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ALEX DE CAMPI
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DF Interview: Alex de Campi shows No Mercy to teens in new Image book

By Byron Brewer

It was just a trip, before college. Build schools in a Central American village; get to know some of the other freshmen. What could go wrong? After tragedy strikes, these once-privileged American teens must find their way home in a cruel landscape that at best doesn't like them, and at worst actively wants to kill them. No phones. No passports. No mercy.

Bestselling writer Alex de Campi (Smoke/Ashes, Grindhouse), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and Jenn Manley Lee (Dicebox) team up for No Mercy, coming from Image Comics this Spring 2015.

Dynamic Forces sat down with Alex de Campi to get the scoop on this pre-college field trip gone wrong.

Dynamic Forces: Alex, what was the inspiration for No Mercy?

Alex de Campi: I've done a lot of traveling and living overseas (5 years living in Hong Kong, almost a year in the Philippines, 6 months in Mexico City, 10 years in London) and I find what people from the U.S. do in foreign countries an endlessly fascinating subject... from backpackers "doing" a country on the cheap to jaded expats living a floating life on the surface of a culture. We tend to think we're invulnerable... and to a certain extent we are protected by a thick bubble of privilege. But not always. Also, most lives of kids going to Ivy League universities are pretty damn comfortable and convenient -- so I thought, what if we take that all away?

DF: Carefree, innocent youth faced with disaster is a trope long used by writers, especially in the genre of horror. What are the effects of the mechanism here?

Alex de Campi: I like to think of it more as taking the most melodramatic type of human in existence -- the middle-class teenager -- and seeing what happens when they are confronted with real problems. Now, these kids are all from different backgrounds -- racially, geographically, socially... they probably wouldn't be friends if they met anywhere other than on a school trip. Some of them aren't from comfortable circumstances at all, and some have pretty s****y parents. So some of the kids are acquainted with real problems already (and it's not necessarily the ones you think!), and some of them, well.... just.... no. 

DF: Tell us about some of your protagonists, Alex.

Alex de Campi: It's an ensemble cast, without a specific, single hero. And some of them, you'll go back and forth between loving and hating. Chad, for example -- prepster extraordinaire, total douche bag, but really good at organizing and planning. Much as you might hate him, he is the one keeping the kids together. DeShawn is a tall, quiet guy from Annapolis who we leave pretty much of a mystery for the first several issues (other kids, we learn a lot more about them sooner) but he's also brave, determined, and quite heroic in the face of danger. Lily, our first narrator, is a sarcastic Korean-American gal from Anaheim there with her best friend Tiffani, and she's really good at seeing through some of the white lies the other kids tell to make themselves seem more impressive.  Gina is a local beauty queen from upstate Michigan, who hasn't really had much life experience but is cheerful and works hard to keep everyone's spirits up. 

DF: Can you tell us what kind of disaster or catastrophe these kids find abroad without spoilers?

Alex de Campi: Nope. But over half of them die in the first issue.

DF: Alas, DeShawn, we hardly knew ye! (lol) … Why is Carla Speed McNeil right for this book? Are you a fan of her work?

Alex de Campi: Carla draws great teenagers. She's so good at expressions and body language, and her kids look like real kids -- not tiny adults in low-hanging jeans and thongs (ugh), and not glossy, over-styled hipsters. We've worked together on a couple of books before and had a really good time. And we're still having a really good time on this, six issues in (we are working way in advance). We work very collaboratively, and Carla, Jenn (colorist) and I all have each other's back. It's a good feeling, especially with the slightly existential horror of publishing via Image (in that there is nobody to check your work/keep you from falling flat on your face).

DF: Alex, where are these kids headed down the road?

Alex de Campi: Lots die. So many that we bring in some new kids, and not all of them survive either. There is a lot of death in this book. Some will get back safe and sound, though, and start their freshman years at college... but the hangover of the trip will be lengthy for them. Lawsuits, PTSD and more.

Dynamic Forces would like to thank Alex de Campi for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. No Mercy from Image hits shelves in April!




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