Taking place in the world of George A. Romero's classic 1968 film, Double Take's Night of the Living Dead: Revival comic book universe now features fifty issues across ten interconnected series. With each five-issue story being released as revamped graphic novels and as part of special "binge box" collections today, Daily Dead recently spoke with Double Take's Bill Jemas and Michael Coast about their team's ambitious approach to storytelling, what new treats await readers within the pages of the graphic novels, and much more.

Now that you've reached this milestone of releasing the first fifty issues in this universe, when you look back at where this journey started to where you are now, what are you the most proud of accomplishing so far?

Bill Jemas: I'm really proud of the team. I think pound for pound, Mike has become the best package in the industry of editorial skills and writing chops. It's been good to see Mike, Elysia [Liang], Charlotte [Greenbaum] and the in-house editorial team really grow and learn the craft.

Honestly, I thought I knew it all when I was at Marvel. Coming here and building from scratch has been a wonderful learning experience for me. People always talk about, "Well, Spider-Man was already popular." Those are people whose memories don't stretch to 1999, because back in 1999, Spider-Man was only popular with current comic book readers. The book didn't have popularity among mass market teens, but at the very least, people knew who Spider-Man was.

The real challenge that we've learned how to overcome is that when the reader doesn't know [the characters], how do you get the reader to suspend their incredulity and to start walking in the characters' shoes? It's easy to walk in Spider-Man's shoes, you grew up with your first pair of pajamas being Spider-Man feetie pajamas. It's easy to be Spider-Man or Peter Parker, it's hard to be a character you've never heard of before or seen before. And we've learned how to do that. And I give our writers a lot of credit for that. In terms of how to craft a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat, these guys are brilliant. And they really taught us a lot about how to bring the reader into the fold.

Double Take took the pre-existing universe of George A. Romero's 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead, and did something so unique and different with it. Did you ever anticipate taking it this far into original territory, or was it an organic process, or a little bit of both?

Bill Jemas: It's a little bit of both. I cut my teeth in comic publishing with Mark Millar, Brian Bendis, and J. Straczynski on Marvel. [At the time], superheroes had gotten to be something that a teenager didn't think was cool. In 1999, spandex was not a fashion item. No one was walking around with a Captain America shield on their chest, but the guys with that real good comic book storytelling experience helped make Marvel cool. So we kind of knew we could make Night of the Living Dead cool.

The surprise was just the creative explosion, and I really felt the creative explosion started to happen around issue #3. We did a lot of setup, we got loyal readers to believe in that, and then we got the confidence. Michael Coast had a lot to do with that. We had the confidence to say, "Okay, enough people are with us, let's give them a treat." I did expect that we'd do a good job, I did expect that we'd make Night of the Living Dead cool, I really didn't know that we could hit this level of so many different diverse stories all working together.

Michael Coast: Yeah, we planned to do it in theory. We always knew we wanted to take it into a sci-fi direction in some cases, more straight comedy in other cases, but until we got to that issue #3, I don't think we really knew if we could pull it off, but it was always in our heads that we wanted to do that, and it just took us a few issues to get to the point where we were ready to stop dipping our toes in the water and really jump in.

You guys definitely did jump into the deep end of the pool with all of these possibilities. Your characters in Dedication have completely gone through this transformation where they seem like a new group of superheroes. They've mutated into this new species. Is there anything you can tease about the future of this series? Could we see you take more of a superhero direction with some of these characters?

Bill Jemas: It's a good question, and yes. The approach from the very beginning was that we wanted to give zombie fans and comic fans in general a new take on zombies. You expect zombies to be vicious—not human—murderous, cannibalistic, etc., and we did want to give the reader that to start with. This is what you expect, we're going to give you that, but then in time their brains start to develop, the dead start to regenerate, and they start to look around. They realize that they're not sub-humans, they're not under humans, they're actually human-plus. We like to use the word "hybrid," that they start with their human qualities and then they gain qualities of other species, and to some extent we have new races and to some extent things are grown in labs.

