INTERVIEW: “God Country’s” Donny Cates gets “Bloody-Southern” with His New Vampire Comic, “REDNECK”

INTERVIEW: “God Country’s” Donny Cates gets “Bloody-Southern” with His New Vampire Comic, “REDNECK”

Redneck01_CoverWriter Donny Cates (creator of also God Country), alongside artists Lisandro Estherren, Dee Cunniffe, and Skybound Comics, have been hard at work for at their latest work, Redneck. This “Southern-vampire” comic puts a new twist to the already tried storyline, giving something grittier than what was already there. Instead of sex and violence, they give us hardship, carnage, and war. I was lucky enough to ask a few questions of the Redneck’s creator, Donny Cates.


In short, what’s the story on “Redneck”?

Redneck is the story of The Bowman family. A group of vampires living in East Texas. When our story opens they’ve been kind of leading this very isolationist life. Not bothering anyone (They run a cattle farm and live off the blood they take from the cattle they slaughter for the bbq joint their familiars run in town) and minding their business and living in peace with the townsfolk around them.

This is the story of how that peace comes to an end.

Where did you get the idea for Redneck and how long has the idea been brewing?

A few years now. I’ve just wrapped on issue 12 and Lisandro is drawing issue six I think. So we’ve been in production since 2015 or so. As for how the idea came about…god I don’t really know. Honestly? I think I looked at the word REDNECK and decided someone needed to tell a vampire story set in the south with it! Haha, I know that’s a boring answer, but it’s the truth more often than you’d think.

Since that initial thought, though, it’s morphed and evolved into something deeply personal. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to a book.

Southern Vampires?  Surely we’ve never heard this before. Why do you think makes the idea of vampires in the deep-South so appealing?

Well, no. It’s been done. But not really like this I don’t think. True Blood being the biggest one I guess, but even in True Blood they were still so pretty and charming. They were connected to the vampire community and all that bullshit. I wanted to do a story about a bunch of good backwoods people who just kinda…happen to also be vampires.

They aren’t pretty. Or charming or even particularly that smart. They’re just a bunch of “people” trying to get by. Trying to raise a family in a world filled with people who hate and fear them.

Often writers feel like they grow close connections with their characters. How are your feelings toward the vampiric Bowman family?

Oh, I’ve grown very close to them. A few characters in particular. Perry, the creepy (and incredibly dangerous) little girl of the family, is my favorite of the bunch. Followed by Bartlett, our main character. He has this kind of old school simple wisdom about him that I just love.

They are all based on real people I know here in Austin, actually. So I’m very close to all of them.

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How was the process of getting Redneck off the ground? What were some of your more memorable moments on the project so far?

Honestly, it was one of the most painless things I’ve been through in my career. Skybound reached out and asked if I had anything I wanted to pitch, and I just happened to be working on the pitch to REDNECK at the time so I sent it on over. They were very receptive to it and we got started pretty quickly. It’s been a joy to work with them.

As far as memorable moments go, I’d say getting the first pages in from Lisandro and then seeing them colored and brought to life from Dee…that was surreal. To see these characters that had lived in my head for so long come to life as perfectly as they did…that was a trip.

(I still can’t believe this book is real)

How would you say Redneck compares itself to “God Country?”

Well, certainly they both tell stories of families in Texas. So in that regard, I guess they both came from the same place to a certain extent. Two sides of the same coin really. Redneck is much darker and has really different themes. God Country is about holding on to the things you love and never letting go Redneck is about overcoming the past…it’s about being better than the people who made you.

Where do you see yourself represented in both God Country and Redneck?

Hmmm, well, as a Texan who is also a son and an Uncle and a big Kirby fan…I absolutely see myself in all of these stories haha. Yeah, I mean both of these stories are incredibly personal to me for different reasons.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that when I start doing these projects that are incredibly personal like this, I tend to draw Texas around me like a security blanket. It’s a place I understand. A place I love and feel safe in.

