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Mark Rahner talks ROTTEN

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A new twist on Zombies with action, horror, and the uncomfortably recognizable in the old West! A stop-lossed Army vet. A president in office without the popular vote. A terror crisis gripping the nation! Meet William Wade, newly minted - and seriously resentful - secret agent for President Rutherford B. Hayes. His mission with cerebral partner J.J. Flynn: travel the West and investigate outbreaks of the living dead - each one more horrifyingly advanced than the last.

We spoke with writer, Mark Rahner about the comic.

The Big Bad Wolf: Can you give our readers a synopsis of Rotten?

zombie comicMark Rahner: It’s a zombie western with secret agents that parallels events today in a way that fans of gutsy shows like "Battlestar Galactica" will dig – not to mention action and horror junkies.

Check it out: a disgruntled Army vet gets stop-lossed back into service by a president who took office without the popular vote in a controversial election, and he’s sent to investigate a terror crisis that the government’s lying about. But our vet happens to be from the Civil War, Rutherford B. Hayes really did seize office in "The Corrupt Bargain," and the terror crisis … well, it involves some carnivorous behavior.

The Big Bad Wolf: How did you come up with the concept for this?

Mark Rahner: Originally I just wanted a mash-up of genres that I'd want to read, myself. As a lifelong geek, I couldn't imagine much more fun than a secret agent in the old West fighting zombies. And since I love action choreography, it started with me locking the hero in a barn full o' zombies and making him figure a way out.

But I also grew ashamed of journalism during the last eight years of lies and abuses and torture, and remembered how writers with real nerve like Rod Serling used entertaining fantasy stories to comment – often pretty pointedly – about what was going on in the world. So if you’ve never turned on the news or picked up a newspaper, it should be an exciting, disgusting ride. But if you are tuned in on that other level, then there’ll be some recognizable things and some wish-fulfillment.

The Big Bad Wolf: Who are the main characters?

Mark Rahner: William Wade is an extremely disgruntled ex-Army captain who’s been a Pinkerton detective in Chicago in the dozen years since the end of the Civil War. He’s sent out West but he’s not a cowboy or a cliche. He’s not crazy about the outdoors, he doesn’t talk in that awful cornpone patois. He’s a rational, skeptical, independent thinker – which will make anyone a loner these days and that’s what it does to him, with the obvious exception of his partner. He’s not an invincible Man With No Name guy, but you’d never want him as your enemy.

Wade’s partner, J.J. Flynn, is a slightly older career man in the Army, more thoughtful, less bitter and violent, but ferociously loyal. The stories are framed with Flynn’s narration in the form of his top secret – and often ironic – reports to the president. He delivers Wade’s orders, sometimes fights back-to-back with him, other times pursues his own leads while Wade’s on a mission.

The Big Bad Wolf: How did this zombie outbreak occur?roten zombies

Mark Rahner: The answer to that is key to the ongoing conspiracy mystery of the series. Something unique about ROTTEN is that in every new place where Wade and Flynn investigate an outbreak, they encounter different species of living dead. They need to find out why, and how to stop it, if they can survive.

The Big Bad Wolf: What can we expect from this book in terms of bloodshed and gore?

Mark Rahner: Plenty. The first page of the first issue features a decapitated corpse split wide open on a table. It’s not a book you want to show your children or your grandparents, unless you want to pay for counseling or get disinherited.

The Big Bad Wolf: Is this an ongoing or mini series?

Mark Rahner: It’ll be ongoing but finite. There’s no specific number of issues planned, but the series and story arcs are fully plotted to a goal and an ending. You won't see our version of an "Ultimates" 30 years from now. What happens has consequences for the characters. "Preacher" might be a good reference point in that sense. And also in the sense that there's a healthy dose of swearing.

The Big Bad Wolf: When is the release date?

Mark Rahner: The 52-page debut issue comes out May 27. You could bludgeon someone with it. However we’ll take no responsibility if you do.

The Big Bad Wolf: How much is the book?

Mark Rahner: That first one will be $5.99. Subsequent ones will be normal-length and $3.99.

The Big Bad Wolf: Who's the full creative team on the book?

zombie comic bookMark Rahner: I'm the creator, and I co-wrote it with my pal Robert Horton. We got to know each other as movie critics in Seattle and have collaborated on a few other things, including another sick book called “H.E.L.I.X.” that I hope to inflict on people after ROTTEN. The artist is Dan Dougherty from Chicago. He’s got a style that fans of “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” and “From Hell” should really connect with.

The Big Bad Wolf: Where can our readers find out more about Rotten?

Mark Rahner: Go to my site, www.rottencomics.com for updates, articles, reviews and maybe soon some merchandise, and to the publisher’s site, www.moonstonebooks.com to order the book if you don’t find it in your neighborhood comic shop. By the way, please ask your neighborhood comic shop to stock it! There’s also a rottencomics Twitter feed, because even John McCain tweets now and he may in fact be a zombie, himself.

The Big Bad Wolf: In closing, what would you like to say to our readers about Rotten?

Mark Rahner: We worked hard to put a new twist the zombie genre – which I can say as a lifetime fan of the stuff – and to make some bold statements besides. We also change up the action and vibe of each story arc so that it’ll be anything but the same old zombie massacre each time. And we’ve been lucky enough to get praise from the likes of Ed Brubaker, Mark Waid and even Fangoria magazine, so I hope you and your readers find it every damn bit as repellant.

The Big Bad Wolf: Thank you for your time, Mark! Best of luck with the Rotten zombie comic!

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Published on: 2009-05-13 (3711 reads)

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