Last week, SciFi Pulse had the opportunity to speak with Netherworld writer Chad Jones, who is also part of exciting new comics company Studio 407.
During the , got to ask Chad a number of questions about the new company, and his new comic book mini series Netherworld, which focuses on some very different Zombies.
SciFi Pulse: You have done quite a bit of work with Studio 407 of late on various horror comics. How did you come to be involved with the company?
Chad Jones: Almost entirely by accident. I met Alex Leung, Managing Director and honcho at the Studio) at a friend’s party and we struck up a conversation near the h’orderves. We had a lot of common interest — comics, sci-fi, horror. We’re both writers, so I offered him to read one of my spec screenplays to get some feedback. And after reading, he told me that he had formed a new comic book company and wanted me to come onboard to help him in managing some of the properties as editor and eventually brought me on board full time.
SciFi Pulse: Obviously you have to get some enjoyment out of comics as a fan to be now writing them. What comic writers would you say have been an inspiration to you and your work over the years?
Chad Jones: I’m an enormous fan of Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison. I really dig Geoff Johns’ run on Superman right now. But not to limit my influence to comic writers, without a doubt, Stephen King has been my greatest influence. The first book I remember reading was Firestarter. But I love the works of people like Greg Bear, Ben Bova, Dan Simmons and Neal Stephenson.
SciFi Pulse: It was announced recently that Studio 407′s Vampire series of comics, The Night Projectionist is getting the movie treatment. For those of us who haven’t read the comic. Could you give us a little background on that project?
Chad Jones: The Night Projectionist is about a vampire taking people hostage in an old movie theatre in the middle of a vampire movie marathon.
One of the most interesting challenges of this book has been how to tell a vampire story that hasn’t been done a million-zillion times already. From Dracula to Buffy to that episode of Buffy with Dracula in it, vampires have been a part of our collective pop -consciousness for our entire lives whether we like it or not. And as storytellers, there’s a lot of baggage and preconceptions that come along with vampire stories (whether we like it or not). So when Bob Heske came with his pitch for the Night Projectionist, we knew we had a great story on our hands. And he had an interesting setting in the theatre, where most of us are exposed to the vampire myth. I served as editor on the book, and I’ve had a lot of fun working with Bob on the project.
SciFi Pulse: Your latest comic book series involves zombies. Can you tell us a little about how these zombies differ from the traditional zombies that we have likely seen in movies such as The Living Dead?
Chad Jones: The easy answer would be that they’re the undead of an alien species. So the rules of zombie conventions are kind of off the table. But when you look at Night of the Living Dead, one of the things that Romero was touching on (and one of the things that makes zombies such a perennial horror favourite) is the loss of self. And in creating the aliens for the series I definitely skewed towards a more monstrous appearance, so as the series progresses we learn that they’re not just monsters, but a people who’ve been through something horrific.
SciFi Pulse: How did Netherworld come about, and what sort of story information can you tempt us with, that will make us all stand to attention and go out and buy it?
Chad Jones: The idea came about actually in the middle of another writing project. I was outlining a novel and trying to describe the alien concept behind the book to a friend — and I was doing a poor job of it — and blurted out, “well, it’s not like they’re alien zombies…” And something in my mind just clicked. And everything I had been writing, planning to write, or thinking about writing got thrown to the side.
I started making some notes and the project just started to fall into place, working backwards from that concept. Well, who are these aliens? Why are they zombified? What is their relationship to humanity?
I finally settled on a Cold War/arms race motif to harken back to the fifties sci-fi classics. Next I started building the cast, and doing the math on how many characters were manageable before they just became nameless fodder. Then I started deconstructing who these people were and how they would react to the situation they were in.
SciFi Pulse: What can you tell us about the characters in Netherworld, and who would you say is the focal character that will pull people into the story?
Chad Jones: Dr. Emily Hark is a woman who has become the foremost expert on the alien species called the Thanati. She believes that the arms race between humanity and the Thanati is an exercise in futility. Like anyone with strong opinions, Emily is convinced she’s right.
When I was looking for a central character, I wanted someone who wouldn’t look at the aliens and think of them as inhuman monsters first. I think that it was important for someone on the exploration team to at least have some insight and perspective on the alien culture so that the reader would know that these weren’t just mindless beasts, but they were people once.
Emily’s someone who has served in the military in her youth, but didn’t make a career out of it. She’s politically connected. She’s a doctor turned xenology expert. Rather than just seeing the Thanati as a military threat, she sees the continued arms escalation between humanity and the Thanati as a recipe for disaster for both sides. And the fun, for me, comes in when we see her preconceptions of who the Thanati are and what they’re all about taken apart in front of her.
SciFi Pulse: If there was one TV show or Movie that you could continue the story of in comic book form, what series or movie would you choose, and what about it do you think would work in a comic?
Chad Jones: That’s a tough one, because with all the liscensed properties out there… the question almost becomes, “what’s left?” But I don’t know that I’ve seen the Venture Bros. as a comic, and I think that’d be a natural fit for the property.
And, okay, this is a total fanboy thing, but I’d love to see more Firefly comics. I know there have been some that Dark Horse has done. But the ones that I’ve seen don’t really move the story forward. They all take place between the series and the film, Serenity. And I want to know what happens next in the ‘verse.
SciFi Pulse: Studio 407 is a fairly new company. Could you tell us if the number 407 has any significance. I mean you do a lot of horror comics. So why not Studio 666?
Chad Jones: There’s nothing too sinister about the number, sadly. It’s a reference to two of Alex’s favourite movies, Seven Samurai and 40 Guns. It’s representative of the initial concept of the company, which is to take the best storytelling techniques from Eastern and Western storytelling to create something new.
SciFi Pulse: What other comics do 407 have in the pipeline that you can talk about, and more to the point where can people find out more about forthcoming titles.
Chad Jones: We’ve got a ton of stuff on deck for next year. And if you go to our site, (studio-407.com) you can get some sneak peeks at the other books we have in this month’s [Diamond] Previews like Havoc Brigade (about a military unit using battlesuits to end a war, when one of them goes rogue), The Spark (about a teen embued with superhuman abilities, but has to choose between taking care of his family and saving the world), Helix (about an exorcists who traps demons inside himself, and uses their powers against other demons but each time he does he gets one step closer to hell) and many, many others. I’m going to plug the site, right now, studio-407.com.
Thanks Chad for your time, and best of luck with the comic sales of Netherworld.
By Ian M. Cullen