Decapitated Dan: Hey Mark, Kyle and Jay thanks for taking time to talk with me about the ‘68: Homefront. First of all lets talk about you. Who are you and what do you do?
Mark Kidwell: I write all this grisly business, plus I edit each issue (along with Jay) and produce the “Incoming” articles at the back of each book.
Jay Fotos: Thanks for having us Dan. Kyle couldn’t make it as he’s out of town, but he’s here in spirit for sure! I’m Jay Fotos, and I wear many-many hats in producing ’68. Along with color work, design/graphics, lettering, pre-press, I act as “den father” to the crew, making sure we stay on point with art direction, scheduling, editing, promotion, website, facebooking etc. All thankless jobs, but I love it.
MK: He’s our martyr.
DD: How did you find yourself getting into making comics?
MK: I’d been a comics fan and reader since I was like four and I’d been drawing since around that time as well. I went to school and got a degree in design and illustration, started working in advertising and still kept up with my comics addiction. Finally, after working freelance for a couple of years doing fantasy illustration for the gaming industry, I went to Wizard World Chicago with a portfolio full of artwork and showed my stuff around. Came back with a penciling gig (that turned into a writing gig too) and an inking gig. Rest is history.
JF: I’m a late bloomer to comics. As a child(in the 70’s) I wasn’t into them at all other than my Dad’s Heavy Metal Magazines. There were pretty painted pictures there that I really liked. In the late 70’s, Richard Corben’s Den was a regular in that book and he sure knew how to paint the hell out of them naked boobies! Google it, you’ll see what I mean. Right about that time I was introduced to Frank Frazetta’s work and everything changed. Skip to the late 90’s where I had an opportunity to work with Todd Mcfarlane on pretty much every Spawn title he released. I think even Spawn: The Undead was ranked #1 best seller at some point. Working for Todd really gave me my “comic sea-legs” and taught me how to produce comics from the ground up. From there, I worked with other publishers like Chaos Comics and started my long time partnership with IDW Publishing. I also produced the full line of Frazetta Comics at Image. When Ellie and Frank Frazettas passed in 2010, we ended production. We started ’68 back in 2006 and fired it up again in 2010, so I’ve been concentrating heavily on that.
DD: Before we dive into it, how can I get my hands on ‘68: Homefront?
MK: All our books are available through Diamond and are for sale in comic shops all over the country (and abroad). Just ask your friendly local comics retailer to order copies and he can get ‘em where he gets Batman.
JF: Pretty much anywhere. Amazon, Comixology, etc. can hook you up with digital copies of the books too. You can find all that info on our website www.68zombie.com
DD: So what can you tell me about ‘68: Homefront. What’s it all about?
MK: Homefront is a return to America for the ’68 franchise. We step back, take a break from the regular ongoing Vietnam/Cambodia storyline and its cast of characters to give readers a glimpse of what’s going on back in “the world” as the dead rise. We crank the calendar backwards, returning again to February 13th, 1968 and plop you down in the small town of Harbinger, Pennsylvania for the first two-issue story arc entitled: Peece and Love. This first arc brings our special brand of mayhem to small town America, centering on Homecoming Queen Jenny Peece and her secret relationship with town bad boy, Johnny Love. Incidentally, Johnny is the brother of the sniper presented in the very first issue of ’68, so the story has a direct connection with firebase Aries and the original series story arc. Next up, the final two issues of the series present a separate tale called: Dodgers. This one tells the story of twin brothers running away to Canada to escape the draft and dodge the bullet that was Vietnam. Still set in America, just not the US…and obviously much colder. Lotsa blood in the snow, if ya know what I mean.
DD: What can readers expect in terms of Horror?
MK: Longtime readers will not be disappointed. Homefront is chock full of the special ’68 brand of splatterpunk horror. There’s plenty of gore and some clever zombie setups and kills. There’s a bus crash in “Peece and Love” that turns an entire visiting basketball team, cheerleaders, coach and all, into a ravenous undead horde and a mortician battles a mob of cannibal monsters that boil upstairs from his basement mortuary. In “Dodgers”, we establish an eerie atmosphere as a huge blizzard blankets the province of Alberta and our main characters are forced to take refuge in a small, snowbound cabin as resurrected Mounties come to call. Very spooky, action-packed and of course…bloody as hell.
DD: Why bring the story to the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?
