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Zombie-A-GoGo Interviews

 

Friday, March 17, 2006

12:07 PM - Roy Boney & Matt Shepherd

Interview with
Roy Boney and Matt Shepherd
by Wayne Simmons
(aka Spiral)

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When you pick up a comic published by SLG, you’re going to expect something quirky. This independent publisher has been in operation since 1986, putting out parent-pleasers such as Johnny The Homicidal Maniac and The Super Scary Monster Show.

I wasn’t surprised, then, to find their latest title Dead Eyes Open taking that darling of horror, the zombie genre, in a refreshing … and often confusing, new direction. Mind you, after reading Issue #1 I was in no doubt that this bizarre and captivating story was going to hold my attention through its anticipated 6 issue run.

Dead Eyes Open tells the twisted tale of psychologist John. Now, John, at first, seems your everyday family man. He works hard at a job he’s dedicated to, bringing home ample dollars to ensure his wife and little daughter, Julie, have everything they need.

However, one day, it seems, John literally woke up dead. Now, we’re not talking about a really bad hangover here, or a gut-wrenching flu. This is the full deal. The smell, the deterioration, the grey pallor. Yep, John’s dead. His wife knows it, his daughter can tell it (“Daddy, are you going to eat my brains?”), even his somewhat self-consumed clients are beginning to catch on that something’s amiss.

Issue #1 of Dead Eyes Open offers a grand introduction to what promises to be an interesting slice of drama, to say the least. We have a family dealing with change, a daughter dealing with growing pains, some death, murder, genocide, more death and commandoes who…er…also woke up dead.

Wanting to find out more about this incredible premise for a comic, I caught up with creators Roy Boney and Matt Shepherd in cyberspace.

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Issues #1,2, & 3

Spiral: Hey guys. Tell us a little about how you got writing together and how the idea for Dead Eyes Open came about.. What influenced you to pen a tale so unique?

Roy: Interesting story on how we "met". Matt and I have never met each other in person, but we've been working together two or three years now. (In fact, it was only recently that we spoke on the phone for the first time regarding a now tragically defunct media exploitation deal.) I used to do an online comic called Plugin Boy at Keenspace (http://pluginboy.com) and one day Matt emailed me telling me he enjoyed my work. I also happened to be a mutual fan of his Man-Man Comic ( along with artist James Duncan at http://man-man.org), also at Keenspace. That's how I came across his work. From there, we kept in contact and one day Matt mentioned this project he wanted to shop around with publishers. There was also another project of his we started doing preliminary work on which was a twisted view of the apocalypse and Jesus' lineage. That somehow led to Dead Eyes Open, but it at its inception, it was called Deadies. We've had quite an adventure with it thus far, having pulled its original debut from another webcomics collective to eventually have Slave Labor Graphics pick it up where we had to change the name of the book. Last year, we collaborated together on the GraphicSmash.com series The License.

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Issue #4, Cover Preview

Matt: Regarding the idea for the comic, it started as a joke. Some friend of mine and I were talking about zombies and how they should unionize, and that actually led to me thinking "well, what if they did?" and what zombies would strike over. "MORE BRAINS SHORTER HOURS," that sort of thing. But that kind of pointed out one of the "soft points" in the whole zombie canon: there's no particular reason that they're stupid. From there, things sort of developed. Oddly, all of this was being worked on before 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake, so when those movies came out (I know, I know, it's the "infected" in 28 Days Later, whatever) I was living in mortal terror that somebody would come out with "smart zombies" before the book came out and we'd just look like a rip-off.

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Issue #4, Page 3 Preview

SP: I would see Dead Eyes Open as a novel take on the zombie genre. Your leading man is, for all intents and purposes, not only a zombie, but a zombie who is both intelligent (working as a psychologist) and family orientated.. What inspired you to create this character?

Matt: He wasn't the original main character -- our original comic pitch was for a series of unrelated vignettes, all moving the "world" forward six months at a time, but our publisher felt (and rightly, I think) that a comic book by two unknown creators with no protaganist wouldn't find an audience. So Roy and I had to find a main character, both enough of an everyman that the reader can identify with him but also somebody in a position to witness some of the massive changes the world is undergoing first-hand. As you'll see in the second issue, John quickly winds up in that position. But originally, he was just "daddy" in the initial story, the one we posted on the Web. The focus on that story is Julie, his daughter -- for John, I just wanted a nice guy. The psychologist part got added later when I had to give John a job that would provide him with baseline qualifications for -- something that happens in the second issue -- and as I'm a sucker for irony, I liked the idea of a therapist who can't connect to his own family.

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Issue#4, Page 16 Preview

SP: Was it intentional to set this sci-fi/ horror tale into a fairly normal/ everyday context?

Roy: Yeah, based on Matt's initial description of it, it was always in my mind a normal, everyday story except with the undead.

