Vampires and zombies. If you’re a horror buff, it’s a double shot of fearful fun. Probably something you’d see on those DVDs at the store where several Hollywood movies are now being packaged on one blockbuster disc. But with Max Brooks’ The Extinction Parade #1 (APR130867) there’s no need for a DVD player, DVR, or TV. The bestselling author has crafted a story for Avatar Press, and in this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Max tells us about the labor that went into this series which hits shelves at the shops this June.
PREVIEWSworld: From zombie survival guides, to an oral history of the Zombie War, to a new conflict with vampires in The Extinction Parade with Avatar Press, you have clearly shown that you have zero interest in writing children’s bedtime stories. To what do you credit your new interest in seeing your love for zombies appear in full-color comics? Why not stick with softcover novels, or better yet aim for movie treatments like World War Z? Why an Avatar Press 11-issue maxi-series?
Max Brooks: Initially The Extinction Parade was a short story. I suppose I could have expanded it into a novel but the more I thought about it, the more the story just seemed visual to me. I suppose I could have written it as a screenplay or movie treatment, but that would have required partnering with a studio and what are the chances of any project getting made.
Comics are the best way to tell visual stories without worrying about the roulette wheel of a movie studio. They’re also a great way to tell visual stories without worrying about budget constraints. You can do anything you want. You can free your imagination.
PREVIEWSworld: On Animal Planet’s Lost Tapes you appeared in the zombie episode, telling the audience about the zombie genesis. You've also appeared on Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior taking point on the zombie team in the "Vampires vs. Zombies" episode. Have you learned things from your TV experience that served you in creating/writing The Extinction Parade? Any specific scenes or art direction that you conveyed to Raulo Caceres based on your experiences with camera directors?
Max Brooks: My experience on “Deadliest Warrior” was exactly what drove me to adapt my short story into a comic. Working with guys like Steve Niles, Scott Bowen and Matt Mogk really got the wheels turning in my head. They made me see how much ground could still be covered on the subject of zombies vs vampires. The problem was that a lot of the ideas I had weren’t suitable for “Deadliest Warrior.” It’s essentially an action show with a little science and strategy thrown into the mix.
The questions I wanted to answer were psychological and philosophical ones about the nature of the vampire species. I wanted to deconstruct vampire strengths and weaknesses and see if maybe they weren’t one in the same. That simply wasn’t going to happen on “Deadliest Warrior” and I felt I hadn’t gone remotely far enough in The Extinction Parade short story.
So I took the latter and started adapting it as a comic. That seemed the only logical direction.
PREVIEWSworld: You’ve done well with the zombie genre, and obviously have tapped into how to make that adrenaline rush so that people keep coming back for more thrills and chills. But now that you have to give people that same rush by telling a story in pictures, how did you approach the pacing in The Extinction Parade as opposed to writing the World War Z novel? Was there certain advice you solicited from writers you respect? Or was your love and depth of knowledge for comics already a suitable primer?
Max Brooks: A lot of my work in comics comes from reading them all my life. I’ve always been fascinated by telling stories in a static, visual medium and I’ve always been surprised at how much you can learn by a simple picture. Writing for comics, I’ve found, works a completely different set of muscles than writing prose. You’re blending two different streams of information and it’s a constant challenge to make the two work together. Sometimes it’s a challenge to pull the two apart to have a character’s thoughts completely diverge from the action directly in front of them.
Expanding the short story of The Extinction Parade was a challenge because I had so much description to begin with. Jettisoning the description, pulling out the action, and coming up with the real-world research were all challenges for me. The last one was/is the most labor intensive because I want the story to be set in the real world. Having to find pictures and maps of locations, of clothes, cars and weapons, it’s like having a second job. In prose, you can describe what you want and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination. Not so with comics. There’s no place to hide.