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Awakening Answers: An Interview with Zombie Comic Writer Nick Tapalansky

September 23rd, 2009 by | Tags: , , ,

About a year and a half ago, I got into a comic called Awakening, written by Nick Tapalansky and drawn by Alex Eckman-Lawn. Released by Archaia, the dark zombie mystery of a title had me interested for the first three issues, but then… nothing. The series went on hiatus for the longest time, only for it to finally resurface.

Did it resurface as #4? No, even better. Recently, a hardcover collection has been released, featuring the first half of the planned ten-issue series. It’s good stuff and is a good read for the upcoming October mood.

I invited writer Nick Tapalansky to an interview. He was gracious enough to both answer my questions and not hit me.

How did things start up with you being a comic book writer? Hell, let’s go back farther than that. How did you get into comics in the first place?

– Geez, let’s just hop in the way back machine, huh?

The truth is that I’ve been into comics for as long as I can remember. I’ve got fond memories of a wind-up swimming Spider-Man and tattered newsstand comics, Spider-Man mostly (sensing a theme?) in my room going back to one of my first memories of four-year old life.

Writing comics was the result of realizing that my prose attempts coming out of high school were really cold and, for lack of a better phrase, script-like. I put two and two together, came up with pi, and decided to give writing comics a try!

For those who aren’t in the know, how would you describe the series? What’s the pitch here?

Awakening is a zombie noir, or alternately, existential horror. We follow retired police detective Derrick Peters, now a private eye, as he starts digging into some bizarre information about a series of murders and missing persons occurring in Park Falls, NY. The source of the info, town crazy Cynthia Ford, is questionable but slowly her accusation begins to seem more and more plausible: that zombies are the perpetrators of the violence. Looking into her information, though not sharing her beliefs, we follow Derrick and others in the city as weeks turn to months and the death toll rises. Could Cynthia be right?

Awakening Volume One is the first half of our yearlong search for answers and understanding as Park Falls faces something it may not be prepared to understand… Or survive.

How did this whole “ex-detective and his crazy female sidekick vs. delayed first stage of zombie outbreak” idea of yours come to fruition?

– Once I decided to make a go at it, Awakening was borne out of a frustration with the glut of repetitive zombie fiction in the wake of successful (and great) genre pieces like The Walking Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and even 28 Days Later (not technically a zombie movie but it’s certainly culpable in the revival of the genre in pop culture). Once those three hit, and hit big, the copycats started coming out of the woodworks. All I could think was, “Why are they all the same? Sure, they’re not bad at what they’re doing (most of them, anyway) but still, they’re all the same!”

Before I knew it, Awakening was being written.

While I enjoy the story thus far, there are huge flaws. For one, despite being called Awakening, it has seemingly no connection to the film Awakenings. Maybe I’m missing something, but which character is supposed to represent Robert Deniro anyway?

– Don’t panic, there’s an encephalitis scare coming up in Volume Two.

I reviewed the title way back when and around that time only the first three issues were available. Then there was a long stretch of nothing and now the first trade is out featuring issues #1-5. What was the story behind this whole publishing clusterfuck?

– Haha! Publishing clusterfuck… Yeah.

Well, the short version is that there was about a year in which one of the publishing partners decided it was time to pull up the stakes and move on, while the other who’d founded the company as a home for his own book said “Whoa, hey, wait a sec. I’m not done yet.” The result was a printing hiatus wherein nothing was being released – this was, of course, perfectly timed to prevent not only Awakening #4 and 5 from coming out, but the first hardcover as well. To this day I think that was intentional because they sought to protect the world from a beauty too dangerous to be unbridled…

Anywho, continuing this short version (believe me, it’s much longer when you really dig in) a new set of hands stepped in, bought up the company, and now Archaia is back on track with more hands on deck and big plans indeed.

For us, Alex and I decided that we couldn’t go back to single issues, not after what would’ve been an 18-month delay. How could we expect comic shops to order the book and give it shelf space? How could we expect readers to know it was coming? In order to get the book into as many hands as possible, and make it available in as many ways as possible, we decided to forego floppy issues for the remainder of the series and dive right in with our first hardcover.

The hardcover is a pretty sweet deal too, even for those who already picked up the first three issues. At $19.95 it’s only $2.45 more than if you purchased all the content individually, hardbound with a dust jacket, and has 15-pages of supplemental material including 10-pages of extra story material (two-page journal entries between chapters) and five pinups from artists like Mark Smylie and Patrick McEvoy, not to mention two unreleased chapters which round out the first half of the series. And, if the sting of picking up those individual issues is still too strong, there are sites like Amazon.com which are still offering the book at a new release discount (although we’d much rather you bought the book at your local comic shop!)

Let’s say you were to write for one of the Big Two. Which existing character would you love to write the most?

= If I only had to pick one, it has to be Spider-Man. He’s my be-all, end-all. That said though, I’d be terrified to be given the chance. Happily terrified, but still, my pants would be soaked with sweat and urine. I’m guessing that’s why Marvel hasn’t called.

