FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 24, 2010

wednesday comix: Q & A with Zane Grant, writer of WE WILL BURY YOU

Remember last week, when I reviewed We Will Bury You #1? And then that night on The Scare-ening, Heidi and I talked with Brea Grant, one of the book's writers? And then Zane Austin Grant, the other writer on the book, was a surprise call-in guest? And they were cool? Remember all that? Wasn't it cool? Well, it gets even cooler because Zane went and answered some questions. Questions from ME! Do you think I'm cool??

One thing I love about both Brea and Zane is that they're actually, you know, horror fans. Talking with them obliterates any doubts you may have about their motivation behind writing We Will Bury You, about whether or not it's simply a vanity project for some actress. I mean...who knew The Driller Killer could provide such fodder for discourse?

I'm an only child, but from my understanding, brothers and sisters are supposed to hate each other and pull each others' hair. Why, then, would you want to write a comic book with your sister? How did the idea of working together come about?

We both like comics and horror movies, and we get along really well, so…. I’m always surprised when people ask about sibling rivalry. I think we compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses well while working together.

Practically speaking, how did you share scripting duties (ie, did you divide up the characters, etc)?

The way we work is we read a lot about our setting and make notes for stories. Then we get together and outline them, so we knew basically what’s going to happen, but not necessarily how it was going to play out. From there, we just traded off scenes, which I think works for the most part. Can you tell what I wrote and what she wrote? I can’t, because we edited each other so much to keep the tone consistent. Brea wrote all the nasty parts while I looked away and covered my ears, and I did the moralizing parts, so that’s breaks down writing duties into solid categories.

Why is We Will Bury You set in the 1920s?

The 1920’s was the first decade of sexual revolution in the U.S. and a lot of different political ideas were being discussed leading up the great depression, which snuffed a lot of those kinds of things out because suddenly more people were just trying to survive. The lack of certain technologies like cell phones and future weapons makes the spread of mass violence scarier as well. Plus, it just had a good aesthetic that works out well as a setting for a visual medium like comics. We wanted to take the magic of pre-code movies and add it to the outcasts of Tod Browning’s films and make it relevant and entertaining.

What are some of your influences for WWBY, both in terms of horror (whether written, cinematic, or other) and comics?

We try to have a lot of reveals in the books, which were inspired by the surprise endings of EC horror comics. And the shallowness of some of the people Mirah and Fanya run into sort of match the EC tone, where people react almost too normally but they are all hiding something. Also, there is a way in which, we are also reacting to Walking Dead, which pushed the genre in a way by showing horror comics can be ongoing and still have some attachment to the traditional horror genre. I mean Swamp Thing is one of my favorite comics, and it’s horror in a way (he fights mermaid vampires, right?), but it seems like an uncomfortable fit for the genre. A lot of Vertigo horror stuff is like that, especially from the 1990’s, where it’s scary and amazing, but the tone is more psychedelic than horrific, which we eventually delve into. We were inspired, of course, by Romero, but there are other pieces we pull from like Wild Zero (which has a trans person), the Greek zombie film Evil, 28 Days Later, and in the first issue we played with the slasher view from the first page. We give you the view from the husband of this woman he is obsessed with and she is dressing, and he’s nuts.

How did you come across Kyle Strahm's work, and what is it about his art that attracted you? Was there a specific style you wanted when you were looking for an artist, or did it strike you when you found it?

We looked a lot of artists, and Kyle’s portfolio stood out because it was cartoony but had the grotesque feel of too many wrinkles to it, which is how we wanted to write this book. We did some color tests with Zac Atkins, the colorist on the book, on Kyle’s work and really liked the way it looked.

How are you working with Kyle in terms of the script? Are you giving him detailed panel descriptions à la Alan Moore, or are you using the "Marvel method", or something in-between?

We don’t write poetry in our scripts, though we hope to some day. I’m not sure if you can get away with doing that your first book, the artist might quit. We tend to stick to basic descriptions, dialog, and reference pictures for some things. When Kyle wants more, he asks. Like we were bad about military uniform research and what revolvers officers were issued, so he just asked and we did some research and got back to him.

