New York Times best-selling author Max Brooks is taking no breaks from the zombie subgenre after seeing his “World War Z” novel adapted onto the big screen. Now, hes ready for war. Brooks is back with a new 12-issue Avatar Press series called “The Extinction Parade”, featuring the stunning artwork of Raulo Caceres (“Crossed: Badlands”).
In the pages of “The Extinction Parade”, vampires have come out of the shadows to search for the last of their remaining human food supply. The world has been infected by the zombie plague, and now vampires find themselves going from being the hunter to the hunted. Vampires are forced into a position where they’ve become the prey for the first time in their species existence and they must find a way to avoid becoming the zombies next meal.
With ‘The Extinction Parade’ issue #2 hitting comic shops this week, Bloody-Disgusting was fortunate enough to have a chance to sit down with Brooks at this year’s FanExpo to talk about “The Extinction Parade” and his thoughts on the movie adaptation of “World War Z”.
Bloody-Disgusting: The film adaptation of “World War Z’ just came out. What was that process like for you as a creator to give your creative baby to someone else to adapt for the big screen?
Max Brooks: It was a long journey with a lot of peaks and valleys. The end result for me watching it was very unexpected because it was so different from the book. I thought I would hate it, but because it was so different from the book and it only shared a name with my book; I didn’t hate it. In fact, because it was so different that gave me the emotional distance to be able to watch it and I was able to lose myself in the film like I was watching someone else’s movie. I didn’t have a feeling of ownership over the movie or have to watch my characters do things that they wouldn’t do, because my characters weren’t there. I never had a moment where I thought to myself that Gerry Lane wouldn’t have said or did that, because I didn’t create Gerry Lane. I now understand what other authors have gone through, and I understand what Stephen King must have felt like seeing his characters or the Overlook Hotel, but it’s not happening the way it did in the book. For me it was so different that I was able to look at it like the movie and the book share a title and that’s pretty much it.
BD: Did your background as a writer for Saturday Night Live help at all when dealing with Hollywood with regards to World War Z?
MB: No, but I grew up in Hollywood. SNL was a completely different experience where I was able learn about myself and see what I could do and what I couldn’t do. I learned that I was not a collaborator and that I’m not a good group writer, because I’m a solitary writer.
BD: Then let’s talk about your book ‘The Extinction Parade’ because that is a collaborative effort with artist Raulo Caceres…
MB: That is an awesome experience because I cannot draw a stick figure and Raulo is so freaking amazing. I love working with Raulo Caceres and his attention to detail. He draws things that I didn’t even write, but he just puts them in there, which I think is amazing. I’m loving this.
BD: You’ve mentioned in other interviews that a particular episode of ‘Deadliest Warrior’ had an influence on the story. Tell us a bit about that experience….
MB: Well I wrote ‘Extinction Parade’ as a short story first, and I finished the story just as ‘Deadliest Warrior’ was starting. When I was on the show, my brain really started to ramp up about a vampire verses zombie scenario, and I just thought that there was so much that I didn’t cover. There was so much that I didn’t think about and that I had to go back and revisit this. So when the opportunity presented itself to do a comic book, I thought it was a perfect chance to get deeper and expand more on how vampires would survive in a zombie scenario.
BD: Vampires and zombies are obviously hugely popular, but it’s rare for us to see them inhabiting the same fictional world, at least in a serious light. Does the way that the characters have been presented in mainstream culture have an impact on the way you write them in ‘Extinction Parade’?
MB: No, because truthfully I took my inspiration from the ’70s version of Dracula. The popularity does factor in because I do see so many people that want to be vampires, but I also see a lot of people that want to be The Kardashians, and I don’t see the difference. When I look at vampires I don’t see something that is sleek, cool, and sexy that I want to be, but rather a parasite that literally suck off the blood of the human race. Frankly when it comes down to it, vampires don’t really have a job or survival skills, because they’ve never been prey. They never have had to run for their live like humans. I see vampires as a little arrogant, soft and weak, and I saw them in a worse position than humans are in when a zombie plague breaks out.
