After a family is killed in cold blood in the Wild West, the vengeful mother returns from the grave to get justice from their killers.
In the new revenge/horror western Death Be Damned, Miranda Coler is back from the death and tracking down seven outlaws who killed her family. Although immortal after her first visit to the grave, Coler is cursed to lose a bit of her memories - and in a way, herself - each time she dies.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour's Ben Acker and Ben Blacker are teaming with co-writer Andrew Miller (The CW's The Secret Circle) and artist Hannah Christenson (Jim Henson's Storyteller) for this supernatural western that is already eying a TV adaptation before the first issue debuts this week.
Newsarama spoke with Blacker and Miller about the series, adding to the long list of supernatural revenge stories in comic books, and getting the details right on their take on the Wild West.
Newsarama: Ben, Andrew - who are those that “death be damned” in this new series?
Andrew Miller: Miranda is the most obvious example of death-damning, in that she keeps coming back to life every time she dies. But it’s not a conscious decision on her part. Rather, nature itself keeps pushing her back to fulfill her role in the life cycle… or maybe she’s making this happen on a subconscious level, and nature’s involvement is a construct she uses to make sense of it. But the biggest damn-er of death is Joseph, who’s been actively trying to meddle in the life/death cycle for years… Something he’s about to get seriously punished for.
Nrama: Who are these seven outlaws, and why did they kill Miranda and her family?
Ben Blacker: The motive of the seven outlaws remains a mystery for now, but they came for Miranda’s husband and family for vengeance. There’s a deep backstory there we hope to mine someday that’s only touched upon in the current mini-series.
Miller: Revenge. There’s no more personal, emotional or powerful motivator to make really bad choices.
Nrama: So what brings Miranda back, and why her and not other members of her family?
Miller: Her husband’s baggage is too heavy. Her daughter is too young to survive death’s demands.
Blacker: We don’t want to get too much into the reasons why Miranda and why not her husband or child, though we three talked about those extensively. Really, Miranda’s return from death works, for us, as a metaphor for her need for vengeance. She literally cannot die until she has revenge upon the seven who murdered her family. (And her!)
Ultimately, beyond the supernatural working as metaphor, I think Miranda is just a fluke. No one escapes death. Not for long anyway.
Nrama: And how does this undertaker, Joseph Murray, get involved in this?
Blacker: Not to give too much away, but Joseph is a man whose entire life is steeped in death. He’s intimate with death in ways beyond just his profession.
On a plot level, Joseph gets involved when he’s tasked with burying Miranda one of the times she dies. Seeing her come back is the key Joseph has been seeking in his own quest, the secrets of which unfold over the series.
Nrama: There’s a catch in Miranda’s The Crow-esque return for vengeance - she loses a piece of her memories for every one she now kills. Can you tell us more about that?
Miller: Everything has consequences and death is no exception. With Miranda, the more she dies, the further she gets from her goal and more she loses of herself. The book also explores the idea that everything in life is borrowing from a big, shared pool of energy. And as this energy moves through life and death, it gets redistributed… and in Miranda’s case, moves on. And takes her memories with it.
Blacker: This is the biggest idea that Miller brought into the story and just one of the reasons we’re lucky to have him as a collaborator. Also, he has a wipey board in his office. But one of the initial ideas for the story was when I was thinking about Wolverine, a character Acker and I have written (though not often enough!). I was thinking about how difficult it is to have a character at the center of your story who is, for all intents and purposes, unkillable. Which means the stakes of the story needs to be emotional - this is where the revenge story came from. Andrew suggested the extra metaphoric knife-turn of having Miranda lose her memory - her very reason for seeking vengeance - every time her “powers” bring her back. This was exactly the painful, dark, pretty sick element that the story needed.
Nrama: This all takes place in the Wild West. Set the stage for us - when and where exactly does this take place?
Miller: Right as technology was crushing spirituality. When science starting beating the crap out of nature. And when nature was magic.
Blacker: Andrew, do you think that nature used to be magic? Because it wasn’t. Man, I hope he doesn’t think this book is a history documentary.
Anyway, specifically, the book is set in 1873 in Wyoming Territory.
Nrama: How did the four of you connect to do this series?
Blacker: Our terrific editors - Cameron Chittock and Eric Harburn - suggested Hannah, whose work we’d seen in BOOM!’s Jim Henson’s The Storyteller book and we really responded to it. There’s something raw and emotional about her art that we thought would work especially well in a western series - we knew she could nail both the western and supernatural elements. It was important to us, too, to have a female voice be a part of the creation of Miranda and her world. In addition to her killer art, Hannah’s notes have helped to make the book even stronger and more specific.
Nrama: So big picture, what are your goals for Death Be Damned?
Miller: Big goals. We want to explore this mythology for as many books as people will hopefully want to read.
Blacker: There’s so much story here, and this mini-series is really only the tip of the iceberg. We’ve created a world here that could go very deep for a very long time. Ultimately, I think Death Be Damned would be an incredible TV show. It’s violent and weird and funny and explores big questions in the way the best TV can do. But, for now, I’m just really happy with how the book has come out, and I hope others like it, too.