Ventimiglia, Powers & Cundiff on DDP's "Rest"

Ever gone for long periods of time without the proper amount of sleep? This August, Devil’s Due Publishing debuts Rest; a new title based on a screenplay by Michael O’Sullivan, which explores the use of a drug which eliminates the necessity for sleep—but at what cost? Written by Milo Ventimiglia and Russ Cundiff, Rest also features artwork from industry veteran, Shawn McManus.

Newsarama contacted Milo Ventimiglia, Russ Cundiff, and Mark Powers, the restless think-tank behind Rest, to talk about their new project.

Newsarama: Let's start off nice and easy--tell readers about Rest. It sounds like a rather strange and exotic type of story.

Mark Powers: Actually, I think Rest is neither strange nor exotic--not in the ways that I think make the biggest impact on readers. That was what attracted me to the story. The issues, both personal and societal, that drive the characters and plot are plausible; often disturbingly so.

Milo Ventimiglia: If you could take a drug and never have to sleep, never be tired and always be on the top of your day would you take it?...No? What if your friend took it? He would have more time to get things done, take up a hobby, get everything done at work, play with his kids, go out with his wife, take a language, take karate...but what would your friend be like on the drug vs. other people that are not on the drug. The story is written by an excellent writer, Michael O’ Sullivan and started as a script, but our goal is to make it a kick ass comic book.

NRAMA: Mark, how did you get involved with the project?

MP: Last fall, Stephen Christy asked if I'd be interesting in reading and providing some feedback on a screenplay Devil's Due might have a hand in translating to comics. It seemed like an interesting opportunity, and aside from that, I really wanted to work with Steve. There was no guarantee that Devil's Due would even be brought aboard at that point, and I knew regardless that I might not be involved beyond providing some story notes; but nevertheless, I ended up writing about eleven pages of notes on the

story.

I remember thinking, "God, I hope this thing is good, because I'll have to pretend I like it otherwise." Luckily, I found the concept to be very compelling and the characters resonated with me in a big way. I had a hard time putting the script down. I made some suggestions as to how the story might play out in the last two acts, as there seemed to be some concern about that.

I didn't hear anything for a few months after that; but in the spring, Steve called me again and asked if I was still interested, because Milo and Russ had decided to officially collaborate with Devil’s Due on a comic book series based on the Rest concept. It took me about a nanosecond to sign on. Subsequently, we've bounced ideas back and forth amongst the group of us, and the story has really taken shape, while remaining true to screenwriter Mike O'Sullivan's original vision.

NRAMA: Because of the nature of the subject matter in the project, will there be studies of other sleeping disorders like sleep deprivation induced fugue states or the perils of insomnia to the physical and mental well being of the human body?

Russ Cundiff: Yes. The mind is an interesting place when it is sleep deprived; we hope to delve into the inner sanctum of consciousness and explore consequences that are feasible now, not 50 years in the future…but at its heart, its character driven; its a story about a regular guy and his problems, rather than a piece on scientific research.

Mark Powers: If you're asking if we have researched the effects of sleep deprivation on human beings--yes. This actually goes back to what I alluded to in my first answer. Some of what you'll see in the pages of Rest is either already happening or is in the process of being researched. We're pushing it further for the sake of drama--but not all that much further.

NRAMA: Is it true that the lead protagonist in Rest is visually based on Milo? Was that a stipulation for the project? (laugh)

MV: Actually, the lead protagonist looks like a cross between Russ and myself....we saw a pattern with other successful comics using representations of actors/artists as characters; for us, it was an opportunity to add a familiar face to the project.

NRAMA: Is it fun to break through that fourth wall with these kinds of additions? When you guys are working on projects do you write a lot of personal Easter Eggs into your work?

RC: Yes, it’s always a good time; we definitely work very close with each other and that is reflected in everything that we produce…there are no Easter eggs, but the Tooth Fairy might drop a few molars here and there. To the readers: keep your eyes open in every panel of Rest.

MP: I can't speak for Milo, Russ, or Steve, but to me that's not a concern at all, not in this story at least. One of the most energizing aspects of this project has been the feeling that we're all focused on making a great comic book, period. Milo and Russ have made that clear from day one--it's not like they're sitting there saying, "Well, we need this character to look like ‘Actor A’, and this character to look like ‘Actress B’." It's all about creating a story that readers respond to on an emotional level.

NRAMA: Is there a dark underlining to the message of this book? When you involve corporate pharmaceutical companies and the government--can an intended agenda/ social statement not be far from the surface?

MV: There is not one, single underlying message in Rest, but many. It will be up to the reader to decide what that message is and ultimately what it means for them. As far as agendas, there is no intended social commentary in this comic; any parallels drawn by readers are purely a coincidence.

MP: I'd hesitate to use the word "message" in regard to Rest; but there are certainly larger, and very recognizable, real-life issues that inform the action, and in some cases, drive it. One thing we're trying to do is stay away from oversimplifying the entities you cite. In other words, though there are certainly some very dark aspects of this story, especially in regard to the role of the US government and Donte-Global (a fictional pharmaceutical company) it's not done in a mustache-twisting sort of way.

Human beings are complex, and large entities like government agencies and pharmaceutical companies are comprised of many human beings.

NRAMA: In terms of longevity, how far has Rest been explored? Is there a larger scheme or plan drawn up for Rest past this initial mini-series?

ALL: Yes.

NRAMA: What's the longest period of time each of you gone without sleep? Any trippy memories?

MV: I’ve gone periods of time with very little or no sleep (1-2 hours); it made the world seem lucid and I was actually super nauseous.

MP: I don't sleep a whole lot; but, at the same time, I've never felt the necessity to stay awake for days on end. Probably the longest I've stayed up was thirty something hours without sleep. I don't recall any trippy memories, just the sensation that I was walking in cement.

RC: Not really; I’m pretty unbearable without 8 solid hours of sleep.

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