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Donny Cates Details the ‘Unbelievably Dark’ New Redneck Arc

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Donny Cates Details the ‘Unbelievably Dark’ New Redneck Arc

Immortal beings don’t age, but they’re still at the mercy of time because they’re never quite safe from the mistakes of their past. Violence and sins committed decades and even centuries ago can come back to haunt them at any minute and destroy the lives they’ve built for themselves. That’s what happened to the vampiric Bowman family, the stars of writer Donny Cates and artists Lisandro Estherren and Dee Cunniffe’s creator-owned Image Comics/Skybound series Redneck.

In the series initial arc, the Bowman family’s attempt to blend into human society was destroyed when the family’s grandfather escalated an ages-old feud with a human family, the Landrys. The violence that followed killed a number of Bowmans, sent the family on the run, and forced them to adopt the Landry patriarch who had been transformed into a vampire. They ran straight from the frying pan into the fire, as with November’s issue #7 a new arc kicked off that found the Bowmans in hiding, on the run from the law, and betrayed by the vampiric Father Landry who killed the Bowman patriarch, JV, after he discovered that Landry had been quietly siring his own vampire family.

RELATED: INTERVIEW: Skybound’s Redneck Brings Southern Twist to Vampire Lore

CBR spoke with Cates, who also writes Thanos and Doctor Strange for Marvel, about the dark and dangerous current arc that continues with this week’s Redneck #8, forcing cowardly Uncle Bartlett into the role of Bowman family leader, and putting the spotlight on the Bowman’s human familiars Phil and Evil. Plus, take the first look at exclusive art from Redneck #8.

Redneck #8 cover by Nick Pitarra.

CBR: In Redneck #7 you left readers with two big plot twists. The first is that, unbeknownst to the Bowman clan, the now vampiric Father Landry has been feeding and creating new vampires. What can you tell us about his motivations?

Donny Cates: An ongoing theme that I like to explore in this book are the ramifications of small, seemingly innocent mistakes which seem to last forever. They’re things that fester and get out of hand. In the first arc we had grandpa. That problem was never really solved. They just put him in the attic and tried to ignore it. We saw how that got out of hand.

And in this arc, yeah, as far as Landry’s motivations, things are really interesting because we saw him somewhat changed at the end of the first arc. But just because he became a vampire and was taken in by the Bowmans it doesn’t change who he is. He’s still kind of an asshole. He’s still kind of an idiot, and he’s still incredibly selfish in the way that he was in the first arc.

As we go along, we’ll see a little more of his motivations, but at his core what’s going on is there’s a line in the first arc where Bartlett talks about how he was brought into the family and he was treated like a dog that no one wanted to deal with. Now we have Landry filling that same role. Bartlett is an example of how that can go really well; how family can change someone and give them a purpose by bringing them in. Landry is kind of that dark mirror. He’s what can go entirely wrong when you don’t take care of your dog. He’s what happens when your dog is let off its leash and, for lack of a better phrase, not trained properly.

He didn’t mean to bring these people back. He didn’t know any better. That’s something I like to play a lot with in the book. This idea that these vampires don’t know all the rules. They don’t know every little detail on how vampires work. And Landry didn’t understand that the way you turn somebody is that you drain them until they’re dead. There’s a moment in issue #7 where you can see the horror dawning on his face as Bartlett tells him that. You see Landry’s face drop. He’s like, “Oh, fuck! So that’s why that’s been happening.”

It’s fun because, yeah, Landry is a total piece of shit. At the same time though, no one told him. No one took the time to take him under their wing and teach him about what they are. They used the same “stick it in the attic and ignore the problem until it goes away approach,” and things handled that way always come back.

The other twist was that Landry staked Bowman patriarch JV. Does that make Uncle Bartlett the de facto head of the Bowmans? And if so, how does he feel about having that position thrust upon him?

JV’s death in the second arc was in my initial pitch for the series. So I knew that it was coming, and I knew that I had to write it. It was heartbreaking, but it was something I felt needed to happen to move Bartlett’s character to the forefront. Bartlett has always been incredibly comfortable being the uncle and deferring to JV. He’s like, “JV will take care of this.” There’s so many times in this book where when Bartlett is in trouble he yells for JV. So in order to grow his character we needed to put him in this spot.

Unfortunately for almost everyone in this book, yes, Bartlett is in control now. He’s the most senior vampire on the scene. That scares Bartlett more than it scares anyone else. His entire background, the entire reason why he became a vampire in the first place is because he’s a stone cold coward. He’s always been a coward. That’s part of the reason why I love him as our lead character. He doesn’t have a heroic bone in him. He’s not the guy who’s going to mount up and take a shotgun into town to save people. Every single time we’ve seen him interact with somebody he talks a big game, but he always walks away.

So, in this second arc we’re thrusting him into a position where he can’t walk away anymore. He’s got to show up.

EXCLUSIVE: Redneck #8 interior art by Lisandro Estherren and Dee Cunniffe.

I like that he is a coward because he’s the opposite of the stoic, take charge Texas hero archetype.

Yeah, that was JV. He’s the quiet, brooding hero.

Bartlett is based on a real guy that I know. In fact, everyone in the book is actually based off of my friends here in Austin. They’re actually drawn to look exactly like my friends and they have all of their names. So Seamus, Greg, Perry, JV and Bartlett are all my friends who live here.

Does that include the Bowman family’s human familiars, Phil and Evil, as well?

Yes, Phil and Evil both are people in my life. And, yes, his name is Evil. Evil is a really good friend of mine.

I met all of them at this bar here in Austin that I used to work at called Posse. You’ll see that word pop up a lot in the book. It was the name of the barbecue joint the characters ran in the first arc that got burned down.

The real Bartlett, who looks just like ours and whose name is Bartlett, is so not a coward. He’s a really good guy that I can count on, but visually speaking when I started to think about his character, I really loved this idea of a vampire non-combatant; someone who’s really like, “Look man, my name is Paul and this is between y’all. I’m not going to put my life on the line. I’m just going to sit on the porch and get drunk for eternity.”

I love that guy. [Laughs] Because the bottom line is as much as fans, and me included, want to read about the stoic hero, you want to hang out with Bartlett. You don’t want to be hanging out with a dude who’s got drama for eternity. So I was really interested in seeing what that character would do when thrust into these dramatic situations.

He’s got a long arc, too. By virtue of being immortal, these characters lend themselves to an ongoing series. So we’re going to see Bartlett struggle with this role of not only being the hero of the series, but also a leader of a family. Just like how he used to look to JV for guidance, everyone now looks to Bartlett. That’s not an easy spot for anyone, and bottom line is, he’s probably not the guy you want to have his hand on the wheel.

Weirdly, Perry might be the best choice. She seems to be the only one who has a clear head about almost anything. Sadly though, despite everything about her Perry is still very much a child, and is very, very scared.

So shit is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better… if it ever does.

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