If you miss the Deadly Class TV Show, don’t worry - the story lives on in the original Image Comics title.
Co-creators Rick Remender and Wes Craig are returning after a brief hiatus this week with Deadly Class #40, as Marcus and Maria get ready for their sophomore year and new students adjust to being freshman. This also means prep for both the freshman and sophomore classes for their final exam, and for those already reading, we all know how that went the last time.
Remender and Craig spoke to Newsarama about what's to come, while at the same time being very coy on specifics to not go too deep into spoilers about upcoming issues for returning readers and new fans coming in from the Syfy show. But for those fans, we did ask what season 2 of Deadly Class would've been.
Newsarama: Rick, What can fans expect from Deadly Class’ next story arc?
Rick Remender: This is a tough one to talk about. It’s the B-side of the “Die for Me” story. We start to see the repercussions of what happened in that storyline during the freshman finals and the culling in regards to how they will affect the new students as well as the faculty.
I don't even know how to talk about this one without completely spoiling all of it. And the new class and the remaining original classmates are involved in a plot that doesn't go as they planned and isn't as secret as they think. Yeah, that's good. That's a teeny little dance.
Nrama: What can you tell us about the upcoming sophomore exam? Will there be a sophomore exam?
Remender: There will be a sophomore exam. And, of course, there will be the freshman exam for our new students. The two finals for the two classes will coincide and play a role with one another in a result that I believe will be somewhat unexpected.
The sophomore exams, we haven't revealed what they are and the sophomores themselves don't know what they are. And so when those are revealed they will definitely upset the plans that Marcus and Maria have been concocting through the last few issues.
Nrama: Wes, Is there a sequence you are most excited for fans to see with this upcoming arc?
Wes Craig: As I’m writing this (in June) we really just started. Today I’m working on a fight in a church that’s turning out pretty nice. But knowing the main beats of this berserk story we have coming up, it’s exciting to see all the different plot lines come together, and I just want to make sure I deliver on the emotions and drama that come out of that.
Nrama: Any cool character designs coming up?
Craig: Right now I’m drawing two new members of the Kuroki syndicate that are out to finish off Saya and I think people will like their designs. I get a kick out of mixing 80’s scenester fashion with deadly assassins and ninjas and stuff.
There’s also a new student named Jayla who’s into the political hip hop of the era: Public Enemy, X Clan, Paris, etc. She’s got a cool style, I’m enjoying getting int that.
Nrama: What can you tease about Marcus and Maria’s relationship now that they are back at King's Dominion?
Remender: We’re setting up a lot of things that ultimately been in the DNA of the relationship from the very beginning. Their relationship is built on a few relationships that I was in as a young man. I think that one of the things you learn with hindsight is often the cause of eventual devolution of the relationship was always sort of cooked into the DNA of what you were attracted to in the first place, if that makes sense. The relationship that we see with them and the things that they've always leaned on each other for. Though there are strengths in that, there’s also inherent weaknesses that are born in their damage and the abuse that they've suffered.
That particular DNA was those two results in something that I've been building to for quite some time that we will see in the “Bone Machine” arc that I'm pretty excited about, which feels like a fairly natural path once it's revealed as to where it's headed. And I think that each issue will zig and zag to where ideally people will be off balanced, and they'll think they know where it's headed and then each issue we'll take it a different way. Then ideally where it lands by the end of this arc will be unexpected, but if you follow the trail, you'll see it was always there to begin with.
Nrama: Will we continue to see them mourn the death of their friends?
Remender: It’s such a delicate balancing act because you want your characters to be informed by the people that they knew and lost and to authentically process that loss. But you don't want to spend too much time ruminating on it or else it starts to become a little overwhelming and dour.
And so it's something that I've put a lot of time into making sure that I put a real fine point on what each of their friends meant to them and what would each of one of those losses meant to them. So that it's not it's not casually forgotten, nor is it seemingly easily moved on from.
But at the same time once I've made those points in the last arc, and spent an entire issue dealing with it, I think that what we've seen forward is we get it. We know that it's cooked into their motives, we know it's cooked into who they are, we know what those people meant to them, and we know how we felt about those losses.
But ultimately now we'll be dealing with the new challenges that they face with those relationships kind of cooked into who they are into the DNA of their current relationships. And, ultimately, what we see coming out of the other end is change. You will see change in the characters based on who they lost and what they've gone through. And you'll see a couple of characters, I'm pretty excited to get to the growth part, where what they been through and the trauma they suffered will no longer be a weight that drags them down. They’ll rise up with it.
Nrama: You two have been working together for so many years, what’s your collaboration like now compared to the first few issues of the series?
Remender: I mean like any of those things, you form a shorthand and sort of a collaborative vocabulary. There are things that I no longer have to hand ring over. I know what Wes will do and I know that it'll oftentimes be unexpected, but still be like next level storytelling.
And he'll find design approaches to the panels that I've never considered. So I don't go in and overly detailed that stuff. I tell the story and then I let him translate it visually and because you have that comfort and that confidence in one another.
I think that the book keeps getting better as you progress and congeal into something that's - all of the gears you've been perfectly fit now and know how much fuel the machine needs. It's a very effortless process. When we first started we hit it off right away and we always had a really good collaborative effort. But over time that has just gotten more and more streamlined.
Craig: I think the trust grows as we work together. Rick trusts me to deliver on the art side when, for example, he leaves an action scene more open in the script. He won’t break it down panel-by-panel, he’ll leave it to me which, I think, gets better results. And when he sends me the script, the dialogue is temporary, but I trust he’ll nail it in the final version, and he always does.
