Last week Dynamite Entertainment released the first issue of the new ARMY OF DARKNESS series. Written by Elliott R. Serrano and with art by Marat Mychaels, the series began with a slightly different twist. Ash Williams has seen a lot of strange things throughout the different series he's starred in but now he's about to see something unexpected.
As you can see by the cover, Ash is about to meet someone familiar but completely different. Hopefully you had a chance to read the issue. Elliott Serrano and Dynamite are offering a "writer's commentary" look at the first issue. Let the fun begin!== TEASER ==
Hey everyone! I’m Elliott Serrano, the writer of the new Army of Darkness series for Dynamite Entertainment. After taking on the book, I asked my bosses at Dynamite if I could write a “commentary track” for each issue so that I could give you a “behind-the-scenes” look at what my process was as I was writing it. So grab your copy of ARMY OF DARKNESS #1 screw-heads and let’s jump in!
When I considered how I wanted to start off the new series, I always had a variation of the opening from the original AoD movie in mind. To me, this would be the best way to ‘reboot’ the story, by starting in a familiar setting. In my script notes, I asked the artist – in this case Marat Mychaels – to emulate the ground level POV shots that were used in the film.
Of course, as the story unfolds, we notice that there are some subtle differences from how the original AoD opened. It’s obvious that we’re not looking at “our” Ash by the time we get to Panel 4, since he doesn’t have boobs. Duh. You’ll also notice that our main character here is wearing a uniform shirt that reads “Smart-Stop” and NOT “S-Mart.” This little detail is dropped to hint at how unique this person really is in the overall narrative.
Another thing that happened during the scripting process was that I had written a bit more ‘arguing’ between the narrators in the beginning. My editor Joe Rybandt commented that it was difficult to determine who was saying what at the outset and asked that I clean it up a bit.
To tell the truth, I was getting a bit too clever for myself and was putting the ‘joke’ ahead of telling the story, a rookie mistake on my part.
I will say that the colorist did a nice job of lending the dialogue some clarity by assigning different colors to the caption boxes.
Here’s the BIG REVEAL where we unveil our “Lady Ash” (which is what we all called her during the scripting process). Initially, the idea was to try and keep her gender a secret, but in today’s instant information age that was pretty much impossible. I’d like to go on record as saying that the idea of having a female protagonist in the AoD series was something we discussed long before talk about Ash being ‘recast’ as a woman in the new Evil Dead movies started circulating. In fact, I’m pretty sure that our creation of “Lady Ash” gave birth to those rumors. If you’ve been following the news on the Evil Dead ‘re-imagining’, you’d know that they’ve scrapped the character of Ash altogether. As a fan of the series, I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Here’s where we get into the obligatory ‘recap’ of how “Lady Ash” got into her current predicament. I used the template established by the Bruce Campbell “Ash” in the AoD film, having Ashley summarize her origin as if this were a sequel to a movie from an alternate dimension. The details are changed, with Ashley working at a local convenience store called the “Smart-Stop” and having a tragic encounter with ‘other worldly evil’ and losing a significant other in Brad – just like our Ash lost his girlfriend Linda in “Evil Dead 2.”
Another important detail to note is how we’ve dispensed with the ‘cabin in the woods’ setup and switched it out for a ‘it came from outer space’ scenario. That will play into what’s to come later in the story…
Here’s where we learn how the ‘infection of evil’ gets into Ashley. Unlike the one that came from the Necronomicon in the main AoD universe, this one is passed via touch. This is another important detail that will figure into the overall story arc of the new series.
I have a question for you as a reader: Do you think that Ashley was being kind of harsh on losing her boyfriend? When I read that scene, I’m of two minds about it, but that’s the way she sounds in my head when I write her. Her aloofness about relationships is something I wanted to get across here. It’s not that she doesn’t care; it’s just the way she deals with loss.
And yeah, we have a bit of a mix-up here with which hand of hers is really ‘infected’ but we clear it up on the next page…
Here we have another big reveal, which is when we see what actually happened to Ashley’s hand after touching Brad. Gross huh? I love the little bumps that Marat put on her stump. Really gets the idea of an ‘infection’ across.
Also note that up to this point, she doesn’t understand what language her captors are speaking. She’s in freakin’ ANCIENT EGYPT! WHO SPEAKS ENGLISH THERE? I was thinking about adding one of those captions that read “translated from Arabic” to the page, but I think most readers are smart enough to know they didn’t speak English there and then.
That leads me to dropping another clue as to what effect the powers of the Necronomicon have had on her…
So at this point you may have been scratching your head and going “WTF?” If so, that means I didn’t do a very good job at showing that by saying the words “klaatu barada nikto” Ashley can not only “heal” her hand but also understand other languages.
Keeping up with me so far here?
We then have Ashley encountering one of history’s most famous women…
I love the new outfit that Marat created for her, quite sexy…
Back to recap mode where Ashley explains what happened to her after touching “Deadite Brad.” Because she didn’t have a chainsaw handy to lop her hand off at the wrist, she had to resort to pure willpower to contain the ‘infection’ to her hand. By virtue of this significant feat, she’s able to channel the dark power of the Necronomicon and use it as much as it would use her.
