Debuting this week from Image Comics, “DRUMS” (Review) has already drummed up (See, I can make bad puns, too.) quite a bit of acclaim from critics and readers alike for its unique and often times completely ingenious take on the days old voodoo horror sub-genre. From the mind of El Torres (“NANCY IN HELL”) and the illustrating team of Abe Hernando and Kwaichang Kraneo, the story follows FBI agent Martin Irons as he is given the unsavory assignment of solving the deaths of several deaths that take place at a voodoo ceremony. From there the story takes more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalyan flick, and with twice the balls. Inside you can check out my interview with El Torres and Abe Hernando, as they take us behind the scenes of their newest mini-series.
El Torres “Santería beliefs are spreading here in Spain where I live. I knew that they had a strong presence in Florida too. There are little shops and all that. Nothing evil, you know, quite the contrary. They’re just… strange. That called my attention. I wanted to write another horror story with scary dead people, but something different than the ghost stories that I’ve been doing with Gabriel Hernández (THE VEIL and THE SUICIDE FOREST), and something grittier than NANCY IN HELL. So I started with our usual everyday zombie. But before our brain-eating zombie, there were other zombies. They’re pretty scary, and there was a lot of thrilling stories with these zombies working in sugar cane plantations. Afro-Caribbean religions plus living dead and exotic locales… voilá. There was my story. I call them zombies though I know in the early comics they were called “Zuvembies” for the sake of the Comics Code, and the name now is used to separate voodoo zombies from the run of the mill ‘walking dead’ kind. Anyway, little by little the zombies were displaced to the background while I was researching. The imagery and its complexity was more interesting than a bunch of dead guys walking around.”
Johnny_Trouble “Drums deals heavily with religions and their practices, in the comic you reference Christianity, Satanism, Santeria, Candomble, Palo Mayombe, and Voodoo. However, you focused the story on the practices of Santeria, Candomble, and Palo Mayombe, all of which are syncretic religions. While Voodoo is also syncretic and fairly well known, you have chosen to focus on these three religions, what made you decide to incorporate them into the story? Additionally, why did you choose all three of them instead of one?”
El Torres “Voodoo is widely known and full of clichés. I wanted to explore here precisely the thing that amazed me: that we knew so little about something so exposed. These religions differ in nomenclature, but in the ceremonies they’re very similar and in the core they approach the unknown in the same way. So I decided not to choose just Voodoo (whose practices appear mostly in the third issue).The afro-Caribbean religions are syncretic not only with Catholicism, they mix references between them too. When I was researching the practices and the ceremonies, they referenced each other constantly: “We praise the spirits this way, but a palero does it that way”. Some references are hard to differentiate between them for someone who isn’t an initiate. Except for the Voodoo, or Vudun, the other religions don’t have a tradition for zombies, but the walking dead depicted in this book aren’t the main theme. Besides what happens in the book is so big that it needed believers of every afro-Caribbean religion.”
Johnny_Trouble “In the afterward you mention the amount of complexity that is involved in the three religions Drums focuses on. What did it take for you to properly incorporate the religions in to the storyline?”
El Torres “A lot of research, that was a little difficult. There aren’t many books about the subject, except for these written by Migene González Wippler, and you can’t trust much on the internet. There is not an organized church with rigid laws and sacred, unalterable texts. People tend to organize themselves, and knowledge is passed from masters to initiates. As every religion with access to knowledge through rites of passage, the transcriptions tend to be undefined, inaccurate. I was able assist as an observer at a ceremony which was very helpful. There are ceremonies and chants to the Orishas on You-Tube. Check them out if you have a chance. The thing is most of the research materials are in Spanish or French, and I had a little advantage there.”
Johnny_Trouble “How did you decide what aspects of these complex religions to incorporate, and what aspects to leave out?”
