The zombies are coming -- and it's all because Leah Moore and John Reppion want to Raise the Dead.
With Raise the Dead 2 due out in December from Dynamite, Moore and Reppion are going for the jugular as the undead have swarmed the world. What can a crew of hapless humans do? Can they survive against their cannibalistic stalkers, or are they just going to be dead meat? We caught up with Moore and Reppion to talk about what's come before, what readers should expect from their series, and what makes zombies the perfect horror of literature.
Newsarama: Leah, John, just to start off with -- what made you guys decide that Raise the Dead was ready for a sequel? Can you walk us through a little bit how this came to be?
John Reppion: Right from the time we were working on the first series we always knew we wanted to continue the story. People responded very well to the original book and it certainly never hurts to have the likes of Aint it Cool, or indeed Max “World War Z” Brooks, saying nice things about a series. I suppose that positive reaction was enough to make Dynamite and ourselves realise that a second book was something people would be interested in reading.
It's been a while coming because Leah and I have been very busy with other projects as well as taking some time out from writing when our son was born last year. As a matter of fact, we're still really, really, really busy which is why we ended up plotting this second series rather than writing it outright. We knew right away that Mike Raicht was the man for the job – his Marvel Max Zombie series came out right at the same time as the original Raise the Dead and it was obvious to us that his horror influences and sensibilities were very, very similar to our own. We've been following Mike's career ever since and we're thrilled to have him on board.
Nrama: For those who haven't read the first series, tell us a little bit about the world of Raise the Dead. What do you think sets it apart from other zombie tales such as the Walking Dead and 28 Days Later?
Leah Moore: Raise the Dead is set in a world where the dead start coming back to life, but also where humans are working on the question of resurrection themselves. The origin of the outbreak isn’t the important thing, its what happens next, how the individual people deal with it, and then in this series, how a country or a government deals with it. We try and make the situations and the emotions as real as we can, make sure the characters have something invested in the world, so that when they are in peril (and there is a fair bit of peril, it has to be said!) the reader hopefully cares about it a bit more. Also we are quite heavy on the body count. I am always frustrated when you read a zombie book and its all hypothetical chit chat about the issues surrounding a zombie outbreak. What I want is arms and legs being pulled off and lots of screaming and running away. We like gore but with plenty of BRAIINNS too!
Nrama: Can you tell us a little bit about the hapless humans who are going to be roped up in your story? What's going on in their heads, now that the world is crumbling all around them?
Reppion: Well, some of the characters will be familiar to readers who picked up the first series but things have moved on a little bit – several months have passed since the initial outbreak and people are still working out how to make the best of the hand fate has dealt them. For some people that just means just surviving – retreating into their own little worlds and only dealing with whatever, or whoever, comes knocking on their door. For others it could mean working out how to take advantage of the situation... you'll just have to wait and see.
Nrama: As far as the world of Raise the Dead 2, what's society looking like, with this zombie infestation? What are some of the more dire circumstances going on for these people?
Moore: The outbreak has progressed so that the zombies are more random now. They might be in the sea, or walking through the wilderness, they might be lying in wait in a deserted building. Its less of a full on attack, and more of an insidious threat which could come at any moment. There are zombies in the sea, and also in this series we have the infection of some birds, which adds a random element to the whole thing. We are both huge fans of Hitchcock’s The Birds, so the idea of Tippi Hedron being attacked by zombie birds was too good an opportunity to miss! The other circumstance is starvation. We see the resources becoming depleted, people becoming more and more desperate, more frightening in themselves. Also the government is getting quite scary as it dreams up ways to control what is left of the country. Its kind of a look at what society would make of a zombie attack, on a local level and on a much larger scale. All this and all the personal horror we can throw in for good measure!
Nrama: Looking at the macro level a little bit, what's the appeal of zombies to you guys? What do you think gives them a lasting appeal that's different from other horrors of the night?
Reppion: I don't completely buy into the idea that zombies are this blank “other” that you can superimpose say communists or terrorists or whatever onto; as far as I'm concerned that mostly misses the point. Zombies are other people – they're everyone else, everyone except for you – and that's what is truly scary about them. It's all about the horror of what humans are capable of and how scary it is to be an individual conscious being in a sea of other beings whose true thoughts, feelings and motives are un-knowable. Then there's the idea of the outbreak (whatever form it takes) as this ultimate unstoppable disease, aggressively carried and spread by anyone who comes in contact with it. That taps into quite a universal and timeless fear we have as humans – everything from the Black Death to Ebola to Swine Flu has always and will always scare the hell out of people. Also, of course, it's cool when they get shot or blown up or whatever and bits fly off but they just keep coming. Zombies give good gore.
Nrama: Let's talk a little bit about Guiu Vilanova. What sorts of strengths does Vilanova bring to the table? Any moments that you've just been wowed by the visuals?
Moore: I really love the characterisation and the personality he brings to the characters. The acting he draws is brilliant, really expressive and moving, and of course his zombies are amazing. I like the looseness and the bouncy lines, the backgrounds, the whole shebang, and I haven’t even seen it all coloured yet!
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't certain about Raise the Dead 2, what would you tell them to bring them on board?
Reppion: Just like with the first series (which everyone should, of course, rush out and buy if they haven't already), our aim with RTD2 is to create a fast paced, full-on, zombie horror series which packs an emotional punch. It's not about ponderous philosophising, or slow cinematic wanderings through a post apocalyptic landscape; it's about blood and guts, life and death and doing whatever it takes to make sure that you don't end up as one of them.Will you Raise The Dead again?