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DF Interview: Sean Lewis gives us a new crime/horror series readers will worship in Saints
By Byron Brewer
Award-winning playwright and This American Life personality Sean Lewis teams with hot artist Benjamin Mackey for an all-new ongoing series from Image Comics called Saints.
Our saga begins when Blaise, Lucy and Sebastian discover a Holy War is erupting and they, unwittingly, are the next generation of Saints poised to fight for a heaven that God has abandoned.
To fill in the dots on this comic, Dynamic Forces sat down with scribe Sean Lewis.
Dynamic Forces: Sean, before we begin, tell us how you got involved in writing in general and comics in particular.
Sean Lewis: I always wrote as a kid and comics were a natural attraction. My uncle lived with us when I was young, he was probably ten years older than me and he was always buying Sandman and Swamp Thing books. I’d basically steal them from him. The Gaiman stories always stayed with me. I went on to get a degree from the University of Iowa’s Writers Workshop in Playwriting. We worked a lot on character and dialogue. How to create intrigue and momentum in narrative stories. I graduated and have worked as a playwright ever since. Saints is the first comic book (for either Ben or myself). That comic love was always there but I never knew how to get an opportunity to do it. The past few months have certainly been amazing with the opportunity for the new book.
DF: Tell us a little about how Saints came to be as an Image comic.
Sean Lewis: Straight serendipity. Ben and I had the idea in August of 2014. We finished the first issue of the book in November. We then basically sent it in as a blind submission to Eric Stephenson at Image and by February we were contracted for an ongoing run of the book.
It’s been a whirlwind and we were beyond lucky.
DF: The very title of the book, Saints, leaves an image of one thing, what with the recent visit of the Pope, but inside this mag is a crime-horror saga of Dexter-like work. Is this a genre you enjoy, and if so why?
Sean Lewis: I enjoy the subject matter as a whole. I grew up around religion. Devout believers and devout atheists populate my Thanksgiving dinners at home. There are lots of disagreements. So that inevitably makes for drama.
I love mysteries. I love stories that unravel themselves piece by piece over time. I loved Locke and Key for this reason. I want to be engaged and thoughtful when I am reading something. It has to be entertaining but give me a full meal, you know. Mystery allows for that because it argues that everything has an unexpected depth.
DF: Saints #1 is already in stores, but tell us, if you will, a little about the initial storyline of this ongoing.
Sean Lewis: So what if God walked away from heaven? He called it in. The angels no longer have purpose. The souls of saints are released from heaven to either disappear into ether or find new hosts… what if the new hosts were everyday people. People not expecting to be great who now had powers? Powers that derive from the way their Saint was martyred (for instance Saint Sebastian was killed in a hail of arrows, in Saints’ Sebastian can generate arrows from his body and fire them at his enemies).
So Saints walk among us again in the book. The problem is in the Bible the return of the Saints is a sign of the apocalypse. The angels don’t want the end to come. And the Saints don’t really know what their existence means.
So there is your war. The everyday man and his worries versus the kingdom of heaven. With a lot of jokes, death metal and the supernatural thrown in.
DF: Who are your protagonists?
Sean Lewis: In issue #1 we have Saint Sebastian, Saint Blaise and Saint Lucy. All from different walks of life (Blaise was a roadie/hanger-on with a death metal band, Lucy works at a local super market and Sebastian … well, his origin will come out soon).
And be on the look out for Saint Stephen. Oh, Saint Stephen and the trouble and venom he brings.
DF: Can you tell us the inspiration for the series? Something in your life’s history, or perhaps less personal?
Sean Lewis: I met the artist while working on a play and we literally came up with the idea for Saints while painting the set at like 7 in the morning. Ben had been thinking about the basic idea and I had spent a number of years at Catholic School.
My grandmother is a hardcore Irish Catholic. Her son, whose comics I stole, is an atheist. Both of their viewpoints are really present in my life. Religion as a whole is fascinating because it influences your life even if you don’t engage with it. Laws are made around it. Wars are fought. You can choose to be non-religious but religion chooses you still. It still demands you deal with it.
And we make our own religions. David Foster Wallace has some great writing on this where he talks about “what do you worship?” I just came from Comic Con and it’s a church of types for some people. A place they go and they admire and revel and give homage and find community. As humans we weirdly like and seek out dogma. I want to look at that in my writing. I want to turn it on its head and mess with it.
DF: Tell us about working with artist Benjamin Mackey. What does this talented guy bring to Saints?
Sean Lewis: Ben is awesome. Our work together is incredibly collaborative and I think it’s important that we both feel absolute and agreed ownership of all parts of the story. It’s a wonderful give and take and his drawing style is so unique and cool it really adds an environment and mood to the proceedings. It’s been an awesome experience. I just think the sky is the limit for him.
DF: Sean, what else might we be on the look-out for now or in the near future from your keyboard?
Sean Lewis: Oh, Saints is a priority right now. I am working on some commissions of plays. Right now I am creating a big adaptation of a crazy book called The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by a novelist named Benjamin Hale. It’s basically the fictional memoirs of the world’s first talking chimpanzee and has fascinating insights on what it is to be human. I also have been touring a new show for two people called Ghost Story I created with a Canadian playwright named Jennifer Fawcett, which basically turns theaters into a haunted house/museum created by the fictional box office attendant at the participating theater who puts this performance about his dead sister on every night after the theater has closed for the evening. We’ve done workshops of it in San Francisco and Iowa City and will keep touring it through the year.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Sean Lewis for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Saints #1 is in stores now!
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