What if your boring life as an auto mechanic was interrupted by the discovery of a diabolical secret: monsters are infesting the world, your brother is accidentally becoming one, and he needs to hunt down more monsters to survive?
This is the basic concept of "We Kill Monsters," a six part limited series that is soon to be released as in collected form by indie comic publisher Red 5 Comics. Spawned by the creative team behind SyFy's mysterious miniseries "The Lost Room," Christopher Leone and Laura Harkcom, and joined by artist / cartoonist Brian Churilla, the final issue of "We Kill Monsters" hits stores earlier this month.
CBR News caught up with Leone and Harkom recently to discuss the series, the unique challenges and rewards of shifting from television writing to the comic book medium and the potential future of "We Kill Monsters" and other endeavors.
CBR News: The two of you were partners on "The Lost Room," the television miniseries on SyFy network from a few years ago. How did you end up doing comic books, and "We Kill Monsters" in particular?
Christopher Leone: We didn't really set out with it being a comic. I grew up obsessed with comic books, but we work mostly as screen writers and TV writers. "We Kill Monsters" is this idea we had, and we really loved it. Maybe once every year or so we have an idea that we get completely fixated on, and this was that one.
You say that "We Kill Monsters" was an idea you had, but was that idea initially conceived as a comic book, or was it more like, "This is cool - now what do we do with it?"
Laura Harkom: It was an idea, and we thought about what would be the best way to tell it. We originally created "The Lost Room" because we had only done features, and we initially thought of ["The Lost Room"] as a feature film. But as soon as we started to write down the ideas, we thought my God, this could never be a movie, it couldn't even fit in a trilogy. Likewise with "We Kill Monsters." We started writing our ideas and thought, look, the best medium for this would be a comic book.
We had just finished the TV show, and we were thinking TV, but realized budget-wise, you'd have to do almost an X-Files thing where you see the monster in one scene, at the very end of the episode. Or a piece, or a face. We didn't want this to be that. We really wanted to do the monsters the way we want to do them, and the best way to do that is to draw them.
Did you approach Red 5 Comics, or did they approach you?
Leone: Our agent knew them a little bit and suggested we meet with them. We met with a bunch of publishers, but I think they had everything we wanted. It just kinda clicked, our style, and what they are about.
Harkom: They got it in a way that not everybody did. They understood the tone right off the bat, and what we were going for. [The series'] art is a little more old school than some of the more photo realistic stuff that is out there now. And they totally got that, and appreciated it.
For readers who may not be familiar with it, can you tell us what "We Kill Monsters" is about?
Leone: It's about two brothers in this small town, who are mechanics. One night, stumbling out of a bar, they are attacked by a monster. One of the brothers, Jake, is bitten on his arm. When he wakes up the next morning, it's transformed into this super-strong monster arm. And he's addicted now to this brain fluid from monster brains.
Harkom: Because the monster DNA has mingled with his human DNA.
Leone: So now they have to keep hunting and killing monsters, in order to keep the brother alive.
Are they searching for a cure, or does Jake just find himself needing the brain fluid?
Leone: It's both. First, it's just to keep him alive. And then, as they go along, they are trying to figure out where these monsters are coming from. "Why are they in my small town? And is there any way to cure my brother, and what happens to a guy when he gets injections of monster DNA every week? Is Jake eventually going to become a monster himself, or is there hope for a cure?"
Are there clues for the reader as the story progresses, hinting as to where these monsters are coming from?
Harkom: Yes. More or less each issue introduces a new monster, and each issue also has a little clue about where the monsters are coming from. So they find out more, until with the last issue, the mystery is resolved.
So, the miniseries is similar to a single season of a show.
Leone: Yeah, exactly. And we'd love to do more, but for now, it's one six issue story.
Who is the artist for "We Kill Monsters," and how did you find him?
Leone: Brian Churilla [is the artist]. We went to comic book shops, and started getting comic books. We were looking for someone whose style matched our sense of the tone for this book.
Harkom: We'd already written the first script at this point. So we were really looking for the best artist to match this sensibility of the script.
Leone: Brian had done a book for Archaia called "The Engineer." And his taste...it was right. His style just kind of flipped a switch for us, and he was into doing it. Now, he's come out with a book called "The Anchor," from BOOM! Studios…
Harkom: And some others with Dark Horse, I think.
Leone: Yeah. All of a sudden he's big.
Harkom: He's totally hot right now. We were really lucky to get him.
Did you find it hard to adapt your scripting style to working with an artist, thinking about page count and panels, and without motion?
Leone: Yeah. It's funny, because I've read 10,000 comic books, you know, but all of a sudden when you're writing it, you wonder, "For every page, am I going to write six panels or one panel?" It's a new format for me, and some of the rules are different from what I am used to. Like when the guy on the left in a panel needs to speak first, or else the word balloons cross. I was writing a scene where the brothers are driving in their truck, and I had the guy on the right speaking first, and it messed everything up.
How far into the project did you get before you got into the flow of it?
Leone: For me, I think by the end of the first issue is where I kind of got the hang of it.
Harkom: My experience was really different, because I could never make that leap from screen writing to comic writing. Because in my mind, comic writing is much more like directing than writing. It's just so much more visual. So we beat out the story together, and then Chris wrote the scripts.
Tell us about those story plotting sessions, what were they typically like?
Leone: I think it's the same on every project. We procrastinate for two hours.
Harkom: Yeah, we shoot the breeze about his dog, or my cat.
Leone: So then we get to the idea. Like for the "We Kill Monsters" idea, we had the title for that idea first, which is unusual. That's not how we usually do things. The title just made us laugh, and we asked ourselves "What is it, what is this thing?" We had this sense of it, this tone in mind. We knew it was going to be two guys driving around killing monsters. But then [we asked ourselves', "Why are they going out every week to do this?" And the fluid idea developed, and the injections, and the need to go out periodically which drove the story.
Is there anything more you can share with us about the progression of the story without giving too much away?
Leone: One of the things I like about this book in this small town is, as [the characters] go along, there is more and more of this sense of anarchy. These monsters are invading, and their numbers are growing. [The reader starts] to feel that the town is collapsing, before the characters even realize it.
The final issue of "We Kill Monsters" is out now, with the trade paperback scheduled for June 2010.