We spoke with Marc Guggenheim and Vince Gonzales, the co-writers on Dynamite’s upcoming Super Zombies back in November, and the two told us about the post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a virus that turns people – even superheroes – into zombies.
We’ll have more from Guggenheim and Gonzales about the March-launching five issue series shortly, but before that, we wanted to talk to Dynamite President/Publisher Nick Barrucci and Editor Joe Rybandt about the hows and whys of Super Zombies, as well as the risks of launching a new “world” in comics today.
Newsarama: Like Project Superpowers, Super Zombies is a new "world" coming from Dynamite, launching as an ongoing series. What went into the decision from your side of things to green light something like this?
Nick Barrucci: Super Zombies is a huge undertaking and it's actually been two years in the making. The decision to green light something like this was that – like a lot of publishers - we saw the world of zombies being exploited in comics left, right and center and there seemed to be an aspect missing-- something showing, from the ground up, a zombie explosion and you could see the ramifications and how it affected everyone. While you see some of it in some books you don't have the superhero aspect in others and in some superhero books you don't have the human side as much. The first thought a lot of people may have is something like Marvel Zombies (because of the super hero and zombie connection), but that’s not what we’re going for at all, and I think that people will be happy with the direction we are taking.
Joe Rybandt: I think if you look at what we do put out and get behind, you’ll see that each one fills a niche that may exist from other publishers, but have a twist or spin that’s unique to Dynamite. With Superpowers it’s Alex and Jim and the Golden Age heroes, adding to it and making it greater than it ever had been, and here it’s the core concept, spun around and presented by a-list writing talent in the form of Marc and Vince.
NRAMA: Was the idea already formed at Dynamite and then you went to recruit Marc and Vince, or did Marc and Vince come to you with the idea?
NB: Joe was talking to Marc Guggenheim and suggested I should meet with him, and we seemed to have a few things in common that made the first meeting much more fun, and I asked him if he would be interested in the project. Marc was interested, but mentioned that he wanted to bring in a co-writer (which we were fine with as I could feel I could trust Marc’s instinct). We had broad strokes on the ideas where we wanted to see villains and heroes that had fought against each other having to work together and the flashback and the memories of their past balance and the consequences of some of their previous actions being reflected and Marc and Vince got that. They really took our early input and ran with it and when you see the whole package; you'll see what a great job they did.
JR: Right - like a lot of the non-licensed Dynamite books, we work to develop the spark, the core and then turn it over to more capable hands, the talent. It’s the same model as Superpowers and like that book, Vince and Marc here with Super Zombies took our spark and (wait for it) turned it into a raging post-apocalyptic forest fire.
NRAMA: That said, how much development were Marc and Vince responsible for?
NB: They were responsible for a lot of the development. While we had quite a few ideas in broad strokes as far as creating characters that you care for and taking it into the next level and not really just looking at icons that were existing and just replicating them, that really came from Marc and Vince. There was a lot that they brought to the table and I'm happy we're working with them.
NRAMA: Going back to what we talked about earlier - this is a whole "world" with a population of super zombies. How did you go about their creation? First off - how did you go about setting up the looks for the key characters?
NB: You know what, I need to give all the credit to Marc, Vince and Mel. They put it all together. Marc and Vince came up with a lot of the ideas, the characterization, and they shot over all their thoughts and suggestions to Mel, Mel came up with the look. True cooperation and I couldn't be happier.
JR: The scripts for this project are among the most detailed and complicated (in a good way) I’ve ever seen… these guys left no stone unturned, they thought of everything. This world came to life on the page and the collaboration between writers and artist is unmatched to bring that to life as the final comic…
NRAMA: And the secondary characters, and even those you'll only see in crowd shots? At what "level" with the characters did you just let Mel run free, design-wise?
NB: This is really a question for Mel.
Newsarama Note – look for an interview with Mel Rubi early next week on Newsarama
NRAMA: Well speaking of Mel, why did you bring him over for this project?
NB: In a way it was a reward. Mel has been working with us extremely well on Red Sonja and Spider-Man/Red Sonja and we wanted to give him something new. We knew this would be a higher profile project and we wanted to reward Mel for working with us and the best way to do that was putting him on the project with Marc and Vince.
JR: These are Mel’s best pages of comics ever. His work on Sonja was incredible, but this opens him up to a new audience, as we’re throwing together two great tastes that no one can refuse: super-heroes and zombies (hence the super-zombies, get it?). We allowed him all the time he need to pour all his energy onto the page and as such, you’re going to have the nicest looking book on the stands the week it hits… and did we mention the coloring of Vinicius Andrade? He’s knocking it out of the park on Black Terror and the regular Red Sonja book and again here on Super Zombies.
NRAMA: You're launching a new series in a marketplace that eats its own, and is unforgiving to virtually anything without "Marvel" or "DC" on it. How do you maximize the impact Super Zombies will make?
NB: We maximize the impact by making sure that we shout from the highest mountain every time. We work with everyone to get the word out, we work with great creators like Marc Guggenheim and Vince Gonzales (even though Vince is unknown the fact that he is working with Marc let everybody know that they should at least try what he is working on) and the fact that we put our best creative team on it. I think that a lot of the fans will find us, I think that's all we can do. We go up to bat, we keep swinging.
JR: From my point of view, it’s something tangible/intangible I’ll mention is that we’ve been catching up from our early days of late shipping, and on this one we’re proud to say that all the art for this series is in hand… one of the benefit of us starting this project two years ago for release now (not that it took that long to draw, but you get the idea.)
NRAMA: Obviously, you're "first customers" here are retailers who are ordering the books for their stores. How do you work with them to show them you've got something good?
NB: There are a good amount of retailers that trust what we are putting out there so we sill have a fair amount of support there. We have to win over other retailers one at a time. It's not just hard, it is the hardest thing to do in this market. The first line of buyers, the retailers are dealing with one of the toughest economies in our history and we need to work with them hand-in-hand to sell to the customers. It's very hard these days but we just try our best, there is nothing else we can do.
NRAMA: You've been in this game for a while, and while it's never easy for a smaller publisher, what specific challenges does the market hold now when it comes to launching a new series? What can you do to prevent drops and losses, or at least minimize them?
NB: The market seems to continuously get more challenging, it's never gotten easier. I think that when people begin there is an excitement, a thrill of feeling that you are a part of something new but as the business continues you learn that every day poses new challenges and while, yes you try to minimize the challenges. Is there a guaranteed way of doing it? If anyone finds one, please let me know. I would love to find out the best way to minimize the challenges, but, realistically, no it does not get easier. This also allows us to be more creative and hopefully we can do it in a way where we work with retailers and they work with us.
NRAMA: Survival for many in comics today is joined with exploitation in other media. Is Super Zombies something that you're also shopping around Hollywood while the comic is coming out?
NB: Yes, the added exploitation and benefit of being able to sell a property in another medium is definitely something you strive for BUT making comics that are good comics comes first and foremost, and I think that when Hollywood and other media find comics that are good comics they then come in and are willing to translate it into their medium. So, while we do shop it around, hope for the best and are happy if anything comes of a deal, putting out the comics is first and foremost. It is the most important part of the job.
NRAMA: Any last words for retailers and readers on why they should give Super Zombies a shot?
NB: Multiple reasons, and all biased. Because Marc Guggenheim and Vince Gonzales knocked it out of the park, because Mel did the work of his career, because we’re pushing it as hard as we can. But mainly, because it's a fun book and I think that in any form of entertainment you want to try new things and this is a project that's new that fans should dig and really enjoy.