The barrier between reality and virtual reality blurs with deadly consequences in writer Zac Thompson and artist Daniel Irizarri's new comic book series Cemetery Kids Don't Die. Set in a world where a gaming console known as the Dreamwave allows you to explore a video game's ominous open world while you sleep, the four-issue series follows a quartet of friends who encounter an entity known as "The King of Sleep" in their favorite video game "Nightmare Cemetery," and that's when the horrors of the online world become all too real, leading to the friends' most epic—and deadly—quest yet.

With the first issue of Cemetery Kids Don't Die now available from Oni Press, Daily Dead caught up with Zac Thompson in a new Q&A feature to discuss his ambitious new comic book series, including teaming up with artist Daniel Irizarri to bring the dangers of the Dreamworld to life, exploring themes about addictive technology, working with the amazing team at Oni Press, and his hopes to continue the series beyond its initial four-issue arc!

Below, you can read our full Q&A with Thompson and check out preview pages from the first issue (featuring coloring by Brittany Peer and lettering by Andworld Design), and be sure to visit Oni Press' official website to keep up to date on all of their exciting releases!

Thank you for taking the time to answer questions for us, Zac, and congratulations on your new comic book series Cemetery Kids Don’t Die! This is one of my most anticipated releases of 2024, and the first issue does not disappoint! How did you initially come up with the idea for this series?

Zac Thompson: To be perfectly honest, I was thinking a lot about the tenuous barrier between the reality of a game and the real world. I’ve always loved stories where we’re exploring two different worlds. And the trope of “going to hell and back” in horror or “someone came back wrong” kinda thing. So I wanted to explore those ideas in the world of video games. I love the idea of this incredibly immersive second reality that’s basically a giant open world survival horror game and that there’s tons of people who would go there willingly every night. But the question is what’s the cost? What, inevitably, comes back with them?

Cemetery Kids Don’t Die takes virtual reality a step further in the not-too-distant future by taking readers into the Dreamwave: a gaming console that allows you to play while you sleep. How much fun did you have coming up with the open (and deadly) world of the Dreamwave, and were you a fan of immersive video games before writing this series? 

Zac Thompson: We had a blast designing and conceptualizing the Dreamwave. I love Daniel’s fleshy design that threads into a user’s ears and sits on the back of their neck. It’s just this disgusting-looking thing that everyone in the story takes as normal. I think that’s the most interesting way to channel the uncanny—you just have characters who don’t respond with the same ick as the readers. Hah. And yeah, I’m a massive fan of immersive video games. I spent almost a decade playing World of Warcraft, but I absolutely love horror. So I was really excited by the idea of creating a horror version of WoW. Like what if Silent Hill was this giant immersive town that you could explore with your friends? That sounded killer to me. So that was kinda our North Star.

I really like how you wrote the four friends at the heart of Cemetery Kids Don’t Die. They feel like their own version of the Dream Warriors fighting against a technological Freddy Krueger. How much time did you spend fleshing out the backstories of the core characters in this series?

Zac Thompson: A ton of time. That was the most intense part of the outline process. I wanted to make sure that everyone felt like the protagonist of their own story. So while they’re all there in service of Birdie’s journey—each of them have their own wants and dreams. I know what they were doing in the years leading to the series and what they want to be when they graduate. If you spend that early time really fleshing out the cast then those interactions between the friends are so much easier to write!

I absolutely love how Daniel Irizarri brings the Dreamworld to life with a distinct and vivid style. What has it been like to team up with Daniel on this series?

Zac Thompson: Daniel is a powerhouse. He’s just this multifaceted talent with impeccable storytelling skills. Everything about the dream world of Nightmare Cemetery just oozes life thanks to his work. He’s crafted this wonderful visual sense with the game world having black gutters and jagged paneling while juxtaposing that with clean lines and white gutters in the real world. He took my rough ideas in the script and really breathed life into every aspect. His character designs (both in-game and in reality) are just so full of personality that I think readers are going to fall in love at first glance. I know I did.

Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from Cemetery Kids Don’t Die?

Zac Thompson: The book is really a meditation on how much of ourselves we give to technology. It’s about asking questions around how we look at “secondary realities” and the dangers of not making clear boundaries with things that are addictive by design.

What has it been like to team up with Oni Press as you prepare to release Cemetery Kids Don’t Die into the world? 

Zac Thompson: Oni is the perfect home for CKDD. They encouraged us to make the most insane and weird comic we could put on the page. Which is ultimately everything you could ever ask for with a publisher. There’s nothing like being empowered to tell stories that feel uniquely you.

The initial arc of Cemetery Kids Don’t Die is four issues, but do you have plans to expand this series beyond that if given the opportunity?

Zac Thompson: Oh yes. There’s a killer ending with issue #4 that raises a very interesting question. It is satisfying in its own right but definitely leaves the door open for more should there be an appetite from readers!

Before you were writing comic books, you covered them insightfully and extensively as a journalist. Looking back at those days, how did your time writing about comic books help you when you started writing them yourself?

Zac Thompson: Ohhhh man, you did your research! Honestly it was like free classes in making comics. I got to talk to some of the most insightful and creative professionals out there and pick their brains about how they made their books. Ultimately it was that time covering comics that really fueled the desire to make them. Once I learned how the sausage was made, I realized the sublime power of the medium is unlike any other.

In addition to comic books, you also wrote the novel Weaponized, which won CryptTV’s 2016 horror fiction contest. Do you have plans to write more novels in the future in addition to comic books?

Zac Thompson: Currently working on a brand-new novella that I can’t say too much about right now. But I’m returning to my roots and writing a story that’s a weird mix of crime and horror.

What advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers who are just getting started?

Zac Thompson: Start small, find your peers and make your own short comics. It’s important for you to understand how to put together a professional-looking comic. It should be concise and the best story you can tell in five to ten pages. The goal is to show publishers that you know what you’re doing and you're disciplined enough to do it on your own. It’s hard work, but if you can pull it off—I promise doors will start opening.

With the first issue of Cemetery Kids Don’t Die out now from Oni Press, do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tease for our readers?

Zac Thompson: I’ve got a new eco-horror maxi-series launching in June. I can’t say more about it just yet other than it’s the longest and most ambitious undertaking of my career. It’s unlike anything else on the shelves right now and it’s at a publisher I’ve never worked with before! I think it’s really going to stop folks dead.





YOU’RE ONLY ALIVE IF YOU’RE ONLINE . . . Experience 2024's most exhilarating, terrifying adventure downloading from critically acclaimed writer Zac Thompson (Hunt for the Skinwalker, The Dregs) and blockbuster artist Daniel Irizarri (XINO, Judge Dredd)!

The 21st century sucks hard, but it's been made somewhat tolerable by the latest and greatest media innovation to finally unseat the iPhone. Enter the Dreamwave: the first gaming console played entirely while you sleep.

Now the obsession of millions around the globe, it's also the one point of solace for four friends whose lives have been marred by trauma and dysfunction. Together, this group of ultra-online "Cemetery Kids" spend their nights roaming the open world of the most immersive and brutal horror game ever created: “Nightmare Cemetery.” Together they seek to dethrone an enigmatic humanoid monster known only as the "The King of Sleep."

Which was fun—until one of them doesn't wake up . . . and finds their consciousness locked inside a horror game that is anything but imaginary. Now, the three remaining Cemetery Kids must navigate the game’s forbidden landscape to rescue their friend . . . and pray that the secret lurking at its center doesn't follow them home.


Cover Art by Daniel Irizarri:

Variant Cover by James Stokoe:

Variant Cover by Dustin Weaver:

Variant Cover by Vlad Legostaev:

Preview Pages:

  • 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.