Actor and screenwriter Kevin Grevioux made his name by reinventing vampires and werewolves in his screenplays for the Underworld series of films. While most of his comics work has been chronicling the adventures of the New Warriors at Marvel, he’s getting back to his horror roots with ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction from Red 5, a bimonthly miniseries that hits stores today. We got on the phone with Grevioux to talk monsters of all sorts – from his zombies to Underworld to his new book about cyborg monsters for kids.
You heard us.
Cycle through sample art of Grevioux's new creations at right.
Newsarama: Zombies of Mass Destruction! What’s the 411 on the exploding zombies?
Kevin Grevioux: Basically, you have are weaponized genetically engineered zombies called “Necronites” that are used to fight and wage war instead of our soldiers. It’s a process that saves a lot of American lives.
So what you do is go into a hostile area at night and drop the Necronites on the enemy soldiers by using a B2 Bomber as the delivery system. The enemy soldiers are infected, then each of the newly infected zombie soldiers bites another and before you know it, all the enemy soldiers are zombiefied.
The infection doesn’t spread because each one of these Necronites has a built in fail-safe gene which makes them photosensitive. So when the sun comes up they all dissolve into dust. Then a Hazmat team comes in, simply sweeps everything up and now the Americans can go in and occupy the area without firing a shot. It’s very efficient and very controllable.
NRAMA: But of course everything goes wrong….
KG: Exactly! (laughs) You knew that was coming. One of the zombies, for whatever reason, does not dissolve. In addition, it becomes self-aware. What we don’t know is if it’s actually self-aware…or if it’s actually remembering its past life.
And so it goes into the desert and starts infecting the surrounding populace, making more of its kind. This is dubbed Zombie Zero by the scientist who invented this process because he was the first Necronite that was created and actually spawned the original virus.
NRAMA: Sounds like a zombie jihad…
KG: Kind of.
NRAMA: Now, are these new zombies self-aware as well?
KG: Yes, but they’re also controlled by Zombie Zero like one would find in a hive-mind. So, basically, the United States military gets wind of this, and they need to go in with a group of Navy SEALs and stop this zombie from infecting other people, and before the world community finds out what we’ve done.
NRAMA: So it’s a combination of a military mission with a zombie movie.
KG: Yeah – the way I put it is Dawn of the Dead meets Apocalypse Now.
NRAMA: You have a background in science – how did you create the science of the Necronites?
KG: I haven’t gotten too far into that actually. One of the things is that it’s based in real science about reanimating dead tissue. The concept really isn’t new – I remember in school, we used to make frog legs jump. That’s as far as I go for now.
NRAMA: That was one of the inspirations for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…
KG: Yeah! Even though I will say that in the original novel, there was no use of electricity at all. It was all chemicals, and they never actually explain how it works. If you read the original Frankenstein novel, it’s very different. For one thing, the monster’s not silent –
NRAMA: Oh, he gives all kinds of speeches.
KG: Exactly! With ZMD, what they’re doing is performing experiments in cellular regeneration and respiration by manipulating mitochondrial DNA, among other things. I call them Necronites for the most part, because these zombies don’t follow the traditional paths of most zombie stories.
I wanted it to have some sort of logical premise for why it would occur. I mean, it’s all pseudo-science anyway, but the more plausible it sounds the more fun it is immersing yourself into the story. What I really wanted to do was a metaphor for how science always winds up becoming a weapon, and winds up being abused.
NRAMA: Well, if science wasn’t abused, we wouldn’t have a need for horror movies.
KG: (laughs) Exactly!
NRAMA: Speaking of movies, as a screenwriter, are you trying to shop this to Hollywood?
KG: Yes, I am. I have gotten some really nice nibbles, but I can’t really talk about it right now. There should be an announcement soon though.
Newsarama Note: As reported on Blog@, Zombies of Mass Destruction has been optioned for film by Benderspink.
NRAMA: Have you written a part for yourself as an actor?
KG: Oh yeah. Just like Underworld, I have a part for me in there…it doesn’t have to be the lead, just one of the main guys.
NRAMA: With Underworld and now this, you’ve taken a number of supernatural tropes and looked at them from different perspectives. Why do you have an interest in this subject matter?
KG: Because I think there’s more to the mythos of these legends than what has traditionally been done. How do you take something that’s part of lore and mythology and turn it on its ear? I think that’s what makes it interesting, and that’s where you find a cool story.
Also, a lot of these horror movies are so steeped in mythology that the premise makes people myopic, and they can’t see beyond what’s traditionally done. I remember when the first Underworld came out. The reviews were mixed – the fans really liked it, but I remember one critic who said that what he didn’t like about it was that it was missing the eroticism of vampires.
NRAMA: You have a vampire Kate Beckinsale wearing a full-body spandex suit! How much more erotic do you want?!
KG: (laughs) But you see, what he meant was that there was a lot of sexual seduction as a gimmick in vampire lore. And I had always hated vampires, just like I always hated zombies! So if I was going to do a zombie pic, it was going to be different than anything I had seen before – something where I could say, “Okay, that’s cool. I can get behind that.”
One thing I always hated about zombies was the lumbering – that no matter how fast you ran, you got caught!
NRAMA: I actually got to talk to George Romero a few months ago, and he was up in arms about how all the zombies these days were so fast. He thought they were scarier when they were slow.
