EXCLUSIVE: Interview With ‘Day of The Dead: Desertion’ Scribe Stefan Hutchinson!

Stefan Hutchinson is a name genre fans know very well, having worked on such titles as Devil Due’s “HALLOWEEN: THE FIRST DEATH OF LAURIE STRODE”, “HALLOWEEN: NIGHTDANCE”, and the upcoming movie tie-in comic book, “DAY OF THE DEAD: DESERTION”, to be released exclusively with the blu-ray release of the DVD this March. To many horror fans Stefan’s work is revered as some of the most faithful and respectful work ever to be laid down for the franchises he works with. Recently I had the great privilege to interview Stefan about “DESERTION”, as well as his upcoming projects. Read on for the full interview!

TD: It has to be quite the honor to be able to work on a project in the universe of such a storied title like “DAY OF THE DEAD”, but you’re no stranger to this sort of thing having worked the “HALLOWEEN” franchise. How did you get involved with “DESERTION”?

SH: ‘DESERTION’ came about through my co-writer on this, Barry Keating. We’d been talking about possibly doing something collaborative for a while and he asked me if I’d be interested in working on a special feature for the forthcoming Blu-ray. So it was either going to be a novella or a comic book. The novella would have been a different story – more epic. The comic story, due to page constraints would have to be smaller and more intimate – but that seemed to be a better fit for the claustrophobic world that Romero crafted in ‘DAY OF THE DEAD’.

TD: “DESERTION” is obviously about the iconic zombie ‘Bub’ and his origins, and recently we got to run a preview of the book which makes it quite obvious that he didn’t avoid his own personal traumas before his infection. What went into bringing a character such as ‘Bub’, who had really not been given any previous backstory to go off of, his own background?

SH: There are a few pointers in the film – the obvious one being his military training. We didn’t want to do a military-based story though, as the actual film already does that well enough. So we took the cue from the first word of the title ‘DAY’ – and this is effectively 24 hours in the life of an unnamed civilian who we will come to know as ‘Bub’.

We see his transition from the person he is to the monster he becomes – not just in terms of actually becoming undead, but in the blurring of the lines between what defines humans and what defines a zombie.

TD: I know you had mentioned in other interviews that you really didn’t want to dwell on the military aspect of Bubs life, but his personal one. I would imagine there were a lot of other ideas for him that you didn’t get to really use in the 24 pages you were given, but what can you tell readers about Bub the man?

SH: A lot of the ideas came from how Romero structured ‘DAY OF THE DEAD’ – we don’t know who any of these people really are. We know who they are in reaction to the events going on around them, but it’s clear that these are people who have been completely destroyed or driven insane by the change in the world. Look at Rhodes, for example – he’s positioned as the villain of the piece, but when you break it down, there’s a lot of logic to what he’s saying. Logan’s plan to domesticate the undead is completely unworkable.

So what we have here with ‘Bub’ is a simple family man – a family man who has, however, gone AWOL from the military. That decision defines him in a lot of ways. He’s not as much as saving THE world as trying to save his OWN world. So that distinction also harkens back to the original ‘NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’. This story is also something of an end-cap to the whole Dead trilogy.

TD: You are again teamed with your partner in crime Jeff Zornow on this project, a man who I consider to be the best at what he does in the genre. Was he in your mind for the pencils from the beginning?

SH: Absolutely. We’ve done a few things together now – my favorite being ‘TARANTULA MAN’. Jeff can display carnage like nobody else. Also, unlike most modern comic artists, Jeff’s stuff isn’t too stylized – it’s comic art and it’s not ashamed of that. Most horror comic material now is heavily photoshopped, blurry and expressionist – which is great but also something of a cliché in this genre now. I grew up on Gene Colan’s work, and I’m sure Jeff did too. Also, when you have art like Jeff’s, I can’t hide behind visual distortion – I have to make sure I write a fucking good story.

Jeff can really articulate violence well. Comic violence rarely has any visceral impact, but Jeff somehow pulls it off. My writing style is more psychological, so between us I think it works out really well. We have a few other projects lined up, so I’m excited about those too.

TD: Yes, Jeff certainly does have a very natural style that is refreshing, and tailor made for a story such as this. So is there a chance readers will see more characters from the movie itself in this book, or are we focused completely on Bub and those from his pre-zombified state?

