Hello and welcome to the return of Webcomic of the Month where I’ll be taking a look at a webcomic that I think deserves as much attention as possible. Join us every first Saturday of the month where you can get a taste of the comic and an interview about it from the creator(s).
To start us off we have Death Springs, a western horror series where a corrupted landscape brings about the living dead with only the sheriff and a few other town members trying to stop the plague. The comic reads like a horror comic you could find from the 1950s, and I mean that in the best way. The series was created by Brady Sullivan and Shawn Wagner, with art by JC Grande and Jessie Alley. I was able to interview Death Springs‘ writer and co-creator Brady Sullivan; here’s what he had to say.
The idea came about from a collaboration with comic artist Shawn Wagner. We had worked together on a previous project and enjoyed it a lot, so he came to me with a general idea for a Western with zombies, and gave me a few of the basic ideas for the series. I immediately saw a lot of great potential in the idea, especially if we focused in on the character relationships. Plus I love Westerns and all those trappings, and who isn’t into zombies these day? So I crafted a story and scripted the first issue. Unfortunately Shawn had to bow out for time reasons, but by that point I was extremely pleased with the project, so he gave me his blessing to go ahead and create the comic with a new artist, JC Grande.
Will this series have an ending or do you plan for it to be an ongoing?
The initial pitch for the series was 4 issues, but with the decision to make it a webcomic I tweaked the ending to that so it can continue on. So this initial arc will last 4 issues, and tell our original story, but from there we will continue with some of the characters as they explore other weird aspects of the West.
Do you plan on bringing other supernatural elements into the series?
Absolutely. The decision to expand the series past 4 issues was based mostly on that. I was working on a series of short Western horror stories featuring folklore of the American West, because that’s something I’m fascinated by, and decided I might as well fold it into this world. So although there will still be zombies roaming around, issue 5 and beyond will focus on legends and creatures from cowboy and American Indian folklore. I’ve already started introducing these elements through 10 page intermissions between each finished issue with the artist CJ Camba. The first one. “Terror of the Tommyknockers,” is up now.
Are any of these characters based off other western characters?
Well many of them are my spin on classic Western characters (the Sheriff, the Outlaw, etc.) but I didn’t base them on any particular characters. You can see by some of the initial character designs on the site that Jake was going to look quite a bit like Clint Eastwood at one point, but I quickly asked for a re-design because how could you look at him and not hear that voice? Plus Jake is a very different kind of cowboy than those strong, silent Clint Eastwood roles. He’s much more of an average guy trying to do the best he can in a very bad situation.
What are your favorite horror or western stories?
The classic John Wayne and Clint Eastwood westerns are what I grew up watching on cable and just formed an amalgamation in my mind of what a Western was, so it is very hard to choose from those. These days I’ve been thrilled that some of my favorite writers/directors put out their own modern takes on the Western in the form of True Grit and Django Unchained. I loved both of those and that they’re helping to keep Westerns alive and fresh.
As for horror stories, I love everything from Poe stories to Evil Dead 2.
That’s a tough one. Although I love Henry, because the bad guys are always fun, my favorite to write is probably Lois.
If you could write in another time period besides the old west or present day what would it be?
I’ve actually written in many! I have a graphic novel that will be out soon called Doing Time which takes place in several different time periods, including the Civil War, Crusades and ancient Rome, so those were all very fun to make quick stops in. I also have an upcoming comic called King’s Ransom which takes place in a medieval fantasy setting, so that has been a challenging change of pace. Other than that I have always been working to get a comic set in the 1920’s off the ground, their slang rivals even cowboys in how fun it is to write.
What do you think makes for a good horror story?
I think it depends on the medium, and for comics I think the best horror stories are more unsettling and in line with classic horror tales than modern day horror films. I remember hearing Mike Mignola discuss this once when asked about creating horror comics, and he commented on the fact that it is extremely hard to scare someone in a comic in the same way you do a film. The silent, static medium just doesn’t lend itself to making you jump out of your seat. So a good horror comic is more about mood and ideas than cheap scares.
As anyone working in indie comics knows, a HELL of a long time! I usually write an issue in a few weeks, pencils/inks take about a month, and then the coloring and lettering is done in chunks over a few months.
A Velociraptor, of course. Put a muzzle on that thing, invest in an industrial grade nail-clipper, and you’d have a pretty awesome ride.
I hope this article has more people wanting to read Death Springs or at the very least gave them some insight on who is working on it behind the scenes. Thanks for joining me here for Webcomic of the Month, and see you the first Saturday of next month for our next showcase.