When we last spoke with writers Leah Moore and John Reppion, the pair were promoting "Witchblade: Shades of Gray," which arrives in stores next month. In that interview, Reppion mentioned that he and Moore had just finished scripting the first issue of their second mini-series for Dynamite Entertainment, and that it would see release in March. That second mini-series, it turns out, is "Raise The Dead," a zombie apocalypse story that Dynamite promises will set a new standard in horror storytelling. CBR News dug up once again Leah Moore and John Reppion to writhe around and talk about the new mini-series.
The story begins in the middle of a zombie infestation, with a disparate group of seven people forced to cooperate with each other in order to survive. While Moore and Reppion are keeping quiet about many of the details so as not to spoil the reading experience for hardcore zombie fans (which both writers are), CBR News has learned that among the large principle cast are a geek, two children and a middle-aged real estate baron. "What's that you say?" said Leah Moore. "Isn't there supposed to be a Navy Seal or tough policeman who saves them all the time and has a shotgun? Not this time."
"Raise The Dead" promises to put its characters through the worst kind of wringer, the cast trying desperately to solve one horrible and revolting zombie problem after another, all while dealing with perhaps an even bigger problem: each other.
"We've tried to come up with some characters that would interact in interesting ways, and the whole story is driven by them," Moore explained. "I think if you can get involved at the start then you are more likely to want to see where they end up. We didn't start with a scenario and then shoehorn characters in where we could; we made them first and then just imagined what might happen to them."
The choices the characters make and how they work together is the main focus of "Raise The Dead." Readers will understand why the group decides, for example, to stay where they are, or to strike out and find better places to hide. There's the revelation of a government laboratory, itself a possible cause of the zombie plague. Should the group risk a journey through the zombie-infested world to look for it? Will the lab hold any answers, or just more questions? Is it even still there?
"This journey is just the beginning for the gang," teased Moore. "They discover that a zombie plague is not even the weirdest thing they are going to see…they meet a man with an unlikely solution to the whole thing, and they have to do all this as quickly as possible, because the zombies are shuffling after them still and they don't have any time to spare."
The zombie apocalypse genre is an increasingly popular as well as an increasingly cluttered one, with most stories featuring either over the top ultra-violence or pages and pages of talking heads. Moore and Reppion are counting on their character-based approach to the subject matter to help "Raise The Dead" stand out. Reppion explained, "There's a good balance between the horror, violence and gore and the characters, their thoughts and reactions to the whole thing. It's not an out and out bloodbath and it's not pages and pages of talking heads; we think we've got the mix right. 'Raise The Dead' is a cool zombie book that we'd both enjoy reading." Reppion added, "We want it to be a kind of uber zombie series."
Leah Moore and John Reppion are certainly the two writers who'd know what makes a zombie story "uber." Both are hugely dedicated fans of the genre, with Reppion contributing regularly to the online zombie magazine Revenant. The year 2006 was by some fans called the year of the zombie; a symptom of a zombie phenomenon Reppion believes has been brewing for quite a while. "I think that it's been lurking beneath the surface, considered the exclusive interest of geeks and nerds, for a long time now," said Reppion. "But who knows what's actually brought the whole thing out into the open? As much as anything, I think that it's probably the fact that there were already so many closeted zombie fans around so, when people started asking for zombie related ideas the floodgates just opened."
Moore added, "The fun of zombies is they can be anywhere, anywhere you get people there's going to be zombies, so if you go to the bathroom there might be one in the next cubicle, if you open a cupboard there might be one standing in it. It's not like old horror monsters where they had to be back in their box by sunrise, or they only came out on a full moon, or modern horror film monsters where you have to say their name three times, visit the haunted camp in the woods and watch a video to get killed by them. They're just people so they're everywhere…there's no limits to them, but they're kind of crap too. They just shuffle at you malevolently. Brilliant really."
Joining Moore and Reppion on their journey through "Raise The Dead" is Spanish artist Hugo Petrus, whose work impressed the writing duo so much, they're eager to work with him again. "It's been an absolute pleasure working with Hugo Petrus," Reppion gushed. "He's a fantastic artist who follows direction really well but also adds lots of his own details into the scenes. He's also incredibly fast! Hopefully, we'll get to work with him again after 'Raise The Dead' because he seems to really get our scripts."
Covers are provided by fan-favorite artists Sean Phillips and Arthur Suydam, of whom Reppion could only say, "Could you really wish for bigger or more capable names?"
Following the release of "Raise The Dead," Moore and Reppion will be collaborating again in the pages of Dynamite's new anthology, "Savage Tales," on a story called "Battle For Atlantis." Reppion explained, "It's us having our first stab (pardon the pun) at a kind of sword and sorcery, assisted by the legendary Pablo Marcos and the remarkable Stjepan Sejic, no less."
"Raise The Dead" #1 will infest comic stores everywhere in March. To celebrate its release, Dynamite Entertainment is offering issue #1 with a special glow-in-the-dark edition. Of the unique variant, Leah Moore remarked, "The bonus is people will be able to find quality comics even if there is a zombie related power failure!"
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