Why do you think comics are the best medium to use in telling this story?

Comics is the best medium to tell any story…. Heh…. But also, I think horror works best as a visual medium, or maybe easiest as a visual medium is more accurate. People have a stronger reaction to seeing pain than reading about it. I do anyway.

In the better zombie films, zombies are usually representative of a societal issue or a certain populace. I have my own thoughts on what they represent in WWBY...did you intend for them to be metaphorical, or did you just choose zombies for your bad guys?

On societal issues and horror, I had an argument with my friend Carrie, who does tryharderyall blog, about Driller Killer a while back because on your blog, you gave it a kind of class analysis, which is my default to reading pretty much everything except that movie. I think Abel Ferrara drills strangers because he is sexually repressed and the gay art dealer and the freaky girlfriend and ambiguous art band singer throw that repression in his face and he can’t deal, and she agreed with your analysis… in the end I saw the film as doing both. Anyway, I think Romero’s films tore apart race and class and gender in nuanced ways that we aspire to, but we use our zombies as heavy handed metaphor for fundamentalist views about economic and cultural values.

How much backstory/history is there going to be for the outbreak in WWBY? Do you think it's important for writers and/or filmmakers to give a reason why the dead return to life?

In the beginning, We Will Bury You was set up as three volumes and the third would have a metaphysical explanation of the gates of hell and how they had to be closed, but no one gets a contract for 36 issues on their first book, so that didn’t happen. Really, I’m of the opinion that it’s not that important why the dead come back. When people try to rationalize zombies, I usually get bored. Whether they explain it through the occult, like Fulci’s hanging priest or Louisiana hotel with a gate to hell installed in the basement, or nuclear waste like in Return of the Living Dead, it just takes away from the fact that most people would never know why, but just have to come up with a way to live.

Are your zombies slow or fast? On which side of the fast/slow zombie horror nerd argument do your loyalties lie?

Fast zombies are scary and have made slow zombies harder to make scary, which is sad. Our zombies are about mass, so they are slow. I’m scared of those rooms in mansions that have walls that close in on you, sometimes with spikes. I want to find the architect who designed those rooms, but that’s a different story. Our zombies are scary like those rooms.

When I think of spiked rooms, I think of Resident Evil. Actually, when I think of ANYTHING I think of Resident Evil. I love Resident Evil.

Talk a bit about being a comics fan and a horror fan. How did you get into each, what are some of your favorites, etc. What do you consider to be the best horror comic of today? Of all time? What's your favorite zombie movie?

I got into comics when I was a kid, but I was scared of horror comics when I was that young. Now, I am a fan of the old EC stuff like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror, but I think the best contemporary horror comics are Locke and Key, Creepy, Walking Dead, Hellblazer, Night Business and pretty much any horror books Ben Templesmith does. Brea actually got into horror films before me, so I would watch stuff she rented sometimes. We had seen all the major stuff like the Elm Streets and 13ths and that stuff, and then about five years ago my friend Orion moved in with me and brought his horror VHS collection, which is in the hundreds. So, I got to know the genre a bit better through that, got to see more Italian stuff, and now my friend Carrie has a pretty good collection of VHS horror, some really good/bad Media stuff. My favorite zombie movie is the original Dawn.

Are you hitting any conventions this summer? Any more comics in your future?

I will be at MoCCA fest in New York April 10th and 11th, San Diego Comicon this summer, and Small Press Expo in D.C./Maryland in September. I hope to do some more cons, and we will probably be in Austin and have a release for the second issue of We Will Bury You the last week in April. I have an article about comics creator Dash Shaw coming out in Looking Glass Magazine this month. I’m teaching a comics writing course to teens at Brooklyn Artists Gym, and Brea and I are working on another series we hope gets picked up… and I want to do a comic version of Driller Killer.


Scare Sarah said...

Awesome. Always had a soft spot for comics. I'll keep an eye out.

GypsyBlue said...

WEARY WEARY Jealous that you bought, let alone went to, Tori's yard sale!! <3 So awesome.