Yesterday, we gave you a 6-page preview of the new Image Comics horror series Revival. The first issue was just released today and I had a chance to learn more about Revival from series creator Tim Seeley and artist Mike Norton.
“For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them. In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. A beautiful “farm noir” that puts a new twist on the zombie genre, created by NYT Bestselling author TIM SEELEY and acclaimed artist MIKE NORTON.”
I’m really intrigued by the premise of Revival, which takes a familiar idea of the dead coming back to life and puts a unique spin on it. Can you tell me how this project came about and what you drew inspiration from?
Tim Seeley: REVIVAL is an amalgam of a lot of things I knew I wanted to do: work with Mike, do a crime story set in my home town, and some concepts I had for my take on a “zombie” story. I suppose all stories are born that way, but in this case, I think all that really disparate stuff really ended up creating a concept Mike and I were psyched to work on. My inspiration came from Coen Brothers films, TV shows like LOST and BREAKING BAD, and my hometown of Wausau.
Mike Norton: Tim had an idea for this in his head for a while. When he described it to me, I just could visualize it instantly in my head like a movie. The main conceit of the story hooked me, but the idea that this would be a book that was just as much about the town and the people that really locked me in.
The story takes place in Wisconsin, where the dead have come back to life as the people they were before they died. Is this an event that only happens once or will more dead rise over the course of the series?
Tim Seeley: As far as everyone in the story knows, it’s just a one-time event. We’ll see if it stays that way over the course of the series!
Are there any time limits/rules behind who comes back or does everyone who has died in the history of that town come back all at once?
Tim Seeley: At the start of the series, we see that it’s just everyone who has died within perhaps a week of the “event.” 23 people to be exact.
How many people live in the town before the revival event and what is the final count after the dead come back to live and the town is blocked off?
Tim Seeley: The Wausau area that we’re dealing with is home to about 40,000 people. So, it’s not a TINY town. But it is spread out with miles of countryside and farm in-between. So, we’ll see, that at least in the beginning, the “undead” are less a threat than the 40K cooped up living people!
From reading the basic plot synopsis, we know that revival event draws the attention of the media and the government, who block off the city. Is finding the cause of the revival event something you are interested in explaining down the road or will it always be a mystery? Are the smaller stories something you’re more interested in focusing on over the big picture?
Tim Seeley: It’s a bit of both. Everyone is so busy dealing with hysteria and pilgrims that they don’t really have time yet to deal with “WHY?” Our story is really more about the way small unit deal with this. It’s about families and friends, within the context of this larger event.
The synopsis also mentions religious zealots. I’m assuming that the revival event causes some to think it’s a miracle, while others think it’s the end of days. Are the religious implications of this event something that you’ll spend a lot of time on?
Tim Seeley: Yeah, we do deal with it, as realistically, a good proportion of people in a small town like this WOULD believe this event had religious context. The book is really about the way people deal with death, and certainly, a major reason religion is popular is that it provides an answer to our biggest questions. I’m not out to criticize any faith or anything, but certainly, people will have opinion on, and disagree as to the significance of the event.
We’re introduced to Officer Dana Cypress in the first issue. Will she be the main focus of the story or will it focus on a mix of people from the town?
Tim Seeley: It’s an ensemble cast, but Dana really is the main character. She’s the entry point…a person having to deal with this event in the most practical way possible. She has to be this sort of arbiter, and whether it’s a supernatural, heaven sent event or not, she has to deal with the problems it causes. But, we’ll meet a lot of other interesting characters too!
Is the plan for this to be an ongoing series or a limited series? How far out has the basic storyline been planned out?
Tim Seeley: Mike and I know “THE ENDING.” But, we have A LOT of stories to tell before we get there. We want to do this book as long as people will read it, so we planned it as an open ended ongoing with a firm ending in mind.
Can you tell me about the creative process for this particular book? I know that the both of you are artists and writers, so is each issue more of a collaborative process than in some of your separate projects?
Tim Seeley: For the first issue we did “Marvel style” in which I roughly described each page, and Mike worked his magic. Then I went over it and scripted it. I think it really helped me figure out what the book was about, having to think on my feet like that. But, I also found that I am way to anal to do that every issue, so we switched back to full script after that. But, we talk about the issues, and Mike provides a good deal of the ideas and plot points that go into each book. It is really collaborative, especially for me, who tends to be more of a “teller what to doer.”
Mike Norton: It has been quite collaborative. Much more so than anything I’ve done with writers in the past. I think our excitement for this project has had us bouncing ideas at each other a little more frenetically than maybe other projects we’ve been a part of. It’s challenging, exciting, and fun.
When creating the look and characters for this small Wisconsin town, what did you use for inspiration? Was there a particular movie or location you’ve visited that came to mind?
Tim Seeley: I grew up in Wausau, and I find it to be a very interesting place. As a teen, I was convinced it SUCKED, but as I got older, and came back to it after living in Minneapolis, New York City, and Chicago, I started to understand it’s value, and really, how great it was. So, I think the Wausau in the book is a stand in for any midsize American city (and any small town, as Wausau is flanked by several of them), which I think will make it really relatable.
Mike Norton: I’m from a small town in the South a good 14 hours away from Wausau, but I definitely relate. Something about small town is perfect for weird phenomenon. Wholesome, yet creepy.
From reading some of the preview pages, it looks like there will be no shortage of gore in this series. Will the town spiral out of control over the course of the series or will there always be some semblance of normalcy and the day-to-day routine?
Tim Seeley: Well, I personally think gore and horror is best when used sparingly. REVIVAL is more about the uneasy feelings of discomfort and fear than outright disgust, so I want to build up to shocking moments of violence instead of inundate you with them so that they have no meaning. I love horror, but I generally find really gory stuff to be more ridiculous and humorous than scary.
Can you give our readers a tease of what they can look forward to over the first few issues? Is there a standout panel or scene in particular that readers will be talking about?
Tim Seeley: I think the first issue pulls a nice twist…but, I mean, I’m also worried that I’m building it up too much too! I want it to be a series that people find something of themselves in, and love it for reasons I didn’t expect. That said, I think the character of Arlene Dittman will freak people out, and I think Em Cypress is gonna break some hearts.
Mike Norton: I can promise some definite creep out moments. I hope that people will fall in love with the characters and hope that some of them don’t get killed by the end of our weird little story.