Our friends at Space Goat talked with Justin Peniston about the Evil Dead 2 and what’s coming up in the Evil Deadiverse this year!
Space Goat: What made you decide to continue the story of “Evil Dead”?
Justin Peniston: I’ve been a big fan of horror for a LONG time, and I tend to play with horror tropes and dark fantasy in a lot of my writing. The first short story I ever wrote featured the Devil as the main character. My first attempt at a screenplay was a mash-up of H.P. Lovecraft and Philip Marlowe-esque noir. When Shon (Bury, Space Goat’s Founder) offered me the opportunity to work on “Evil Dead 2” material, I just couldn’t say no.
Space Goat: How is this story different from what readers find in the ongoing “Army of Darkness titles”? How is this different from other zombie/supernatural comics on the market?
Peniston: “Evil Dead” has always been a far cry from other zombie franchises. Zombie fiction tends to be a statement on the nature of humanity and civilization, and other than corpses walking around and eating brains, they tend to eschew the supernatural. Certainly, “The Walking Dead” and George Romero’s work never go into evil magic or into the nature of an afterlife. Our stuff is very much steeped in fantasy: evil spellbooks, demonic forces, hellish dimensions…and so on. Also, we try to be funny.
Space Goat: Tell us a bit about what to expect from this series.
Peniston: My 5-part “Ash Wednesday” mini-series is going to be a bit more of a “direct sequel,” if that makes sense, to the movie “Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.” My story spills directly out of the events of that film, and then finds a direction all its own with what I hope are fun new characters, magic items, and monsters. Also, because we’re working in comics, my efforts at comedy will skew more towards the witty, with less physical humor. Although…Ash Williams is kind of the John McClane (Die Hard) of horror, so he will take his fair share of punishment.
Space Goat: How do you take readers “Beyond Dead by Dawn”?
Peniston: As eternally memorable as “Evil Dead 2” is, it’s just a very small slice of a very large story. I mean, the film opens by laying the groundwork for other stories. Even the opening voiceover talks about the origins of the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, implying that there’s a bigger and more awful world beyond what happens in this one cabin.
Like many a comic fan before me, I’ve become an expert in finding the untaken roads in a piece of work.
Space Goat: So… is Ash a lovable meathead, tactical genius or jerk — or is he a bit of both?
Peniston: Ash is definitely a hero, especially if you’re looking at the “Evil Dead 2” version of the character. He tries to do the right thing and he’s not afraid to put himself in jeopardy. He’s kind of a monster-fighting idiot savant. He doesn’t seem to be good at much except fighting monsters…and getting hurt.
Space Goat: What have you enjoyed the most about working on this series.
Peniston: I rarely write comedy, so this is a chance to stretch muscles that I rarely use…and I hope that I’m as funny as I think I am! There’s nothing sadder than thinking you’re funny when you’re not.
Space Goat: Tell us about the first three “Evil Dead 2” miniseries, as best you can.
Peniston: “Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead By Dawn” is the lead-off series in June. That’s written by Frank Hannah. Then a bunch of us are writing the 3-issue anthology “Evil Dead 2: Tales of the Ex Mortis” that expands on the Evil Dead Universe. It’s the Evil Deadiverse as a toy box for a lot of us to go off in different directions. That starts in August.
I’m writing the 5-issue “Ash Wednesday” event. It will be a weekly event series for the 5 weeks in December. It imagines Ash dealing with the events of “Evil Dead 2” in the present, as if he’d never gone back in time. Imagine that cabin as a crime scene: that’s where “Ash Wednesday” begins, and so Ash has to deal with adversaries in the real world as well as from the depths of Hell.
Space Goat: How do you launch these miniseries simultaneously?
Peniston: By avoiding such distractions as sleep or enjoying my wife’s company! It’s a lot of work that I hope will pay off. This is the best part about having an overactive imagination.
Space Goat: How did you collaborate with your editors to deliver these minis?
Peniston: There’s always a lot of back and forth when working with Space Goat. Shon has a very clear vision …but he’s also open to good work from good people. I’ve worked with Space Goat for a long time now, and venturing into publication has been something that I’ve long thought that they should do.
The biggest hurdle, honestly, has simply been the fear of getting licensor approval…and thus far, that hasn’t been an issue with my work.
A lot of the larger plot pieces have been a group effort, between the writers and Shon, and then individual plots are approved by the licensor and we get to work. All the while, Shon works with me to get the look of the book just so. It’s an empowering experience, I’ve found.
Space Goat: What else should we look for by you?
Peniston: Well, I’m always working on SOMETHING. You can probably still find the animated episode of “Avengers Assemble!” that I wrote if you look. You can find new work from me every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on my webcomic, “Hunter Black”. (http://www.hunterblackcomics.com) “Hunter Black” is hard-boiled fantasy. If you like “Samurai Jack”, the “Parker” series of novels and graphic novels, or “The Hobbit”, there’s something for you in “Hunter Black.”
My creator owned comic, “Rocket Queen and the Wrench” is available through Space Goat, starting in August. RQ&TW is what happens when an unrepentant superhero fan reads the “Harry Potter” series too many times. Young superheroes try to learn their craft as they uncover mysterious truths. I’m also working with Space Goat on “The Family Secret”, a project that is near and dear to my heart. It’s about being a divorced parent and a superhero, and having kids whose powers are much greater than yours. It’s about the conflict between being a good parent and being a good person. “The Family Secret” is very personal for me, and draws a lot on my own experiences, as well as those of my wife.