Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sneak Preview: CROSSED: BADLANDS by Garth Ennis

 

                                        GARTH ENNIS TALKS ABOUT HIS RETURN TO HORROR WITH CROSSED: BADLANDS #25

Although every title they publish is available in several variant covers, AVATAR PRESS does not ordinarily conduct big promotional campaigns or create huge crossover events to promote their books - - with one exception (C-Day).  While my first love is comics, I also have an interest in the marketing side of this business =  so I’ll share some of the information I obtained with our readers.  This article was assembled from the AVATAR  official press release, a Garth Ennis interview at BLEEDING COOL website, and WIKIPEDIA.   

The Second Annual C-Day this March will do more than just celebrate a year of publishing two issues of Crossed: Badlands every month on time... it will also mark the long-awaited return of the man who created Crossed, Garth Ennis!

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In the comics industry, no doubt you have heard the name.   Perhaps you think of his grueling reinvention of The Punisher for Marvel.  Maybe you cringe and chuckle at his Preacher epic with Vertigo.  Perhaps you thought he “Out-Preachered” himself with Dynamite’s The Boys.  But if you haven’t read Crossed by Avatar Press, you haven’t seen Ennis at his most extreme.

(photo at right:  Garth Ennis at Baltimore Comic-Con 2012)

This March, Ennis returns to the world he created with a four-part story beginning in Crossed: Badlands #25.  There is an apparent connection to history made, with Ennis looking at the military battles fought on England’s shores and skies.  (See previous BC article for a preview of the first four pages).  He will be back one year later for a “Patient Zero” type story that ties into this one.

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(pictured above:  Three of the covers for CROSSED: BADLANDS #25)

"Funny thing is," Ennis admitted, "I never really intended to be a horror writer. I'm not the world's biggest fan of the genre.  I like a book here, intermittently follow a writer there.  I like one zombie movie, one vampire movie, a couple of werewolf flicks, but I'm not really what you'd call dedicated. Yet here I am."

Listed in this month's Previews catalog, Ennis returns to the plague-infested world where those infected carried out the vilest of acts.  These are not mindless zombies that survivors would run from or fight. These are living sentient beings who act upon their most evil thoughts, committing the most heinous of acts ever known to mankind.  Their sole unending drive is to satiate their basest of needs and cruelest of thoughts to whomever is closest, usually former loved ones and friends.  This is real horror.

Ennis sees his new story as a great jumping-on point for fans of horror, as Crossed: Badlands arcs are normally self-contained and easy to pick up.   "Like any worldwide horror setting," Ennis explained, " the possibilities are endless. You can do stories about anything, anywhere.  Ideas suggest themselves all the time.  And I do feel a sense of responsibility to come back from time to time, help keep things ticking over."

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(pictured above, at far right is the variant leather cover)

Ennis’ new story arc, “The Fatal Englishman,” is Ennis at his best = interesting characters with dialogue that is both thoughtful and full of particular dialect, meticulous details regarding the militaristic cast, a nod to the history of the land, as well as the over-the-top brutality and insanity one expects in the world of the Crossed.  The story centers on a small band of soldiers who have decided enough is enough, and decided to fight back.  They will take the fight to the Crossed hordes and have a plan for wiping them all out.  But can they actually follow through?

Ennis is committed to exposing more people to the infection that is Crossed, as he will be writing and directing live Crossed webisodes later this year.  These 4-6 minute stories will be available for free online, hoping to attract new interest in the world of the Crossed comics, as well as generate interest for a possible feature film.

Prior to the webisodes debuting, however, Ennis returns to tell a new story in the comic, with the first issue to publish on March 13, 2013.  That day, comic shops all around the globe are planning on celebrating the Second Annual C-Day (or “Crossed Day”) with cos-play for staff and fans, creating videos, store displays, contests and generally having fun with letting their inner-Crossed play for a little bit.   To help comic shops celebrate C-Day on March 13th, Avatar Press is offering a Promo Kit in the January Previews catalog, filled with Crossed temporary tattoos, buttons, postcards, stickers and new Crossed masks.

