Welcome to the Tea Interviews.
I've seldom met an artist, particularly a writer, who didn't tend to gab or spill opinions or offer musings on his/her own work and worldview. Therefore I'm tapping into this common tendency.
(Most of the questions are tailored toward the featured interviewee.)
Tea Interview with CD Regan
Your splendid zombie comic, Twilight Earth, centers on a sole survivor of a
zombie infestation (akin, as you say, to Dawn of the Dead and The Omega Man) who
passes lonely time by disposing of wandering zombies. Folks should consult the
art work itself to see your talent and uniqueness.
I wrote in a review/comparison of George Romero's original 1978 Dawn of the Dead
and the 2004 remake, "zombies are the perfect manifestation of our deepest
fear and fascination. Zombies are hard-to-face reflections. As Peter says in the
original DAWN: 'They're us, that's all.'"
In AGAMEMNON by Aeschylus, Agamemnon's prognosticating daughter Cassandra wails (as translated by Philip Vellacott, 1956): "Alas for human destiny! Man's happiest hours/Are pictures drawn in shadow. Then ill fortune comes,/And with two strokes the wet sponge wipes the drawing out." Zombie holocaust seems an almost perfect way of illustrating the fragility of civilization, convenience, and life as we know it. One day we're going to an air-conditioned movie theater, the next we're holed up in a farmhouse, taking potshots at relentless undead after nailing boards across the windows - and the next we may be dead (and rise again as flesh-hungry ghouls).
Share your thoughts.
What is happening now I think is the third wave ripple of the terror from the
"duck and cover" generation. Children in that era grew up to
make movies in the '70's and '80's. Kids growing up in the '70's and '80's
are the ones producing the horror movies today. So the mindset that the
world could be blown up at any moment carries through to all these apocalyptic
movies involving zombies.
Of course, Romero is the one who initiated the apocalyptic zombie genre into the movies, but I think there is an even deeper tie than the cold war that inspired the zombie end of the world - the Bible. Western culture in general was poked and prodded into shape by the church and all its ideas about the end of the world. Ever read Revelation? It's like a really bad trip. All of those plagues and fires and being-torn-asunders are the punch line to the primary religion that formed our society. It's hard-wired into our culture. DAWN OF THE DEAD - both of them, use a line from what sounds like a biblical quote (I think it was originally the SWAT guy's [Peter, played by Ken Foree] preacher/father who said it to him): "When there is no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth." There's your connection.
Americans genetically don't expect the world to end like a Disney movie. Why not have it done by zombies?
D: I dig the comic's lack of dialogue so far. I'm slightly reminded of bad-ass 1984 issue #21 of G.I. Joe comics, "Silent Interlude," which features Snake Eyes scrapping with Storm Shadow in order to rescue Scarlett from captivity. Not a word spoken -- and not even sound effects, if I recall accurately. The absence of narration and dialogue elevated the experience somehow, redeeming an otherwise so-so series in my younger eyes.
Your inclusion of sound effects in Twilight is splendid, however. You've a knack for mimicking sounds: "krsh krssh" (walking on glass shards), "creak" (the reliable stand-by for floorboards), "bakt" and "krakt" (blows to heads with a baseball bat), "kok" (a decapitated zombie head landing on concrete), "kunk" (a truck tailgate shutting), "nyaagh" (one of various zombie utterances), "tchling!" and "tching!" (a sword slicing off zombie arms and heads, my favorite), and so on.
CD: You mention that flashback scenes will feature speech. Is this for story exposition only, or is it also an emphasis on the protagonist's isolate situation?
Thanks. I have a lot of fun with sound effects. Wherever possible, I try to not use vowels in my sounds. I want them to be non-words. Sometimes, I don't have any options other than resorting to standard onomotopoeia, like "creak", because in that particular panel, you aren't seeing the cause of the sound, and the word itself is a description and an explanation of why the protagonist, DAVE is looking up. Yeah. I like TCHLING, too.
