Originally Posted on: January 24th, 2011
Greetings everyone, this is Shane! Hahn from Pussing Eye Productions sitting here with the zombie masters, Mark Kidwell and Jay Fotos, two of the three creators of the new zombie comic, "'68" from Image Comics in a Horror-Punks Exclusive Interview.
H-P: Thanks for sitting down with us Mark and Jay, how are you?
JAY: Real busy, but having fun!
MARK: Doing well. Yourself?
H-P: I'm doing well, thanks for asking and for doing this given your busy schedule.
H-P: First off, we are missing someone today. Nat Jones, one of the other creators of '68. Would one of you like to share the good news with everybody on why he isn't here?
JAY: Yes, he just had a baby boy and his name is Grayson. Nat, Joss and Grayson are all doing well and we couldn’t be happier for them! Also, I’m proud to say that I am the Godfather to Grayson.
MARK: A new Nat (and Joss) Jones masterpiece! Nat’s working in a whole new medium now.
H-P: Now, for those who may not be familiar with your guy's work, can you give us a quick look into your history as far as what you do and for whom you've done it for?
JAY: Tons, over 350 comics in the past 13 years professionally. It pretty much started with Spawn back in 1998, even to recently I still work with Todd Mcfarlane. But to give a super brief breakdown, and to swipe from my bio I’ll break it down.
I have worked with nearly every major comic book publisher on hundreds of projects for more than a decade. To name a few, from Spawn to Beowulf, Transformers to Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show, Rob Zombie’s The Nail, Sam and Twitch, 30 Days of Night and the Eisner nominated series Locke & Key. Not limited to just the comic medium, I have also worked in other creative media, ranging from animation, video games, album art, TV, motion pictures, and toy design.
In 2006, myself and fellow collaborator and friend Nat Jones founded Frazetta Comics, and along with writer Joshua Ortega, created the #1 selling Image Comics title for 2007, Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer, also holding a record for the fastest sellout for issue #1 in 6 hours! With the success of the Death Dealer series, and by keeping true to the Frazetta name and legacy, helped launch a new variety of Frazetta inspired comic titles and hard cover books like Swamp Demon, Dark Kingdom, Neanderthal, Moon Maid, Freedom, Creatures, Dracula Meets the Wolfman, Sorcerer, Frazetta’s Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan Collected Slip-cased Edition and The Fantastic Worlds of Frazetta Volumes One & Two.
2011 starts off in a bang re-introducing ’68 for a all new series with the original creators from the original ’68 one shot back in 2006.
MARK: Lots of horror stuff. Lots of it with Jay and Nat. The original ’68 one-shot with these guys of course, then books like “Creature From the Depths” from Image (with Jay on colors) my splatterpunk horror mini-series BUMP, the Frazetta Comics mini-series “Dark Kingdom” and the western one-shot from the same line, entitled “Freedom” and Tyrannosaurus Rex coming in February from Image Comics. Tons of other stuff too, from different publishers.
H-P: Jay, you hold the record for the fastest sellout for a first issue comic for Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer. How does that make you feel as an artist to be able to hold a record like that?
JAY: That was cool, but didn’t really have time to bask in it, he had to keep getting DD out to the fans. Death Dealer was a great success that we parlayed right over to producing more Frazetta titles, the last 5 years has been quite a ride for sure that I thank anyone who went out and purchased our books.
H-P: As well as work on Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer, Jay, you have worked on Rob Zombie's The Nail. How did that project come about for you? Did Rob Zombie come to you directly or was it something that just fell in your lap?
JAY: That was from working with Steve Niles and Nat Jones prior, we work well with each other, we’re all super fans of horror and it was an easy decision to keep us together, just made sense.
H-P: What piece of work that you have done, so far, was your favorite experience to work on?
JAY: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. But if I had to break it down to just a few I would have to go with ’68 and Death Dealer. ’68, that project is at it’s pure form of independent collaborative efforts. It’s great to work on a project such as ’68 with guys who love it as much as I do. Death Dealer gave me the opportunity to work with one of my idols Frank Frazetta, it was an honor and a privilege.
H-P: Let's start to get into the '68 Zombie Comic which is available from Image Comics. For those who haven't heard of it, what is the comic about?
MARK: The basic concept for ’68 is the rise of the flesh-hungry living dead in the era of flower power and Vietnam. The original one-shot from 2006 dealt with a relatively small story focused on a five man US Army fire team deep behind enemy lines as they inspect the sudden silence of a deep cover listening post. They find more than just Viet Cong and booby traps when the animated dead show up. The new series builds on this origin concept, spreading the story’s scope to encompass the whole world as the clocks stop and the calendars freeze on February 13th, 1968.
The new series will deal with everything from Vietnam to worldwide zombie slaughter in the Age of Aquarius. You’ll dive into narrow Viet Cong tunnel complexes turned tombs armed with nothing but a flashlight and a .45, stand toe-to-toe with hippies, riot cops and the undead as anti-war protests turn into bloodbaths, watch activist Hollywood starlets become lunch in Cambodia and eventually sit front and center as Saigon burns. Welcome to 1968…and the end of the world.
JAY: Mark wrapped that up, I did want to add though if you wanted to pick up the original ’68 one shot you can find it on line or we do offer it in the Horror Book Volume 1 TPB (Image Comics) that can be ordered from your local comic shop or Amazon.