By and large, without stepping too far, science fiction, if you're not careful, becomes fantasy. Nothing's wrong with fantasy, but that's not what we think is fun, so we're trying to give the reader more and more superpowers. We're just being careful that we attach some level of scientific credibility to everything that we're doing and sometimes it's a stretch and sometimes it's easy. You can expect with the next five series to see these superpowers and supernatural things happening pretty much across the board.

Bill, you and Jeff McComsey have done such a great job with the Z-Men series. That series really blends humor and horror together well, and I know there are potential plans for a movie adaptation. Can you give an update on that project, and are there potentially plans to adapt other stories in this universe?

Bill Jemas: With Z-Men, there are really five big contributors and each of us bring a sensibility to the book. Jeff is just a treasure. Jeff has an ear for dialogue and a sense of humor that's just wonderful. Then Mike has a really solid sense of plotting and a sense of cinematography. Mike's background is in film and television production and he really brings that to the forefront. I think of crazy things and tell them to the team, but one of the people that we don't mention a lot are Elysia Lang, the Associate Editor who really takes the individual panels and weaves them together into these beautifully intricate printed pages. It's one thing to do the storyboards that we show online that tell each character group in inter-valued sequences, but what Elysia's done with these simultaneous sequences has made everything so much more fun. Just reading the book in print is an entirely different, wonderful experience.

The last person I want to mention is [Storyboard Illustrator] Stan Chou. The scene where Stan came aboard was when Bonnie is in the police dispatch room and Clancy calls up and says, "Patch me through to Washington." We gave that scene to Stan and this [story take place in] the days before cell phones, before electronics, so Stan figures out how you actually would patch a walkie talkie call into the telephone line and then just drew this really wonderful sequence that made everything fit together. It's just a nice team on Z-Men, five people doing what they do best.

Then on the movie stuff, it's in Lionsgate's hands. Lionsgate has a larger relationship with Take-Two games. They've been working on Borderlands and we're rekindling discussions with them about getting the Z-Men movie going. We're very optimistic about that. Again, thanks to a great degree to Mike, the book really feels like a movie.

Another series I want to mention is Remote, because this is so different. Out of all the series, this one literally has the biggest change in issues #4 and #5 with DJ Samantha Stanton. Can you give me a look into the creative process for that series? It is so bold and I'm really curious to see what Samantha's potential future is in this universe now that she's become a giant.

Michael Coast: As far as the decision to make her big, that actually goes back, believe it or not, to before the first issue was published. I don't want to say we always had that in mind since we put the first words on the page, but from a pretty early point, we saw her on either a cover or an ad that we were doing, we saw her that size and thought, "Well, what if we shift the series in that direction?" And that's where she ends up towards the end of this. We did always like that idea and then it was sort of, "Okay, before we make her huge, let's make the reader care about her as a person doing her regular job at her regular size, and once we make her exceptional as a person, we'll give her the superpower."

Bill Jemas: The only thing I want to add to that, Colin Mitchell came up with the original concept of a person left all alone, who's just steadfast, dedicated, he's going to get—listen to the word "his"—job done no matter what. Samantha started as a guy as old, and skinny, and beat up as me in a TV station. Then we thought, "You know, let's play with this," and the more we played with it, the more we got to like Samantha. One of the things that we do, is we don't jump up and down and say, "We have women, we have gays, we have this, we have that," but we try to be as diverse as we can.

When we have a female character, we don't necessarily have her do female things. When we have a black character, we don't say, "Gee, what would a black person do?" We write out people. Then we color it in whatever color we like. Maybe that's politically correct, maybe that's politically incorrect, but it is sort of a nice way to look at the world; that we are who we are and color and gender matter less than who you are. This one series I'm pretty proud of because we made a nice transition and really ended up with somebody that's going to be the queen of all media.

