It looks like America’s favorite pastime is also the devil’s playground.
In the upcoming Image graphic novel Sullivan’s Sluggers, a wayward team of ex-pros and would-be stars is contracted to play against an unfamiliar team in an unsettling town called Malice. Those hoping for small town charm and pleasantries are quickly shocked as they find out the town’s sinister curse – when the sun goes down after the 7th inning stretch, Malice’s team turns into flesh-eating monsters.
Sullivan’s Sluggers is an 176 page full color graphic novel coming August 11th from writer Mark Andrew Smith (New Brighton Archeological Society) and artist James Stokoe (Orc Stain, Wonton Soup) to tell a story that could be described as Golem’s Mighty Swing meets the Ghostbusters. For more, we talked with the pair for this exclusive first interview.Newsarama: Mark, what can you tell us about the Sullivan’s Sluggers baseball team, the Dragons?
Mark Andrew Smith: The Dragons are a team of ex-pros and minor-league players who are trying to rack up experience. They play farm-league teams who pay cash to say they played against the pros. Many of the Dragons are players who are past their prime and who are there because they're hanging on to what they have left. Some are current pros who are on probation and are there as punishment for bad behavior, while others are minor-leaguers learning from the experienced players and working their way up the ranks to get to the pros.
Nrama: How about Casey Sullivan, their coach?
Smith: Casey Sullivan was one of the greats of the game but his career was cut short because of a humiliating incident. Now he's drunk most of the time and fighting against his own personal demons.
Nrama: Down on their luck and past their prime as they are, it seems going to a Texas town is going to put them in knots. What can you tell us about the invitation to play in Malice?
Smith: Malice is a town with dark secrets and a horrible history. The Dragons get an invitation to play in Malice for cash, but what they don't know is that the town has a curse on it. After the seventh inning stretch, the townspeople turn into flesh-eating monsters and our team has to use all of their baseball skills to survive the night. Invitations to sports teams are akin to the people of Malice calling out for pizza delivery.
Nrama: What’s the baseball team in Malice like?
Smith: The Malice team are a cold bunch of characters. Something about them sends a shiver down your spine- you get the feeling that something is not quite right about them. They're not a friendly bunch.
Nrama: We haven’t heard from you James, so let me ask this: Since you’re primarily known as a cartoonist, what led you to want to work with Mark Andrew Smith on this book?
James Stokoe: A lot of it was just the urge to try something out of my comfort zone. I've been in deep doing mostly high concept sci-fi stuff for the last couple of years, so doing a story in a more grounded setting was a nice stretch for me. Mark added enough wacky monster mayhem scenes to make it a fairly painless transition though.
Nrama: When you’re sitting down to draw these pages, what would you say is the most challenging parts to illustrating?
Stokoe: I'd say the most challenging parts was the actual straight up baseball playing scene. You look at a pitcher throwing a fastball and it seems like the most unnatural position a human can possibly be in, but it's an unmistakable pose. Getting all that stuff right was a bit of tricky business.
Nrama: Do either of you play much baseball these days, or back in your childhood?
Stokoe: Nah, I was pretty terrible at it actually. I was more of an Aussie rules trampoline basketball kid myself.
Smith: When I was a kid I would cruise around on my bike and play pickup games. I loved it and it was such a good feeling to be outside on the grass and playing. I'm thirty years young now, but life is busy. Now I just enjoy watching baseball and I love burgers and beers and spending time with friends and family. If I moved to New York I'd like to play for the DC Bullets (call me) or play in a league.
Nrama: Before I let you to get back to comics, how did this project originally come about Mark??
Smith: I loved the idea of a baseball team with blood stains streaked across their uniforms beating the hell out of monsters with baseball bats. Then the idea of using their baseball skills to survive and battle monsters was such a fun idea and something I knew I would have such a good time creating.