What would you do if it seemed like the end of the world was coming? For some, you might seek shelter and console yourself with the comforts of friends and family. But for a barbarian and a enigmatic healer who see their medieval world fading fast, all they can think about is getting even, getting power, and getting rich.Writer Cullen Bunn (The Damned) is joining with friend and fellow writer Shawn Lee to work on a expansive line of stories told both in comics and prose. Titled Raze, this cross-platform dark fantasy series is unique: for being a fantasy book, there are no dragons, monsters, dwarves, elves or any other fictional races. But there are swords – and savagery – in this apocalyptic take on a medieval world. Central to this new series two enterprising criminals who see the End Times coming and want to figure out a way to line their pockets while ringing in the apocalypse. Nevermind the lethal disease called the Razing that's culling civilization en masse.
This series is being published by a relatively new publisher, EvilEye Books, but they have big plans for the concept. The series will begin with a series of webcomics released in the early part of 2010, followed with a graphic novel and a prose book later on in the year. For more, we talked with the co-creator and co-writer Cullen Bunn for more.Newsarama: So Cullen, what can you tell us about Raze?
Cullen Bunn: Raze is something we've been kicking around for several years, and it went through a number of changes before we decided to approach a publisher with a simple concept. Set a spaghetti western in the Dark Ages, throw in some Tarantino violence and Godzilla pathos (in that sometimes big G's the good guy, sometimes the bad guy, but either way Tokyo gets flattened). That's a proper Raze story. Dark, brutal, and fun. It's not just about how many heads get hacked off--it's about who they land on.
Nrama: A lot of fantasy stories seem likes it about the world and concept and then just people who wander through it. Is this more a world-building kind of book, or a character piece?
Bunn: Everything in Raze goes back to the characters. They’re definitely the progenitors of the world in which they live, which makes it a really screwed up place. When we started kicking this idea around, Siris and Kast were developed first. We knew we wanted to tell a story featuring these characters—a pair of self-destructive engines of entropy with sinister and unfathomable ideals and agendas. Then we started to think about a world that would feel “right” with these characters in mind. We needed a place that would serve as the perfect point of illumination as we explored the strengths, weaknesses, and twisted psyches of these individuals. What we came up with—the only place that seemed to fit was this kind of Hell on Earth. And Siris and Kast don’t simply wander through the world like Graham in King’s Quest (how’s that for an ancient reference?). Rather, their actions go a long way towards reshaping and defining the world around them.
Nrama: Who are the characters in this?
Bunn: The primary characters in Raze are Siris, a healer with a knack for dishing out pain, and Kast, a nigh unstoppable warrior.
Lovely Siris moves with grace and poise that would make Morticia Adams jealous. A sadomasochist removed from the world around her, she ignores or even enjoys pains inflicted upon her. Siris’ brilliant, alien mind ignores the mundane, seeing the world several steps ahead, like a chess grandmaster.
Kast is a cross between Conan and Peter Steele of Type O Negative. He’s the strong, silent type, standing tall with the posture of a robot. The world rarely offers any genuine threat to pique his desire. A nihilist who finds passion only in battle, he finds war, hardship, and even sex meaningless without true challenge.
With civilization crumbling around them, Siris and Kast see an opportunity to strike it rich. But there’s more to their plans than simple greed. Siris in particular has a dark agenda of her own that will slowly unfold throughout the course of several stories.
Siris and Kast are evil. Period. And they are far past the hope of redemption. But as bad as they may be, they share a deep loyalty to one another. This loyalty goes beyond love, and it may be the one thing that elevates them above those around them. It might be the one thing that destroys them, too.
Other characters will enter Siris and Kast’s orbit. The pair seem to draw others—some good and some evil—like moths to a flame. Still, “the healer and the killer” will always be the driving force in every story, the catalyst for unfolding events.
Nrama: And the world – what’s it like?Bunn: I like to think of it as the pre-apocalyptic dark ages. This is a world that has suffered horribly through one war after another—religious wars, race wars, land wars, and wars just for the sake of bloodlust. One after another, various warlords have claimed dominion over the land. One after another various religions have arisen, purging their predecessors from the landscape in waves of flame and wholesale slaughter. Ruins can be found everywhere, and so many people have lost their lives that there are places where the soil cannot be tilled without turning up bone. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, a flesh-devouring disease called the Razing is now sweeping across the land without hope of a cure.
This is a world facing their own 2012 scenario, and madness and death are the norm. In a place like this, even Siris and Kast can look like heroes.
Nrama: This story is going to be told simultaneously in three formats – webcomics, prose and graphic novels. Can you lay out the framework for that to us, and why trifecta of webcomics, prose and graphic novels works for it?
Bunn: There are countless Siris and Kast stories to be told, and I think the different formats allow us to tell stories in different ways. Some stories work best in a graphic format. For others, prose works best. I think it'll be interesting to see how the various mediums play together to reveal a much broader world. The first prose novella, Mother, Maiden, Crone, is a gothic exploration of madness (and the decent into madness) that I think simply works best in a prose format. One of our goals is to open the world of RAZE up for other creators to get there hands on it. Obviously, various illustrators will be taking a shot at these stories, but we'd also like to put together a prose anthology of Raze stories. It just makes sense to kick down the creative barriers and show what can be done with these characters.
Nrama:Who will be the artist for the webcomic and graphic novel – and did they do the cover art that we were given?
Bunn: The first story, Pursuit, will be pencilled by WMD creator and artist, Jeff Wamester. Jeff did the first official image of Siris and Kast.
The second story, Hang, will be pencilled and painted by Argentine artist, Federico Combi.
We will announce the artist for the graphic novel, Cure, at the appropriate time, when we're closer to its debut.
Nrama: When will this all start?
Bunn: The plan is to launch in January. The short comic stories, Hang and Pursuit, will be published online and available for free to introduce the series. Later, each will be collected as digital issues for mobile devices, printed paperbacks and special edition hardcovers
Nrama: You and your co-writer Shawn Leeare also working together on a book at Oni called The Tooth. How would you describe the collaboration between you two?
Bunn: We've known each other for years. We have similar sensibilities, and we respect each other's narrative style, which makes it easy to trade ideas. Occasionally we argue over a point, like whether or not the addition of zombies can make every story better (there are no zombies in Raze, by the way). Eventually, we end up telling a unified tale--even if one of us thinks it's a horror story and the other sees it as a comedy. Most importantly, we challenge each other to look at every angle of every story differently, and the end result is much better for it.