War is hell…but an entirely different type of Hell is about to be unleashed in Iraq in BOOM! Studios’ new eight-issue miniseries Burning Fields, which comes out in January. Reuniting the creative team behind the acclaimed werewolf miniseries Curse of writers Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, along with the art team of Colin Lorimer and Riley Rossmo, it’s the terrifying tale of an operation in Iraq that goes very, very wrong…and the horrors that are unleashed as a result.
We talked to Moreci and Daniel about this new project, the real-world events that helped inspire it, and why this was a story they’re passionate about telling.
Newsrama: Michael, Tim -- tell us the high concept of Burning Fields and which fields exactly are burning.
Michael Moreci: A serial killer is loose in the oil hotbed city of Kirkuk, Iraq. With tensions high and an oil operation to run, Dana Atkinson—former military investigator—is brought back to Iraq to catch the murderer before the entire region is thrown into upheaval.
But Dana doesn’t come without her own baggage from her time in Kirkuk, and what she discovers in her investigation is more terrifying than anything she could have ever imagined.
Nrama: How did the idea for this miniseries come about?
Moreci: The story mentioned above centers around the activities of a thinly-veiled fictional private military company or PMC —that’s what the seed for this was. I’ve long held a strong stance against the for-profit model of armed services, especially in light of the many terrible things companies like Blackwater have done in Iraq.
In a way, Burning Fields was a book born of anger. I can hardly a remember a time in my life when my country hasn’t been at war, and PMCs are, to be, the perfect representation of why we’re there in the first place—profit.
Tim Daniel: That was the crux of it, and from there Mike and I discussed the idea of what happens when you have all these competing factions present in one very concentrated space: What does that do to the place and the people inhabiting that space? What kind of effect it might have? That’s when we introduced our serial killer.
Nrama: You obviously had success with Curse, but how does this differ from that story?
Daniel: In many ways – chief amongst them being, Curse is more intimate. It’s centered on the family unit, specifically the love between a father and son.
In Burning Fields, the themes are bigger and broader. We’ve got a second detective in addition to Dana, an Iraqi man named Aban Fasad – each seemed married to the simple, yet almost unachievable principle of seeking truth and exacting justice.
As such, there’s more players involved as Mike said – our private military outfit, Verge, is headed up by Decker Marce, a man as equally committed to his ideals as our detectives. They don’t necessarily mesh.
Nrama: Tell us about Dana, the main character.
Daniel: Mike said she has baggage, right? Yeah, she needs one of those airport dollar wheelies – or a personal assistant with a strong back – to carry it all. And she’s that way because of what I allude to above – she just wants to carry out her duties in a fair and objective manner.
She wants fair and objective justice. She’s never been able to achieve that both in her former role and tour of duty, and once she returned stateside to Chicago. She’s bent pretty much to the point of being broken as a result. She has the kind of character that seems to trump her deficiencies, though – she’s staunch, full of resolve, yet vulnerable. She actually cares about the fate of the Iraqi people– she’s not just some hard-assed broad out for vengeance.
At first I did not warm to her – she was unusual in that way, and I typically have an immediate affinity for all the characters in our stories, but not Dana. I came around to Dana – my hope is that readers will do the same. She’s pretty damned compelling for that reason.
Nrama: What sort of research did you have to do for this, and what are some of the things you discovered that were interesting/disturbing?
Moreci: I have a strong foundation in PMCs. Like I said, I’ve had this bone to pick for some time, and I’ve read many articles on the subject, as well as Jeremy Scahill’s brilliant book exposing Blackwater.
I did a lot of research on Kirkuk and Iraqi culture in order to get the details as accurate as we possibly could. That was immensely important to me, telling this story in a way that is mindful of the people and culture. I also read much of the Qur’an to get a better handle on the spiritual life of Aban, Dana’s counterpart.
Daniel: Most research I’ve ever done on any project, and the most carnage I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve learned plenty about the multiple Middle-Eastern conflicts we’ve had in the last 20 years…much of which I wish could be unseen. Clearing your Google search history does not have the same affect on the brain, unfortunately.
In addition, we did a fair amount of digging surrounding Mesopotamian mythology…
Nrama: What's your collaborative process like?
Daniel: We start with idea sharing. Mike led us on this one. He sent me a paragraph of about three to five sentences. I sparked to it immediately, adding in my own notions. Once the pitch was approved, we then have a number of lengthy phone discussions and embarrassing email exchanges where we fawn over each other’s awesome story-telling prowess.
We divide up the outlining workload, write and combine. Then refine, refine, refine. After BOOM! editorial offers their notes, we refine again.
After the outlining is complete, we break it down into issues. We write an outline for each issue, and Mike usually leads that part of the process. He’s got a great feel for pace and scene construction.
From the single-issue outlines, we divvy up the scenes, usually based on preference and strengths it seems – which happens rather organically and then we write the issue. Combine our work. Refine, refine, refine.
Nrama: And what's it like working with Colin and Riley on this, and what do they bring to the book?
Daniel: Riley is focused on covers this go around. That mad genius is too busy, but we’ve got some great cover imagery already in the bank. That’s typically derived when Riley calls, and in very rapid fire succession we go through the visual motifs of the issue, and invariably before the call is complete something pops into the inbox…the man is a magical beast.
Colin – well, I want readers to get a load of his second issue cover, and recognize just how powerful a illustrator he truly is. What happens with a guy like Colin is we take for granted his storytelling.
I mean, this guy makes choices no one can foresee when we're n the scripting process – not eschewing the script either, but enhancing it. His character acting and his affinity to depict the horrific makes for a stirring combination.
One thing that struck me thus far in reviewing the first issue is the cinematic nature of the work. Maybe his X-Files work is influence his choices here in Burning Fields in the best possible way. Maybe that's also because Colin’s lines are strongly complimented by colorist Joana Lafuente whom he worked with on X-Files. It gives Burning Fields a fresh dimension, distinguishing it from his work in Curse with colorist Tamra Bonvillain.
Nrama: Give us the hard-sell on this.
Moreci: You’re not going to find a book like this, that’s one thing. Burning Fields is equal parts page-turning thriller, examination of global private military politics, and a probing character study of a woman, Dana, as she strives for redemption.
It’s epic and intimate; it’ll make you think, maybe even make you mad. But you’ll feel something reading it, which is a victory in and of itself.
Nrama: What are some other books/creators you're currently enjoying?
Moreci: I love all of Remender’s work, Five Ghosts, Unwritten, Daredevil, Sixth Gun. Reading Moebius lately, also The Massive.
Daniel: Currently reading Saga, Southern Bastards, Roche Limit, Rasputin, Penny Dora, Copperhead, and awaiting the arrival of D4VE in printed form from Monkeybrain-IDW. Like Mike, I try to balance my comic book reading with movie watching and novels...and I recently read The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. (Mike) Carey and Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, which was on Mike's excellent recommendation.
Nrama: What's next for both of you?
Moreci: I’m currently working on Roche Limit, Volume 2 (Image) as well as the second season of Hoax Hunters (Heavy Metal), and Transference (Black Mask). Crafting some pitches as well, gearing up for 2016.
Daniel: Wrapping Skinned (Monkeybrain), working up the second arc of Enormous (215INK) and have several pitches in the field. That –plus Mike sent me a one word “pitch” about a month ago and like when he introduced Burning Fields, I can’t stop turning it over in my head. I just won’t let the idea sink…
…oh and in January 2015 the collected trade edition of Curse hits stores. The collection is beautifully designed by Boom! staffers Kelsey Dieterich and Kara Leopard and should make for one beautiful and taught winter's read.