Matt: Yes... again, the original idea was to have vignettes focusing on "ordinary people" as a lens to see the world changing. I like stories where the protagonists could be you, instead of being some sort of James Bondian ultra-hero, so I wanted the series to look at accountants and traffic cops and doctors, not secret agents and military leaders and super-cops. That just carried over to the series revamp, but keeping it grounded is very important. You need to set a certain degree of plausibility before everything just goes nuts. It gives everyone -- especially me -- a point of reference for how crazy things are becoming.

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Issue #5, Cover Preview

SP: The idea of being a ‘freak’ comes up in both DEO #1 and the online freebie Happy Birthday Angel. Both John’s clients and his daughter have difficulties adjusting to his change. The character of Freaky Kenny in Julie’s school almost seems to mirror her father. Is the comic in any way a metaphor about being and feeling ‘different’ to those around you?

Roy: I don't want to sound like the "tortured artist" or anything, but yeah, for me it has that take on it. I'm pretty used to sorta existing on the fringe.

Matt: Absolutely. But a lot of it also has to do with what makes you you, and how much our perception of people is based on ... not superficial things, but things we don't really claim are important. If you're dead, but still thinking, are you still you? Do you keep your job? Do you keep your family? And if they're repulsed by the "new you...." is that wrong of them? What, at the end of the day, is at the core of what you consider your "self? The comic is partly about being different and having to live with that, but it's also about how being different can be empowering, by the end of the series. You're going to see a lot more Returners and a lot of changes to how the world works by the end of Issue #6.

SP: DEO crosses various genres within its first issue. At times it’s dark sitcom, at other times we have sci-fi/ horror and towards the end we see a lot of action. How would you describe the comic for potential readers?

Roy: "The Thinking Person's Zombie Book but not Boring."

Matt: A sociopolitical satire family drama with zombies. Roy and I both knew from the get-go that this book might have trouble finding its audience ... a lot of "traditional" zombie fans don't have much interest in serious human drama, but people who are into political intrigue (see issue 2) and interpersonal relationships don't see themselves as "zombie" readers a lot of the time. It bridges two genres, and hopefully we'll attract a little from column A and a little column B, rather than just pissing off people on both sides.

SP: Roy, I would describe your art as both kitsch and melancholic. Its attention to facial expressions amplifies the emotional turmoil within each character’s plight. Can you tell us about some of your influences?

Roy: I'm a big fan of old black and white films and old comics like the EC horror and crime stories. Wally Wood, Reed Crandall and Bernard Krigstein are some of my favorite artists from that era. I'm also highly influenced by films. Fritz Lang's M has got to be one of the coolest looking films ever. A Touch of Evil by Orson Welles is another one my stylistic favorites. But I'm also a big fan of the kitschy stuff like those old 50 and 60s motorcycle films, and, of course, horror films particularly Fulci's Zombie.

SP: What led to your decision to present the comic in black and white?

Roy: The publisher. LOL.

SP: Dead Eyes Open #1 is quite a roller coaster of an issue, closing with the introduction of what appear to be Zombie Commandos. What can we expect from DEO #2?

Roy: More action, and a major twist.

Matt: You can expect some major story shifts in #2.

SP: What are your hopes for the future with this comic?

Roy: I'd like to hope it'll be relatively well received. Perhaps we could tell the stories of other Returners in a future series or maybe some one-shots.

Matt: Once the last issue (#6) comes out, the story will be wrapped pretty conclusively, but I still like the vignette idea and have a passel of scripts for it. I'd love to revisit the world with parallel issues in a second series that flesh out (har har) some of the dozens of things that get touched on in the main story.

SP: Could you give us a top ten list of zombie films? (Feel free to stick in some comics if you need to make up the ten)

Roy:

1. Night of the Living Dead (the '68 version, of course)
2. Dawn of the Dead (original)
3. Day of the Dead
4. Zombie
5. The Return of the Blind Dead (not sure if it could be called a real "zombie" film, but it's campy)
6. Night of the Zombies (a.k.a Battalion of the Living Dead)
7. Dead Alive
8. Return of the Living Dead (some of my friends yell blasphemy when I say that)
9. 28 Days Later
10. The Walking Dead (comic)

Matt: Hmmm.

Not in any really strong order:

1. Night of the Living Dead '68
2. Walking Dead (comic, and not to flesh out the list, I'd put it toe-to-toe with any zombie classic)
3. Cemetery Man / Dellamore Dellamorte (truly, honestly, awesome)
4. Dead Alive
5. Dead and Breakfast, which I just saw at the Toronto horror con -- flawed, but a lot of fun
6. Dawn of the Dead (original)
7. 28 Days Later
8. Zombi
9. Evil Dead II (hmm... maybe not quite zombie, but I like it)
10. The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies”

Dead Eyes Open is published through SLG Publishing
www.deadeyesopen.com


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