What have been some of your influences as a reader and a writer?

So many. In respects to comics; Jason Aaron, Mark Waid, Bendis, Hickman, Moore…those are the guys for me. Those are the guys who set the bar I’m constantly reaching for. Novels I’m all over the place. I love Cormac McCarthy, Philip Meyer, James S.A. Corey (The Expanse series is unbelievably good) Gaiman (again!) Larry McMurtry, and Stephen King. I think those guys are all big influences on me.

As a writer, what elements would you say is important to your process? (This is intentionally open-ended, HAHA)

Oh hmm, conversation actually. My wife and best buddy Seamus (Who is actually in the book!) are the two people I go to when I need to- break a problem down or I get stuck or need some inspiration. Every now and then I just HAVE to get out of my office and go and talk to someone. It always works too. I start talking things out and magically the blocks fall away and I’m able to get things where they need to be.

Without too many spoilers, anything you want to instruct the readers to watch out for?

If I say literally anything it will be a spoiler haha! So I guess just watch out for the book itself! And ask me this question again after you read the first issue!

When should readers expect Redneck to hit store shelves?

Next month! April 19th! In shops everywhere. Tell your shop you want one because it WILL sell out.

REVIEW: With Only 5 Issues, Is it Already the End for Deadpool the Duck?

REVIEW: With Only 5 Issues, Is it Already the End for Deadpool the Duck?

DPTD1When comic creators decide on doing a crossover, it’s pretty much guaranteed that shenanigans will ensue. When Marvel deemed that Deadpool and Howard the Duck should “join forces,” they might have taken that a little too literally.

Writer Stewart Moore and artist Jacopo Camagni have done a wonderful job in steering us down this Alice in Wonderlandish rabbit hole called a comic, where in which they filled the hole with anthropomorphic characters, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and nanobot filled barf. The idea of both Deadpool and Howard the Duck inhabiting the same body seems like a pure strike of comedic-genius, but Moore and Camagni took the zaniness a step further with the inclusion of characters like Doctor Bong (who’s been chasing the likes of Howard since 1977) and the familiar ball of “furry-fury” that is Rocket Raccoon.

The writing was a well-done marriage with the two worlds of Howard the Duck and Deadpool; The anti-hero talking waterfowl who is constantly drowning in all the crap the universe throws at him, and the anti-hero/mercenary for hire who takes all the crap that gets thrown at him and shoves it down said universe’s throat. The banter between the two characters alone, who find themselves inhabiting the same body, would have undoubtedly gotten tired and stale if it weren’t for the supporting characters that breathed fresh conflict and confusion into the over-the-top story. The fourth-wall breaks that are utterly Deadpool are all present, as well as perpetual disappointments that are purely Howard. As a fan of both characters (I was THAT kid who loved the 1986 flop that was the Howard the Duck movie FYI), I felt that every box was ticked.

Camagni’s artistry really pulls through, doing justice to nearly every Marvel character. I say “nearly” because I thought that Rocket Raccoon looked a little too “bottom-heavy” for my taste. His take on Doctor Bong is quite good as well, lending to the fact that Camagni is very use to drawing the male form. Bong should be truly flattered, as it appears that the artist gave him a little extra “padding” down there (he REALLY seems to like making men bottom-heavy). Even the coloring of Israel Silva was a proper balance of gritty mutes and shades of red. It could have been easy to mistakenly gone with the terrible color palettes that have plagued certain Howard the Duck issues in the past, but thankfully the colorist avoided that.

True, the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but I think that it’s ultimately befitting as nothing goes completely as the two anti-heroes would like. Violent, gross, and overtop are all words that describe the five-issue mini-series that is Deadpool the Duck, which means it’s creators truly nailed it. The biggest issue with this series is that it’s already over. Do I smell sequel, perhaps? Or is that just that nanobot-filled-barf again?

