Grab your boomstick and chainsaw, because the deadites are back to carry out the malevolent will of the Necronomicon. Of course, there's only one person in all the multiverse that can save humanity, and luckily for us, he's up for another run! Ashley J. Williams returns this February in an all-new ongoing series from Dynamite Entertainment -- but there are a few surprises in store for both hero and readers alike.
Putting Ash through his paces is "Ash Saves Obama" and "Xena/Army of Darkness" writer Elliott Serrano, who, along with artist Marat Mychaels, plans to implement a "back to the basics" approach while adding a few new twists, including a female version of Ash and the Necronomicon's influence reaching beyond Earth to other planets.
Serrano spoke with CBR News about his plans for Ash, his research (which included playing the "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness" video games), continuity, the challenges of writing Ash's dialogue and the influence of the nefarious Necronomicon.
CBR News: Elliott, you're returning to the "Army of Darkness" universe after writing "Ash Saves Obama." What have you got in store for fans with this new series?
Elliott Serrano: I'm going to be taking a "back to the basics" approach for Ash in the series. It takes place about one year after the last series ended, but it could easily be one year after the film ended, so you don't have to have read the previous series. At this point, Ash has accepted his role as "The Chosen One" and is actively seeking out these pockets of deadites that have been cropping up around the world. He's also added some new weapons to his arsenal, outside of his traditional chainsaw and boomstick. I thought it would be cool to incorporate some elements that have been created for the different "Evil Dead" and "AoD" video games, and having new weapons was part of that.
And trust me, with some of the challenges he's going to meet, Ash is going to need all the firepower he can get!
The solicitation information indicates that fans will see a new female Ash embroiled in an all-new deadite conflict. Who is this new Ash and how soon will readers get a chance to see how she connects to the Ash we know and love?
We'll be meeting "Lady Ash" in the very first issue, and I drop some major hints as to how she plays into the overall AoD universe right from the get-go. There are some things about her that make her very unique, and its not that she's the only female version of Ash in all the multiverse. Smart readers will be able to put the pieces together rather quickly. I'm not one to be coy and toy with readers for too long; I like to set up a scenario, give you a payoff and move on to the next. But that's not to say that I'm going to show all the cards in my hand at the start of the poker game. There are some elements that I'll keep hidden, some cards I'll be keeping close to the vest and some surprises I hope to spring down the line.
There have been a lot of takes on the undead and deadites in the AoD mythos -- what makes the alien deadite unique and how does it tie back into the original deadite menace?
First off, I have to go on record as saying that I do not consider deadites to be zombies. I mean, yeah, they are at times undead people, but they can be so much more than that. A person can become a deadite and yet still revert to human form. A deadite can be a re-animated corpse that is nothing more than a skeleton. And we've also learned from the "Evil Dead" and "Army of Darkness" video games that deadites can also be giant, mutant creatures. So I don't think I'm creating anything new.
Having said that, the alien deadite we hint at in the solicits is evidence that the evil forces of the Necronomicon don't just affect human beings on Earth, but also the beings on other planets and in other dimensions. We're going to explore how evil and darkness is everywhere. That will play into the grand, over-reaching arc of the first "season" of the new series.
For continuity sticklers, where, exactly, does this fall in relation to the movies and other comic book adventures set in the AoD world?
The new series takes place approximately one-year after the previous AoD comic-book series that was helmed by Mike Raicht and Scott Kohn, but it could just as easily take place one year after the movie. I'm a big proponent of making comics accessible to new readers, so I'm keeping folks who have seen the film, yet who may have never read an AoD comic, in mind when I write the series.
In a lot of ways, this story is unexplored territory for AoD, with the Necronomicon showing its influence across the universe. How far will you be taking readers into unexplored territory?
Hopefully I'll be taking them far enough without straying too far. It can get to the point where you've gone so far away from the original conceit of the films that it no longer feels like "Army of Darkness." Still, I think I have some fun, new scenarios that I can introduce Ash into without having fans of the original movies saying, "That doesn't feel right." There will be alien deadites, time-travel and some dimensional hokey-pokey going on, but not so much that it feels like we've forgotten where we've come from.
As we previously mentioned, you've worked in this reality before in "Ash Saves Obama." How did working on that book help inform your crafting of this new series?
With "Ash Saves Obama," I had the challenge of balancing the tone of the story between action/horror and satire. I also had to consider what the licensors of the AoD property would approve. Through that process of writing a script and getting notes back, I got a feel for what I could and could not do with the characters. I learned of the potential pitfalls that come with working on a licensed property, so that was an experience. A good one, I will add.
On top of that, I wrestled with trying to write Ash's dialogue in a way that wasn't just a retread of his catch-phrases from the movie. Luckily, I've not only got the movies to watch and listen to, but a few "Evil Dead" video games that Bruce Campbell has done voice-work for. Getting his tone, his voice down just right, that was something I needed to master. I think I've gotten the hang of it now for the new series.
Are there any particular throwbacks or Easter Eggs that AoD fans can look forward to in the new series?
While it doesn't happen for a couple issues, we'll be seeing the return of the "Wise Man" from the original film as a supporting cast member. I had so much fun playing with them in the "Xena/Army of Darkness" crossover, I thought I'd like to revisit the dynamic that they presented as a sort of horror movie "odd couple." I'm also taking some concepts from the video games and putting them in the mix. There's a particular character from the "Evil Dead" games that readers have been asking me to include that I'd love to incorporate, but I need to ask permission to do that first. If I don't get it, I think I can come up with a suitable substitute. And yes -- I do realize I'm being coy.
What has been the most challenging aspect of expanding the AoD world?
Living up to the expectations set by the creative teams that preceded us, and the expectations of AoD fans. As a fan myself, I expect a lot from anything that has the title "Evil Dead" or "Army of Darkness" on it. I have all the movies, video games, comics, t-shirts and whatnot. I even have the card game! The common denominator in all those things is that they have to be fun.
With that expectation in mind, when I write my scripts, I think, "What would I like to see Ash do? What would be a cool scenario for him to encounter? A cool monster for him to fight?" And finally, "What would Ash say in this instance?" Coming up with new catch-phrases are especially challenging because if he gets too flippant, he becomes Peter Parker. Ash has an edge to him, and I need to keep reminding myself of that when I write him.
Do you have any other non-AoD irons in the comic book fire at the moment?
I have to admit that writing and promoting the new series has garnered most of my attention. Today's comic market is really challenging, and even a title with brand-recognition like AoD can get lost in the shuffle. To that end, with the release of the new "Army of Darkness" series, I'll be holding signings at Chicago comic shops with the "Kick Ash Comic Shop Tour." I want to get out there, meet other fans of the "Evil Dead" movies and celebrate the love we share for Ash with them.