Image Comics new horror series “Revenge” by writer Jonathan Ross (“Turf”, “America’s Got Powers”) and artist Ian Churchill (“Cable”, “The Coven”) is unexpectedly insane. Most people would expect the creative duo to produce a superhero tale, but instead they are turning in a twisted revenge tale that overflows with sex, violence, and sheer brutality. “Revenge” is a book that revels in the trauma that it causes readers who are depraved enough to open its pages.
The book centers around Griffin Franks, a washed up action star that has seen his stardom slowly fade away with age. Franks decides his only option is to undergo a risky surgical procedure that will make him look decades younger. During the surgery things go completely awry Franks is stuck paying for his past transgressions in a very grotesque Grindhouse manner.
Bloody-Disgusting caught up with writer Jonathan Ross just prior to the release of “Revenge” #2, which hits stores this week, to talk about his twisted and downright vile horror series.
Bloody-Disgusting: You’ve written a couple series for Image Comics now, but you’ve never really dabbled in the horror genre prior to this. What was it about the horror world that was appealing to you as a creator? Were you always a horror fan?
Jonathan Ross: Yes. Always have been, always will be. As a kid I loved the “Pan Book of Horror” series, and would devour any horror anthologies I could find. My parents bought me a collection of stories by Algernon Blackwood that I loved. Then in the ‘80s, I discovered Clive Barker, James Herbert and Ramsey Campbell, and of course Shaun Hutson. I have always loved horror films. In fact, one of the things that my wife and I bonded over way back when we first met was horror. I had been sent a copy of re-Animator to watch and I lured her back to my flat with it!
BD: Reading the first issue #1 of “Revenge”, this book feels a Grindhouse movie than a comic book. Were you striving to give it that kind of feel or did it simply come out that way?
JR: Very much so. I have a lot of affection for the sleazier end of exploitation cinema. In the ’70s movies like “Mr. No Legs”, and even the outrageous “Enema Bandit” had short lived theatrical releases. I miss that kind of stuff, even if you does make you feel like you need a shower after watching it. This is sort of an homage to them, but I actually held back in the sleaze a bit, because I think when it’s an image in a comic book it has a more lasting impact then a fleeting moving shot in a movie.
BD: The protagonist of this book Griffin Franks does some despicable things in this first issue. Is it hard to write a lead character that is somewhat deeply flawed or is that what makes it compelling for you as a writer?
JR: I have much more fun trying to imagine shitty people then good ones. And normally even complete dicks have a way of justifying their behaviour. But villains of course are always more compelling. Take a look at the Thor films. Who do you want to see on screen, Thor or Loki? It’s Loki every time….
BD: It’s been said that the best writers put a little bit of themselves and their own experiences into the characters. Was any of Griffin Franks back-story inspired by any of your own experiences in Hollywood and the entertainment industry?
JR: Not really; I just like the milieu a lot, and I met and interviewed Stallone last time he was in town, he’s a super lovely guy by the way, and in no way an inspiration for anyone in this book, but I margined what it would have been like to have just the littlest bite of the cherry that is success and spend decades craving more. That’s the need that drives Griffin at the beginning of the story.
JR: Ian has done a remarkable, brilliant, awe-inspiring job. He’s also incredibly easy to work with and we’ve had a lot of fun together. I think he really relished the chance to stretch his creative muscles in a different direction. But it’s kind of weird when we are signing at conventions and we have to keep “Revenge” as far away from “Marine Man” as possible!!
BD: Ian’s splash page with the face being ripped off should make year-end lists for most insane page. Was there ever a moment where you thought maybe the violence might be a too much, or were you trying to push things to the limit?
JR: Well, it was scripted just like that but Ian took it to another level. In fact, there is an earlier version of that splash that was great, but then he redrew it for maximum impact. All of the same components are there, every last one, but it’s the size and angle of the main image that he worked on and its much better. I just wanted a very bold strong crazy image right up front so people would know where we were heading. I love that splash and it’s kind of why I love comics; it’s just crazy over the top fun.
BD: Issue #1 sold-out almost instantly the day it went on sale. Is it frustrating as a creator to have a book sell-out so quick and know that more copies should have been printed, or is it rewarding to know that your book is reacting with comic readers?
JR: It’s neither really. We just try to make something that we would like to read and hope others will too. But it’s a crowded market place so you go out there conservatively when it comes to print runs. No one wants to get stuck with a warehouse full of mouldy unsold comic books! The nice thing is that it does seem to have clicked with a lot of people, and Ian had already drawn that fabulous homage to 1970’s Marvel cover that we were holding onto, which is now the cover to the second print of book one. But it’s a pragmatic, supply and demand equation so I try not to take it personally too much either way! I just want to try and write fun exciting comics.
BD: Give us some insight into where the series is heading with issue #2 and beyond. What can readers expect?
JR: Well it starts to get weird. Griffin breaks out of his tank and out of the drug paralysis they have him in, with help from Ignacio, the put upon dwarf with horns, but he needs skin to cover his bleeding skinned face, and there isn’t any spare laying around, so they opt for a radical short term solution. People will either think we have gone completely nuts or really love it I think. I love it, and again, Ian has turned in some incredible pages. So hope you stick with it for the big, gruesome twists in Book three and the somewhat stomach-churning finale in Book 4!!