MK: Centering the main story of ’68 in Vietnam and continuing with just that has a tendency to alienate modern audiences who don’t have a good handle on the history of the time period. Homefront brings readers back to a little more familiarity with setting and gives us the opportunity to show that the undead apocalypse is everywhere. We touched on this concept originally in the third issue of the first arc, showing a zombie riot on the campus of UC Berkely. Readers cite that issue as one of their favorites, so it’s time to give ‘em more down-home horror and move the “camera” back to the states and Canada.
DD: Will we see any characters from Hardship or Hallowed Ground in this?
MK: No, those books are pretty much self-contained. As mentioned above, we do establish links with our main story in “Peece and Love” and as for “Dodgers”, you can imagine that had our main characters been drafted, they would have definitely shown up alongside Kuen Yam and Nero at firebase Aries.
DD: So the big question for me is, are you done telling stories that take place in Vietnam?
MK: Nope! The next story arc in the ’68 series will deal with Yam, Jungle Jim and everyone else as they defend an ancient Buddhist temple called “Heaven” from a lunatic in a shredded human skin mask that calls himself “War-Face”. The guy’s got a makeshift army of “trained” zombies with stars painted on their faces (his “star” pupils) and he’s moving them around like a psychotic general. That story’s gonna get nuts.
MK: In today’s world, I’d give it a hard “R”. There’s a lot of profanity and hardcore, on-screen
violence. As always, we shy away from nudity or overt sexual situations, so no NC 17, but it’s violent as hell. Back in the eighties and nineties, we’d get an X or have to consider it unrated.
DD: What are you hoping readers can take away from this story?
MK: As with all the ’68 stuff, we strive to spice each story with actual facts surrounding the time period. I hope readers enjoy the mayhem, but get a dose of historic flavor, black humor, solid character construction and a bit of empathy for our main characters. In short, I hope they can identify with some of these people before we eviscerate them.
DD: Can you share any info on what will come next for the ‘68 universe?
MK: The “War-Face” situation as detailed above, another Jungle Jim one-shot (Jungle Jim: Guts and Glory – Coming Soon!), a closer look at the notorious ‘60s serial killer, THE ZODIAC and shhhh… a peek forward.
JF: Starting in September, there will be a new ’68 book on the shelf every month until July 2015!
DD: Were you into any horror titles growing up that lead you to want to create a book like this?
MK: It’d be easier to list the horror titles I wasn’t into…but as always, much of what I do is still informed by the classic EC comics and the black and white Warren stuff like Creepy and Eerie. I also read tons of “head” comics, underground stuff like SLOW DEATH and SKULL that really got down in the muck by way of presenting “non-comics code” gore and violence. I pored over stuff by Rich Corben, Greg Irons, Wrightson, Graham Ingles, etc. While everybody else was reading Superman and Wonder Woman, I was reading Fantagor and Rowlf. Mis-spent youth…
DD: What was the most horrific thing that happened to you when you were working on this book?
MK: I stopped smoking and started “vaping”. Then I started smoking again, just far less. Now I vape and smoke. All good.
JF: I quit smoking(cold turkey), gained like 25 pounds, lost it, gained some more back…now slimming down again. Unlike Mark, I stayed off the smokes.
MK: I’m working hard to bring my BUMP comic series to trade paperback. It’s coming in ’15, with some new story pages and some “behind-the-scenes” stuff. Also, Jay and I are diving into some new projects for the near future. Everything’s kinda preliminary right now, but we’re both slammin’ ideas and working on some concept stuff. Some of it is familiar, but some of it is all new, direction wise. Also, very close to seeing production of a film version of my novella, “Maxie’s Miracle”. All signs point to this thing seeing a camera soon.
JF: As Mark mentioned, we’ve got other properties we’re brewing. For now, I’m still dug in deep with IDW, working on the ongoing series V-Wars and a few other projects coming down the pike with them soon.
DD: So where can readers find out more about this book?
MK: 68zombie.com, our Facebook page, Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalog and tons of online sites that post page previews of upcoming Image titles.
DD: So in summary give me a quick recap on ‘68: Homefront and why fans should give it a try.
MK: It’s a great place to start with ’68 if you haven’t read anything else in the series up to this point. You don’t have to be familiar with the ongoing story threads to enjoy this series. Plus, it’s a return to civilization for our special brand of undead horror. Not everyone has an M-16 and grenades in smalltown America or the snowbound hills of Canada. It’s gonna be tough going. And check out the stunning artwork by up and comer Kyle Charles! He’s knocking this series outta the park!
DD: Thanks so much for your time.
MK: Thank you, Dan! As always, you’re one of the best and always at the plate, swingin’ for ’68!
JF: Thanks Dan, all the best! And thanks to everyone/anyone that picks up our books… being a independent comic we so appreciate all the support! A million thanks!