From the first time comics readers got a look at Jae Lee's character designs for Dynamite's "Dead Irons" to the arrival of Jason Alexander's interior pages, it became very apparent that the horror-fueled Western tale of a family cursed with monstrous abilities would see some bloodshed in its four-issue run.
What no one could have foreseen was how much.
After a two-issue build where the reformed Irons son Silas made his way across the desert on the heels of his murderous trio of siblings, he'll face both a reunion with his renegade family members and an entire town of innocent citizens mutated into demonic monsters themselves in this week's issue #3. And the head-splitting battle that ensues still doesn't answer the question of what the family's horrific father Devin Irons has planned for #4.
With so much horror crammed into a four-issue run, CBR News caught writer James Kuhoric for a catch all on how his haunting story came together with Lee and Alexander, what exactly survives the battle between the brothers Irons, and in what form the "Dead Irons" world may appear in next.
CBR: James, you worked on the story for this book for a long time before it was finally drawn, but looking at the pages, it also seems that Jason Shawn Alexander had a lot of room to make his own decisions with the storytelling and style. What kinds of scenes did you leave up to him to run with, and how did that at all change your scripting on the later issues of the book?
James Kuhoric: I think Jae said it best. When asked about how he directed Jason's art, he said "there is no directing, I get the pages in and they are incredible." Jason has stunned us with his ability to capture the mood and action of the series. From the start, we were on the same page with who the characters were and how to communicate the story in the most powerful way possible. If Jae was responsible for giving life to the Irons sibling, then Jason was responsible for raising them. Jason has been a true pleasure to work with. He's asked me questions about scenes and sequences and really gone out of his way to make sure my original vision was realized, much like a writer and director in a movie, and it's a feeling that I can't even articulate as well as I would like, but needless to say, he made the series work as well as it does.
My scripts tend to overdo panel detail so that there aren't a lot of questions about how I see things unfolding. I have always been of the opinion that it is better to provide more upfront to get the artist and writer on the same creative page. But I knew from the first action sequence with Silas and the outlaws in issue number one that Jason had a commanding grasp of powerful sequential storytelling. You can't read that first issue without being able to picture the gunfight unfolding in front of you like a movie. If we ever do a "Dead Irons" feature film, Jason would be the perfect storyboard artist for the director to work with and someone that both Jae and I feel completely comfortable with.
"Dead Irons" #3 seems like it's going to kick off with one giant chomp into the throat and never stop from there. Was the village of the undead brawl the visual that sparked you to tell this story, or is it just the biggest, craziest set piece you found to put the characters in?
"Dead Irons" is set up like a runaway locomotive. The first two issues, you realize that things are going horribly wrong but you still have hope that they can shut down the engine and get you off before things get too out of control. In the last two, you speed along faster and faster, too late realizing that things aren't going to stop until you hit the wall at the end of the tracks. By the end of issue four, you will have experienced it all - betrayal, redemption, loss, and retribution.
The battle for the town of North Point was a pivotal part of the story for several reasons. It establishes the true sociopathic nature of Jesse and shows us exactly how ruthless the siblings can be. Coming face to face with the trap his brother set for him, Silas is forced to make some unpleasant realizations - he is going to have to kill every one of the townsfolk to stop the curses from spreading. That's bad enough, but he has been on a quest to save his sister and redeem her soul - when he gets that opportunity he'll learn the hardest lesson of all: the loss of hope.
None of the Irons children are 100% within the cliched molds for their type of supernatural creatures. In issue #3, that shows itself strongest in the fact that the townsfolk turned by the three are not zombies in the traditional sense at all...from what we've seen they seem like undead mutants. What kinds of specific attributes do those turned share, and how do those particulars work for or against Silas?
When we started out, my original outline made it pretty clear that the curses each sibling has is really secondary to their character development. But we did go very deep into defining what each curse meant in this world. The curses were taken in part from legend but we imbued them with some new abilities and weaknesses as well. I actually have a very detailed chart of not only the abilities each curse brings but also what can break the curse, kill the creatures, and how they die. I really wanted us to have our own flavor to this world so that you couldn't just walk in and say "oh great, another vampire gunfighter - hiiiiiissss." That was really important to me.
One of the things I wanted to eventually do with "Dead Irons" is make it into a role-playing game and create a cool sourcebook for fans to enjoy. I see it as half RPG and half "Encyclopedia Monsterica" for fans of the comics. Inside a book of that nature we'd have the opportunity to lay down all the "ground rules" for the undead in this world. But until then you have to read along and piece together the lore from the story we are telling in the comics. Like any good tale, you don't get everything at once and some questions aren't answered completely until points in the future.