And, yes, the lack of dialog in the current timeline is specifically designed to emphasize the isolation of the character. He has a love hate relationship with his past and the people who inhabited the world. He has a hobby... more of a default life mission... to break into the
abandoned houses and steal the photo albums of the dead. He then goes back to his fortress of solitude, gets drunk and makes fun of the people in the photos, justifying his isolation. As if they were too stupid to live, anyway. It's a ritual that he created for himself over the post-apocalypse year.
I have a couple of flashback sequences woven into the story to contrast how he was before the zombies. Specifically, a little-brother relationship with a co-worker named RUNT. They both live on the premises of the storage facility, and work in shifts, so they would have to have some kind of intimacy. I don't mean that as a gay thing. If you've ever worked at a crappy job, you commiserate with your coworkers and form tight bonds against your slave owners. Imagine having to live with those coworkers. RUNT is the veteran of the EZ STOR and he takes DAVE under his wing. Their interaction in the flashbacks shows what was DAVE was like when everything was normal.
D: On your website you mentioned adoption of various zombie motifs, including the more recent running zombies. I must admit that I dislike the running kind. They seem more like crazed humans than reanimated corpses with the limitations of rigor mortis, injury, and decay. I'm curious about your feelings on this recent speed modification. Is there earlier precedent for agile zombies or did it become popular after Boyle's 28 Days Later quasi-zombie flick?
CD: Zombies aren't zombies unless they are shambling slow-moving idiots. That's the creepy. I'm not too sure about any runners prior to 28 DAYS LATER, but I bet there were somewhere in the annals of filmdom. I generally don't like the trend in movies that seem to be geared for children with attention deficit disorder. I think that's why there are running zombies, to hold the attention of the teenaged film-going base who grew up on MTV and quick cuts. I think producers are afraid of going for a slow chilling creeping menace. Audiences apparently can only respond to threats that exist for explosive moments, like in a video game.
I have no problem with video games or MTV, mind you. I have an Xbox and do my share of ass-whupping. It's just that I would be a lot happier if they kept the two media seperate, and made more movies like they did in the '70's, when the directors began to get away from big productions and had a more intimate form of storytelling. There was a craftmanship to movies. Much more craft than the formula-driven crap that is being produced today. A prime candidate for this pattern of "boom and talk, repeat" storytelling began with ARMAGEDDON and the worst of it manifested in all the butchered remakes of the classic monster movies by Steven Sommers (THE MUMMY, VAN HELSING). Horrid storytelling. Horrid. That man should be shot. The parties responsible for HOUSE OF THE DEAD should also be shot. If you are going to base a movie on a game, HIRE A WRITER!!
Americans no longer know how to make horror movies. They are merely action films with gross makeup. If you want to see true horror movies, you have to watch what has been coming out of Japan. The Japanese culture is rich with a consistent mythology from a much older religions based on nature, Shintoism. They acknowledged nature spirits and energies that were not able to be understood by humans. Like our faerie tales, there are secret rules to the other worlds, and those rules are what are beneath their horror stories. American horror has to be formulated and scientific. Some kind of grand undoing that is solved by some logical means. Horror should be visceral and emotional, not logical.
Running zombies only allow for the protagonists to react to the immediate. Stimulus-response. Lurking ever-present lumbering zombies are chilling, and those stories at least lean in the direction of the visceral emotional terror, because you have too much time to think.
D: Author William Somerset Maugham wrote: "Most people think little. They accept their presence in the world; blind slaves of the striving which is their mainspring they are driven this way and that to satisfy their natural impulses, and when it dwindles they go out like the light of a candle. Their lives are purely instinctive."
These words raise a question about the difference of mentalities. (And it can pertain to zombie symbolism: satisfaction of "natural impulses" and instinct-centrism.)
you think the artistic person may suffer more acutely than the average masses
due to sharp perception? Disagree? General thoughts on Maugham's assertion?
CD: If you spend any time at all driving on the road, you will agree with Maugham's statement. People ARE idiots. Unless individuals prove themselves otherwise, I judge everyone to be an idiot. DAVE is me. I was raised an only child, and spent a lot of hours entertaining myself. Being the last person on Earth was a little fantasy of mine growing up, and DAVE's situation in TWILIGHT EARTH is a form of therapy for myself. He, as I am, slowly learns the value of a human connection.
