Dynamite Entertainment has been publishing an ongoing Army of Darkness comic book series and we’re going to start featuring it more frequently here on Daily Dead. Similar to the other comics we cover, you can expect an early look at the cover art, previews pages, and interviews for this title.
To get things started, Kristian interviewed Elliott R. Serrano, the writer of the Army of Darkness comic book series, who tells us about writing new adventures for Ash and where the series is headed:
Thanks for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. Could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your work in the comic book industry?
Elliott R. Serrano: I’m a writer and columnist for the Chicago Redeye, a sib of the Tribune Company, who specializes in pop-culture and “geek culture.” I write a blog called “Geek To Me” (redeyechicago.com/geektome) where I write about movies, comic books, gaming, pro-wrestling, etc. I like to call myself “Chicago’s Top Geek” since I’ve lived here my whole life and have been a geek just as long. I’ve also wanted to work in the comic book industry ever since I started reading them as a young child.
I first got into writing comic books when I met Brandon Jerwa, a top-notch writer who I believe was working on the Highlander comic at the time. It’s funny, since I remember hearing about Brandon when I was an intern at Devil’s Due Studios in Chicago. They were always talking about him around the studio and singing his praises, so I just had to meet this dude. I remember when I first shook his hand, I got kind of snarky with him and said “So you’re this Brandon Jerwa fella I keep hearing about?” He looked at me, paused, and then announced “I like this guy.” We’ve been good friends ever since. So, it was during one of our many drinking sessions that Brandon asked me if there was a book I’d like to write. I told him that I’d love a crack at “Army of Darkness”, but that it was a pipe dream for me since the book already had a creative team, and a really good one at that.
Flash forward about a year and I get a phone call from Brandon, asking me if I would like to partner with him on “Xena versus Army of Darkness: What Again?” It would be a sequel to the mini-series that was written by John Layman. Brandon tells me that while he knows Xena really well, he could use someone who knows Ash equally well to help write the character. He got approval from Dynamite to bring me on board and we ended up co-plotting the series with each of us switching off on dialogue and polishing each other up. I have to say that I learned a lot from Brandon during that experience. He taught me about how you need to be relentless and keep up your energy level when working on a comic book.
Anyway, after that mini wrapped up, our editor Joe Rybandt decided to give me a shot at writing a one-shot for “Army of Darkness”. That would be issue #16 of the previous volume, titled “Montezuma’s Revenge” where the Aztec King is resurrected and is ready to take over the world before Ash thwarts his plans. That led to me writing the “Ash Saves Obama” mini-series that Dynamite Comics wanted to publish to capitalize on the “Obama craze” that was sweeping comics at the time. I’m somewhat proud of that one since it had the potential to be irredeemably stupid, but we pulled it off.
I guess that was my “trial by fire” because right after that, Joe approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing the new “Army of Darkness” ongoing. I’ve been on it ever since.
Were you originally nervous about creating new Ash stories, knowing how popular the character is?
Elliott R. Serrano: Oh hell yeah, I was nervous! I’m such a fan of the character myself, I’d hate to pull a “George Clooney as Batman” and really mess up the character! To me, Ash is one of the most unique characters in cinema, namely the “horror hero.” The killer is usually glorified in horror movies and I just hate that. With Ash, we get to celebrate the hero who fights the central evil in the film. And on top of that, HE KICK ASS AND WINS! That doesn’t always happen in horror movies.
The series sees different worlds with different Ash types. Were all of these concepts your creation?
Elliott R. Serrano: The idea that there are different worlds each with their own Ash was first introduced by John Layman in the “Army of Darkness versus Marvel Zombies” mini-series. Nic Barrucci, publisher of Dynamite Comics, wanted to introduce a female version of Ash, since he’s such a big fan of kick-ass female action heroes. Knowing that, Joe suggested that we use the idea of “infinite Ashes” to springboard into the “Hail to the Queen” story arc that introduced Ashley K. Williams, the only female version of the Chosen One in all the multiverses! I’m hoping that we can spin her off into her own series, perhaps a mini or two. She has a lot of potential.
What are some of the time periods that didn’t make the cut? What time periods would you’d like to introduce Ash to in the future?
Elliott R. Serrano: I have this story in mind to put Ash in the Old West. In my dream of dreams, having Ash meet Brisco County Jr. is full of comic possibilities! I mean, we did something similar with Xena/AoD when Ash met Autolycus, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented. I do doubt that an Ash/Brisco meet-up will ever happen, though.
Slightly more realistically, I would love to do a crossover with the Zombie-Western “Rotten” since I’m such a fan of the book and I’m friends with the writer Mark Rahner. Mark has that wry sense of humor that I think would mesh really well with the AoD universe.
For situations like young Ash in high school, did you have to clear this with Sam Raimi or Bruce Campbell first?
Elliott R. Serrano: I didn’t have to clear it with Raimi or Campbell, but the script did have to be approved by the studio that gives Dynamite Comics permission to use the Army of Darkness license. I’ve wanted to work with Bruce on an AoD comic for the longest time, but between his role on “Burn Notice”, touring conventions, and producing the new “Evil Dead” films, he’s too busy!
