Our society is founded upon the birth and death life cycle of human beings, so what happens when something happens that turns that cycle on its head? What do the bonds of community and family mean when the dead return and carry on with their lives? These are some of the central questions that drive writer Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton's "rural noir" Image Comics series, "Revival."
Wrapping up its third year this December, "Revival" documents the struggles of the citizens of the fictionalized real life town of Wausau, Wisconsin, a place where one day the dead suddenly rose and returned to the lives they left behind as though they never left.
The "Revival" led to the town being quarantined by the CDC, plunging many of its citizens into difficult and dangerous situations, including town sheriff Wayne Cypress and his two daughters, deputy Dana and her younger sister Martha (AKA Em) -- who happens to be a Reviver herself.
CBR News spoke with Seeley about the series' recent developments, including Wayne's discovery that his daughter is a Reviver, Martha finding herself in a government camp for Revivers as her mind begins to deteriorate, and Dana uncovering evidence indicating her sister had been marked for death by a mysterious, government-affiliated Reviver assassin. The writer also touched upon the recent deal to develop another one of his creator-owned series, "Hack/Slash," as a television show.
CBR News: How much does Dana now know? Issue #34 seem to indicate that she knows the government has been using the "John Doe" Reviver as sort of a hitman, but does she also know the source of the Revival phenomenon and the role her sister's dead boyfriend played in it?
Tim Seeley: I think Dana has as an idea of what happened -- she's putting together threads, and she at least knows the source of the "immortality outbreak," now, and who it affected. But she still doesn't know who killed her sister, and why. She just knows that someone wants her out of the picture. Issue 35 will do a lot to tie that stuff together, and readers will get to see how much of this stuff ties together. See, we had a plan all along! Oh, God, my brain hurts.
You and artist Mike Norton conveyed that Dana had gained quite a bit of knowledge through an interesting double-page spread. What inspired this sequence, and how did it come about? It seems like you guys were wrestling with the problem of how to convey a lot of information, many of which us readers already know, without slowing the story down.
Right, totally. I mean, I wrote that spread with call-outs to scenes from previous issues, which meant I had to go back and re-read my own comic to get it all right! The objective there was to show the reader a whole bunch of clues without going into a ton of explaination and exposition. It's all there, and if you want, you can go back through the series, and place all of those moments that put Dana on the track she's on -- you might even be able to solve the case along with her. Most of all, you'll feel great sympathy for Mike Norton, who has to draw all this shit I come up with, and make it look as good as he does.
Dana comes across this information because of the dying confession of CIA operative John Geiss, who had some interesting things to say about the idea of "incentivized operators." Is this a real idea, or something you created?When developing him did you pick the brain of your "Grayson" co-writer Tom King, since he was the CIA before coming to comics?
[Laughs] I know Tom well enough to not ask about the real workings of the CIA. He's not allowed to tell me, or anyone, so I don't bother trying to get him in trouble -- especially not on the phone, which is undoubtedly tapped, which means I'd get in trouble for asking too many questions. I like living, is what I'm saying.
I do a fair amount of research for this book, and for "Grayson," so I sort of culled various elements I've read about spy-craft into the idea of "the incentivized operator." I'm not sure if the actual CIA uses that term, but they're welcome to borrow it.
Dana is now aware the government wants to do away with her sister, who is locked up in a camp for Revivers, but it seems to me that one of the wild cards that could help her prevent this is the head of that camp, General Louise Cale. Is Cale aware of everything the government is doing in her camp?
[Laughs] Well here's the fun part -- ask yourself, is it the government who wants to do away with Em? Or someone else?! Issue 35 will at least partially answer that question!
Is it just Em's revived body that's in danger? Because the end of issue #33, where we last saw her, suggested she might be in danger of losing her soul -- at least metaphorically.
Right, that's definitely going to be a big thematic aspect of #35 -- which part is dead, the body or the soul? What happens when it's both? Em, in #35, is starting to fall apart, and she's only tied to her old life by a single thread -- a thread she can't stop pulling at. Also, notice that we did some goddamn "Watchmen"-level thematic imagery here!!
[Laughs] "Revival" #35 is the end of the series' current story arc. How big are the stakes in this issue? How important is this issue to the larger tale you're telling?
It's probably my personal favorite issue so far. We'll see so many of the storylines come together, and give readers some really, really creepy shit. We'll also get to play with some of the most important, and frightening, ideas presented in the book. Is "immortality" a good thing? Would you want to escape death if you had to live as something less than yourself? Who are the good guys in this comic, anyway?!
"Revival" #36 kicks off a new year for the book, and a new story arc. The solicits suggest you'll be focusing on the exploits of Wausau's 98 year old fitness guru Lester Majak in this story.
Yeah, after the crazy events of Issue 35, we'll be coming back to some of the series' main characters, and present their current realities. #36 focuses on Lester, #37 on Derrick and Nikki, and #38 on Cooper, Dana's son. All of these people's lives tie into the crazy-ass tapestry we've created for this book. After the events of #35, you'll see why we aren't focusing on Dana and Em for a bit.
One of the luxuries of a creator-owned book that has found readers is, you can end the story when you want to. As always, I'm curious how far along we are in the tale you and Mike are telling. Are you about to begin the series' final year, or is there still much more story to tell?
Yes>. We've figured it all out, and the story will end at #48. Issue #36 begins the final year. It all comes down to this.
Finally, one of your previous creator-owned projects made some news recently when it was announced that "Hack/Slash," which had been in development as a feature film for quite some time, is now being developed as television series. How does that feel? What kind of involvement do you see yourself having with the project? And what sort of strengths do you feel television has to offer an adaptation of a series like "Hack/Slash," which was originally inspired by a certain type of feature films?
Honestly, I don't really know that much about it. It's weird, but as I've gotten older, and more familiar with the workings of Hollywood, I've also gotten more distant from it.
I've read the "Hack/Slash" pilot script, and it's pretty cool. I'm not sure how they plan to deal with the B-movie aspects of "Hack/Slash," or if they intend to at all. I mean, I know what kind of TV show I'd want to make, but I don't really make TV, so I kinda sit back and get the news at about the same time everyone else does.
It takes a certain kind of person to navigate the realities of TV and film production, and at least so far, I am definitely not that kind of person. I have to place my faith in the studio, and producer Adrian Askariah, and just keep making comics.