H-P: Who came up with the concept for '68 and who does what as far as producing the comic?
MARK: I came up with the original concept for ’68 in 2004. As a lifelong fan of Romero and Russo’s “Night of the Living Dead”, I kept fixating on the date of the release of that first film and the horror sub-genre it single-handedly created. The film is so rooted in the timeline of the late 1960’s, from Barbara’s clothes and hairstyle to the model of the car and the boundary-pushing sub-context of a black leading man that it really establishes the birth of the “zombie” as we know it today into that era. Accepting that, I began to explore what was going on in the rest of the world. My answer was another question: If the dead rise and begin to kill and eat in the rural woods of Pennsylvania in 1968, what the hell would happen if these things started showing up in Vietnam? The answer(s) to that question is in ’68!
JAY: Producing ‘68, it starts off with everyone throwing in their ideas and we churn it around coming up with more ideas, that’s the real fun part I think, gets the creative juices jumping. From that point everyone has their job, Mark scripts everything, we’ll chime in with more ideas and whatnot but we work so well together that we could finish each other’s sentences, most is hammered out in the “ideas stage.” From that point Nat goes from the script to start the pen and inks, then I finish it off with the colors and tighten everything up at the end right down to the lettering.
I also handle all the graphics and act as “Editor and Chief” keeping everything moving forward on schedule.
H-P: I see alot of panels and covers for '68 on the internet that have some iconic pictures that you guys have re-created to look like zombies. Besides the zombies in the story, is '68 based on real events or is it a mix between your fiction and reality?
MARK: One of our main drives in continuing the ’68 storyline is to keep historical fact intact wherever we can, tying the zombie outbreak to real battles, locations and dates and presenting a believable backdrop for the supernatural horror that we’re spiking the story with. Don’t get me wrong…the series is far from a history lesson, it’s a gore-soaked, hard “R” zombie flick in comics form. But, we’ve done a lot of research to ensure that the characters and situations that populate ’68 are as real as they can be and fit the era as well as the horror aspects of the story.
JAY: Yea, and it only makes sense to use imagery from that era.
H-P: With the success that 'The Walking Dead' has had, with the comic and the TV series on AMC, do you have plans of making '68 into a movie or TV show if the opportunity arises?
MARK: Absolutely. My comics’ stuff has always elicited comments from readers comparing the work more to cinema than rigid panel-to-panel storytelling. Being an illustrator myself, my scripts are always written from a visual perspective, so ’68 moves along much like a movie. The popularity of “The Walking Dead” and zombie fiction/cinema in general lately is opening doors in film, digital formats and video games based on the sub-genre and we’ve always felt that ’68 has a strong high-concept appeal that would excite the ever-growing fanatic zombie fan base. Nat, Jay and I are all rabid fans of horror films and would jump at the chance to see ’68 splashed across the big (or small) screen.
JAY: Oh yea, I think any comic I produce I see it as a movie on paper. ’68 has that potential for sure and tapping into all different media.
H-P: Where can people pick up issues of '68 and when?
JAY: As I mentioned earlier, you can find the original ’68 one shot on line or we do offer it in the Horror Book Volume 1 TPB (Image Comics) that can be ordered from your local comic shop or Amazon. The new ’68 series hits April 20th this year from Image Comics that you can find at any local comic shop or on line retailer. We are also fallowing up the new series with one shot stories with guest artists like Jeff Zornow, Jerry Beck and Josh Medors, ’68 will be around for a while for sure.
H-P: Are there any future projects that you are working on that you can give us a sneak peek into?
JAY: Right now, working along side of ’68 I’m currently working on Locke & Key, 30 Days of Night with Joe Landsdale and Sam Kieth, Edge of Doom with Steve Niles and Kelly Jones and Godzilla with John Layman and Alberto Ponticelli…got a full plate foe sure. Oh and we can’t forget Tyrannosaurus Rex with Kidwell and Jeff Zornow coming this February, it’s awesome!
MARK: Fans can check out Jay, me and Jeff Zornow on “Tyrannosaurus Rex”, coming out February 9th, 2011 from Image comics. It’s a wild, action packed, dinosaur-filled romp done with tongue firmly planted in cheek with amazing, hyper-detailed art and a story cross-bred between “1,000,000 Years B.C.” and Looney Tunes. Then, we’ve got several ’68 based one-shots cooking for release following the climax of the new four-issue mini-series. The first, a dark little EC style ditty entitled “HARDSHIP”, is being illustrated by Jay and Jeff Zornow, and the second, a split-book featuring the dark art of Jerry Beck and Josh Medors called “HALLOWED GROUND” features a pair of stories set in a country church, with concurrent timelines moving at the same pace as a sniper defends the bell tower above a sanctuary filled with zombie apocalypse survivors. Lots of cool stuff coming.
H-P: Thanks Jay and Mark for spending time with us and answering our questions. We hope to hear more from you in the future and wish you the best!
JAY: I can’t stress enough on how much we appreciate all the support from guys like you and the fans. We really do thank you and we hope we can reciprocate by giving you best comics out there!
MARK: Thanks for the opportunity to spread the disease, guys! See you in the jungle.
VISIT THE '68 WEBSITE AT: WWW.68ZOMBIE.COM