Vietnam, 1968: Behind enemy lines, Private Brian Curliss is alone. The enemy caged him, the dead want to devour him and the voices in his head are driving him to madness. A madness that emerges in the form of an unstoppable killing machine wrapped in burlap and bamboo...
Curliss is a one-man-army, sworn to wade through a wet red jungle gone straight to hell in search of a ghost named Jungle Jim. To the Viet Cong, he's a nightmare. To POWs trapped in enemy hands, he's salvation. To the legions of shambling, hungry dead...He's the Grim Reaper in a gas mask.
Senior Editor, Christine Caprilozzi had a chance to speak with '68 Jungle Jim writer, Mark Kidwell.
Horror News Network: First off, “68” is an awesome Vietnam/Zombie apocalyptic comic that’s been around for years. Jungle Jim first appeared as a one shot in 2011. What made you decide to bring him back?
Mark Kidwell: He held a shotgun to my head… heh, seriously, from the first script, we all knew that Jim would be rearing his masked head again. In fact, the book was left open-ended for that very purpose. The overall story in the regular ’68 series is a huge one, encompassing Vietnam, the States and the world. With JJ, we get a chance to zoom in on a single character and tell a more focused, “human” story. Plus, the concept of a shared, contagious psychosis passed along with the wearing of burlap, bamboo and a gas mask is too tempting a proposition to pass up. Add all of that to the hugely positive reader and fan response to the original one-shot and you get JUNGLE JIM: HELLHOLE.
Horror News Network: Describe Jungle Jim a bit and how he’ll be different in this series?
Mark Kidwell: The original man beneath the burlap was a young, green army private named Sam Adler. After accidentally killing his mentor, Sergeant Jim Asher (aka: Jungle Jim), in a firefight, Adler went a little insane. He donned burlap, bamboo and a gas mask scrawled with the nickname of his obsession. Armed with an arsenal of weaponry, he followed the voices in his head into jungles filled with the drooling, hungry dead and Viet Cong to try and destroy the monster he’d helped his Sergeant become. In a raid on a VC POW camp, he rescued Marine Brian Curliss.
Following the events of the original one-shot, Curliss has taken up Adler’s helmet, mask and armor. The voices are back…and now Curliss stalks the jungles and riverbanks searching for the rotting thing that was Jim Asher. Curliss is all alone, sharing a hand-me-down insanity and continuing Adler’s mad quest. He feels guilty, responsible for Adler’s death, so he becomes Adler, becomes a one-man-army, a reaper in a gas mask, hoping to assuage his guilt by finding Asher and dispelling the ghost of Jungle Jim with a bullet to a zombie’s brain. Curliss isn’t Adler, not by a long shot… and he’s constantly doubting himself, second-guessing his ability to carry out his mission. But the mask seems to give him strength. He finds that he can do things he never imagined once he stretches it over his head. It’s his totem, his burden… and it will carry him into hell.
Horror News Network: The whole vibe of the “68” comic is pretty gritty and gory. Should readers expect “Jungle Jim” to kick that up a notch?
Mark Kidwell: “’68 HARDSHIP” is probably the “darkest” book we’ve done so far, and the regular series is pretty hardcore with the gore and violence… but Jungle Jim… the new series… that’s a whole new, bigger bucket of blood. Gritty? Oh, yeah… Mr. Clean would run screaming from this grit. Gory? Well, Jeff Zornow is illustrating it, right? Truckloads of gore! In fact, the two-page spread at the beginning of issue #1 is one of the goriest things I’ve ever seen! And violent… oh brother… yes, it is unashamedly violent. Think of it as Tarantino calling in Romero and Cronenberg to help him direct a war movie… that comes pretty close. But at the heart of all this grue, I think you’ll find some deep story, some new, three-dimensional characters and even a little heart. (And not the pulsing, oozing, mutilated kind.)
Horror News Network: The artwork is done by Jeff Zornow and Jay Fotos. As an artist yourself, how does it feel to see other artists interpret your story?
Mark Kidwell: I love it! I’ve been a friend and fan of Zornow’s work for years and feel he’s never had the chance to really shift it into overdrive on a mainstream title. Until now… we loosened his leash on HARDSHIP and for JJ: HELLHOLE, we threw the leash away and tossed him a dripping pork chop! He’s kicking this book’s ass and horror fans are gonna shriek with glee! And then Fotos steps in, spillin’ red, pink and gooey yellow crap all over the boards… it’s beautiful if you’re a fan of over the top exploitation gore. And who isn’t…really? I love the characterizations Jeff is bringing to the book, the designs he and Jay are molding… I’m extremely happy with the whole project and can’t wait for readers to get their hands on it.
A special nod here to original Jungle Jim one-shot artist Nate Van Dyke, who helped define the look of the character and is also providing an alternate cover to an issue of the new series. An amazing talent and a joy to work with!
Horror News Network: The book comes out April 3rd. Horror comic fans can obviously pre-order the book. What cons can they find you at this year with “Jungle Jim”?
Mark Kidwell: So far, I’m scheduling Wizard Chicago, Phoenix Comic Con, Lexington KY Comicon, Derby City in Louisville, KY, Cincinnati Comic Expo and Tricon in West Virginia. I’ve got several more floating around on my list, but haven’t made a firm decision yet. The Phoenix show is the one that fans should try and attend if possible. It’s the biggie, the one where crazy man Jay Fotos gets to cover a giant con island with jeeps, zombies, bunkers and machine guns. It’s a trip and you have to see it to believe it!
Horror News Network: There are also a couple other cover out there by Nat Jones and Ben Templesmith. How did the idea for those come about?
Mark Kidwell: Well, Nat is always a full, bleeding third of the shambling machine behind ’68 and it’s my hope that every book we do carries a Nat Jones cover of some sort. He’ll lay his artistic claim on every ’68 project in some way or the other and will always keep his hand in. As for the Templesmith cover… we’re all fans of Ben’s stuff and we really wanted to see what his version of JJ would look like. The moody, glowing image he provided encapsulates the spooky mood of the series perfectly!
Horror News Network: What else should horror comic fans know about ’68:Jungle Jim?
Mark Kidwell: First off, rest assured that all of the history surrounding JJ will be as factual as we can make it. As with all the ’68 books, we try our best to build a “real” world around the characters and events before the dripping undead come in and tear it all to hell. Each issue will have its own “Incoming” article in the back, retracing our steps and keying on the factual aspects of the stories. Also, if you want copies of JJ, pre-order ‘em through your local comic shops soon. We don’t overprint by much and the books seem to sell out quickly, especially new number ones. It’s rare to go to second print nowadays, so when they’re gone, they’re gone.
Lastly, now’s a good time to get in on the ground floor with Jungle Jim. He’s a favorite around the Meatgrinder Studios and he’s gonna be around for a while. Jim is just getting started and he’s got a helluva lot more guts to spill. Keep an eye on our website, www.68zombie.com and Facebook for news as it becomes available.
Horror News Network: Thanks for the update Mark!
Mark Kidwell: Thanks to you guys! We love the site, all the Comic Monsters who have supported everything we’ve done for years and always know how much we appreciate the opportunity to get the word out on all things ’68!
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