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DF Interview: Mike Wolfer brings a survival guide to Crossed: Badlands
By Byron Brewer
A group of survivors to a virus spreading around the world are trapped – trapped but safe, they tell themselves. But now, their futures may depend on two strangers and a book they hold: a fictional novel on zombies.
Writer/artist Mike Wolfer goes back near the beginning of the Crossed outbreak and weaves us into the lives of these survivors.
For more on the twist on the venerable Avatar franchise Crossed, Dynamic Forces sat down and discussed the arc with Wolfer.
Dynamic Forces: Mike, I know it has been out there awhile, but there is a whole generation of new comic book readers who might not be familiar with the Crossed concept created by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows. Tell us about it.
Mike Wolfer: In recent memory, there have been a slew of “doomsday scenario” stories in comics and movies, in which we see humanity struggling to survive after the Earth has been overrun by (fill in the blank). In most cases, mankind is facing a foe we barely understand, like zombies, aliens, monsters, etc. Garth’s concept in Crossed is unique in that we face ourselves. A virus that is contracted through exposure to the bodily fluids of the Crossed has spread across the globe, and it unleashes the most primal instincts in those who are infected. The Crossed aren’t undead or insane; they’re intelligent, living humans who are stripped of all inhibitions, and they are free from the restrictions of conscience to act out the deepest, horrifying urges that a civilized society keeps repressed.
DF: The currently running iteration from Avatar is Crossed: Badlands, in which you have started a new arc you are writing and drawing. What is the storyline here?
Mike Wolfer: Throughout the Badlands series, we’ve seen stories set at various times throughout the outbreak. My story takes place around six months after the virus first hit, and organized society has just recently fractured. Panic has spread, and no one really understands exactly what is going on. Radio and television transmissions have ended, so all anyone really knows are the last things they heard before the blackout, and at that time, that information was really just a bunch of theories, with very few facts. The cast of “Lesser of Two Evils” is a group of people who have taken refuge at the top of a bridge which spans a river, with both sides of the bridge collapsed, so they have a relatively safe and defendable position, or so they think.
DF: Tell us about the current protagonists on which you are concentrating.
Mike Wolfer: There are eight survivors on the bridge. From the look of it, we can assume that traffic on the bridge was at a standstill, and the vehicles abandoned before the two spans of the bridge were destroyed. My cast has been living off the supplies they’ve found in all of the abandoned cars, as well as food from supermarket delivery trucks which are also up there. As a survival measure, they’ve formed their own rules and all have their own individual duties, for the betterment of the group. They don’t all get along, but in their predicament, there is no alternative. All around them on the shores of the river and in the nearby town, the Crossed are everywhere, so the survivors are trying their best to remain hidden until they can be rescued, or until the virus burns itself out.
DF: They are everywhere, why not here. I here there is a new zombie “bible” coming in #82 courtesy of two strong-willed women?
Mike Wolfer: That’s where the story twist comes in. Two young women who have managed to navigate through the Crossed infected town are taken in by the bridge group. Because of their experiences on the ground, they’re a font of information about how the Crossed operate, and how to stay “clean.” The techniques they’ve utilized have come from a book they possess called “Surviving D-Day: Living Through The Zombie Apocalypse.” Sure, it’s a work of fiction, but they swear by the survival techniques it contains. And they follow those rules to the letter. The idea for that aspect of the story came from watching Max Brooks promote his “Zombie Survival Guide,” and hearing audience members at his lectures tell him that they’re ready, their houses are fully stocked with provisions and weapons, and they’re waiting for the zombies to arrive. I watched that and thought, “There’s a story there.” What if these people really were faced with an apocalypse scenario? How would they fare, and would the advice the book gives really work, considering that survival depends on cooperation with others of different temperaments and intellects? And most importantly, would zombie fighting techniques work on the Crossed?
DF: So how does it feel playing in the toy box of the legendary Garth Ennis?
Mike Wolfer: Garth sets up wonderful scenarios which are rich with possibilities, so it’s always a pleasure to be able to springboard off of his set-ups. We’ve worked together before on Streets of Glory, which I illustrated, but my experience on Stitched was more similar to Crossed in that I took over as writer after his initial seven-issue run and was able to expand the story from the solid path he paved. One of the things I set out to do with my Crossed arc was to try to bring the story more in line with Garth’s original graphic novel. Since its release, we’ve seen many other writers and artists tell Crossed tales, and we’ve seen the Crossed become rape-obsessed cannibals, who seem to be oblivious to pain, dismemberment, and physical injury. But the Crossed are real people, and real people feel pain, and bleed to death. And if we’re talking about primal urges being unleashed, I’m not so sure that rape and cannibalism are repressed desires in most humans. If the virus brings out repressed characteristics and exposes what a person is deep down, I think those characteristics can also be non-violent, like blind loyalty, or in the case of my Crossed character “The Surgeon,” it can be a delusional, “god” complex. I’m trying to mix it up a bit, and show some things about the Crossed we haven’t considered before, beyond their propensity for violence.
DF: Mike, what other projects current or future would you like to discuss?
Mike Wolfer: Foremost would be Daughters of the Dark Oracle, which I’m self-publishing as Mike Wolfer Entertainment, available through Diamond Comic Distributors. The first Daughters mini-series, The Curse of Ragdoll, runs through October, followed by Daughters of the Dark Oracle: Orgy of the Vampires, a five-issue mini-series starting in November. I’m also offering a series of four trade paperbacks called Widow Archives, reprinting the entire Widow saga that I published back in the ‘90s, which still has a surprisingly strong following. I also have a Kickstarter scheduled to launch on September 7 called Daughters of the Dark Oracle: Gruesome Goodies, which will include variant covers of all four issues of the first mini-series, art prints, t-shirts and more, and I’ll also launch an Indiegogo campaign called Maximum Widow, to fund the publication of an adults-only companion book to the Widow Archives, which features excised material originally commissioned by Avatar Press when they published the series as Widow X.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Mike Wolfer for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Crossed: Badlands #83 hits stores August 31st!
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