It is not every day that you stumble onto something that will take two completely unrelated subjects and somehow fluidly bring them together. Case in point, Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta's 'Graveyard of Empires;' a new comic being published through Image Comics. The series will take the Afghanistan war and throws zombies into the mix in a truly awesome way- the best part is that in this totally crazy way it sort of works. Check out the full interview with writer Mark Sable and some gorgeous interior pages from Paula Azaceta, below!
Comic Vine: What can you tell us about the 'Graveyard of Empires' story (characters, setting, premise)?
MARK SABLE: GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES is a war/horror story about Marines and Taliban teaming up to fight zombies in Afghanistan. We've been saying it's "The Hurt Locker" meets "The Walking Dead", but it's more than just another zombie story or a genre mash-up, though.
== TEASER ==
Despite the fact we're in (at least) two wars, there are very few war comics out there right now, which is strange given that mainstream American comics have been ahead of other mediums in terms of dealing honestly with war since WWII. While our ultimate goal is to scare/entertain the reader, we also think it's the most realistic comic about the war in Afghanistan.
Our story starts when a young Lieutenant arrives at the remote Combat Outpost Alamo in Afghanistan to replace the recently killed C.O. of an undermanned Marine squad. Fresh of a "successful" tour in Iraq, he thinks he can apply the lessons of the surge – making strong, public shows of force to increase security while winning over hearts and minds - to a far more hostile environment.
He finds the winning over the locals an almost impossible task. Afghans are at best indifferent to the Marines, and at worst secretly aiding the Taliban - some by choice, some out of necessity, some because of coercion. The Taliban force them to grow opium, while American policy is to burn their fields for doing so. The Taliban take their boys as child soldiers, and their girls as child brides. The Afghan National Police rape anyone they can find. When the Taliban aren’t busy extorting the locals for their cut of the opium crop, they are constantly shelling the outnumbered Marines and setting up ambushes and IEDs. The Marines the Lt. finds are worn down and wary about leaving the wire. The only Marine who does want to engage with the local populace is an overly aggressive Sniper who is constantly challenging his authority. These are just some of the threats the Lt, and his Marines face, and that’s BEFORE the dead start walking the earth.
The Lt. is one of the main characters, but with any survival horror story it helps to have an ensemble cast so you never know who is going to survive. Besides the Lt. and his rebellious Sniper, we also follow a drug-addicted Explosive Ordinance Disposal (E.O.D.) team member who needs heroin to deal with the stress of dismantling IEDs, and a Female Engagement Officer who's there to bring hope to women suffering years of oppression. Add a double-dealing Afghan police officer and a doctor forced by the Taliban to surgically implant explosives in suicide bombers and I think you've got the most original cast in comics.
CV: What was it like working on this project with Paul Azaceta and how did you two team up for the book?
MARK: Paul illustrated and co-created my first comic, GROUNDED, which launched both our careers. Since then, we've been dying to work together, and it feels like my career is coming full circle with our reunion. As a writer I can work on multiple projects, and I've had the luxury of doing both Marvel and DC work as well as creator-owned books. Asking Paul to take months off successful runs on Hellboy: BPRD 1946 for Mike Mignola and Amazing Spider-Man with Mark Waid was not easy. The fact he did so for GRAVEYARD is a testament to how committed he is to this book, his first creator-owned project in years. This has, without a doubt, been the most collaborative project I've ever worked on. Paul didn't just bring my vision to life, he did a ton of research and helped shaped the story. This is a real passion project for me, but there's no one I trust more to challenge me to do my best work.
CV: Your projects tend to be relatively politically charged; this one in particular. Why is that?
MARK: I like getting stopped by the TSA. They pat me down in all the right places. Seriously, I don't go looking for politically charged material, and I don't do it for attention. I do it if it happens to fit the story I'm telling. I don't know if you can tell a story about Afghanistan without being political in some sense. One of the great things about comics is that there's relatively little money compared to other mediums. With that said, I hope that what comes across isn't my political point of view. I like to ask questions and let the readers, who are invariably smarter than me, come to their own conclusion.
CV: Where did you draw inspiration to create a story that combines the current political state of Afghanistan and zombies?
MARK: It came from something called "insurgent math". That's this idea that for every insurgent you kill, you create ten more - because you've pissed off ten of his family and friends. Zombies seemed like a great metaphor for that...you kill someone, he comes back and bites ten more people, and now you've got a zombie horde. The more research I did about the Taliban, the more [I realized the] parallels there were with zombies. The Taliban's motives are often mysterious, they seem to fight without the need for eating or sleeping, and no matter how many you kill they just keep coming in endless waves.
CV: If you could describe the story to the reader in three words what would they be?
MARK: Taliban frickin' zombies.
CV: Release date?
MARK: JUNE 15th, 2011 for the 1st issue (of 3) issues for Volume One. We plan on doing the series Hellboy/Criminal style, where we do self contained volumes that continue the saga).
It's available for pre-order now, with Diamond Code: APR11 0400, along with three of my TPBs being re-solicted GROUNDED (APR11 0401), HAZED (APR11 0402), and the previously sold-out RIFT RAIDERS (APR11 1079), which is being sold at a 1/3 off cover price.