Riley Rossmo Celebrates "Dia De Los Muertos"

The Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is an annual Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1 and 2, honoring those who have died. Artist Riley Rossmo plans on celebrating the event throughout 2013 with "Dia De Los Muertos," a three issue, Golden Age-sized anthology published by Shadowline, an imprint of Image Comics. The book debuts on January 9 and combines the efforts of three different writers for a total of 40 pages. Each writer provides a self-contained story drawn by Rossmo, and all three revolve around the Mexican holiday.

The first issue includes stories by Rossmo's "Rebel Blood" collaborator Alex Link, Christopher Long ("Hiding in Time") and Dirk Manning ("Nightmare World"). The artist is later joined by writers Joe Keatinge ("Hell Yeah"), Kurtis Wiebe ("Green Wake"), Jeff Marriotte ("Fade to Black"), Alex Grecian ("Proof"), Ed Brisson ("Comeback") and Joshua Williamson ("Xenoholics").

CBR News spoke with Rossmo, who provided exclusive artwork, in addition to writers Link, Manning and Long, digging up the dirt on the first issue, how each writer became involved and what went into working with the book's larger sized format.

CBR News: Where did the idea for "Dia De Los Muertas" originally come from and how did each of you become involved?

Riley Rossmo: [Shadowline founder] Jim [Valentino] was putting together his schedule for the next 8 months and he asked if I might have any projects he'd be interested in. I told him I was thinking about another horror book focused around the Mexican Day of the Dead. From there I wrote a paragraph about the concept, some of the themes I was thinking about, etc., and Jim passed it on to the writers we thought would be appropriate.

Christopher Long: This is Riley's brainchild. A week or so after Comic-Con International in San Diego, Jim Valentino shot me an email asking if I'd be interesting in writing a story for the book. I jumped at the chance. I have had a story swirling around in my head for a couple of years that I've wanted to tell, but I just didn't know how best to tell it. I realized immediately that this project was the perfect vehicle for my story.

Dirk Manning: I became involved when Riley emailed me asking if I'd like to contribute a story and I couldn't type "YES!!!" fast enough. I've wanted to work with Riley for years, so having him approach me really was -- with no hyperbole -- a dream come true.

Alex Link: Riley simply invited me to be a contributor, and I grabbed him and shouted "Yes" into his face before he could change his mind.

You're each working on your own stories with Riley, what can you reveal about the tales you're telling?

Long: My story deals with Zan Kane, who is a Paranormal Intuitive Life Coach. Inevitably, clients hire him to get rid of ghosts, but he'll calmly explain that his business card doesn't state "pest control." His job is to help the living learn to accept the supernatural and come to grips that the ghost won't meddle in the affairs of the living -- they'll ignore you if you ignore them. In my story, though, Zan finally encounters a situation where the supernatural are intervening in the lives of the living.

Manning: My story is named "Te Vas Angel Moi" which roughly translates to "You Go My Angel," after the traditional Mexican song of the same name. It's about a Mariachi singer who, on the Day of the Dead, sees a woman who may be his deceased girlfriend in the crowd at a performance and what happens as a result. The story was partially inspired by the image that became the upper-half of the cover for the first issue. Riley's artwork moved me to the point that I had to write a story about that character.

Link: "Dead But Dreaming" concerns the thinning of the barrier between life and death during the Day of the Dead, and specifically how one young woman slips across it every year, but she doesn't know why.

Riley, for your part, how has it been working on three different types of scripts in a single issue? Are you using different styles for different stories?

Rossmo: Jim and I decided each story would have a different look -- I'd try different techniques on each story. For instance, in issue one there's a short where music plays a big part, so for that one I used only a long, thin brush to give the art a lyrical quality.

What kind of history do each of you have with the Day of the Dead, either personally or in general?

Rossmo: I was interested in the look of the decorations initially, but the more I read about it the more I liked it as a day to celebrate our deceased loved ones. I'm intrigued by the idea of offerings for the dead.

Manning: Comic-wise I'm most known for my horror comics such as "Nightmare World," "Tales of Mr. Rhee" and "Love Stories About Death," so it should come as no surprise that I'm more than a little passingly familiar with this holiday.

Link: I don't have any personal history with it, though as an idea it's always been intriguing. I'm especially interested in the way it blends Christian and indigenous traditions of the Latin American region to create a mixture that, to me at least, is familiar from a distance, but likely very different from what I think it to be up close. It's familiar and strange at the same time.

Were there any movies, comics or stories that influenced the mood of "Dia de los Muertos?"

Manning: Looking back, I can't help but feel "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset," both romance films, were huge subconscious influences on "Te Vas Angel Moi." This makes a lot of sense since I really am quite the romantic at heart. Yes, really!

Link: "Dead But Dreaming" drew particular inspiration from the Alejandro Amenábar 2001 film, "The Others." More specifically, I'm interested in that film's idea of a reverse haunting of the dead by the living, and what it means to think about death as another country, with its own culture and customs. I imagine Katrina, the story's main character, gradually developing into an anthropologist studying the cultures of the dead.

How early in the process did the idea come along to publish these issues in the Golden Age format? Did that change how any of you tackled your portion of the story?

Rossmo: The format didn't change my approach much -- it just gave me more room to move, have bigger panels, etc.

Manning: Honestly, as a rule, I'm not a big fan of oversized books. In this case, however, I'm really excited Riley's art is going to be displayed in a big and glorious fashion. His art is the kind that all but begs for this kind of format.

"Dia de los Muertos" #1 featuring Alex Link, Christopher Long, Dirk Manning and art by Riley Rossmo launches from Shadowline and Image Comics on January 9, 2013.

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