KG: (laughs) You know what? When the master says something like that, it’s kind of hard to dispute him. Whatever George says, you go, “You know what, George? You’re right.”
But with Underworld – I said, “You know, let’s not worry about the blood-sucking and all that – let’s get into some werewolves and vampires with guns. We haven’t seen that before. And ZMD is continuing in this trend.
NRAMA: While we’re talking about Underworld, what can you tell us about Underworld: Rise of the Lycans?
KG: I can’t say much until after Comic-Con, but it’s going to be a great flick. This one takes place in antiquity and has to do with the origin of the war between werewolves and vampires. It was cool to see some of the old cast members again, and of course, I had a blast shooting it in New Zealand this past year.
NRAMA: Are there any other horror trends you’d like to re-examine?
KG: Oh yeah. There’s one I got coming out through Red 5 called I, Frankenstein. The original title was The Promethean, and it’s a modern re-imagining of the Frankenstein mythos where Frankenstein is recast as a modern day private detective known only as Franklin Stein. And that should be coming out soon.
It’s a very film noir, Sin City-type of world in the vein of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. It’s not tongue-in-cheek in any way. Just a hard-bitten detective tale complete with femme fatales, double-crosses and the like.
NRAMA: And of course The Promethean is based off of Frankenstein’s subtitle “The Modern Prometheus”… You could do the Creature from the Black Lagoon next, get the whole Monster Squad group…
KG: You know what? That’s actually in the pipeline. But seriously, all these creatures are going to show up in I, Frankenstein eventually. You’re going to see the Invisible Man, the Mummy, Dracula, werewolves, the Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – you’re going to see all of those.
NRAMA: And those are concepts that could be modernized a lot.
KG: Most definitely.
NRAMA: Now, in addition to all your comics and screenwriting work, you’re doing some all-ages books. What can you tell us about those?
KG: I am still producing those, but I don’t have a home for all of them as of yet. I am doing some things with Ape Entertainment, but these are things I’ve had written for a couple of years now. I’m just now trying to get some of them out. I do have homes for some of them, but not all.
NRAMA: Anything you can talk about at this time?
KG: I do have some things coming out at Comic-Con. ZMD will be there, and two books from Ape. Sista Samurai and the other one is called Monstroids –
NRAMA: Still with the monsters!
KG: Yeah, man, I love monsters! My source of inspiration, what I’m trying to replicate the feel of, was this movie I saw as a kid called Mad Monster Party –
NRAMA: Rankin-Bass! They used to show that on AMC all the time!
KG: Yeah! That bad boy was cool. It had all the old versions of the Universal monsters. I just got it on DVD. But look for Monstroids and Sista Samurai at Comic-Con, they’re going to be cool.
NRAMA: Can you give us a little information on Monstroids?
KG: Monstroids is about a group of the classic monsters, and a few new ones, who have been found frozen in a Transylvanian mountain by an evil scientist and re-outfitted with cyborg parts in effort to help him take over the world.
However, not wishing to become the thralls of yet another megalomaniac, the monsters rebel, and dedicate themselves to mending their former monstrous ways. So they band together and form a team of hi-tech adventurers using their new-found abilities to help mankind.
Some of the characters, just to name a few, are Frankenborg, who is the leader of the group. Draculoid, an aristocratic vampire who no longer sucks blood, but now he can’t get enough of motor oil. Quasimotor, the Crunchback of Notre Dame who always try to prove just how smart he is. And Gearwolf, our resident tough-guy who will eat anything made of metal. It’s a really fun book.
NRAMA: It’s great that you’re doing some work for the all-ages market, because that is one that really helps to bring in new readers.
KG: Yeah, but the question is, how do you do it? It’s very difficult, because the market doesn’t really respond to it the way we’d like it to. You know, you go into a comic shop with your kids, and it’s very hard to find something that’s safe for them to read!
I think Marvel is doing a great job with their Marvel Adventures line. It’s a fantastic achievement because they have this “done in one” philosophy and they’re getting those books in places like Target and Wal-Mart.
But I wish more companies would get involved. Some are. Like I met this one cat, John Gallagher, who did a book called Buzzboy, and that’s very cool. Scott Sava has some good books like Pet Robots and the Dreamland Chronicles that are really cool. Then there’s Jonnie Allen who is doing Stykman, a great read. And lastly I love Mike Kunkle’s work with Herobear, and his new Shazam book.
A big problem, I think, is accessibility. Things would be a lot different if you could go into the children’s section of a bookstore and see a section for kids’ graphic novels. They usually tend to mix either all the comics up together, or mix the kids’ graphic novels in with the children’s books – nothing stands out.
And that’s really not good for the industry – how many kids go to 7-11 any more? For the life of me, I don’t understand why with all these comic book movies, why there can’t be some comic books in the lobby of the movie theater – a spinner rack of comic books right outside where they’re playing Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Batman or Superman.
We are in a great age for kids’ comics – but we need to get it into the kids’ hands. We also need to ask why manga has taken over our kids, and our American comics haven’t. The number of comic shops is going down each year, and dwindling. I think the only way to keep them open is if we find a better way to distribute than retail stores, and to produce more kids stuff.
I’ve met a lot of great people who are doing the same thing. And it’s been a lot of fun so far.
Zombies of Mass Destruction #1 is currently in stores.