BD: What was it about Avatar Press that made this the perfect home for a series like ‘Extinction Parade’?
MB: The thing about Avatar is that they give you artistic freedom, and let me tell you that artistic freedom is becoming an endangered species. More and more it’s becoming about comic books being developed for film, so you have to write it like a movie. Most publishers are just about making a buck, and William Christensen is really about letting artists run free.
BD: With publishers more and more concerned about being able to take a book and transition it into other mediums like movies and toys, is that discouraging to you as a creator?
MB: Definitely. I think more and more people are trying to write movies and not comics. There are a lot of comics that wouldn’t make good movies, and you have to be ok with that. You have to write it like a comic book and not be using it as an audition for a movie. Plus when you are writing your own material you don’t have to worry about somebody else’s franchise. Writing ‘G.I. Joe’ was a great experience, but at the end of the day I was answering to Hasbro, a toy company. How dark can you really make a war comic that a toy company will allow? I’m even surprised at what they allowed me to put into ‘G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds’.
BD: How difficult is it for you as a writer to make that transition from prose writing to comic book writer?
MB: When you write a novel, you only have to write about what is important. If you write a scene where the character walks into a room and the room isn’t important, then you don’t write about it. But when you’re writing a comic it’s such a visual media that you have to be conscious in all your notes to the artist in what needs to be in there or shouldn’t be in there. There is a lot of perspiration rather than inspiration with comic writing, and you can’t just be purely creative because it’s such a collaborative effort between writer and artist.
BD: Humans don’t play a big role in the series, yet the ultimate outcome of the war has an impact on the human race. If such is the case, who are the characters we follow?
MB: Well its two vampires Chinese European descent living in Malaysia. There are other vampires around, but it’s really a story about their journey of self-discovery and about the species. It’s this existential discovery of what it means to be a vampire. There is a great phrase from not a very smart man, George Bush, but he said that adversity introduces us to ourselves. It’s true that we don’t know who we really are until you get put to the test. This series is vampires as a species for the first time being put to the test. They realize their greatest strengths and weaknesses pretty quickly and as a result they discover that they have not yet developed the emotional or psychological survival mechanisms. Humans have created this amazing civilization, because they spent nine tenths of their existence running for their lives. In compensating for those weaknesses they created this great civilization, but vampires have never had to compensate for their weaknesses and now they are in danger of going extinct.
BD: So as a writer you’re really trying to strip down the species to examine who the vampires are at their core?
MB: That’s exactly it. For me it’s just about breaking down the pitfalls of privilege. What is the price that you had to pay when you’ve been given everything? The price that you have to pay is that you don’t know how to struggle. It’s like you said stripping down the vampires to get to the core of them as a species. Finding out what are those strengths and weaknesses is really what I’m trying to accomplish with this book.
BD: You’ve worked extensively with zombies throughout your career as a writer. How do you keep the subject matter fresh for yourself and for readers?
MB: For me it’s never about the zombies, but more the human reaction. I’ve written extensively about how humans would react not just as individuals, but as governments or species. So I really wanted to examine another species with a whole different life story. How would this species react when their one food source is about to become extinct?
BD: So do you have this series mapped out as a long form story?
MB: It’s completely mapped out, because I’m hugely excessive compulsive so I have to know where I’m going with the book. So basically it’s going to be twelve issues and I’ve already written an outline for each issue, and usually my outlines are longer than the actual script for that issue. I’ve outlined all the issues and now I just finished writing issue #7 and I’m about to dive into issue #8. Once I get into something I just have to get it done. That’s pretty much where we are at the moment. Issue #2 is just about to come out and issue #3 is being drawn at the moment.
BD: So have you given any thought to what you are going to do after ‘Extinction Parade’?
MB: I have a graphic novel that is coming out that I’ve been working on for about fifteen years. It’s a true story about World War I that I’ve just been kicking myself to get the research done and make sure I get things like the weapons right or the way people talked back then. With that project it’s tough because the historian in me is trying to balance with the artist in me. It’s basically a fictionalization of a true story, which for me has been a slog.
BD: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat! We’re look forward to ‘Extinction Parade’.