I really enjoyed seeing the Chicago issue where Al Capone was still alive. What fascinates you about that particular point in history?
Elliott R. Serrano: First off, I grew up in Chicago and Al Capone has always been associated with the city. I also grew up watching “The Untouchables” on television, with Robert Stack as the straight-laced Eliot Ness. It’s a period in time where you still had “heroes” and villains” that were larger than life. And since Ash went back in time to meet King Arthur in the original movie, I thought it fitting he meet a legendary American hero.
Of course, take a look at the true history of that period and the sheen is kind of rubbed off. I got some help with the story from Eric Trautmann (writer of Flash Gordon and Vampirella) who gave me the real deal about Ness and his career, so he kind of set me straight on a couple things. Ultimately, I decided to employ poetic license in my portrayal of the character and split the difference between the ‘real-life’ Eliot Ness and the one I saw on the TV show. Same goes for Al Capone, who I wanted to try and humanize just a touch. For the record, I have yet to watch an episode of “Boardwalk Empire”, but I’m sure my take on Capone was a bit more exaggerated.
The comics have the classic Ash humor seen in the movies. Do you always consider that an important part of writing for the series? Is writing the humor more or less difficult than the rest of the writing?
Elliott R. Serrano: I definitely find the humor to be essential to the book. When you consider the Evil Dead series, Army of Darkness is the one installment that has the most humor. In fact, it’s the humor that made me a fan of the movie! Having said that, the humor is also the most challenging part to write since there’s such a delicate balance you need to strike between it and the horror elements. It can also be a struggle to capture Ash’s voice. I’ve watched the movies countless times and played the video games that Bruce Campbell did the voiceovers for, so that helps. Coming up with new quips? That one’s the toughest. You can have Ash say “groovy” only so many times before he starts sounding like a broken record.
What are your thoughts on the fan response to the series? Have you made any changes to future issues based on reader feedback?
Elliott R. Serrano: So far the response has been mostly positive. Early on, a comic book critic said that I wasn’t getting Ash’s voice right, so I just kept hammering at his dialogue. I think I’ve reached the point where I’m really comfortable with him and can write his scenes more effectively.
What other time frames can we look forward to Ash being a part of? Will we ever see a Neanderthal-period Ash?
Elliott R. Serrano: The time-travel aspect of AoD is another thing that makes it unique to the Evil Dead films, but we don’t want to wear that out either. It needs to be the type of story that really needs to involve time-travel, like the 1970’s Tokyo two-parter (in AoD #5 & #6) where I essentially put Ash into the middle of a martial arts film. I have some other time frames in mind for future stories, but want to keep them in the bank until I know I can use them. As for Neanderthal-period Ash…? Hmmmmm. That does give me an idea. You’ll just have to wait and see.
As far as the series is concerned, how many issues do you have planned? Is this something you’d like to continue indefinitely or is it more of a limited series?
Elliott R. Serrano: I just finished the script for issue #13 which wraps up the “Hail to the Queen” story arc where we introduced the character of “Lady Ash.” I had the story arc planned out over 12 issues, but ended up running a bit over and Joe Rybandt – my editor at Dynamite – said I could go an extra issue. After that issue hits the stands, the book will be going on hiatus. After that, it’s up to the fans if we see the “Army of Darkness” ongoing continuing.
In today’s industry, books need to sell to guarantee they continue. I’m hoping that the loyal fanbase of the “Evil Dead/Army of Darkness” films will rally around this title so that we can continue creating new adventures for everyone’s favorite chainsaw-wielding hero! And I would love to stay on the book for as long as they’ll have me.
After the trailer release and because of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell’s involvement, fans seem to have embraced the upcoming Evil Dead remake. Is it something you’re looking forward to seeing?
Elliott R. Serrano: Oh yeah! While it is a departure from the original Evil Dead franchise I’ve known all my life, it still looks like scary fun! It also stars Jane Levy who I have had a crush on since seeing her on the TV show “Suburgatory.” I have a weakness for gingers.
Can you give our readers a tease of what’s in store for Ash in upcoming issues of the comic book series?
Elliott R. Serrano: Ash is gonna have his hands full dealing with deadite gangsters in 1920’s Chicago in issues #9 & #10. In issue #11 we see the return of the Aztec King Montezuma who Ash fought back in Army of Darkness (Vol. 2) #16. He’s going to be teaming up with the undead Colonel Zoch to bring about the ultimate victory of the Dark Ones over mankind. Issues #12 & #13 bring about the culmination of everything I set up starting waaaaaaay back in issue #1 of the new series. It’s a blow-out climax that totally messes with the time-travel aspect of AoD. To use a term from “Doctor Who”, it’s gets all “wibbly-wobbly timey-whimey.” I hope that the fans enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
As mentioned above, we’ll have more coverage of the upcoming issues, including an early look at preview pages and cover art. For more information on the Army of Darkness comic book series, visit: