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Viper Comics: New Kids On The Block By Alexander Ness
A new company offering some fine-looking comics is making its initial appearance on the comics scene in November. Two titles in color, MOON RUSH and DEAD@17 hit store shelves that month. The writer of MOON RUSH, Jim Daly, is no stranger to the industry. After working on books like Ghost Rider 2099, and several X-Men related comics for Marvel Comics, Jim moved into the video game industry as a conceptual designer.
The writer/artist of DEAD@17 is Josh Howard, a relative newcomer to the industry. Howard spent four years on the DEAD project, and will finally see it released under Viper.
Slush spoke to both creators about their books, and what readers can expect from the fledgling publisher.
First up, MOON RUSH's Jim Daly.
Alex Ness: The set-up for this series has an ore being in demand and the two forces arrayed in conflict are worthy of two fully developed perspectives with separate teams on each. First congrats on a motive for conflict other than racial hate. Who came up with the concept of the ore separating the two races? And are you using a anecdotal or analogous model for your story from human history? If yes, what would it be?
Jim Daly: [Artists] Jaime and Erik already had the name: "Moon Rush" ready to go. Or...at least that's how I remember it, because we were all talking about it over beers. The story wasn't really flushed out, but it was science fiction and I like science fiction. We all wanted to work on something together, but we had two pencillers: Erik and myself. It all sort of came together after a few more beers. We could tell the story from two points of view, with two races and split the penciling chores... have something original about our book.
We started immediately afterwards, or so it seemed. Erik and I were charged to not only conceptualize our races in the story, but also come up with who they were, their history, character names, etc. Jaime would then look at those ideas, his ideas, and start building the story we all wanted to tell. I created the Ghorn race, because I wanted to draw the alien side of the story. I just sat down and made up some environment, culture, and history stuff, and each of the main players on the Ghorn side of the book. We all had the opportunity for input during the creation of the book, plot and visuals, which was more productive than I thought it would be, but when Jeff joined us to edit and co-write the book... It really all became a solid story. Jaime and Jeff pulled it all together. It took some time, but the four of us maintained some great production, even though it was a spare time project.
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AN: You have a chore ahead of you with trying to create a Sci Fi story that will have enough legs to be ongoing. I mean once the Gilligan's Island gang are rescued the show ends, once a quest or mystery is solved it is done. Where do you see this story going and is there an end already, if distant, in sight?
JD: We've told a big story in only 4 issues, and there's a climax to that story, but the characters may have some unresolved issues we can explore. In fact we've already been discussing where to go next on a couple different stories, so I've done some conceptuals for MR2. We won't split the penciling duties this time, but we definitely plan to continue writing and drawing these characters. So...who knows?
AN: Your work is coming out with a fine look and reads very well, but I have some questions about similarities in look with both CrossGen's SIGIL and Penny Farthing's ZENDRA. I realize that the storylines are different but can you answer me why aliens almost always look bipedal and have similar goals (powers), virtues (love) and foibles (hate) as humanoid cultures?
JD: Thanks, I think Viper has done a bang up job on the production and Lamirand's color work sweetens every page with colorful deliciousness.
On the alien thing...In Moon Rush we really needed to have the Ghorn, our aliens, be sympathetic, desperate beings. I'm not sure how an alien, if such things exist, would react emotionally...if there were any specific touchstones involved, Jaime and Jeff could better answer. Visually, I needed them to have the ability for human facial expressions. In another type of story, perhaps the aliens could be different...weirder or unexpected. We needed to tell an emotional story with one of the Ghorn characters, so...I wanted them to look more human.
AN: Looks good to me, I hope to be reviewing your product for years to come. Good luck!
JD: Thanks much, I really only wanted people to read our book, and thanks to Viper Comics people will get that opportunity.
And now on to DEAD@17's Josh Howard:
Alex Ness: Could you in a couple paragraphs talk about DEAD@17 and what it means to you to have your words and images come out in color at Viper?
Josh Howard: Well, for starters, it is the realization of a dream. This is something I've worked towards for years, and I must say that Viper has been extremely generous and supportive in helping bring D@17 to life. They gave me freedom I don't think I would have anywhere else. It's been great.
AN: Your work seems to be influenced by animation, but your writing on DEAD@17 (you might need to have a theme song that plays when people say the title) is far more serious. Is the juxtaposition intentional, taking the reader in with the innocent look only to see it smashed by the violence with story?
JH: It's no secret that animation, in all its forms, has had a huge impact on me stylistically, probably more so than comics. The juxtaposition was not so much intentional as it was the evolution of my style and the kind of story I wanted to tell. Having said that, I was fully aware that the impact would be greater, especially during the opening scene, which goes from a very clean and innocent to something very gruesome. Yet it was not intended to be gratuitous or exploitive, just exactly what it is -- alarming, tragic, and unsettling.
AN: I can think of a few works that readers might connect this with, ROUTE 666 being chief among them, and I mean that with great favor, as I have written a few happy reviews for that book. Nutshell similarity-- innocent girls in trouble. Is the theme one born out of an intense personal experience or simply a story that has brewed in your mind over time?
JH: A little of both. There are things in it inspired by personal experiences, although not necessarily in a strict literal sense, but more symbolic. The death of innocence, the loss of hopes, dreams, etc. are things I think most people can relate to in one way or another. Plus, taking a couple of innocent girls and putting them up against the ultimate evil just seemed like a cool idea.
AN: Without dropping spoilers left and right, is this concept going beyond the four issue miniseries? If yes what else are going to do in comics and particularly at Viper?
JH: There is definitely more to the story. Although there is a definite ending in issue 4, not everything is wrapped up. It's more of a beginning, actually. I know Viper is on board to do more, it's just a matter of wait and see. If it does well and people want more, then we'll do more. Right now I'm in the middle of a new project for Viper that will probably see print following D@17 #4. I can't say too much about it now, just that it is VERY different from D@17. I will be handling both writing and art chores again.