This is another trait that makes our “Lady Ash” unique.
Here’s where we get a glimpse of how the evil of the Necronomicon has spread in Ashley’s universe. It’s no coincidence that in Panel #2 you see those druid-type guys writing on a scroll. The globe is but one of several ways that the evil can be spread.
Another big reveal! Not only can Ashley make her deformed hand appear like a ‘normal’ hand, but it can also become any sort of weapon she can imagine. I have to give credit for this idea to my former CCW*TV co-host Jose Melendez who was my sounding board for many of my ideas when I first started writing the series.
The ability is really more ‘Plastic Man’ than ‘Witchblade’ but I don’t wanna give away too much right now. The how’s and why’s of her powers will be explored later down the line in the series.
Now before history buffs start getting on me about what really happened to Antony and Cleopatra, I’ll just say that 1) I read several different accounts of how/when they each died and this is a riff on one of those accounts and 2) dramatic license allows me to fudge the facts as well as set up the joke at the end of the page…
I’ve already had one comic book reviewer tell me they thought the joke was funny, so there was the validation I so desperately sought. (Writers are soooo insecure, ya’ know?)
I’m sorry, but some classic Saturday Night Live jokes are meant to live forever. I also threw in a line from “A Perfect Murder” which just seems to work in most situations.
And here is yet another big reveal, when we learn the identity of our ‘second narrator’ from page #1. This character was also proposed by Nick Barrucci who wanted to introduce a “Deadpool” or “Ambush Bug” type of character to the AoD Universe. So I went with “DeadBug”. Ashley gives him his name in Panel #3. Get it? GET IT?
It should also be noted that this is not the first time these two characters have met…
Now things start to really pick up with a reference to “The Simpsons” and then it is recap time for “Deadbug” who reveals his humble beginnings. He was actually a pretty decent fella back in the day…
…until he made the same mistake that Ashley’s boyfriend Brad made. Poor dumb Deadbug.
Whenever I write Deadbug, I think of a sociopathic Bugs Bunny. So while he may come across as a bit of a buffoon, he’s also deadly. And oddly enough, currently taking his marching orders from Ashley…
I wonder why? Hmmmmmm…
And here we have what appears to be the “Big Bad” of our opening story arc for the new series. For folks who read the Xena/Army of Darkness Vol. 2 crossover that I co-wrote with Brandon Jerwa, this character should look verrrrrrrry familiar.
Now, when I first started plotting out this issue, I had envisioned Ashley tumbling through different time periods, trying to enlist the help of famous historical women, only to have Deadbug kill them in one form or another. Again, it was another case of the ‘joke’ getting ahead of telling the story. So this little quip about Marie Antoinette and her famous “let them eat cake” statement was my way of compromising with myself.
Again, to all the history buffs, I KNOW WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO MARIE ANTOINETTE! I’ve actually visited the Royal Court in France and saw where she lived.
So what is this an example of again?
:::points to the back of the room:::
What? What was that?
“Dramatic license”? YES! You get a gold star!
Time for Ashley to show how kick-ass she can be. I originally had her saying “Welcome to Suffragette City, bitches” but my editor said that no one would get a David Bowie reference. Really? I dunno, I may use it later.
So…did I mention that our “Big Bad” looks a lot like the one from “Xena/Army of Darkness” Vol. 2?
I did, right? Did I mention that you can purchase copies of said trade paperback from the Dynamite Entertainment store?
Oh, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of the “Ash Saves Obama” trade paperback too!
Gee, why is it that these deadites aren’t affected by Ashley’s control of the ‘dark power’ of the Necronomicon? Is it a case of a writer juggling too many story elements and dropping the ball or setting something up for later on?
I’ll let you decide.
(Psst. Hint. It’s the latter.)
Here is where we spell out the “there’s more than one Chosen One” idea for the new series. It’s an idea that I have teased at in my previous AoD work, specifically in issue #18 of the last volume. The idea of multiple universes was also introduced in the “Army of Darkness VS Marvel Zombies” mini-series too, so it’s not like we’re trouncing on any previously established continuity.
I will point out that Ashley has been under the impression that she has been living a solitary existence as a “Chosen One” and that this is the first time she’s learning that she’s not alone.
From this point on, she’s going to be devoting herself to finding the original Ash in the hopes that he can answer some questions for her.
That will be a significant theme in the opening story arc.
Poor Deadbug, just got left behind there. :::cue the sad trombone:::
“You’re not just gonna leave him there, are you Elliott?” you ask.
“Maybe. Maybe not.” I reply.
(Psst. Hint. It’s the latter.)
And here is where we conclude our introduction to the “new” Army of Darkness series. It’s my hope that this particular issue works as a stand-alone story, but also whets your appetite for what is to come in the new series!
I’d love to hear from you all so please send your comments and questions to me via email@example.com and be sure to include “Army of Darkness series” in the subject line.
You can also follow me on Twitter (@GeekToMe)
So until next issue…Hail to the King Baby!