We've also toyed with doing a "Dead Irons" novel or ongoing series (though a novel would be cool for a different audience). Part of me really wants to do that to flesh in a lot of the things we had to pare down to fit into a four-issue comic series. I think the fans would enjoy getting a deeper look into the Irons lives and past. And I'd like to give Silas a platform to share more of his inner pain and turmoil with everyone. He's a complex character and one I really identify with. Most of the time during the scripting I could easily relate to some of the painful choices he had to make and understood how it affected him. There is a lot to these characters and I'd love to have a format to really dig into the details.
From the preview pages, we only get a small peak at what's happening with the big fight of issue #3. What scene in the book people won't see until they pick it up had you the most excited while working it up with Jason and why?
There are several scenes in the series that really encapsulate important parts of the overall story which were exciting to see coming together. I think the final showdown of the siblings in North Point is one of those pivotal scenes that really defines the relationships and leaves you understanding the sense of loss Silas feels. Lines are drawn and choices are made that change the core characters in a fundamental way in this sequence. Seeing Jason draw out those essential scenes really brought home the story for me and solidified the dream of this story being told in comics. Anyone who reads this issue and doesn't come away with a real sense of pain and loss has missed what the book is really about.
From the beginning of the series, Silas' main goal seems to be saving Annie Belle from the family curse. The solicits tease that he won't be too successful in issue #3. What kind of result will that have on both of them in terms of them ever getting a shot at happiness?
We've been seeing bits and pieces of Silas' childhood revealed in the first several issues of the series. The picture we are getting is one of an abused child in a tragic environment. All of the siblings are living a nightmare existence under the tyrannical rule of Devlin Irons and his twisted ways. It's this insane environment that fosters the development of these innocent children into the monsters they become as adults. The curse their father invokes is only a small part of what makes them the horrors they are. For Silas, his relationship with Annie Belle and the kindness of neighbor Jonas Keegan made the difference in the man he became. His ultimate happiness is tied to the unchangeable events of the past and in the possibility of redeeming his lost sister.
Unfortunately for Silas, sometimes the people we remember from the past change and make choices that there is no coming back from. Annie Belle's dual personalities run deeper than her demonic possession. We'll find out more about that in some upcoming stories in the "Dead Irons" world.
It's hard to pin down what Jesse and Colt want as far as redemption and motivation go because of their lust to kill Silas (well, Jesse's on Silas...Colt for everyone and everything). Are they interested in finding out if their father can turn them back to normal, or are they content to be monsters forever?
Each sibling has some desire to be "normal" again. The problem is that they don't necessarily care whether or not all of them get that opportunity. For Jesse, the rotted apple doesn't fall far from the diseased tree. As much as he hates his father, many of the features that he despised most in Devin are now deeply entrenched in his own personality. Jesse wants to be normal again but even if he was given back his mortality, I don't think he'd change much. It's the black core of his being that needs a chance to become human again. And to do that, you have to want to atone and heal. Something tells me that isn't in his nature to do.
Silas, on the other hand, chose to turn away from the generational dysfunctionality by striving to embrace and emulate the kindness he experienced as a child through the teachings of Jonas Keegan. Having that mentor changed him fundamentally from the creature he would have become. It's an abject lesson in the power of environment and the impact of compassion in a pitiless world.
Speaking of Devin, as he'll be playing the major role in issue #4, the one thing sticking out in my mind was the fact that he wants to draw his children back to him. What kind of ulterior motives might be coming to light as the series runs towards its conclusion?
Devin has always seen his kin as resources, not family. He applied that same twisted perception on the unknowing flock that followed his insane teachings under the guise of gospel. From the beginning, he was only concerned for himself and his own place in life. Those beliefs don't disappear with age; they become more ingrained in your core over time. If Devin wants his family back with him, you can be sure it is to accomplish some self-serving goal and not for a reunion or to ask for forgiveness after a lifetime of abuse. They may not realize it, but knowing Devin wants you to come to him is a clear indicator that you should run in the opposite direction. Each one off the kids has a score to settle with the patriarch of this twisted clan. But none of them is prepared for the lengths that Devin will go to attain his ultimate goals. When a father is willing to sacrifice the immortal souls of his children, nothing will deter him from the end game. Nothing...
I hope everyone enjoys the tale as it unfolds and that you come back for more "Dead Irons" coming out later this year (you heard it here first! More news to come!)
"Dead Irons" #3 goes on sale this week from Dynamite Entertainment. The fourth and final issue hits stands in May.