point."

Some might view Terror's formidable yet gruesome abilities as a blessing, but in fact they're a result of the direct opposite. "Terror's infected with a curse and as long as there's a single molecule of him 'alive,' he can acquire new parts to make up for the rest," Lapham explained. "His one constant is his left arm, which, like the original, is encased in armor and supposedly contains the preserved arm of his long dead lover."

Terror's power serves him well in the life he's chosen for himself. "Terror is a badass, skull-faced immortal man of action," Lapham said. "He kills for a living, though he follows his own code, which, more often than not falls down on the side of 'good'. Unless, of course, you think killing is wrong. Then he's all bad."

The MAX "Terror, Inc." series is a re-introduction and re-imagining of the Terror character, but as some readers may have guessed, there were many elements from the older "Terror Inc" series that appealed to Lapham. "I was attracted to the relationship between Terror and Mrs. Primo," Lapham confirmed. "It has a terrific 'old fashioned' feel to it. Very 'Thin Man'. I imagined her as this Myrna Loy character and Terror as...as, well, the Terminator. So I thought I could go nuts with the violence and hard-edged stuff and inject a lot of humor at the same time. I read a lot of the old stuff and I hope no one who's a fan of the old series is offended, but I didn't feel bound by it. Still, a lot of the elements I play with are there."

The first issue of Lapham and Zircher's "Terror Inc." opens with Terror's origin, which is another element that Lapham has kept close to the original version of the character, although the writer put his own twist on it. "Terror's been around a long time," Lapham said. "Terror, then known as Schreck, had a bad time of things for a few hundred years before he straightened out. He was a pretty pathetic dude...er...deer...goat...rabbit...You are what you eat, as they say."

Terror's past involved plenty of trouble and in this series his present day circumstances are just as dire if not even worse. "The plot [of 'Terror, Inc.'] involves a group of terrorists who essentially dupe Terror into killing the director of the country's elite counter-terrorist intelligence division, known as Mother," Lapham explained. "Then they blow him up and steal Terror's arm. They believe his arm, being the only part that's been around for hundreds of years, holds the secret to Terror's curse and the means to kill him. And they may be right.

"Without his arm, Terror's parts begin decomposing faster and faster. And without the presence of his lover's soul affecting him through the arm, he's more at the mercy of the souls/personalities of the people he acquires parts from. Which, Terror being a good guy, usually means his parts come from assholes. So, what we have is Terror trying to find his arm while he's decomposing and falling under the influence of the worst side of his nature which wants him to rape and kill the only friend he has in the world, Mrs. Primo, who is trying to keep herself alive and Terror on track to discover the terrorist's ultimate plan and how the arm plays into that while they're both running from Mother's agents who want Terror's ass in a sling for killing their director. 'Whew.'"

Terror's evasion of government agents and his hunt for terrorists take him all over the City of Angels. "In hotels, office towers, tunnels, highways, movie theatres, cruise ships, stadiums, all over," Lapham remarked. "I'd like to blow up as many landmarks as possible. Patrick draws everything so well. I want him to blow up lots of stuff."

Lapham has populated "Terror, Inc." with a colorful cast of lethal and quirky supporting characters. "The main supporting character and the most fun to write is Mrs. Primo," Lapham stated. "As I said, she's a very Myrna Loy type character; always very proper, but at the same time unflappable. You'd get a more shocked reaction out of her using foul language than you would holding a gun to her head. She won't ever chip a nail, but she's no pushover. We have a new Boneyard. A government agent. Other than that, there are a whole mess of baddies to kill and their leader Angel de la Muerte...The Death Angel...who's as nihilistic as they come."

Terror's exploits in this miniseries will be action-packed and soaked in black humor. "There are plenty of both," Lapham said. "Throw in pinch of old fashioned romantic and society comedy."

In addition to comedy and concussive action, readers can expect Lapham to make the most of his character's gruesome abilities and the flexibility of the MAX line by delivering plenty of gore. "Um....yeah. There is gore, goo, and other squishy stuff that comes out of peoples' heads," Lapham remarked.

The man tasked with depicting all the crimson viscera, crazy action, and dark comedy in "Terror, Inc." is artist Patrick Zircher, and Lapham couldn't be happier. "To be honest, I'm not one-hundred percent up on the mainstream. I'm not ten percent, really. But from the start Patrick impressed me with his concept sketches," Lapham said. "Then when the pages came back; sweet Jesus, they blew me away. This guy's seriously as good as they come. Even if nobody likes my story, or the character, or Los Angeles or my views on the death penalty, gun control, and lunch meat, everyone will have to buy two copies of this book, so they can rip apart one of them and paper their wall. I haven't seen any color yet, and I'm sure it'll be great, but being a black & white man, I wish they could just run the book with Patrick's inks and tones. Maybe if it sells well, I can convince Marvel to put out a special #@%!! Awesome Edition. Save up your pennies, kids, and stay tuned.... "

If "Terror, Inc." sells well, Lapham wouldn't mind telling more tales of the body-part-swapping assassin. "He's a fun guy to write. I think there's room to add more meat on his character," Lapham explained. "I also think due to the nature of his job, he could get involved in other people's stories. Hell, with Patrick doing the art, I think I could read a hundred issues of this guy ripping peoples' limbs off with no purpose whatsoever."

CBR News's spotlight on "Terror, Inc." continues later today when we chat with artist Patrick Zircher about the brutal new miniseries.

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