As we near the 1 year anniversary of Repo: The Genetic Opera‘s limited release, it’s insane to see how far the film has come. After being dumped by its distributor onto a handful of screens (without any advertisements), the film now plays weekly across the country, playing to sold out crowds and often with “Shadowcasters” re-enacting the film in full costume in the aisles of the theater. And it all began with Terrance Zdunich (working with Darren Smith), who also played Graverobber in the film. But Repo isn’t his only baby; he’s got a new comic series called The Molting, and we had him take some time out of his busy schedule to talk about it. Read after the break for more!
BD: When did you first dream up the concept for The Molting?
Terrance Zdunich: I supposed that the idea started when I was just a kid. I grew up in Santa Ana, a neighboring city of Anaheim, CA, home of Disneyland, home of “The Happiest Place on Earth”. Even as a teenager, I remember thinking it odd that the world’s “Happiest” kingdom was planted smack-dab in the middle of such a slummy neighborhood. It was this paradox that inspired the story and setting of The Molting — a belief that the real American tale was revealed in the poor, overcrowded households located right across the street from The Magic Kingdom. The motivation to explore this concept within the graphic novel medium began about 2 years ago.
BD: Did you come up with a visual design first, or the characters?
TZ: I came up with the story first, honing that over the course of a year. The visual style was then determined based on the completed script. I haven’t always worked this way, but through trial and error on other creative projects, I’ve determined that this process is the most effective way to tackle any large-scale endeavor. With REPO!, for example, we often wrote songs well before we had a finished story in mind. A lot of time was thus wasted creating material that would eventually be cut. We produced a whole catalog of tunes that had to be abandoned because they didn’t fit the finished tale. Sometimes weeks were spent trying to suture a story around a song that we were fond of, but in the final analysis the story ALWAYS won. The Molting will be in the ballpark of 450 full-color, full-page illustrations when all 12 chapters are completed. This feat is large enough without me adding scores of extra drawings while trying to figure out the story.
BD: And at what point in this process did you come up with the cockroaches?
TZ: The main story of The Molting revolves around a family living in a roach-infested house. Initially, the cockroaches existed just for the “Ew!” factor, but after researching the fascinating behaviors of these wall-dwelling crawlies, I decided to have their actions mirror that of the human family they share a house with. In other words, the roachies grew into main characters.
BD: On REPO! you were working with Darren Smith… did you find the writing process easier to go solo, or was it easier having someone to bounce ideas off of?
TZ: There are pros and cons to both dynamics, but I’ve found the creative process is always rather solitary. Even when working with a creative partner, ideas are hatched and discussed in company, but the nuts and bolts of writing are always done in solitude. Even though I’m the sole author of The Molting, I shared early drafts of the script with writers who I trusted to give honest criticism, including Darren Smith and REPO!’s director, Darren Lynn Bousman. I’m also collaborating with colorist Brian Johnson and Letterer Ocean Ransford on the production of the series.
BD: How far along are you in terms of writing? You probably know where it ends up, but do you know each step of that path?
TZ: Yes, the entire story is written, including the titles of each chapter and concepts for all of the cover art. That’s not to say that plot elements don’t “molt” slightly throughout the drawing process. I tend to introduce a lot more visual sound effects once the pages are drawn and inked, for example. Also: some lines of dialogue prove unnecessary because the illustrations convey the same information presented in the text. On average, each page of script ends up being 3½ pages of comic, which means I’m adding a lot detail in picture frames as opposed to dialogue.
BD: What can we expect to see in issue 2, and when?
TZ: The first Chapter, “Guilty Susie” takes place in the ‘60’s. Chapter 2, “The Happiest Place On Earth”, leaps forward to the early ‘90’s. Susie, the main character in issue 1, has “molted” away from her original family to start a new one. She’s married with two kids and we see how her past actions weigh on her present family. This second issue will be available November 15, 2009 at Molting’s official site.
BD: What other projects are you working on?
TZ: What, a 450-page illustrated novel ain’t good enough for you? Pssh! Well, I’m also a contributing editor for a fantasy/sci-fi magazine called Fantastique. I write a column for the magazine entitled “Fantastic Finds”. It features everything your inner fanboy or girl could want to know about geek-y collectibles. Also: with all of my traveling in promotion of REPO! and The Molting my life is usually full of weird and exciting adventures and projects, which you can follow in my blog.
BD: We’re coming up on the one year anniversary of REPO!‘s theatrical release… anything special planned? Are you still amazed at how it has found a life of its own via shadowcasts, weekly midnight screenings, etc?
TZ: Because of the growing cult movement surrounding REPO!, the project is still alive and breathing in a way that I don’t think anyone could have predicted a year ago. As such, REPO! and its fandom is still a part of my daily life, so it doesn’t feel like an anniversary. Looking back and reflecting on REPO!: Year One almost seems inappropriate because we’re still in the thick of it. In the spirit of our rock opera-that-could, maybe I’ll break convention and treat myself to a completely non-REPO! day on November 7th? Then again, perhaps I’ll light a candle, pour myself a few fingers of whiskey, slip into my mother’s wedding dress and sing “Zydrate Anatomy” three times into a truck stop bathroom’s mirror.
BD: And finally, where are your pants?
TZ: My pants are down around my ankles. I’m back at the crime scene. Again. My third visit since I…well, since the “incident”. I’ve read about DNA and forensic science. I know that I should be here. Yet the thought of her body. Lying by the river. All tangled up in plastic and extension cord. I’ve said too much. Go check out The Molting!