That’s something I’ve learned working with him, I’m more of a “plan every detail ahead of time” type. But that can lead to the work becoming kind of boring by the time you get to inking, lettering, etc. With Rick, we keep it alive throughout the process. It’s not 100% final until we send it to print, and that keeps it fun.
Nrama: This week is #40, so that means #50 isn't too far away. Reaching 50 issues is a huge accomplishment for any comic, but especially an indie title Are you both already planning for the issue? What can we expect?
Craig: Me, I just take it as it comes, and try to focus on each issue. I’m sure there’ll be something in there to commemorate the milestone though. Rick?
Remender: I've done a lot of books where the stories have gone, you know, 30, 35, 40. Black Science went 40, 43, 44, and that's just sort of naturally where these stories went. Deadly Class – the engine of it just has more story to tell. And coincidentally, the plans I have in that outline do land us in a pretty spectacular issue #50. So fingers crossed that we can weather the year it will take us to get there, and there are no major catastrophes in the planet and we are able to get there – if only for this particular comic, getting to issue #50 we would request the world not have catastrophes. If for no other reason.
Nrama: Getting back to the issues immediately ahead of us, what character do you think shines the most in this arc?
Craig: I think Marcus has the potential to shine in a new way in this chapter. Viktor’s in an interesting spot now, and like I said, our new student Jayla, who I think is really interesting. But you’ll have to read the book to find out more of her story…
Remender: This is the juggling act with the current crew because so many of the new characters we're given such a spotlight for a long period of time before the return of some of the older characters like Marcus and Maria. I put a lot of time, thought, and energy into building them up. Once the older characters returned, they have a story to be told as well.
The challenge is to really give them equal focus. The first issue back is told from Zenzele's perspective and one of her traditional letters to her mother and father -even though, she killed her mother and father. We get the Zenzele perspective of the story there, then the next issue will be Marcus. Then next issue will be split between most of the cast, but because the cast is so large, the challenge has really been to make sure that there isn't just one character shining because it's not really Marcus's book anymore.
Marcus is one character now in a series of characters who have all been developed and flesh out. Fan mail lets me know and the response of the readers let me know that everybody has a different favorite. I feel like that's the big challenges for me is to not just lean into the traditional what the book was, where it was sort of Marcus' POV and Marcus' book, but to allow that mold to be broken and make sure all the characters get a chance to shine equally. That’s the approach I've taken with this arc.
Nrama: Transitioning into the TV Show, what were some of the stories you wanted to include in Season 2?
Remender: Oh yeah. The second season – I had already started breaking it. I had the 10 episodes kind of figured out and it was going to be the same as the book. We were going to get into the basketball diaries of it all with Marcus as he downward spiraled with his drug addiction and his depression. And then that led to the big group of friends dissolving. And then the culmination of that ended in the mid-season with the beginning of Battle Royale and then the rest of the season played out with Battle Royale.
We had a whole storyline that wasn't in the comic with Master Lin, his daughter, and a new character, Madam Gao, that isn't in the book, and that had a big resolution. A lot of that stuff was a big Master Lin story that showed him become the cold, calculated, and awful monster that we see in the books.
A lot of those things are ideas that I had for the books and just have the real estate to get into, but it earned better why Master Lin was this way. Then you got to see the true evil of the school and the true evil that was motivating it. It would've followed the book, while still having a lot of other things that we could have unpacked. Ultimately, it was very difficult thing to have figured it all out and then, and then lost the opportunity to do it. But I've just sort of focused on how proud I am of the first season and tried to just keep myself kind of looking at the positive side.
Nrama: Do you have an ending planned for Deadly Class, the comic book? How many issues do you see the series going for?
Craig: We’re aiming for another two or so years of story. Having said that, we’re still having fun with the characters so nothing’s set in stone. We have a solid plan on where to wrap it up, but we take it as we go.
Remender: Currently? I don't have a specific issue count for where to land. I've got a very big outline and there's still a lot left to get through. So I would say that the book will be running for a good long while I'd say we've still got another 15, 20 issues at the very least.
Nrama: Wes, is there a bucket list of things you’d like to draw for the series?
Craig: I don’t really have a bucket list, I should probably make one now that you mention it. But I got to draw a punk show with the Free Comic Book Day issue (and in a previous arc). Going to my first show as a kid left a big impression on me, and I wanted to try and express that, so that’s a big one.
But yeah, it’s 1989 in the story so were entering into that transition between 80’s and 90’s culture. For me, I was at a perfect moment in my early teens where grunge broke us away from the 1980’s and gave us our own thing. Like I remember when "Smells like Teen Spirit" came out and it instantly made bands like Poison and Motley Crue look ridiculous. Punk becoming main stream and wiping away all the bad, cheesy bands, fashion, etc. from the 80’s, I really felt connected to that. I mean, it gave us a slew of bad fashions and bands too of course, but in the beginning it was really exciting and freeing.
So I’m excited to show that shift.
Nrama: It wouldn’t be Deadly Class without pain. Who will be in the most pain?
Remender: Most in pain? Well that's hard to qualify. I’ve divvied out a fair amount of pain to all of them. I would say that in terms of who gets the most Helmut certainly is dealing with quite a bit since the death of Petra and will continue to have a lot of pain to endure.
Marcus has pain sort of cooked into his DNA and will also have a bit of it here. Troll gets a lot of pain. We start to see the Illuminati. There’s plenty of pain to go around.
Craig: Ha! Me and my drawing hand and Rick and his poor, overworked brain…
But really I’d say… Helmut, ya Helmut’s in in a pretty bad, dark place after losing Petra in Mexico.
He’s going off the rails… on a crazy train.