The story behind the creation of the Archaia series Awakening is one of bad timing, but writer Nick Tapalansky and artist Alex Eckman-Lawn are hoping to turn their luck around.
Awakening is what Tapalansky calls a "zombie noir" where a murder comes under the scrutiny of a small town private detective, who begins to unravel a mystery linked to zombies. When the first three issues of Awakening were first released in 2007, the series was nominated for four British Eagle Awards, including Favorite Newcomer Writer and Favorite New Comic Book.
But when Archaia underwent its restructuring in 2008, Awakening was put on hiatus. The comic had basically ended after only three issues, even though the title had received such high critical praise.
"It's been a little critical darling, which is really heartening. But the real challenge has been getting the word out more," Tapalansky said.
"The people that go for it are really into it," Eckman-Lawn said. "Everyone we've talked to who has given it a chance is enthusiastic. The problem is getting people to know who we are and what the comic is about."
Now Archaia has collected five issues of the series in hardcover (two of which were never released), with pinups by several artists and 10 pages of supplemental material. The hope is that the hardcover can entice readers to give it a chance despite the fact it disappeared after its initial release.
"The hardcover came out beautiful," Tapalansky said. "Archaia always prints great stuff, and that book was a sight to see. We were thrilled to see it, because we'd been looking at it in .pdf for so long, to actually see it printed and bound -- it's gorgeous. We absolutely love it."
According to the creators, the hardcover tells one half of the series, and an upcoming second volume will finish the whole thing up.
"It's a 10-issue series. The first hardcover is the beginning, but then the second volume is the ending," Tapalansky explained. "It definitely has a set beginning, middle and end."
The series opens with a string of missing persons and murders taking place in the relatively peaceful city of Park Falls. While the police are trying to find the psycho who is killing these people, only one witness is claiming zombies have done it.
"A private detective who didn't listen to her once before decides to give her a little more credence this time," the writer said. "He doesn't believe her, but he decides to look into her information. And he finds out that she might not be as crazy as she seems. And we follow the town as weeks turn into months, and the death toll rises."One of the things that critics have loved about Awakening is the art by Eckman-Lawn, which has a dark, painted look that fits the noir flavor of the story. "I'm into mystery and suspense, which is what the story deals with, and I think my art just naturally fits into that mood," he said. "But on a page to page basis, I tweak how I'm working to fit what's going on. So there are some pages that are heavily collaged and some that are more traditionally painted. "
Eckman-Lawn's style means it takes him a little longer to do a page than traditional comic book artists, and he said his technique means he's never quite sure how the page is going to turn out."I'm working in a sort of backwards way. I'll start the page and know how it's going to look, but the way I get there is almost always kind of a mystery, which keeps things exciting for me," he said. "But sometimes it means I struggle to make sure I get something right for a day or two. But on other pages, I fly through it because I know exactly how I want to do it. But for me, that's awesome."
The pair are putting together promotional ideas for the Awakening hardcover that readers should hear more about in October. But for now, they're working on finishing up the series for fans -- and Tapalansky said the second volume will answers the mysteries that fill the first volume.
"Anyone who has read the first volume and is concerned, I promise I'm going somewhere. I have a direction," he said. "The first volume was more about the mystery and the characters really coming to grips with it. The second volume, we finally dive in full tilt and get more of an answer.