Julian Demond, an eccentric billionaire, discovered something buried in the scorching desert wasteland. After being imprisoned for two thousand years, the God of Colors has awakened in the present day and he is not happy at all. When Wick, the Father from the Old Testament, makes a sudden visit to modern civilization, Julian unexpectedly sets up a collision course with his son, Tristan. From Boom! Studios, the “Next Testament” series explores biblical horror like you have never seen before.
I spoke with Mark Miller, co writer of the “Next Testament” and “Hellraiser” series, about his collaboration with horror maestro Clive Barker, how the concept came about, and his upcoming projects.
Bloody Disgusting: Tell me how the inspiration for “Next Testament” came about.
Mark Miller: It’s an interesting thing. I think I talked about it somewhere else but I can’t recall. These things all start blurring together at a certain point. Clive and I did this sort of photography session where he painted me. It was a sort of free-form painting. He had been doing this series of living canvases. Who doesn’t want to be an original Clive Barker work of art? When he finished painting me, we both stepped back and asked, “What the hell are we looking at? This looks like something we’ve never seen before.” Right then and there, we started spit-balling what the idea for this might be, who this character might be. The whole thing evolved from that one session. It’s probably one of the more unique starts to a story that you’ll hear about.
BD: Tell me about the give and take relationship between Wick and Julian Demond. Wick might be the puppeteer but Julian is his connection to the modern world.
MM: It’s a good question but it’s a tough one. Wick is obviously a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think there is that much of a give and take. I think he is a very mercurial sort of being. While Julian did discover him, I think it is very clear, at a certain point, he is at Wick’s mercy.
There’s this sort of change in dynamic in issue three, where Wick gives Julian this ultimatum. Julian casts his decision. From then on out, it’s really a point of no return. The sort of give and take, the link to the modern world element, is a thing of the past. From there, Julian is along for the ride, as much as we are.
BD: Tell me about the quirky dialogue between Tristan and Elspeth, who feel like an homage to Nick and Nora Charles from “The Thin Man.”
MM: We write what we know. That’s what they say. I’m a married man. I’ve been with my wife for a long time now. We have this short-hand, and the scripts just come from a place of experience.
Tristan and Elspeth have been together for a long time. The dialogue establishes they’re good for each other. They’re best friends. At least I hope that comes across. They see the world without beer-tinted goggles, as it were. They both come from different backgrounds. Tristan comes from this very wealthy world of excess. He’s just sick of the people who populate it. Elspeth is an outsider, who already knows that’s not a thing to be desired. They don’t suffer fools lightly. They will be faced with very serious events to come. But they’re really just trying to maintain their sanity, as I think most of us are anyway.
BD: Wick has an interesting character design. He is mostly composed of primary colors and his face looks like a mask. How much comes from the script or from the artist’s interpretation?
MM: There’s a picture of me, just my face, painted exactly like Wick’s. That’s a hundred percent Clive’s design. We gave Haemi Jang the pictures for reference. Haemi just went to town with it. She sent us a few character designs. We really didn’t have any notes for her. We sent her the pictures. She fired back immediately. We said, “Absolutely! This is it!” That’s the long end of the short of it. It’s the photograph on the paneled page. It’s really cool to see!
BD: In the second issue, Wick is ranting about how he is depicted in the Old Testament, while being surrounded by dead bodies. Tell me about the challenges of mixing dark humor with scares.
MM: [Laughs] I don’t know. I don’t think that’s a challenge. I have a pretty dark sense of humor. It’s obvious Clive does as well. It’s just the lens through we which we see the world. You’re either going to scream about things, or you’re going to laugh about them. Sometimes, it’s both. All of this stuff comes from a personal place. It’s just us expressing our points-of-view.
I read one review where someone said, “It seems like they’re being deliberately offensive.” This was not our intention whatsoever. We are both very well-versed in the Bible. It’s one of Clive’s favorite books. And I grew up in a very conservative Christian background. We know it backwards and forwards. It’s just our experiences through our lenses and those lenses happen to spot the humor in the darkest of places.
BD: In the second issue, the dinner party has a lot of commentary about Hollywood, social class, and human nature. Tell me how this scene came about.
MM: That’s a really good question! I’m not sure I know where it came from. We knew Wick needed to be introduced into the world. We thought Julian would be the ideal candidate. He’s plugged in, he’s connected. He knows the movers and shakers of this world. Those would be the people that we think, in our estimation, God might seek out after a two thousand year absence, just to see what’s going on.
But the twist probably comes from a quote that Clive once shared with me. I forget who said it. For me, it’s Clive who said it. “There are two kinds of people in Hollywood. The first are the people who are talking. The second are those who are waiting for their turn.” I thought that was perfectly apt. For people that are closed to understanding, if God was staring them in the face, they wouldn’t even know it. We thought the image of the divine being very real, very present, very in your face, and then juxtaposing it with Hollywood patter was hilarious.
BD: During the dinner party, one of the guests says, “This could never be made into a movie. A book sure; but not a movie.” This is clearly an inside joke.
MM: [Laughs] That’s funny that you picked up on that! That’s very much an inside joke! Maybe we’re wrong, maybe this is just our own fears coming into play. “Next Testament” could, I suppose, be considered an offensive story to some. It’s certainly pushing some envelopes. There are certain aspects of the story that people might not want to go near. But that’s one of the things we love about Boom! Studios. They’re letting us go crazy with it.
But to answer your question, I’ve seen a lot of movies. I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like this on the big screen. It’d be cool to, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. For now, “Next Testament” is what it is. Maybe we’ll be proven wrong some day. I’d like that.
BD: You also wrote the final issues of the “Hellraiser” series. Do you prefer creating your own characters from scratch or writing characters with their mythology already set?
MM: They both present their own challenges. Obviously, “Hellraiser” is this thing that has existed nearly as long as I have been alive. It has its rabid fan base, has its own set of rules. Learning to work within those parameters and try to break new ground is certainly no small task, but it’s a blast. I mean, who doesn’t want to play in the Hellraiser universe? “Next Testament” is its own thing. There’s a lot more freedom, especially when you’re dealing with God. He’s omnipotent, all-powerful, and all-knowing. There’s really nothing you can’t do in this world. But by that same regard, there’s no built-in safety net of people who know what it is, who are going to love it no matter what. It sort of has to prove itself all over again. So, really, both styles of writing have their pros and cons.
BD: What can you tease about issue #3?
MM: At the end of issue two, it doesn’t end well for our party-goers. Issue three gets the ball rolling for what will be the body of our tale. We’ve set up our characters. We know who we’re going to be with. We’re getting ready to follow them as they split up and try to figure things out. Hopefully, everyone makes it to the end. That’s as much as I can say without giving too much away.
BD: What other projects are you working on now?
MM: Quite a few. We just opened up a web store, realclivebarker.com. We have a couple of features on the verge of preproduction. I can’t say anything specific at the moment, but we’re nearly there and almost ready to announce.
If you have been following the whole Occupy Midian movement, we just made an announcement at Comic Con. I was on hand at the Shout! Factory panel. We’ll actually be releasing a restored DVD of the director’s cut of “Night Breed.” We’re very excited about that!
There are also some books coming down the pipeline There’s an annotated version of “Cabal” coming out in August. There’s a book called “Chiliad” coming out in July, which is just gorgeous. It’s our first collaboration with Subterranean Press. We’re thrilled about that!
As everyone knows, Clive is a real Renaissance man. There’s no medium that he doesn’t have a hand in. There’s a ton of stuff on the slate. Keep your eyes peeled. We’re just getting started.
Interview by – Jorge Solis