Looking at IDW's Remains

On deck for a little while now, Steve Niles and Kieron Dwyer’s Remains finally gets up to bat in May from IDW. We tracked ‘em both down for a quick chat and look at some of issue #1.

If you’ve read the press release for the five issue miniseries, you’ve already got the gist of things – the world’s been overrun by zombies, and two people in Reno, Nevada may just be the only normal humans left.

In this particular chapter of the story we’re focusing on what is happening in Reno Nevada and the relationship between a blackjack dealer and a stripper who had a one night stand and are now forced to survive together in a world - you guessed it- overrun by zombies,” Niles said. “We have these two lovely people; Tom the blackjack dealer who is at best working at half speed, not the brightest bulb, or as I like to say ‘not a reader’. Tori is a stripper/waitress who finally gives in to Tom’s awkward advances and because of this survives an earth-shattering radioactive accident.”

Unlike say, a 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead, Niles and Dwyer are going to go into detail about “the other side of the story.”  

That other side being, of course, the zombies.

page 4 “We’re also going into detail about how the accident happened, who was the cause and what will happen as a result,” Niles said. “It’s much more than the typical story because we’re telling the zombie’s side of the story.”

For Niles, Remains extends his envisioning of another horror staple, this time into zombies and the undead, and like his other dances with classic horror archetypes (vampires in 30 Days of Night and the monster created by science in Wake the Dead), he feels that these creatures and larger story speak to the unconscious.

Zombies can represent two sides of our fear,” Niles said. “One is that helpless end of the world fear, the ‘I’m alone and the world is gone’ fear and then there’s also the ‘beaten, disemboweled and eaten by a mindless mob’ fear. I think zombie represent true loss of control whether as one of the living dead or a victim. Either way it’s pretty scary.”

page 12While the upswing in zombie fiction and entertainment hasn’t gone unnoticed recently by pop culture pundits, Niles puts aside the idea that the culture is embracing zombies as a means of confronting a particular fear, while espousing that the current times are ripe for both horror and fantasy.

“We as humans like to confront our fears on some level whether it’s through extreme sports, rollercoaster or watching a horror movie,” Nile said. “We’re living through times like that right now and there’s a surge in horror and fantasy in the mainstream.”

Press him, and Niles does go for the idea that zombie entertainment in particular may be popular right now as we’re seeing larger and larger groups within the culture – people who are, in a sense, becoming “zombies” in that they no longer think for themselves, but rather accept what is told to them.

But then again, that may be over examination.

page 13Niles found a kindred spirit in artist Kieron Dwyer, for whom Remains will mark a return to horror – a genre he hasn’t revisited in years, since he last painted a story for Hellraiser.

Steve was really into Last of the Independents, my 2003 AiT graphic novel, written by Matt Fraction, and we wanted to work on something together, and then he said he had an idea for a zombie book. That sounded like something up my alley, so we were off. When I did the original promo piece for the series so IDW could promote it at San Diego last year, I had a blast, and I knew we were going to do something that kicks ass. Before I began drawing the book, I watched a bunch of zombie movies to get into the mood. Dawn of the Dead is still the best one I've seen. The remake looks interesting too, but I think Romero's stuff has the right blend of horror and humor. Hopefully the black humor element of Remains will be apparent to readers, too. And, of course, I hope it creeps the bejeezus out of them at the same time.

page 15“I'm trying to pay homage to what's gone before, especially Romero's seminal work, but I'm also trying to go as gruesome as possible, especially as the series goes on. One of our twists on the whole zombie thing will ultimately lead to some pretty horrific looking things walking around, so hopefully people will dig that. It's certainly fun for me, because I like drawing people who aren't Hollywood good looking like Superman and the like. I like characters with age lines and life on their faces. Zombies are about the most weathered, decayed looking creatures around so there can almost never be too many lines on them. I like that. And Harper Jaten is doing a kick ass job on the coloring. Really emphasizing the gory, desiccated feel of the story and the gritty art style I'm using for this book.”

The working relationship between artist and writer for Remains…well, given the preferred subjects the two like to work on, it kind of resembles a touch of zombie one-upsmanship, something that, when completed, will fit in somewhere between being burned by churches and the Nevada Gaming Commission.

page 16“We had a number of conversations at the start where we just shot ideas around and talked about what zombie stuff we liked and what worked and what didn't,” Dwyer said. “Then Steve sent me the basic outline and we talked a bit more. Next thing I knew, he had the script to issue #1 and I got rolling. Steve's got a big bag of ideas and tricks, so it's easy to work with what he gives me. Always lots of cool things to draw. I hope we do rub PC people the wrong way, because I hate stuff that plays it safe, as folks might guess from my LCD: Lowest Comic Denominator work. But to piss off the godless folks of Nevada would be a real coup.”

Back to the story itself, as Niles explained, the story picks up well after the zombie plague has started to spread. “When we first visit Reno we see a city that has been taken over by the zombie hordes, but we also see a Reno that has been completely taken over by Tom and Tori,” Niles said. “They’ve sealed the doors and locked out the dead. They’ve also created ways of getting around town without having to get too close to the dead.”

So already, the two have gone to some pretty extreme lengths to stay alive.

page 19“Survival is second nature and I think zombie movies play that out,” Niles said. “You can always rely on the fact that people with kick and scream and try to stay alive well passed the point where other animals would have just laid down and taken their beating. In Tori’s case I don’t think the zombie plague has affected her world view at all. She’s been fighting for survival her whole life. The fact that men now want to eat her flesh instead of just gawk at it or touch it hasn’t affected her that much. Basically, Tori and Tom are just trying to figure out how to get through a day without killing each other and part of the story is about how they decide what to do next and when to do it.

Remains is a constantly growing snowball of zombie infestation. Everything changes; Tom, Tori and the living dead themselves all go through major changes throughout the story and none of them – even the zombies - will be the same.”

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