Tag! You’re It with Mike Leib

A comics interview article by: Tim Lasiuta
Beware the curse! Or is that, "What Was He Thinking?" Either way, Mike Leib is a writer to beware, one who has tackled the dark spots of our souls and the ticklish ones that appreciate outtakes. He has worked with DC, Fox, Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema, USA Network, Disney, CBS, SCI-Fi, Tokyopop, and now BOOM! Studios on TAG: Cursed . Like many talented writes before him, his portfolio reads like a Who’s Who in the media world.

Good thing too. He’s on the ‘fast’ track to success as a writer. I caught up with Mike, just before TAG: Cursed comes to stands this week.

Tim Lasiuta: Thanks for your time Mike, let’s talk about TAG: Cursed. If you were to describe Tag in a nutshell, what would that be?

Mike Leib: TAG: Cursed really takes you on a journey through that darkest part of us all that we don't want to admit exists. That place inside all of us where our darkest impulses wait for the moment that they can come out and play. When you're tagged, you've been given this ancient curse that's passed from one person to another. You probably got it because somehow, somewhere you've pissed off someone who felt compelled to get even by passing it to you. It's not subtle, it's not pretty and it comes down to a "do on to others" sort of situation to justify tagging someone else to get rid of the curse and save your own skin. TAG: Cursed is about ED, a guy from the first TAG series that basically can't live with having taken part in this and decides to go on this almost knight-like quest to stop the tag from spreading.

TL: Mike, you’ve had quite an outstanding year. What Were They Thinking, TAG: Cursed, and now the release of TAG: Volume 1. Not to mention, the sale of Tag to Hollywood as well. For a writer, this must be pure heaven. What was the motivation behind continuing TAG beyond the first series?

ML: When you do something people like...you do more of it. Audiences responded really well to the TAG concept. It was a lot of fun to work with Keith on it, so when he and Ross Richie over at Boom wanted me to take another spin through the TAG universe, I knew right away that there was a story to be told through ED's eyes that could really explore the nature of the curse that we touched on the first time around.

TL: Clearly, to paraphrase wrestling, you and Keith Giffen are a “TAG team,”. The concept of Curse, with Ed going to extreme lengths to find those he has cursed, and how he can stop his own condition is like Dracula becoming a blood specialist in order to atone for his own spotted past. Was that a Giffen or Mike Leib concept? Is that going to be an ongoing theme?

ML: Keith and I established Ed in flashbacks during the original TAG series as someone who anonymously was trying to warn others about the curse through a blog he was writing. In Cursed, I took things much further and had Ed get out in the world and take much more extreme measures to clear his guilty conscience.

TL: Writing horror and/or suspense can be a hit or miss proposition, how did you prepare yourself for the prospect of taking on such a high profile property?

ML: Good question. To write something like Cursed you've got to really find that ideal frame of mind to write from. It's not exactly putting you in the character's shoes, but it's close. You've got to find that dark place where your character lives and make sure that the words come from there from beginning to end or the entire piece loses its impact with the reader. At the end of the day I wanted to make Cursed something that isn't as scarier, as it is unsettling.

TL: Keith Giffen is such a talented individual and like Mike Mignola, Hollywood is the next logical plateau. On Tag at IMDB, he is listed as writer, and the rest of the Boom! Team is part of the production, are you going to be a co-writer and sounding board on the film?

ML: Hollywood is that next "great frontier" for comic book properties. It's rather exciting that Keith hit it out of the ballpark with TAG so quickly. I think they've got a writer working on a script for the movie. I'm just excited about seeing it on the big screen someday soon.

TL: Describe a typical writing process on TAG: Cursed. What elements does Keith contribute to the overall picture?

ML: I'd like to say I outline things and plan every detail out meticulously, but it really never quite works out that way. I get a general idea of what I need to accomplish in each issue and then honestly just dive in and let the story tell itself from beginning to end. I think the storytelling is more honest if you're walking through it with the character as opposed to writing sequences out of order. Keith was the architect of the overall TAG universe and set the rules of the curse. With this series I took the opportunity to let the reader see other places, other times that the curse had impacted and really up the ante a bit.

TL: The whole Zombie theme is all over comic books lately, and some have even gone into politics! (Laughter) Really, we have zombies in westerns, superheroes, and horror, where they truly belong. What differentiates Tag from the Marvel Zombie storylines? Or the recent Zombie Westerns published the last few years?

ML: I've always said that TAG: Cursed is a morality play that just happens to use zombies as window dressing. It makes for a really great visual, but this is a story about what brings out the worst in all of us and makes us come face to face with ourselves. I have to admit though. I’d love to write some super-hero zombie stories...its fun to take such good characters and turn them inside out like that. Some of the funniest stuff I've read in ages.

TL: Readers of the series have learned more about the TAG in Cursed. Given the fact that the history of the curse is as long as you and Keith choose to make it. The Count Germain series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro covers 20 books and 4000 years, do you see that kind of history for TAG?

ML: The great thing about having five issues to play with for Cursed was that I had a lot of time to really establish that the curse may have well been around for a very long time. Cursed tells not only Ed's story but the stories of several others along the way from different times and places, all of which have had their lives affected by the Tag Curse. Once you buy into the idea of the curse.... there’s no end to the number of stories that can be told.

TL: With your previous work at DC during their online startup, working with companies like TV Guide, FOX, Warner Bros, Cartoon Network, New Line Cinema, USA Network, Sci-Fi, and now comic books, you really have hit all the bases in the last few years. When is your first novel coming out?

ML: Funny thing about that...I've actually got one that I'm working on now as well as a bunch of new comic projects I'm developing and making the rounds with.

TL: Lastly, is anyone you know “infected,'?

ML: With the TAG curse? I sure hope not...it’s a killer to get rid of!

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