College - for some it was the best of times, for other it was the worst of times. But after reading the upcoming BOOM! Studios title Lazaretto, you might want to be a college dropout.
Scheduled to debut in September, Lazaretto follows the turmoil after a dorm at a small American college is placed under quarantine after a pandemic sweeps the world. Described by the publisher as "Lord of the Flies on a college campus," the five-issue Lazaretto title is written by prose writer Clay McLeod Chapman and drawn by Hell(P)'s Jey Levang.
Chapman has written numerous short stories, with his short Henley being adapted into the Elijah Wood's 2015 film The Boy. He has written several times for Marvel and DC including Amazing Spider-Man and American Vampire.
Newsarama spoke with Chapman about the upcoming Lazaretto series, mixing the freedom of college life with the constraints of quarantine, and his original tongue-in-cheek title for the series.
Newsarama: Clay, how would you describe Lazaretto?
Clay McLeod Chapman: I’d describe it as all kinds of wrong, for starters... Imagine Contagion at college. Animal House meets The Masque of the Red Death. What would happen if a global pandemic hit on your very first day as an undergrad? The admin initiates an on-campus quarantine, renovating a dorm into an isolation facility, sequestering the fresh meat until this bug blows over and these kids are symptom-free. Guess how long it takes before the unspoken laws of society begin to break down?
Nrama: You’ve written comic books, prose, and even movies before - what made this project need to be a comic book?
Chapman: This is a story I’ve really wanted to tell for a long, long time. It had to be a comic, no doubt, because we needed to represent this virus in a visual, hallucinatory way. This bug is brutal. The line between what’s real and what isn’t had to blur, and the best way to do that was with Jey Levang. This story gets wet. Very wet. Jey’s work is palpable in a way that makes me want to touch the page and see if my finger comes back sticky...
Nrama: Who are the principal cast in this?
Chapman: We’ve got a pretty intense cross-section of college students - freshmen to seniors, RA’s and admins. We’re creating a microcosm of cultures and belief systems, politics and proclivities - college, essentially. That said, we’re volleying between two incoming freshmen: Charles and Tamara. Charles has been struggling to find himself for a while now, and he’s hoping college will offer a chance for self-discovery. Tamara has lived an intensely sheltered existence that has instantly been stripped the second she says goodbye to her family... and then the bug hits campus.
Nrama: Is this based on any real-life experiences of yours or ones you’ve read about?
Chapman: A few years back, when the Avian Flu hit, I remember hearing about college campuses setting up their own isolation facilities. No classes, no homework - just infected students hanging out and eating trail mix until they were better again. The idea of being cooped up in a dormitory for days - weeks! - seemed like a great scenario for a story about dismantling a student body’s morality. I’ve always been a big fan of Lord of the Flies, so this just brought it to campus for me. Add a big bad flu bug and lock the doors and see what happens.
Nrama: How did you connect with Jey Levang and BOOM! to do this?
Chapman: One man deserves to take the credit - or blame: BOOM! Studios editor Eric Harburn. We started talking about this idea last year and when everything started to come together and we began brainstorming artists, he suggested Jey, and I fell in love. Have you checked out HeLL(P) yet? They are amazing. It’s like they had access to my undergrad brain and paneled my brain for all to see. I’m a lucky, lucky guy...
Nrama: I’m familiar with what a ‘Lazaretto’ is in real life - how’d this come to be the name of your book here?
Chapman: Another Harburn credit. Full confession: When I pitched this story, I called it “Quaranteen.” Yeah. “Quaranteen.” Amazing, right? I thought it was genius. Not so much anybody else. Nobody. We tossed around a few other ideas, like a riff on Charles Dickens and whatnot... but Lazaretto took the prize.
Nrama: So, “Quaranteen” or Lazaretto – what are your big goals for this title?
Chapman: I want to take your college experience and watch it curdle. I want to take the best years of your life and add a few combustibles, viral elements and watch how quickly it can corrupt, decay. I have such fond memories of my college years, but I thought I was invulnerable, immortal, and I was really just a jerk. We’re away from our parents for the first time, we’re making life-changing decisions on our own, alone - and we’re really just kids. Crazy, stupid kids. It really wouldn’t take much to watch that all crumble. This takes the bubble we all lived in during our undergrad years and pops it.