Any kind of artistic thinker, I suppose meaning anyone who can think in three dimensions and not just in a stimulus-response manner, is doomed to see more than one solution and their respective repercussions to a problem. Artistic thinkers may only suffer in circumstances because they see the breadth and depth of a problem and feel powerless to change it. Unfortunately, the ones empowered are usually the least 3D thinking. The only thing that artists are suffering from is getting off their lazy asses and taking control of the situation. It's easier to complain, though, and feel superior in artistic isolation. That's DAVE's and my shtick. DAVE isn't doing anything to change his situation until he is forced to. That comes later in the story...
D: In the past review I cited earlier, I wrote: "Set in a mall stocked with countless goods and luxuries, [the original] DAWN shows both humanity's crucial reliance on goods (from canned food to firearms) as well as its fetish for accumulative fashion, amenities, convenience, and variety. What better way to illustrate objects' relevant worth to humanity than to contrast living human beings and animated corpses amidst a wealthy supply of things?"
I also noted: "Objects' basic uselessness in the absence of living human beings is a frightening reminder of our fleeting significance in the physical world. A sexy dress on a warm-blooded model is pleasant; the same dress on a bruised and bloated corpse is repugnant. A microwave heats meals only if a living hand plugs it in, sets the timer, presses the start button. Hammers, screwdrivers, guns, and machetes are valuable tools only to rational beings who know how to
utilize them." But what if the objects and/or bruised and bloated corpses (actual or symbolic) assert will outside of human volition?
Romero's recent Land of the Dead film not only taught the little boys of zombie film who's still boss, but it extended the budding instinct and knowledge that the remarkable zombie Bub began to hone and act upon in Day of the Dead (1985). Big Daddy, like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes' revolutionary leader Caesar, realizes the humans' basic angle against zombiekind, finds weaknesses, and capitalizes on human complacency by rallying other zombies and organizing an unlikely revolt. Of course, Big Daddy is not comparable to Caesar's intellect and language capability and articulation, but the concept is related: largely dumb objects underestimated by Achille's-heeled humans. This theme haunts us. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator films, etc.
are your thoughts on my observations? What about Romero's apparent message(s)
and implication(s) in his latest (final?) zombie chapter?
The objects that we surround ourselves with are like a cocoon. Someday, we have to break away from the cocoon. Escape from the mall and rediscover what is really important.
D: Speaking of Land of the Dead, while I found the film to be worthy overall, some of the more heavy-handed script points bugged me. Anyone who didn't notice the Bush Administration representation in the fatcat Kaufman character (played underwhelmingly by Dennis Hopper) IS dead. When Kaufman snapped, "We don't negotiate with terrorists" in regard to a warning about Cholo's dangerous ultimatum, I groaned. I don't mind political quips in films, but the several current-events-centered lines and aspects in this film seemed cheap, stuck out like sore thumbs, and beneath the otherwise subtle Romero tradition. Plus, the implications are trite and too easy: like shooting dead fish in a bucket of frozen water, to use one of my own coined phrases.
The stacked deck against wealthy whites and the probably deliberate choice of a black zombie as rebel leader also bugged me. Not only is such antagonism old hat, it's not so cut-and-dry anymore -- and certainly not poignant in regard to the theme of collective, demonic demise rising up to consume humanity via the collective inhumanity of living, so-called rational humans. This sad fact cuts through racial and class lines as history plainly shows.
On the other hand, the choice of depicting Big Daddy as a former black man fits nicely into Romero's typical black-guy-as-hero-or-sensible-voice, which seemed to originate as a rejection of the cursory, disrespectful treatment of blacks in film up to the 1960s, as well as a middle finger to those who craved and expected only white saviors in their fantasies.
Reactions to these points?
CD: Actually, I didn't get to see LAND OF THE DEAD yet. I know, I know... bad zombiephile. I kept trying to schedule to see it with my friends, but it was gone from the theaters by the time I got my act together.
I don't like it when movies are too quick to make comments on current events. It cheapens them. Especially if you are trying to create a timeless world that could exist tomorrow or twenty years from now. DAWN OF THE DEAD still works today if not for the line about seeing "one of those shopping malls" from the air, as if it was still a novelty.
