INTERVIEW: Mark L. Miller Pumps Out Fresh Blood in Debut Comic ‘Luna: Order of the Werewolf’

The monster realm has recently been in serious need of a revolution. In literature, vampires have become glittery and angsty. In film, monsters are so digitized that they should be placed in a Nickelodeon animated series. So, this fresh, new comic could not have dropped at a better time. Mark L. Miller, of Ain’t It Cool News, has written his first comic, Luna: Order of the Werewolf. He’s reintroduced werewolves as monsters, but with a very original twist: they’re intelligent, they’re religious, and they’re organized. The comic is available in stores now. Hit the jump for an exclusive interview with Mark himself!

KtMc: “First of all, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment. Could you give just a brief gist for the readers (without giving away too much, of course)?”

MARK L. MILLER: “LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF is about a werewolf named Andres Sangre who opened his eyes one day and realized that he was part of a dying species, so he did something about it and gathered as many werewolves as he could and built a sanctuary in the mountains of South America for all of them to live in peace. Given that lycanthropy is all about chaos, he tries to foster as much order as he can by starting a monastery consisting of werewolf monks, trying desperately to abstain from hunting humans. Living in seclusion, this is working out pretty well for Andres and the rest of the werewolves until a group of mountain climbers happen upon the same mountain and throws everything back into chaos.”

KtMc: “All previous concepts of lycanthropy and wolf-men are out the window, resulting in this entirely new idea. What were you inspired by while creating this new world? Was there any particular religion that jumped out at you?”

MARK L. MILLER: “It wasn’t one particular religion that the monastery abides by, my co-writer Martin Fisher and I toyed with the idea of having them worship a deity like a wolf god or something, but we decided that having them believe in God is something that would be a bit less fantastical (as werewolves themselves are fantastical enough as is and we wanted emotional conflict to be the centerpiece). Andres’ version of religion is all about survival for himself and his species. I… wanted to toy with the idea of werewolfism as a metaphor for addiction. In many cases of addiction, people cling to religion, most of the time out of desperation, replacing one addiction with another, which is fine. A positive addiction is not a bad thing, but it can be corrupted pretty easily. In the Monastery of Luna, there is a lot of dissent whispering around the halls. Those whispers are raised to a fevers pitch when humans actually show up on the monks’ doorstep. Flipping the werewolves from monster to victim here is what I was interested in. Martin and I didn’t want to make a werewolf story that we’d seen before, so we tried really hard to go left whenever the obvious right came along. I’ve always been a horror buff, so I’d seen and read a ton of werewolf stories. We set out to make something different and I hope we were somewhat successful.”

KtMc: “When the humans of the story are introduced, it’s established that both groups (the humans and the werewolves) are searching for something… “more.” Since this similarity is established early on in the installment, is it safe to say that this may be one of the first major storylines?”

MARK L. MILLER: “Martin and I are trying to map this story out into three arcs of four issues. The first arc is complete and the rest is being worked on now. We know where we want to go, getting there is the hard and fun part. We’ve had a long time sitting on this story and want to do it right. Wanting more is a major flaw of both Andres and Phillip (the leader of the mountaineering party). Never being completely satisfied is something that is relatable for everyone in today’s gluttonous culture. At the same time, in a metaphorical sense, the lupine nature of lycanthropy is about indulgence as well, like a dog that has a bowl of dog food. He eats and eats and eats until he gets sick, then, grossly, eats some more. It’s got that hunger that isn’t satisfied even after the stomach is full and the need shouldn’t be there anymore. Phillip is all about this. And there are a lot of werewolves in the monastery that are the same way. Andres is just trying to quell that nature, which is an uphill battle.”

KtMc: “It’s really interesting how all of the werewolves in this series are very different. Some seem more animalistic, while others have almost human faces. Are these the different types of werewolves that we’ve seen throughout history? Do they have different clans within the monastery?”

MARK L. MILLER: “I wanted the monastery to have an international feel. Right now we’re calling [issue two] LUNA: PILGRIMAGE OF THE WEREWOLF because Andres gathered these wolves from all over the world, so there are going to be different cultures and races interacting with one another, which is ripe for conflict. Having seen a ton of werewolf films, it made me realize that there are all of these different versions of werewolves in film, but I’ve never seen all of them in the same story. So there are wolf men (which we call the Cursed) straight out of Universal horror interacting with Lycans (more like the wolves seen in The Howling) and Fenris, which are large wolves. Though we delve into the caste system later in the series… each subspecies of wolf has their own unique characteristics. There’s a subspecies called the Manticore… that are my favorite. They’re berserker wolves with the body of a wolf and the face of a man. Our artist Tim Rees has done a great job of differentiating these sub-sects from one another, and typically, each subset reflects a certain aspect of humanity. It’s fun having them bang into one another.”