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(pictured above: the wraparound cover for #25)

To help create more excitement, Avatar Press is increasing the amount of covers for Crossed: Badlands #25, giving fans more choices for which cover(s) they want to celebrate Ennis' return (eight $3.99 covers, one $14.99 leather cover, two retailer incentive covers and one collector's box set).  Also, available for the first time in the January Previews catalog are Crossed T-Shirts - starting at only $8.99 retail.

ORIGINAL STORY SYNOPSIS (from CROSSED: VOLUME 1  2006 – 10 issues)

A plague of unknown origin infects its victims through a rash that appears on their faces in the shape of a cross.  Carriers exhibit a manic sneer and a berserker-like rage. Unlike typical zombies, they seem to maintain human rational thought processes, although the virus/plague transforms all into beings of pure evil, solely intent on spreading the “Crossed” infection, which occurs through bodily fluids. Carriers have resorted to treating their weapons with their own urine as one of many gruesome methods, including rape and bites. Sometimes victims are torn apart when the influence of the berserker rage or mob rage is predominant. 

(photo at right: some Crossed fans at Baltimore Comic-Con 2012)

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From the Wikipedia entry: 
“The outbreak spreads rapidly, apparently overwhelming the entire world.  The infected run amok, killing, raping, engaging in cannibalism and maiming for fun.  Infected pilots crashed their aircraft into buildings whilst technicians who had also succumbed to the virus intentionally blew up nuclear power plants.  Families and friends turned on one another and butchered each other with whatever weapons they could lay their hands on.  Within hours, society was in a state of collapse as entire cities burned, government officials fled or became casualties along with the general public and police and military response dwindled to nothing.  Outbreaks were reported in every city in every state of the US on the first day of the outbreak, rendering any attempt at quarantine pointless.  Emergency bulletins on the radio from the White House urging citizens to remain indoors and avoid contact with the infected seems to do little if anything to slow the spread of the Crossed, and soon human civilization is all but gone, and mankind appears to be an endangered species.”

“The main story takes place ten months after the outbreak (with flashbacks to those events) as a small group make their way toward Alaska in the belief that its low population before the outbreak will mean there are fewer Crossed to be avoided, and that the Crossed's gleeful bloodlust hampers their ability to look after themselves.  However, they encounter a small group of Crossed who have a degree of self-control and subsequently begin a hunt for the survivors.”

Pghhead again:  Suffice to say, this was one of the most brutal and disturbing zombie infestation tales I have ever read or watched (and that includes a goodly number).  What kept it from being pure all-out bloody exploitation for me was the inherent message planted within by Ennis.  At its core, this is also a love story and deals with personal sacrifice for the greater good, etc. 

Even though CROSSED is a creator-owned property (Garth Ennis and artist Jacen Burrows) permission was granted to AVATAR to publish several follow-up volumes by various writer-artist teams, with David Lapham writing the majority of them.   Over one year ago, the CROSSED: BADLANDS series was begun, with Garth Ennis writing the first story arc followed by various creators. 

David Lapham wrote the second series (CROSSED: FAMILY VALUES) with art by Javier Barreno.  In a February 2010 interview with Rich Johnson of BLEEDING COOL, Garth Ennis commented on his creation:

“To be honest, there was never really going to be a Volume  Two.  William [Christensen, editor-in-chief/publisher of Avatar] would ask me regularly about the possibility, but apart from one or two vague scenes I pretty soon realized I had no more Crossed stories in me.  I didn't want to force the issue, either, because I'm very pleased with Crossed and don't want to dilute it with a sequel that I hadn't the ideas to sustain.  That said, it's pretty obvious that what you have with Crossed is a ready-made fictional world with a good deal of potential for further development, and the Crossed themselves seem to be strong enough villains to maintain an audience.  So when William suggested other people doing more I said I wasn't averse to it, so long as a) I thought the creative teams were up to scratch, and b) my own story and characters would be left alone.  Which means no sequel, no more Stan, Cindy, Thomas or Kitrick (or Horsecock, Face or Stump, come to that) - just fresh stories set in the same world.  As for David, who better?  I think you'll see right from his first episode that he knows exactly what he's doing with the Crossed.”

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