Interview with Mark Rahner creator of Rotten
A zombie Sarah Palin?
An insufferable hate-monger named “Bill O’Malley?”
Evolution protestors who are like a laughable parody of the Boston Tea Party?
All that and much more is in the latest issue of the critically-acclaimed comic book, ROTTEN
When I read that blurb I knew that this was a book I had to check out. I was expecting something silly and while entertaining perhaps not filled with a gripping storyline but I
was wrong. The book delivered in it’s quote of satire (even though it is set in
during the presidency of Rutherford B Hayes and not the current political
landscape) and was a good old fashioned zombie conspiracy story with plenty of
action, characterization and some great art by Dan Dougherty to complement the
great story telling of Creator Mark Rahner and co-writer Robert Horton. A sure
thing for fans of zombies, western or anyone who appreciate the fact that the
more things change the more they stay the same.
I got a chance to check out Rotten a new comic from Mark Rahner and Robert Horton and after reading it I knew we had to get one of them to stop by and answer some of our questions and let us know how the brain eating political
satire that is their comic came to be.
Q) I saw that you had worked (and are working) for news papers and magazines, how did you get started doing comics? Was there a series or issue that inspired you to take the plunge yourself?
It was sort of a perfect geek-storm. All right, not so perfect. And no storm. Lifelong comic fan. Wrote about pop culture and comics for the Seattle Times. Knew comic writers socially, and actually liked them.
But I hadn’t been trying to break into the comic industry. ROTTEN was getting
developed as a TV series, then, like most such things, it didn’t happen.
But it was too much fun just to abort. Rotten was the kind of genre mash-up played straight that Horton and I had wanted to see as fans. Zombies in the old West, with a secret agent. When we were writing that and
other stuff you may yet see, we kept asking ourselves, “What would disturb you
as an adult?” And we’d plotted it out extensively to the end and beyond. Then
it occurred to me: it should have been a comic first. But it’s meant to be read
cinematically. No thought balloons, no exposition panels, no paragraphs of
cheesy dialogue while someone’s throwing a punch, and no tights. Well, yet.
Q) For people unfamiliar with the story can you give us a brief overview of Rotten?
A bitter Army vet is stop-lossed back into service against his will –serve or go to prison. He’s under direct orders from a President who stole office without the popular vote. He’s sent into a terror crisis that the
government’s lying about. It’s a period when fear and superstition trump reason
and fact, and big business controls way more than it should. But Agent William
Wade is a Civil War vet, the president is Rutherford B. Hayes, and the terror
crisis is outbreaks of the living dead – that manifest in different species
The current story arc is called “Revival of the Fittest.” Agent Wade is finally healed from the awful wound he suffered at the end of the first issue. He’s volcanically pissed off, decked out with some homemade
zombie-fighting gear and ready to kill – or re-kill, that is. And he’s caught
off guard. His partner’s in Chicago, on an equally scary mission. Agent Flynn’s
trying to learn from – and protect – a professor who’s teaching from a new book
on something called evolution. A knuckle-dragging demagogue who bears a close
resemblance to Bill O’Reilly is whipping up an ignorant mob that bears a close
resemblance to ignorant teabaggers. And there’s the making of sausages in the
tasty era of “The Jungle.”
Q) Rotten is a story of zombies in the old west but it has parallels to a lot of things going on now, Which came first the zombies or the politics?
The zombies came first. I wanted to see a guy locked in a barn full of zombies and have to get out of it with no implausible superhero bullshit. That scene is in the first issue. But if it were just a bunch of
set-pieces, it would be empty junk-food. Then I realized: I’m an idiot for not
heeding George Romero and every other artist who’s used fantasy settings to
give new perspectives to current events, comment on them, satirize them, and
pound a spike through a zombie Sarah Palin’s phony, idiot head.
We wrote Rotten as a hardcore horror-action-suspense series with an extra layer for those who are attuned to it. If you like “Battlestar Galactica,” you’ll find this has the same kind of grit. Maybe more.
Q) You have a creative partner in Robert Horton, how did you two join forces?
We got to know each other as movie critics in Seattle. He’s the reviewer for the Everett Herald and I did reviews for The Seattle Times. He was very game taking part in some spoofs of cheesy, late-night horror film
hosts that I did – which you can find on YouTube under “Rahner’s Rotten
Rentals.” I had written tons of notes for ROTTEN, but it got much more fun when
he came onboard and we started writing Wade and Flynn in our own voices. Wade
is the angry, belligerent, violent one, and Flynn is the thoughtful, low-key,
more political one. Think fans’ll be able to figure out who’s writing which
character? I should point out that we do not spoon at night.
Q) Rotten has gotten a lot of attention any chance of it going to the big screen?
We think it would be an outstanding Lifetime movie. Because we believe in love, we hate liars and cheapskates, and we want a guy with the body of Fabio and the personality of Jimmy Fallon.
I’m curious to see how “The Walking Dead” does on AMC. “Rotten” isn’t much like it, but it’ll be a good zombie filth-barometer. We first conceived “Rotten” as a no-holds-barred HBO or Showtime-type series, and
we’re continuing to write it like one. I just chain-watched “Spartacus: Blood
and Sand” on Starz, and think the cable world is ready for our depravity.
Q) Do you have any advice for people wanting to bring their vision to the comic page?
Be smarter and less stubborn about it than I was. Listen to people who know more than you do. Avoid popping the collar of your polo shirt. Wipe thoroughly. Come up with something of your own.
Q) If people want more info about your writing or Rotten where should they go?
Go to www.rottencomics.com and you’ll find extra crap including the dryly brilliant secret diary of J.J. Flynn as transcribed by Horton. There’s also a “How Rotten Are You?” photo page where you should send
pics of yourself with a copy of Rotten. And there’s a music video I slapped
together that gives you a sense of the story so far and has a great song by
Fever Ray. You can also find that on YouTube by searching for “Rotten – The
Comic Book Music Video.” Eh, here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1HE2piIbPY
Here is their link: http://www.paperdragonink.com/
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