An indie hero in the late 90’s with his Stray Bullets as well as writing for Valiant Comics, David Lapham has enjoyed wider mainstream success in this decade with high profile work for both Marvel and DC. Recently, Mr. Lapham was kind enough to talk to Comics Bulletin about his latest project — a sequel to Garth Ennis’ Crossed.
Charles Webb: What’s the short description of the world of Crossed?
David Lapham: Some sort of virus causes people to become violent and sadistic. Millions die horribly.
CW: So enter the Pratt family — who are they and where are they at the start of the story?
DL: The Pratts are a very large, very religious family. Ten brothers and sisters, mom and dad. They run a horse ranch in North Carolina. Before the Crossed they appear to be the perfect big, loving family, but there’s some dark, dark secrets there that become magnified in the post-Crossed world. VERY magnified.
CW: Series creator Garth Ennis’ story tended to bounce back and forth between the period of initial infection and maybe a year out. Where does your story take place in the timeline?
DL: Mine spans a couple year period from the start of the Crossed outbreak, in that way it’s similar to Garth’s, although I move linearly. The Pratts go a different direction than the folks in Garths story. They’re a family, they ran a ranch, their tendency is to want to stake out a claim. Less a rag tag group of survivalists. So they deal with the Crossed in a different way.
CW: What attracted you to the world that Ennis created with Crossed? It feels significantly more raw than some of your previous work.
DL: Yes, normally I’m the height of sophistication (laughs…then laughs harder…milk comes out nose). It is funny, I am known for doing some hard-edged stuff, but usually my stories are emotionally violent. I usually try and crush characters’ souls not so much revel in crushing their sternum and seeing all their innards ooze out their mouth and dribble on down the street where a gang of terriers eat them up. I’ve found that it’s kinda fun to do that stuff, too. So here we crush your guts both figuratively and literally.
CW: The Crossed infection is the kind of thing that could really make a family dysfunctional. Do you see any kind of continuity between where the Pratts end up and the seriously messed up Brownings of The Young Liars?
DL: No, except for the fact that it’s a common theme for me as a writer. The thing about the Crossed universe is that it’s a complete breakdown of society. So the Pratts no longer have to keep their baggage in check so the neighbors don’t know. It’s a raw and brutal world and the humans in it are just as capable, if not more capable, of inflicting horror than the Crossed. Though the Crossed are pretty good at it.
CW: How do you resist the temptation during the writing of this type of series to want to explain or editorialize about the nature of the infection? My first instinct during my initial reading of the first series was to search for some kind of religious or socio-political allegory.
DL: That’s easy. First off it’s Garth’s concept and he lays out very clearly that the nature of the Crossed virus/infection, whatever, remains unknown. Maybe Garth will deal with that or maybe not. As a writer who is possibly speaking for other writers I think we’ve gone overboard with the level to which we need to explain everything. We just want to use the basic concept to tell a great story. So if the concept is “a world where everyone flies”. Fine. That’s the premise of this world. Do we really need to know why they fly, or can we just tell a story?
It can get out of hand. The newer Star Wars films, for example. Do we need to explain the force? Doesn’t that just make the whole concept a little lame. Should we go back and make a more solid scientific basis for the radioactive spider? Because at a certain point, guess what? Spider Man is not real! And no amount of scientific research on that radioactive spider is going to make him more real. And let’s rewrite The Lord of The Rings and include the part where thousands of years ago aliens visited Middle Earth and imparted nanotechnology to the elves which allowed them to create magic, which is not magic at all but tiny robots! “whew” I feel so much better now cuz magic was just too unbelievable for me to buy. Nanobots, though… “whew”.
That’s fine if it’s the point of the story, but the point of the Crossed world — besides being a great horror concept — is stripping emotions raw. What is the nature of true evil? Finding out what people do in survival mode.
CW: In the same vein, did you ever feel the need to top some of the shocks from the first series?
DL: Yes. Constantly. And I believe I have succeeded.
CW: Will we be seeing more work from you at Avatar?
DL: Yup. It’s too early to reveal, but we’re working on an ongoing for later this year.
CW: You’ve also got Sparta, U.S.A. coming out of Wildstorm. Would you like to plug that for our readers?
DL: Very excited and very proud of the work artist Johnny Timmons and I did on that one. It’s by far the most high-concept idea I’ve ever come up with. An isolated American town where football is king, the pursuit of happiness means you can have your boss’s job if you can kill your boss, and as long as you can do it without upsetting the Norman Rockwell veneer. Now after three years, Godfrey McLaine, the greatest football star of all time, whom everyone assumed tried to venture through the mountains that surround Sparta and was eaten by Yeti, has returned bigger, redder, and more magical than he left. He’s been beyond the mountain and knows the truth about Sparta and the man who runs things, the seven-foot tall, very blue Maestro. There is a definite mystery in this one as to what this world is and why it exists, but overall it’s an adventure first. With my kind of grit but a magical bent to it. It’s a six issue series right now, but it really is a big concept, so hopefully it does well and we get to do more. Buy it or be…well…not as cool as you could have been. It’s all on you.
CW: Finally, can you tell us anything about the future of Stray Bullets or the status of reprinting collected editions? It breaks my heart I can’t find the second and third hard covers.
DL: It’s very present in my mind. No one more than me wishes it was back in print and I was doing more stories. It’s not a
s simple as it would seem, because it’s so personal, and while many good companies would be glad to print those books, I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with that. I have big dreams with Stray Bullets and hope that everything comes together sooner rather than later. But I certainly can’t promise any kind of timetable right now. Be patient, all. I weep for you. I weep for me. Maybe I just like to weep.
If you liked this interview, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins