CSN@ Newsarama: Inside Dead Irons w/ Preview Pages

Dead Irons covers and Jae Lee Sketches

Dead Irons covers and Jae Lee Sketches
Dead Irons covers and Jae Lee Sketches
Dead Irons #1

Siblings working in the family business—it sounds almost endearing in a wholesome family sort of way, doesn’t it?

However, “endearing” and “wholesome” are terms that definitely do not apply to the Irons family. If you want proof positive of that, just check out Dead Irons #1, the kickoff issue of a new series by James Kuhoric, Jason Shawn Alexander, & Jae Lee.

Writer James Kuhoric explained the premise of this supernatural Western series. “Dead Irons is a character driven tale of loss, reckoning, and redemption set in the supernatural Old West. Finding out who the Irons siblings are and how they became monsters are the primary focal points of the story. We wanted to make a book that added layers of back story to the creatures of legend and introduced a new way of looking at the ‘choice’ to become a monster or a martyr.”

The outcast member of the Irons clan is Silas, who is an outcast because he won’t succumb to the evil that has tainted the rest of his family. “Silas is from a family of cursed siblings,” Kuhoric said. “He believes that there is a chance to save his sister from the horrific lifestyle of blood and terror his brothers wrought upon the world around them. As he follows the siblings across the desert, he learns the truth about the curse on the family and is drawn to a cult complex to face the father that brought down the supernatural blight on them all. But Silas must face an unexpected horror. An abomination in the guise of a long lost love stands between ending the cursed line and a release of demonic power in biblical proportions.”

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Who are the other members of the Irons family, and what is the nature of the curse that affects them? “The Irons siblings were part of an unthinkably dysfunctional family and grew up in an environment that twisted them mentally and physically. Their father was a false prophet, a man of the cloth whose real ambitions were set on his own earthly immortality and nothing, not even his own flesh and blood, could stand between him and his ultimate goal. His children paid the price for that twisted ambition with their souls both figuratively and literally. The curse turned their bodies into creatures of legend—but being raised by an insane and powerful man is what made them into monsters.

“Jesse Irons is the eldest of the siblings and the most ruthless. His curse is in his blood and his complete disregard and contempt for the living. Jesse is a creature of hatred that is only surpassed by his own self loathing.

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“Colt is literally a bear of a man with the strength and lusts of a rabid beast. His mind is simple and he follows the ruthless lead of his older brother unquestioningly. If something ends up in his path it is torn asunder in no time flat.

“Devin Irons is the devil incarnate. A self-proclaimed man of the cloth hides behind his innocent façade, using his influence to gain the power he craves. Nothing will stand in his way to accomplish his own selfish goals including sacrificing the immortal souls of his children. It was his corrupt and cruel parenting that gave birth to the real monsters within his kin.

“Annie Belle is the lone female of the group. She is torn between personalities and alternates between a demonic ferocity and that lost piece of the little girl that grew up trying to protect her brothers from the insanity of their dysfunctional family.

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“And the last monster is an abomination born out of supernatural rites that have been buried for thousands of years. The rebirth of this creature will destroy the Irons family from within. But that remains to be revealed…

“Silas is the youngest of the clan and the only one that recognizes that the family curse must be ended. He feels the plight of the innocent victims his siblings slaughter. Outwardly he is a self- sacrificing hero, but inside his soul the curse eats at him and yearns to set the immortal rage free. His motives are many, but they all come back to his ability to put the monstrous urges that drive the undead behind him... at least in the beginning. Silas is striving to find a way to end their cursed line and save his sister’s immortal soul.”

Publisher Nick Barrucci explained how the series came to be. “Dead Irons was an overview that Jim submitted for our Savage Tales anthology book; I read it and thought the overview was fantastic, so I asked Jim if he would mind changing this into a series. I wanted to get a second opinion so I asked Jae Lee his thoughts, and he literally told me he could visualize the characters from reading the overview.”

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“I fell in love with the characters and their story,” Dead Irons art director and cover artist Jae Lee said. “Jim's writing career-making stuff here. I really wanted to draw it, but I had a day job. So I designed the characters and provided covers. I'm also supposed to be the art director, but there's nothing to direct—Jason's work is astonishing. Basically, our relationship work like this: he sends me the pages and I tell him how great they look. We have the same aesthetics, so there's absolutely no back and forth. This is Jason’s moment to shine; I'm jealous he gets to draw this book.”