SH: The focus will be on Bub primarily, simply due to size constraints. However, there is another character prominent throughout the tale in some way.

TD: Speaking of other projects I know you and Jeff have “VOICES” in the works which will be an original from you correct?

SH: Yeah. I love doing stories that contribute to what I grew up with, but I don’t think I can call myself a writer until I get a good chunk of original material out there. At the moment, I think of myself as a contributor at best. ‘VOICES’ will be part of a bigger project that I’m hoping to get underway later this year. Most of the writing has been completed, so it’s just a case of locking down schedules and all that crap!

TD: The Blu-Ray itself is a region free piece, correct, so people will be able to watch it no matter what format their players are. Is the Blu-Ray the only way for readers to get their hands on the comic?

SH: It is, yes. There’s not going to be a separate release. The good thing is, if this is popular, we’ll be able to do more of these. There’s a lot of great classic horrors that wouldn’t really have enough name recognition to warrant their name being licensed as a standalone comic book, but with this method we can do stories in those universes which would otherwise be unavailable. It also gives a new narrative element to each release also – so the special features don’t simply regurgitate the same behind-the-scenes tales!

TD: Can you give any details on “VOICES”? I know that you’ve promised a very violent read from it, are there any details you can give as to what readers can expect story wise?

SH: ‘VOICES’ tells the story of a successful office worker in Manhattan. However, the last few weeks he’s been hearing relentless voices in his head, all of which are commanding him to ‘strike back’ against forces he’s perceiving to be around him. It’s a very simple story, so the fun in this one is with the execution. It’s a story designed to really take advantage of what Jeff is good at!

TD: I completely agree. There are way to many classic horror films that get looked over by distributors (“THE PROWLER”, “THE BURNING”, “TOURIST TRAP”, ect…) when it comes to the special edition treatment. Are there any of these overlooked films that you would personally like to work on if they came up as possibilities?

SH: From the three you mentioned, ‘THE BURNING’ immediately stands out, as that’s a favorite of mine. ‘SOCIETY’ would be a fun one too. There’s a lot of stuff from the late 70s / early 80s that’s really interesting. Especially when you’re setting the stories in that same time period – the story you’re writing has to feel like it’s in the same universe as the source material for it to have any impact.

TD: And by what he does best you mean the the stripped down, classic style of horror and gore? When can readers expect to see “VOICES” on shelves?

SH: With Jeff, it’s the classic feel mainly. That 70s style is there in a lot of ways. It’s a style I’ve always dug, but it was never built on – people went with the more stylized looks that appeared in the early 90s. It’s interesting to go back to an earlier point of genre history and pick up the pieces from there – building on them rather than wallowing in nostalgia.

As for when ‘VOICES’ will land – not completely sure yet!

TD: So “VOICES” will be more of a ‘true’ horror story then, kind of a return to the roots of the genre?

SH: Yeah – it’s a one-shot that will be part of a group of one-shots, all of which contain full stories in them. Somewhere between ‘EC Comics’, ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘Books of Blood’. Some of the stories will be simple, others will be more left-field.

TD: Besides “DAY OF THE DEAD”, and “VOICES” can readers expect to see any other stories from you in 2010?

SH: I just finished a short for a forthcoming horror anthology which will have artwork by Jim Daly. As it’s not been announced by the publisher yet, I can’t say anymore about it without possibly treading on tones. There’s a lot of things in development now, but I’ve learned from experience to keep my mouth shut until they’re about to come out!

TD: Alright well we will all be looking forward to it, hopefully when “VOICES” comes around we will be doing this again. In closing is there anything you would like to say to your readers or those who haven’t checked out your work yet?

SH: I’m actually abysmal at these sorts of questions. I think the people who pick up my work won’t be picking it up AT ALL because of me, but because of the characters I’ve had the privilege of writing. So I’ll stick with that – if you have a love for any of the characters from ‘HALLOWEEN’, or ‘DAY OF THE DEAD’, then definitely try and check out what I’ve done. I can’t promise you’ll love it, but I can promise that I’ve treated your favorite characters with a hell of a lot of respect.

I would like to personally thank Stefan for his time and honesty in doing this interview with us. Make sure you check out Stefan’s past work in the ‘HALLOWEEN’ comic book series from DDP, and be sure to keep an eye out for ‘DAY OF THE DEAD: DESERTION” when it hits stores on March 29th!