You now have the Night of the Living Dead: Revival graphic novels out in stores. What can readers expect from these? You've mentioned them as being almost "director's cuts" of previous individual issues, so what can readers look forward to checking out in these that they may not have experience in the first round of releases?

Michael Coast: If you look at our issue 1s, the artwork is oftentimes not as good as we wanted it to be, so we went back and for some of them, especially Remote #1, we did a lot of redrawing and recoloring and then we did a lot of art correcting and touch-up work on the other issue 1s and some of the issue 2s.

As far as writing goes, a lot of it was filling the page, in some senses, where we had all these background characters and we gave them something to say. In the regular issues, these are silent extras, you're just getting the main characters doing the main talking points and now it's a little more talk about the universe, more funny stories, just some extra content thrown in there.

In one or two cases, we reordered the books. There were times when things made sense, but when we published the issue 3s, there'd be a scene that made sense there because we wanted to clue the readers in that more was coming. Honor is the best example of this. When we put the graphic novels together, we shifted around where those things happened so they weren't necessarily cliffhangers or things that we wanted to clue the reader in, like, "Hey, this is coming, we haven't forgotten." In the graphic novel, it's placed differently in a way that makes more sense if you're reading it all as one piece.

Bill Jemas: Another thing I would add to that, it's so much overlap between the stories. We worked really hard and we did a good job at making sure that each book reads independently, even if you didn't read all the rest of them. Then there were times, and I would say especially with respect to Honor, Medic, Slab, and Rise, we actually took chunks of each book and inserted it into the graphic novel for the other book.

The reason why we say "director's cut" is it's just another step towards a movie—making the transition from episodic to a coherent whole. We're hoping that people who never read any of it will pick up the books and read and enjoy, but also, a lot of people who do buy the individual copies also buy the graphic novels, and we wanted to give them a treat.

Now, we're not the only people that do that. Marvel did a lot of work on our hardcovers to add more features. This is one of those rare times where we're doing it in a graphic novel. To take the trade paperback and make that feel more like a director's cut than a compilation, that was a month of hard work. It drove us a little bit crazy, but when it was all over, we were pretty happy with the results.


Press Release: Double Take, LLC (“2T”) has released 10 graphic novels simultaneously today for the ultimate binge-reading experience.

These vibrant, diverse stories—set in the universe established by the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead—are much more than a compilation of the five episodes which 2T published as comic books during the past year. Ten teams of artists, writers, and editors spent 45 days re-drawing, re-writing, and re-ordering each five-episode series so that they are more like “director’s cuts.”

The books will be available at local comic shops, bookstores, and online. Each graphic novel retails for $9.99. 2T has also bundled the graphic novels into two distinct collections of five books each. The “Living Dead Revival” Binge Box features Rise, Slab, Medic, Soul, and Honor: stories that all follow favorite characters from the 1968 cult classic from their last dying breaths to their first zombie steps. While the “Superheroes Rising" Binge Box includes Dedication, Spring, Z-Men, Remote, and Home: fun, original stories featuring uncanny superheroes, Secret Service agents, and even a 51-foot tall woman. Each Binge Box retails for $40.00.

About 2T’s New “Fire” Universe

Sixteen years ago, Bill Jemas played a lead role on the team that transformed Marvel from an insolvent comic book publisher and toy manufacturer into a world-class entertainment company. In 2013, Take-Two Interactive Software hired Jemas to start Double Take.

Bill and his team commissioned a new generation of creators to deliver a wonderfully diverse and exciting universe with everything from hordes of walking dead to teams of superheroes, from mad scientists to attractive aliens.
“We believe that Double Take is producing some of the best comic books in the industry,” said Michael Coast, senior Story Editor at 2T. “Our books appeal not just to hardcore comic book fans, but to readers who are new to graphic novels as well.”

In conjunction with their graphic novels, 2T has developed the world’s first native mobile comic book player. Using panels to create a stop-motion animation effect to bring each story to life, the mobile player gives readers the optimal digital reading experience.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.