Kuhoric agrees that Alexander’s art is a key selling point for the series. “Jae really understood the characters and what made them into the creatures they are now. And Jason took the life that Jae breathed into the characters and made it visceral. Everything about the way the story plays across the page reads with an air of authenticity and a gritty realistic life. The gunfights are fantastic and the monsters are ruthless. I can’t thank both of them enough for making one of my lifelong dreams come true.”

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Alexander’s work certainly echoes Lee’s visual style, but it does so without being derivative. “Jae and I share a lot of the same influences which also makes it incredibly easy to work together,”

Alexander said.

So what’s his comics background? “I self-published early on and then worked for some independents. It wasn’t until I moved to North Carolina and met up with artists like Kent Williams and George Pratt that my work took on a more realistic tone. But everything influences me—from movies like Jacob’s Ladder to guys like Tom Waits. Stylistically, Ralph Steadman and Andrew Wyeth have been in my head

since starting Dead Irons.”

Alexander’s work is quite moody and evocative; is this something that comes natural to him? “Emotional rawness has always been the one that that seems to have come naturally to me. It’s the only reason I do any form of art: to portray and evoke some form of emotion or another.”

How’d he end up illustrating this series? “Nick Barrucci came to LA and over a long night of boozing and chasing women it came down to a game of pool on the roof of this actors house. If he won I had to do Dead Irons... we shouldn’t get into if I had won,” Alexander joked.

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“It was either that or Nick and Jae are the nicest guys ever and approached me several times—and luckily I got free enough to do it!”

Alexander admits that tackling a monthly series is challenging. “I paint and have started exhibiting more and more, as well as writing. I think mini-series and graphic novels are best for me. I can come in, leave my mark, and move onto something else. It’s keep me from getting bored—and if the people that like my work are anything like me, they want to see an artist try out a lot of different things.”

Dead Irons isn’t the first supernatural Western; what makes this genre crossover appealing, and how difficult is it to keep the right balance of Western and horror without glossing over either? “I’ve always thought that the mix of horror and the western backdrop is a very natural fit,” Kuhoric said. “The environment lends an air of believability to supernatural elements that you don’t get in most modern or futuristic settings. It was a time when the unknown was around every corner and when you didn’t know what things were just out of sight hiding in the darkness. There is a gritty and raw feel to the western world that makes a perfect matching with the classic elements of horror. Everything from the scenery to the clothes to the violence in the streets just plays even better with the supernatural.”

While the Western elements accentuate the horror, it’s the creepy stuff that makes the project so appealing for Kuhoric. “I love things that make you squirm or jump out of your seat. Flicks like Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Exorcist helped to grow my interest in the horror world and really developed my interest in the genre. But my biggest influences in horror have always been the novels, comics, and movies that I enjoy as a fan. Creators like Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Dean Koontz take up the majority of my bookshelves. Each of them form worlds and characters from the bottom up, making creepy stories that are wrapped around believable and likeable characters.

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“I see Dead Irons as a comic book that would make a great horror movie. From the characters to the horrific revelations of the siblings, the story has the potential to be one of a kind on film. I even had a little fun coming up with a casting call for the Irons family that I’d love to put out sometime in the future—it’s full of great horror icons and some choices that might surprise you.”

What about influences on the Western side of things? “I’m a huge fan of classic Western films,” Kuhoric said. “Anything from Sergio Leone is at the top of my personal favorites list. Moreso than any other genre films, his work captured the vivid environment and stark characters in a way that still holds up today... Sergio’s influence can be seen in a lot of Dead Irons pacing and panoramic panels. I tried to tell the story in a similar style and scope to his classic visions. Thanks to the amazing art talent of Jason Shawn Alexander, I think the book does a great job of paying homage to films like Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dollars.”

Will there be a possibility of future Irons tales once Dead Irons wraps up, or is this a single-story-arc tale? “The really exciting thing about Dead Irons is that there are a lot of great stories about Silas and the Irons clan that are still untold,” Kuhoric said. “We hope to expand the universe and continue dishing out creepy supernatural tales in this rich environment for years to come.”

“It’s currently presented as a finite series plus an annual,” Barrucci added. “If it’s well accepted, we may expand on that.”

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