KtMc: “The first book seems to demonstrate a major theme in “finding one’s purpose.” Can we expect this theme to carry throughout the series, or could it branch out into something totally different?”

MARK L. MILLER: “Yes, it’s definitely going to be a theme throughout the three arcs, mainly for Phillip, who has a major life change in this first issue that will resonate throughout the series. I think the central theme of chaos vs. order is all about finding one’s purpose; sifting through the dark stuff in order to find the light and all of that. It’s what we all are trying to do in life, so it’s a very relatable conflict. With the werewolves, they are constantly fighting themselves and asking the question; “Am I man or am I beast?” Each of the wolves has a story, but they are all asking the same question in different ways. Phillip is asking the same question. He’s married. He’s successful in his career. Yet he tosses that all away and climbs mountains, risking death and bringing his wife and friends along for the ride. Though he’s being selfish about it, he’s struggling with the beast within just as much as the werewolves are.”

KtMc: “Tim Rees did a fantastic job with the art on this comic. The shadows, especially, really capture the message of “hiding” for the werewolves, and the general contrast of “light” and “dark” forces. Could you explain some of the thinking process there? How were you two able to work together to create this world and have it resonate so well with the storyline?”

MARK L. MILLER: “Martin, Tim, and I are in constant contact. Both Martin and Tim live in the UK, while I live in Chicago. One would think that would be hard, but through the wonders of the internet, we have our own little meetings through emails. I’ve talked with Martin only twice through this entire series and met him only once at last year’s San Diego Comic Con. It was great to finally meet him and talk face to face about stuff we’ve typed out in the wee hours of the night. We collaborate by coming up with a bare bones page layout for the issue then sectioning off the scenes between us. In the end, after the plotting process, he writes about half the book and so do I.

With Tim, I’ve never met him before… but as I said, we email constantly. He’ll send a page layout and we’ll discuss angle and panel size and specifics. For the most part, Tim just gets the tone of the series and he’s in for the long haul as long as none of the big guns snatch him up (which I’m sure that’ll happen soon, because his work is awesome). He understands that there’s this theme of ying and yang in this series (hence the attention to lights and darks) and though it’s peppered throughout the script, he surprises us with little religious nods here and there involving panel layout and details in panel. It’s really amazing. Plus his werewolves are awesome. For someone to draw so many different werewolves and having them all distinct is a real talent. I always eagerly await what he’ll come up with when I send him a script page.”

KtMc: “One more thing I have to ask. I saw a fantastically “in-your-face” gore scene in this issue. Was this just giving us a taste of violence to come, and could there be different ways for these werewolves to kill?”

MARK L. MILLER: “I’m a huge fan of all kinds of horror, but given that this is a FAMOUS MONSTERS book, we definitely wanted to go the more classical horror route. So though there’s gore, it’s not over the top or gratuitous. There will be blood, but only when it serves a purpose. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get really gory as this conflict at the monastery gets going. I read FAMOUS MONSTERS as a kid and what fascinated me about the book were the monsters. It wasn’t until I was a teen that I developed a love for gore by reading GORE ZONE, FANGORIA, GORE SHRIEK, and magazines like that. I have a love for both, but LUNA is a more classical style horror story with a lot of focus on emotion and character and (of course) monsters.

And yes, there are plenty of ways for werewolves to kill and many ways to kill werewolves, too. Though they are tough to kill, it can be done. One of the biggest challenges we set up is that we didn’t want to have the easy out so there’s no silver on the mountain. Why would there be? The werewolves wouldn’t keep any in the monastery and the mountain climbers aren’t going to weigh themselves down with a bunch of precious metal while climbing. So with silver out, we had to get creative. So yes, there will be human and werewolf blood all over this series in ways you’re not used to seeing.”

We really appreciate that Mark took the time to talk to us about his brand-new series. We’re definitely excited to follow the Luna team throughout the series. Be sure to follow more of Mark on AICN: Horror by checking out their Facebook page. Luna is published through Famous Monsters Magazine, so be sure to check out their work, as well. And don’t forget to look for the second issue, dropping in December!