Beyond him though, next on the roster is Cloak & Dagger for sure. Those guys are GREAT characters but it seems like nobody ever treats them right. I’ll treat ‘em right. And I won’t piss myself silly over it either.

Hear that, Marvel! Lemme cut my teeth on Tyrone and Tandy first!

Being that you write a comic about zombies, I think that makes you an authority for this next important question: Who would win in a fight between Marvel Zombies Sentry and Black Lantern Earth-2 Superman?

– I think in this case, legacy beats rip-off and Earth-2 Superman would rip off Sentry’s head by his hippie-ass blonde locks.

Sorry, Marvel. I hope this doesn’t change things between us.

Human Torch has a Native American pilot friend named Wyatt Wingfoot who is like the most boring character ever. What kind of treatment would you give Mr. Wingfoot to make him readable?

– Easy, I’d set him on fire too. Then I’d have Namor come out of the closet and admit his feelings for Wyatt, that all his womanizing was just a cover for his shame. The two would be joined in a civil union and, once Millar was done with the filthy sex bits in the main FF title, I’d write the two as the Odd Couple in Atlantis.

Oh man. It’s over Marvel, isn’t it?

Well, yeah. Millar isn’t even writing Fantas—you know what, forget it. In your short career, what’s the biggest thrill thus far?

– Hands down getting to travel to conventions and meeting people who dig the book. I can’t even tell you how cool it was to have people come up to the booth in San Diego this year and tell me how much they loved the book and that they’d been waiting for the first hardcover since issue three shipped in December of 2007. Or, have them bring their copy of the book specifically for us to sign. That’s when I get to take a step back and realize, wow, I’m really doing this.

What else are you working on these days? And when should we expect some more from Derrick and his Amazing Friends?

– Well, the past two months have been all about planning our October signing tour, which is going to be a blast.

The plan is simple enough – spread the word about the release of Awakening Volume One, which hit stores at the end of this past July, by giving all of our readers, new and vets, something to get excited about: art and comics. Anybody who comes by one of our four signing stops and either picks up a copy of the book or brings theirs to be signed is going to get an exclusive signed print created by Alex just for this tour. That’s just the beginning, too.

Folks who sign up with their email addresses at one of the signings are going to get a special email on Halloween morning – one which contains a link and login info for an exclusive look at the first chapter of Awakening Volume Two!

Don’t worry if you can’t make it to one of the signings though. Just send a picture of yourself with your copy of the book, preferably in front of your local comic shop with their info so we can pimp them out on the Awakening blog for carrying the book (or just you with the book if you bought it online or out of somebody’s trunk) by October 30th to AwakeningComic@gmail.com and we’ll hook you up with the link too. If you’re down to the wire on the order, don’t panic – a screen cap of your completed order, an invoice, SOMETHING(!) will be enough to get you the info.

Dates and stops for the tour include the following:

Oct. 10, 10 a.m. -6 p.m.; Oct-11, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Artist Alley, Baltimore Comic-Con
The Baltimore Convention Center
One West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21201
(Separate admission fee required for entry into Baltimore Comic-Con)

Oct. 17, 1-5 p.m. [Nick Tapalansky only]
Upstate Comics
Freedom Business Center
1097 Route 55
LaGrangeville, NY 12540
(845) 432- 3320

Oct. 24, 12-4 p.m.
Brave New Worlds Comics
45 North Second Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106 (215) 925-6525

Oct. 28, 4-7 p.m.
Jim Hanley’s Universe
4 West 33rd St.
New York, NY 10001 (212) 268-7088

The full press release with all the details can be found here: http://www.brokenfrontier.com/headlines/p/detail/archaia-awakening-halloween-signing-tour

Aside from that though, we’ve got Awakening Volume Two coming together for a summer 2010 release, an awesome two-part back-up story appearing in Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau’s Perhapanauts this spring, a short story that should be appearing in an anthology soon, though we can’t quite talk about it yet, and at least two new graphic novels we’re ready to pounce on once Volume Two is in the can.

We’ve replaced our blood with oil to keep the machinery working. Anybody who wants to keep up with our endeavor to start switching our organs for mechanical parts can find us at the following haunts:

Follow Awakening on Twitter
Nick Tapalansky’s website
Alex Eckman-Lawn’s website

Before you go, are there any comics out there that don’t get much play that you’d like to namedrop?

– There are just a ton of great books out right now that I don’t think enough people are reading. Books like the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man, any Avengers books, some X-Men family books…

MAKE MINE MARVEL!

In all seriousness, I think people need to get ready for a few items from Archaia, including Grave Doug Freshly, Starkweather: Immortal, and Hybrid Bastards! No bullshit, these are great books and all of them coming to you in an attractive hardcover ala Awakening Volume One. They’ve got tons of other cool titles on the way, like The God Machine and Titanium Rain, so don’t sleep on them. Not just because the company’s success means I have somebody conned…er…excited to publish my books, either.

Other great books I’m reading are The Immortal Iron Fist (Can’t believe it got cancelled…), Perhapanauts, Umbrella Academy, The Complete Dracula, Fell, and Chew. I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting but, yeah, go buy all these.

You forgot Anti-Venom, but you’re forgiven.


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