Brought to life with a powerful performance by Duane Jones in George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Ben is a beloved and compelling character from horror cinema. Despite what happened to him onscreen, Ben's story continued over the past year in Double Take's comic book series Soul, a key part of their Night of the Living Dead: Revival universe. With the five-issue Soul now available as a graphic novel (which can also be read in digital form right here on Daily Dead), we caught up once again with writer/editor Michael Coast to discuss the intriguing series that breathed new life into Ben. [Spoiler warning if you haven't read all five issues of Soul.]

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Michael. Ben from Night of the Living Dead is such an iconic cinematic character. What was the most daunting part of approaching his story and taking it in a new direction in Soul?

Michael Coast: Thanks to you, too, Derek. I always enjoy our chats. The most daunting part, at first, was that Ben dies at the end of the movie (I hope I’m not spoiling that for anyone reading this). So we had to think of a way to bring one of our favorite characters from the movie back from the dead in a non-zombie way. We weren’t so much afraid of tackling an iconic character. But we wanted to tell a story centered on Ben that still captured the spirit of that powerful ending.

Duane Jones did such an amazing job portraying Ben in George A. Romero’s 1968 film. Did you watch the movie a lot to get the right feel for the character?

Michael Coast: It really is an excellent performance. We did watch the movie quite a bit in the early stages. We’d come back for reference at times, too. But after a certain point, we knew who the characters were, we knew the points in the film that we wanted to reference, and we knew the story that we wanted to tell.

In a really intriguing twist, Ben finds himself stuck in a Groundhog Day-type hell, where he lives the same day over and over, restarting each time he dies. What inspired you to add this ambitious element to Soul?

Michael Coast: It was important to us that Ben learn from the mistakes that he makes in the film. It was also a way to reconcile the end of the film with what we wanted to do in the series. We knew it would be taking a bit of a leap, but we thought that if we took it slow and got readers to believe in the reality of the universe, we’d be fine.

Were there any major story ideas or different directions for Soul that ended up on the editing room floor that you can share with readers?

Michael Coast: I went back and looked at the initial outlines that we had put together over a year ago for this question. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the ideas we wanted to incorporate into the series made it into the final cut. But there are definitely some threads that we explored in-house along the way that never made it past the layout stage.

Before having Ben die and come back to life, we workshopped a plot where Ben escapes the house and goes on the run. We also put a lot of thought into bringing back the dead body that Ben and Barbara find upstairs during the movie (that never comes up again in the movie) for one of more segments in Soul. Another is that we had experimented with the shootout in the graveyard in issue #4, taking up almost a whole issue and involving a lot more of the posse.

The best example of something we talked about a lot but didn’t end up using is re-playing the events of the film, except this time Ben agrees to hide in the basement with the rest of the people. We’d then explore the consequences of that—especially what they would decide to do when Karen (Harry and Helen’s daughter) died and came back to life with everyone there.

What was the most challenging scene to write for the Soul series?

Michael Coast: The scene where newly-resurrected Harry confronts Ben in issue #5 was the place where we had to strike the most delicate balance. We had to get a lot of information across while still making the dialogue interesting. Not to mention that we needed Ben to be surprised by Harry being alive, but also have a tone of, “Well, if all this other stuff has happened to me today, why not one more crazy thing...”

Looking back on the five issues of Soul, what was the most fun part of continuing Ben's story?

Michael Coast: One of the best parts about Ben in the original film was that he’s able to keep his head no matter how much gets thrown at him. So for me, it was fun coming up with even more to throw at him and see how long he could keep his head. I hope that doesn’t make me sound sadistic!

In Soul, Ben teams up with two unlikely friends, Harry and Helen, the former of whom almost killed him the night before. How did you approach re-sparking the relationship between those three and taking it in a new direction?

Michael Coast: From Day One we knew that we wanted to bring back Harry. He was an office favorite when we initially revisited the movie. And you can see that we planted the seeds for him to come back by burrowing a torque into his ear in the first issue.

As far as how we approached re-sparking the relationship, mostly we wanted to retain the dynamic that works so well in the movie. We just had to put it into the context of Soul.

Can readers expect any new material or additional elements in the graphic novel release of Soul?

Michael Coast: In the graphic novel, we touched up a lot of the artwork. We didn’t want to lose the gritty feel, but we did think that there were panels that just weren’t up to our usual standards when we went back and looked at the individual issues. We also streamlined the beginnings and ends of the later books so that readers didn’t have to read the same material twice (since the nature of a cliffhanger is much different when you can read the next issue immediately as opposed to a couple months down the line).

What has the fan reaction been like so far for Soul?

Michael Coast: At New York Comic Con, Double Take gave away 15,000 graphic novels. A lot of people chose Soul just because they liked the cover art or the pitch that our staff gave them. And it was really cool to have those same people come back the next day to tell us how much they liked the book. There were even people who liked the book despite having never seen the original movie.

Soul ended on a really interesting note, leaving the story open for more adventures to come. Does Double Take have plans to continue Ben’s story down the line, either in this series or another one? Can you give readers a tease of where the future might take Ben?

Michael Coast: Well, I can’t reveal too much about what happens going forward, but if Ben’s future works out the way I’m envisioning it, then readers are in for a really fun time.


Below, we have a look at artwork from Double Take's development process for Soul, as well as the cover art for all ten graphic novels in their Night of the Living Dead: Revival universe. To learn more about Double Take, visit their official website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. In case you missed it, check out their announcement of four new series premiering this December.

  • 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.