I'd have to see the movie to comment on how obvious the Bush comments were. Even though I'm sure I would agree with any and all of the anti-Bush sentiments, speaking out against non-fascism can be communicated without hitting the audience over the head with current event specifics. I agree from your description.
D: Your favorite author(s) and
book(s) and film(s) and music?
(D: I dig the Zombie Survival Guide indeed. You'd love it, dear readers.)
Do you dig Eddie Campbell (who did Bacchus and Alec and worked the
strange visual miracle for Moore's From Hell)? I can see possible kinship
in your own contrastive work. Any particular visual artist influences/faves?
CD: I read Bacchus for a while, and I loved his work in FROM HELL. My most direct influences in comics were however... Most recently and obviously, Mike Mignola. Others during my formative years: Moebius, Matt Wagner, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, Frank Miller, and Tim Truman.
I don't read comics anymore, really. The only one I do read is POWERS by Oeming and Bendis. I worked with both of them years ago, and they're both great guys who deserve all the attention they are getting. Mike Oeming is the one who inspired me to "rediscover" Mignola's genius and personally convinced me not to give up on comics after I got frustrated by my last comic endeavor. Brian Bendis helped me start my career (such that it is) back in the early '90's when I contributed to the anthology HIGH CALIBER that he put together. POWERS takes the superhero genre further than WATCHMEN in its sense of realism and grittiness.
I enjoy Mignola's BPRD and PROMETHEA until it ended. HELLBLAZER up until issue 200. I occasionally pick up an issue of whatever looks interesting, but I'm usually disappointed in the writing. I guess I'm a comic snob.
D: Speaking of Moore, do you dig his work (from his pioneer days in Doctor Who Weekly, 2000 A.D., Marvelman and Swamp Thing to Promethea and beyond)?
I think his greatest achievement (along with Dave Gibbons) is Watchmen, though I like From Hell more. While I love the basic concept of V For Vendetta, I found its prognostication of a right-wing dystopia to be more of a selective extrapolation of waning 1980s tension than plausible political consequences. (I see future Statism as generally more collectivist than strictly fascist, based on the similarities of mass movements such as communism and National Socialism more than the differences. If anything, secular Political Correctness will help decide the scapegoats rather than Political Incorrectness. Terry Gilliam's Brazil, Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, and Huxley's Brave New World are much stronger modes.)
Hard call here: Who should be given a comics medal first: Moore or the grand Frank Miller? The Dark Knight Returns not only reinvented Batman, but it helped ignite a comic quality explosion (Starlin's earlier Death of Captain Marvel and Miller's Ronin notwithstanding). And the more recent The Dark Knight Strikes Again is quite underrated.
Alan Moore is just plain fascinating. I've read a lot of his writings about magic and Kaballistic alchemy (PROMETHEA included), and he taps into such a profound place when he constructs his stories. He is so obviously a brilliant freak who I think would scare the bejeezus out of me if I met him in a social setting, but he certainly pushes the limits of the comic book genre. Truly, a tough call. Glad it's not up to me. I plead the fifth.
In light of the current administration, that world Moore described in V FOR VENDETTA is not so distant. After working in the corporate world for several years, BRAZIL is not far away, either. Remember: Suspicion breeds confidence (one of the posters in that movie).
D: Have you seen and (if so) do you like/dislike the Sin City film? I was greatly impressed. Miller as co-director with the genuine (and comicky) Robert Rodriguez was a brilliant and wise decision. If only most comics films could be so arranged. (I dread what might become of V For Vendetta filmwise. And Terry Gilliam should do Watchmen if anyone should - a 3-hour film at least!)
Are there plans for a film version of V? I knew about the WATCHMEN and Gilliam, planned then scrubbed... in my alternate Earth scenario, that movie was made a few years before his QUIXOTE film, and FEAR AND LOATHING was never made.
CD, though my familiarity with your work is limited, I quite appreciate what I
see. And I want to see more. I hope Twilight Earth continues to develop and get
the readership and fandom it seems to deserve.
We'll have to interview again in the future. I wish you blessings on your path.
You bet. I'm always happy to babble!
closing words for readers/fans?
Machetes are available at Kmart for $12.00. No reloading.
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