El Torres “The book has a lot of ‘lies’. DRUMS is not a textbook about afro-Caribbean religions. I used them as a framework to tell a horror story with a complex background. So the elements are twisted just to make them more scary. There is no evil behind these religions, quite the contrary. These are perfectly sane people who only differ with you and me on their approach to religion. They believe in magic, in the spirits of the dead and the Orishas, and most of us believe in God, Angels, Science or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. We took care to not depict any proper ceremony, out of respect and because that wouldn’t work for a horror book. We took elements from here and there, but if we had tried to make a detailed comic about a Santería ceremony, that would have been… boring.”
Johnny_Trouble “Agent Irons and his partner Agent Poltz seem to have an “80’s cop movie” style of partnership. Agent Irons is young, methodical, and serious while Agent Poltz is older, out of shape, and has a tendency to jump to the wrong conclusions. What was your goal in portraying their partnership and the contrast in their personalities?”
El Torres “Martin Irons is almost a “tabula rasa”. There is no more in his life than his job. I wanted an inscrutable character that little by little will see his organized world trembling and falling. Poltz is a veteran special agent with a sarcastic point of view, but with a family that keeps him sane . Irons is reserved, Poltz can be obnoxious. What can I say… I always loved buddy cop films. But in this case, they’re three. Don’t forget the sexy FBI adviser Michelle Hernandez.”
Interview With “DRUMS” Illustrator Abe Hernando…
Johnny_Trouble “Was there any type of research you did in order to accurately portray the religions in Drums?”
Abe Hernando “In this kind of story, the references are essential if we try to tell a story that sounds “true”. There are lots of pictures and videos on the internet, the problem was to know what was what. Thanks go to El Torres who did major research and could point me to the right rituals and iconography.”
Johnny_Trouble “Have there been any major challenges when it came to creating the art in Drums?”
Abe Hernando “The major challenge is the atmosphere of the story. You have storms, raining and then, quiet places in the interior of buildings, and telling a story with a slow pace while thunder and heavy rains are falling. I wanted to strangle the reader with a world of horrid scenes, a feeling of gloom and despair.”
Johnny_Trouble “Were there any sources of inspiration or reference that you drew from when creating the visual aspects of Drums?”
Abe Hernando “My main inspiration are the books where the artist works with big masses of black inks, like Tomm Coker and El Maestro Mike Mignola, not to forget some movies like “Seven”.”
Johnny_Trouble “What did you focus on when it came to working on the art for Drums?”
Abe Hernando “I focus on drawing expressive characters. Every personality depicted is so different, and they live the madness they’re into in a different way. Irons is almost unexpressive, Poltz is fun, and Michelle is strange and sexy with these big eyes of hers.”
Johnny_Trouble “What is your favorite part of working on the series so far?.”
Abe Hernando “Drawing zombies! (laughs) The best thing for me here is the chance of drawing a book with the team of El Torres, Kwaichang Kraneo, who does impressive work, Fran Gamboa, Raul Allen… I’m learning a little more with each page we complete, about pace and depicting an oppressive atmosphere.”
We would like to thank El Torres and Abe Hernando for doing this interview with us. For those of you who would like to check out the first issue of “DRUMS”, you can pick it up at your local shop right now thanks to Image Comics. Also, if this interview wasn’t convincing enough (Or Kerabastos’ review for that matter), you can check out a 5 page preview of the first issue below.
WRITTEN BY: El Torres
ILLUSTRATIONS BY: Abe Hernando and Kwaichang Kraneo
COVERS BY: Raul Allen
“Let the Bata Speak.” In our world there exists an ancient religion with many names and many disguises: Candomble, Palo Mayombe, Santeria… Voodoo. FBI agent Martin Irons is sent to investigate the sudden deaths of an entire gathering of followers at a ceremony, an assignment horrible enough before one of the mangled corpses rises and leads him on a sinister path. A new horror story with possessions, santeros, zombies… all set to the thunderous boom of drums!
“DRUMS” Issue #1 Is Available NOW From Image Comics! (MSRP – $2.99)
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