Writer's Commentary: "Raise The Dead" #1 with John Reppion

Raise The Dead co-writer John Reppion has worked with CBR News to give readers a rare treat -- a DVD-style Writer's Commentary on the first issue of his and Leah Moore's exciting zombie series.

For more on Dynamite's Raise The Dead, check out our interview with Moore & Reppion, and then stop by CBR's Indie Comics forums to discuss this commentary!


By John Reppion

This whole idea of getting comic writers to do a little commentary on their work is either pure genius or sheer folly. I suppose us script monkeys do like to rattle on about our labors don't we, but will you be able to shut us up once we've started? That's the real question. Anyway, beware the spoilers!

Page Four.

This is the first page of Joseph and Maria's four page flashback. I really like the whole sequence; it's the first flashback of the issue (and therefore the series) and so is setting a precedent. What we've tried to do is drop clues and hints about the characters and their lives into the flashbacks without hammering stuff home to much and I think that there are some good examples here. For starters Joseph is wearing Uncle Sam pajamas (echoing Arthur Suydam's cover for the issue) which hints at a bit of patriotism in the family. Hanging on the living room wall is a picture of a man in army gear standing in front of a tank; so maybe the family has some military connection? Blink and you'll miss it. I love the fact that we managed to do the whole "pre bitten character" bit in such cozy and homely surroundings. I hope that even the most hardened zombie fan still had a moment where they thought that "maybe she's going to be okay" in the back of their minds. Ivan Nunes's colors on these pages are great, it's that kind of Christmas day, up before dawn feeling.

Page Five.

One of the really nice things about working with artist Hugo Petrus on this series is that he follows our page descriptions to the letter; we can literally have our roughed out pages next to the finished ones and the composition will be exactly the same. Hugo adds tons and tons of texture though and he solves problems and makes things better in such a seemingly effortless way. The addition of the mirror in the hallway enables us to see the kid's mother taking off her jacket and moving into another room. Yeah, it's really simple but it's also very useful to the story telling. Notice that the cartoon Joseph is watching on TV has some dialogue that prefigures things to come. I love the three panels across the middle with Maria falling asleep; I think Hugo has got that "I'll just shut my eyes for a moment" time lapse thing spot on. Oh, and note the silhouette outside the window.  

Page Six.

Hugo did a fantastic job on the comb-over zombie outside the window; notice that he's dragging a dead dog and think about what cartoon Joseph might have been watching earlier. Also, this is a good time to point out the glowing eyes thing; this wasn't actually in the script but it's something that Ivan came up with at the coloring stage. Both Leah and myself think it looks really cool but I was getting all worked up trying to remember which film set the precedent for zombies with red, glowing eyes. Turns out it was The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue AKA Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (thanks to Doctor Arnold T. Blumberg for helping me out with my zombie trivia on that one). Anyway, I think it's cool how dynamic Joseph is drawn as he rushes of to warn his mother; the whole thing has flipped into action mode. How come they even have a gun in the house? Well, they obviously live in a fairly bad neighborhood (bars on the windows, lots of locks on the front door) and then we've got that military connection thing again haven't we? Honestly, pay attention.

Page Seven.

I love the sense of build up on this page; the zombie at the window, the news report and then Joseph's cry for help. As Maria runs toward the door you might expect her to find another zombie having broken in and attacking her mother and brother. The light coming out from the doorway looks so eerie. I love it. Then you get this amazing panel with the mother looking about as Evil Dead as you can get and Joseph scrambling across the bed to get away from her. Hopefully it's a big shock to a lot of readers; the threat is coming from the inside as well as out. Hugo gets so much expressiveness out of the kid's faces in the series and that last panel is a true gem. Shoot Maria! Shoot!

Page Ten.

Okay, I've jumped ahead a couple of pages here but that's just because this splash is really cool. Hugo did a great job on the blundering cook ("Ernesto"), notice he's missing a hand and observe what the hospital gown zombie is eating, hidden behind the door. The lab worker lady looks so cool and calm about taking care of the zombie but she doesn't see what we see. Charles's face on that last panel is just brilliant.

Page Eleven.

This is where things get gory! The hospital zombie is right on top of the lab assistant now, pushing down with her full weight. See how panels two and three are from the undead and the living's perspectives respectively. Then Charles swings into action. For that final and truly wonderful panel with the cleaver chopping into the chef's head we told Hugo that we wanted to surpass even the infamous machete in the head shot from Dawn of The Dead and I think he did a bang up job. It's particularly horrible the way his ear's being chopped in half I think. Nice work Petrus!

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