For well over a decade now, the world of horror comics has flourished with some of its absolute greatest and goriest works having the fingerprints of Mark Kidwell, Jay Fotos and Jeff Zornow all over them. This crew, who brought you the award-winning ’68, has recently joined forces again to release the self-published Rising Rebels. Kidwell’s smart writing accompanied by Zornow’s brutal artwork has always quenched fans of the darker sider of comics. Rising Rebels is no different. We recently caught up with Mark Kidwell to discuss the new series.
Horror News Network: How would you describe the Rising Rebels’ backstory?
Mark Kidwell: Rebels has a couple of separate backstories. The first starts way back at the end of the American civil war, where confederate leader turned raider, Abel Knox has been rampaging through the south, pillaging, murdering and taking anything he can get his hands on. He knows the war is over, knows he’s going to be held accountable for all the diabolic things he’s done in the name of war, so he’s hell-bent on showing the “Yankee” occupiers that he hasn’t surrendered. The events that surround his final defeat at the hands of the victorious north set dark elements in motion, bringing us to the next backstory… a New York land developer traveling to Louisiana to inspect an old plantation bought “sight-unseen” by the luxury destination real estate company he represents. Agent Ben Barnes walks smack into the haunted south which triggers the return of a decades-old curse involving Knox, his “Rebels” and a deeply haunted stretch of swamp.
We wrap all of this up in a framing story of a kid who finds a mysterious VHS tape in his dad’s old boxes of college junk. His dad can’t remember ever owning the tape and there’s very little information on the sleeve. The film is entitled, Rising Rebels and it’s a classic ‘80’s period gore flick. He and his dad pop it into a dusty VCR and off our story goes…
Horror News Network: Tell us a bit about what it was like creating the setting back in the 1980’s?
Mark Kidwell: It was like going home, honestly. For Jay, Jeff and I, the 1980’s are a mythical period filled with tons of new horror, sci-fi, fantasy and action flicks, the best of horror fiction, both prose and graphic and the best damned toys ever released to the marketplace. We grew up with all that stuff and it stamped its impression on our psyches. There was no Internet, so you got your news from trailers on TV, well-thumbed articles in Fangoria and Famous Monsters, Previews magazine and trash-talk at the comic shops. You “anticipated” all the new media so much more, built your own framework of story and action around a snippet of the actual book or film. By the time you were in your theater seat or plunking your change down to by a comic, the thing had already surpassed any form it could honestly take in reality. These concepts, characters and stories became Homerian epics before you opened the cover and even before the opening credits rolled.
It was also a simpler time that didn’t involve the world’s population being addicted to cellular phones. People still did their thing without GPS, texting, Twitter and it was far easier to find yourself ass-deep in horror, way out in the swamp, way out in the woods…with no one to hear you scream.
Horror News Network: Will the series be ongoing? How many issues?
Mark Kidwell: Rising Rebels, at least the opening salvo, is a four-issue mini-series. It will be a full, self-contained story that can stand on its own. But, like everything we do, rest assured that the ending will be open enough so that we can jump back into the rotted quicksand any time we want and shove the ghosts of the swamp back into everyone’s face once again!
Horror News Network: This is not the first time you’ve traveled back in time with Jeff Zornow and Jay Fotos. Obviously, ’68 is an amazing Horror Comic Award winning comic series. What is it like working with this crew again? Anything changed?
Mark Kidwell: Everything stays the same within the core of our creative crew. We all know who we are, know what we bring to a project. We work well together, allowing individual ideas to influence and change the work as it moves along. In “Rebels’” case, Jay had been working the basic idea around for years, noodling on it here and there, sharing bits with me, getting feedback, accepting and rejecting certain ideas. Then when he went and sculpted this titanic swamp demon in Confederate garb atop a rotted, moss-encrusted stallion, it was time to rock and roll. He sent me a couple of pages of character ideas, scenes, FX style gags and I worked it around, changed stuff, added stuff, kept stuff until I had devised a framework of a plausible plot and story.
When I write scripts, I don’t do breakdowns or roughs. I don’t do re-writes. I send the other guys a finished, panel-by-panel script complete with all caption text and dialog. Jay reads it, we discuss it and if all is cool, off it goes to young (he who must be DESTROYED) Jeffrey. Jeff starts sending in pages, making his own little changes and adjustments and we review. Once the finished pages hit the printer, the thing has three sets of fingerprints all over it! It’s never just one guy’s ideas on that paper. That’s why things never change with this crew. We’re like-minded and we know what works. Like evil triplets.
Horror News Network: Besides writing, will you be contributing to any of the artwork in Rising Rebels?
Mark Kidwell: Nope. Like ’68, I’m content to provide the story. I’ve gone back to day-gigging over the last couple of years and the thought of coming home every night and spending six hours or more at a drawing table makes me groan. I’ll be doing tons of promotional sketches for shows and online sales, but my passion to draw comics is, unfortunately, far behind me. I’ll leave that to younger, more energetic madmen.
Horror News Network: Rising Rebels is self-published. Having worked with other comic publishers before, what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing it all yourselves?
Mark Kidwell: Working with publishers has been great. It has its ups and downs, but overall, I’ve been very fortunate. This time, however, Jay wanted to go outside the system, control it all, get the books into fans’ hands himself. I’m down with that. With things like Kickstarter, Facebook, Twitter, etc., it’s a lot easier to advertise and ship your own product without losing a percentage to publishers and fulfillment companies like Diamond. Also, between the three of us, we do quite a few comic shows and have found over the last few years that the bulk of our fans wait year to year to catch up with us and pick up whatever new stuff we have directly from us. So, we’ll move Rebels online and “over the table”, make sure everybody gets their book(s) signed, gets the sketches they want, the promotional swag…it just makes sharing your stories far more fun.
Horror News Network: Thanks Mark.
Mark Kidwell: As always, huge thanks to you guys at Horror News Network for allowing me to blather on here and share Rising Rebels. I hope you and all your followers enjoy the book!
Horror comic fans can pick up Rising Rebels now at JAYFOTOS.com