Coming out March 15th, find Marvel’s Deadpool the Duck at your local comic shop. Holding out for the collection? Issues 1-5 is slated to release on June 13th 2017.

PREVIEW: Body Parts Get Severed and Link Whines in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Manga

PREVIEW: Body Parts Get Severed and Link Whines in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” Manga

liens-releases044The Legend of Zelda franchise has spread its lore far and wide since it’s 1986 Japanese release. Aside from being mistakenly called “Zelda” since the game’s 1987 American release, the protagonist Link is known by fans as “The Hero of Time, The Hero of Light, and of course “The Hero of Legend.” After thirty-one years, we have seen a slew of video games, cartoon adaptions, cartoon cameos, manga adaptions, and not to mention a ton of merchandise that has steadily helped to fill Nintendo’s coffers. It’s of no surprise that another product featuring our “forever-reincarnated” Link and Princess Zelda is releasing soon. No, I’m not talking about the upcoming Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild video game.

Following up his 2012 Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time manga series, Akira Himekawa has released the much asked for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess manga. Those who played the game, the Gamecube version versus the Wii version, will agree it was a great addition to the mysterious Zelda timeline. The manga was first released in February of 2016 in Japan and is finally getting released in America this month by VIZ Media.

liens-releases046Himekawa’s artwork is done quite well, with all the emotion and detail that a good manga calls for. A reader can get a sense of movement with every panel. There’s a great deal of humor that gives a healthy contrast with the rest of the story. As to be expected, story details from the video game differ with Himekawa’s manga adaption. For those that recall, the game was visually darker than most of the other titles, as our main character finds himself trapped in the “Twilight Kingdom.” Shadows and mute colors were largely used in the art style. As a whole, the manga has a darker tone than that of the video game, featuring the likes of townspeople being wounded and killed, the daughter of the mayor being shot by an arrow with visual bleeding, and even the likes of Link having an appendage chopped off of him. Despite the humor that I mentioned, this story is strictly rated “T for Teen”.

Another departure from that of the video games is that Himekawa’s Link talks. Ever since his 1986 debut, the silent protagonist has been just that; Silent! Whether this is because Nintendo knows that this is part of the character’s charm or that they believe it would be as traumatic as when the hard-rock band KISS took off their makeup in 1983, the consensus in the video games has been that “Link doesn’t talk!”

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Sexy Midna?!

Despite this “Nintendo rule of thumb”, that hasn’t stopped the likes of those that have adapted the character for other medias. It’s difficult to have a story with a non-talking main character after all. Some bad examples of talking Links have been the thirteen-episode 1989 cartoon and the disastrously terrible Panasonic “CD-i” video games.

liens-releases047Sadly, Himekawa’s link wasn’t a successful adaption for me. Though visually appealing and utterly heroic in his deeds, Twilight Princess’ Link often comes across as whiney and more adolescent than his visuals make him out to be. It’s quite possible that Himekawa has given Link a case of PTSD, which is evident from a flashback featured in the story. Though I appreciate the effort that Himekawa is making with adding another dimension with the character, there are some things that shouldn’t be messed with.

It’s quite possible though that it isn’t Himekawa that is to blame for Link’s dialogue, but perhaps that of the English adaption team. There’s a scene where the townsfolk first encounter an oncoming hoard of monsters and one person simply responds with “YIKES!” When has anyone ever given a terror-charged exclamation of “yikes”? The English adaption is accredited to “Stan!” for goodness sake. No, I didn’t add the exclamation point. It’s there printed in the back of the book, with no last name to account for. Is “Stan!” someone like “Madonna” or “Cher”?

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Overall, I thought the story was entertaining and a nice read. Though the dialogue was nothing to write home about, the beautiful scenery and the wonderfully drawn action was what kept me going. In the end, isn’t that why we read adventure stories? If you want true Zelda storyline with no shenanigans, best to stick to the video games.

Akira Himekawa and VIZ Media’s The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess will release March 14th online and book retailers nationwide.