Adventures in Poor Taste: It is a privilege to have the chance to talk to you. Here at AiPT we have been really enjoying the gory, hectic nature of your comic.
So, what appeals to you about the zombie genre in particular? I’m not talking specifically about zombie animals, just the undead in particular.
Joshua Ortega: Loved zombies and was fascinated by them since I was way too young to be watching zombie movies…Night of the Living Dead and Return of the Living Dead were my favorites as a kid, and later came to really appreciate Dawn of the Dead, but NOLD and ROLD were the ones that hooked me first from a cinematic angle.
The Serpent and the Rainbow (highly underrated!) was also a big one, Craven was such a master in that era…and what about Brother Voodoo? My first introduction into zombies in comics, still got me those old Strange Tales!
As far as why they appeal in particular? I think for the same reason they consciously or unconsciously resonate with pretty much everyone…bloodsuckers and numb/brain-dead creatures are everywhere. Horror is a twisted mirror held up to the world, and zombies are currently the most popular fun-house mirror in the carnival.
AiPT: This clearly isn’t your first time around the block—you’ve gotten many written works published, comic and literature alike. How do your other writings effect the Other Dead?
Joshua: I suppose all previous works inform later works to some degree. As far as specifically, Necromancer probably informs this the most in the sense that it had horrific elements and so does Other Dead, obviously. I also wrote a screenplay, Skin, a few years back, and that taught me a lot about writing pure horror, though it’s FAR more shocking than OD. OD is kind of a fun horror movie, Skin is intentionally horrible [in] the most horrific sense of the word. My transmedia experience on the Gears of War franchise comes into play with OD as well, since we’re launching OD as a full transmedia IP, with the comic as the core of the franchise, whereas for Gears, the game was the core.
AiPT: If OD is to be a full transmedia IP as you said, why did you pick this series to be the first chapter of it? What about this story in particular makes you think it would be the right way to start a franchise?
Joshua: I think it’s a perfect time to kick off the entire Other Dead transmedia story because it’s when the infection first begins. So often in zombie movies, you pick up AFTER the apocalypse, I think one of the compelling things about OD is that you actually get to SEE the apocalypse unfold. You get to experience the complete collapse of civilization along with the characters…I know personally, that’s the type of zombie story that intrigues me the most.
AiPT: What was the decision like to keep OD as a five issue miniseries instead of having it continue indefinitely?
Joshua:: Actually, The Other Dead is a six issue series, I think the first issue may have had a solicitation error, so for everyone reading: it’s six issues, not five.
But to your point, the decision to do a miniseries first, there were a few reasons: One, while we had a lot of confidence in the book, you just never know how people will respond to something, so there was no guarantee that The Other Dead would extend beyond six issues. If it only went six, we wanted to a nice, complete story that was satisfying and self-contained.
Luckily, the book did do well, both critically and commercially, and we did plan for that, and had a complete trilogy in mind from the start. That’s the second reason. In a way, OD is a lot like Gears of War or the original Star Wars trilogy: Each one is self-contained, but they work together well to form one complete story.
Third, a new #1 issue has a certain fun and mystique about it, and definitely says “This is something new” much stronger than a #7 issue. Plus, you can work with new titles that way too to help differentiate. The Other Dead 2: Epidemic…has a nice ring to it, and it’ll be out next fall through IDW.
AiPT: I’m looking forward to next fall!
Do you plan to stick with Qing Ping Mui on pencils for the future of the series or do you hope to bring new artists on board as the franchise continues?
Joshua:: Thanks, it’s gonna be a cool story, different in tone than part 1. This one will be a bit of a medical thriller, as the CDC tries to stop the epidemic before it goes zoonotic and jumps to humans. It’ll also flash back to Pasteur’s quest for the rabies vaccine, so it’ll have some cool historical elements as well. I think Other Dead fans are really gonna dig it…
As far Qing Ping “Kingpin” Mui, he’ll be taking a break from Other Dead for a bit after the first series. He’s worked on OD for 2 1/2 years now, and it’ll be nice for him to get to some other stuff as well. We’ll be bringing on Mike Shoykhet, who did the awesome main cover for #4 and the amazing Zombie Cheetah (both attached). We’re really excited to have Mike onboard and he’s thrilled to be working on The Other Dead. For the third one, we’ll see how everything shakes down, could be Qing or Mike, could be somebody new to the franchise…
AiPT: That cheetah is just menacing, I can’t wait to see what he does with OD!
Back to the concept of the series for a second I wanted to ask a question about the President’s involvement in your book. Of all the prominent figures in recent world history what makes the vision of Obama kicking zombie ass more enticing than say, David Petraeus?
Joshua:: Obama is the world’s #1 celebrity, and the head of the most influential nation on Earth (at least from a pop culture point of view). Who could possibly be more interesting to be thrown into an apocalyptic situation than the President of the United States?
Plus, with this book being something of my ode to EC Comics, Tales from the Crypt, Shock Suspense Stories, and Mad Magazine, the satire that’s possible with that situation it just too good to pass up…plus, it anchors the book in reality which helps offset the craziness of Zombie Animals running around everywhere!
And as far as Petraues goes, so many people would already go, “Who?” Memories are short, but figures like Obama endure eternally…
AiPT: If you’ve read any of my previous interviews, you know this is a common question of mine:
If you, Mike and Qing were all to die today, who would you hope would continue the OD franchise?
Joshua:: If the entire Other Dead creative team was massacred by Zombie Animals, then I suppose I’d want our families to continue the franchise, the big thing would be keeping the IP within the fam. 😉
If you’re talking about passing the torch onto another creative team, then I’d want it to be something completely different than what people would be expecting. Margaret Atwood and Shephard Fairy. Or maybe Kanye West and Banksy, that’d be really interesting!
AiPT: I think a comic by Kanye and Banksy would be very well received.
The protagonists in your series are all kids or relatively young adults. How does writing from a kid’s point of view during the zombie apocalypse change the themes and narrative of the Other Dead?
Joshua:: Haha, glad you like the Kanye and Banksy idea!
I think Tommy’s POV as the focus of the series really gives it a different feel than many other stories, especially zombie ones. To view horror through the eyes of a child is both more frightening (everything is bigger! you’re not as strong as everyone else!) and simultaneously more empowering (i.e., kids process change better than adults, kids often feel immortal).
Add to it that Tommy is also a cancer survivor (or at least is surviving chemo up to when the story starts), and you get a really unique dynamic rarely explored in horror fiction.
AiPT: One last thing, how do you respond to this article?
Joshua:: Haha, that’s awesome for The Other Dead! Love that response by Robert, I bet a lot of people were expecting a big scientific explanation, but I think “Charlie don’t like drawing animals” is even better! Honest, straightforward, and to the point!
It’s a great question though, and I think the response shows that people were really hungry for seeing some Zombie Animals, I know that was the draw for me when Digger brought me the original film treatment. The Zombie Animals are what intrigue me, the zombie humans feel very… well-done at this point. Part of the fun of writing OD for me is getting to explore what a world with Zombie Animals actually looks like, and especially, how that will eventually affect the entire food chain (especially when it gets to insects and fish).
In many ways, I think Zombie Animals are the most fascinating exploration of the Zombie Apocalypse, and certainly, one we haven’t really seen before.
AiPT: Thanks dude, this was a lot of fun!
Joshua:: My pleasure, enjoyed it as well!