I enjoyed my talk with writer Frank Hannah, about his writing Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead By Dawn.
Jason Sacks for Comics Bulletin: What made you decide to continue the story of “Evil Dead”?
Frank Hannah: Shon Bury at Space Goat asked me if I would be interested in pitching an idea for a series based solely on the characters and mythology from “Evil Dead 2”. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to work on such an iconic horror property. I came up with a few ideas and sent them off. Lucky for me, Shon responded strongly to one of my ideas and that idea became the basis for “Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead By Dawn” which starts in June.
CB: How is this story different from what readers find in the ongoing “Army of Darkness” titles?
Hannah: I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t really read the “Army of Darkness” books. When I got the “Beyond Dead By Dawn” gig I made a conscious choice not to read them so they wouldn’t have an undue influence over what I was trying to create with the book. I can only say that my story takes the existing mythology and stretches it to the limit without altering any of the existing canon. All of the tropes you find in “Evil Dead 2” are present in the series. The gore, the horror, the humor. And Ash. You’ve got to have Ash.
CB: How is this different from other zombie/supernatural comics on the market?
Hannah: I think we’ve reached a saturation point with zombies and vampires. At least, I have. I think there’re exceptions to every rule, but I didn’t want to write a typical supernatural book. I wanted to take all of the genre conventions and explore them on a more human level. For example, we know the evil forces that can be summoned by using the Ex-Mortis (Book of the Dead), but I want to see how they affect and change human behavior in the world they live in. Let’s assume for a moment that the passages of the book can do much more than just possess the living and create a portal from which these spirits can travel. What other problems do they cause? That’s the book I would want to read and it’s the book I’m trying to write.
CB: Tell us a bit about what to expect from this series.
Hannah: First and foremost — Quality. Space Goat is really committed to building something special by using top notch talent to produce these books. I can’t stress this enough and it’s a big reason I’m so excited about working with them.
Secondly, building on what I already said, I think readers will learn more about the Ex-Mortis and will see Annie Knowby go from being a scared and lost person to becoming a kick ass “deadite” slayer. When she realizes she needs help, she uses the book to create a new Ash from the severed hand in the cabin. Together they will travel the world as a team taking down “deadites” and learning about how far the book’s evil has reached.
CB: How do you take readers “Beyond Dead by Dawn”?
Hannah: Well, clearly, you can’t just keep Annie and Ash in the cabin in the woods. That would get really old, really quickly. However, if you’re armed with the Book of the Dead and the Kandarian dagger, you can go to where the evil lives which is a complete 180 degree shift from the movie where evil forces act upon them and they are forced to respond and defend themselves.
CB: How have Barnaby Bagenda’s designs helped to drive your approach to the story?
Hannah: I was excited to get the writing job already, but when I saw Barnaby’s character sketches and layouts I knew the book would be fantastic. It really inspired me. Barnaby’s ability to capture expressions just one of the many skills he has.
CB: Tell me about Annie Knowby and how she works with Ash.
Hannah: Annie followed in her father’s footsteps as an archaeologist and shares the same curiosity for ancient civilizations and their occult practices. She wants to make a name for herself in her own right, but also knows that her father’s meddling has unleashed a great evil. She feels a responsibility to stamp it out wherever she finds it. It’s counter-intuitive to what she truly wants, but it’s exactly the thing she needs to be able to stand on her own.
As for Annie’s relationship with Ash — it’s much the same as it was in the movie, but the ritual she used to create him has bonded the two together by blood. They are a team, but as you might expect, Ash turns into a “deadite” from time to time, which throws a wrench in things. The question is whether or not she can use this to her advantage.
CB: So… is Ash a lovable meat-head, tactical genius or jerk — or is he a bit of both?
Hannah: I have to be honest, I think he’s a bit of all three. I don’t see him as just a meat-head. He’s the every-man, but he’s just crazy enough to try things we only wish we could do if given the chance. Rest assured, all of his typical one-liners will remain intact.
CB: What have you enjoyed the most about working on this series.
Hannah: Playing with the characters is so much fun. If you’re a lover of the “Evil Dead” movies, as I’m, you can’t help but enjoy yourself. I’ve literally stopped what I was doing and emailed Shon (at Space Goat) to tell him how much fun I’m having with this series. Hopefully, it will show in the finished product.
CB: Tell us about the first three “Evil Dead 2” miniseries, as best you can.
Hannah: The first mini-series, “Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead By Dawn” in June will really set up the book and the lead characters Ash and Annie. They will go from scrambling around to finding a sense of purpose despite their current circumstances. Beyond that, we will see self-contained stories that expand the story and raise the stakes for the characters. There’s going to be a human cost to the work they do and that will weigh heavily on Annie. In the third mini-series I would like to see how Annie handles the fact that more people than she’s probably aware of are being manipulated by this ancient evil and the subtlety of that will bring about huge moral dilemmas.
CB: How do you launch three miniseries simultaneously?
Hannah: Well, realizing you have a property that can be properly mined for hundreds of stories gives you the ability to attack the books from many angles. Aside from having “Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn”, we can do a book that deals entirely with the history of the Ex-Mortis. All of this can be done without changing or affecting the existing mythology of the three core “Evil Dead” movies.
CB: How did you collaborate with your editors to deliver these minis?
Hannah: I work very closely with Shon on everything I do. Mainly, because this is a licensed property and you need to make sure you do it justice, but also because Shon believes so strongly in what we’re doing. Knowing how hard he works and how committed he’s to putting out a quality product makes it easy to collaborate.
CB: What else should we look for by you?
Hannah: I have worked mainly in film and television over the last ten years. I have a few projects in development which I hope to be able to announce very soon, but right now I’m focused on “Evil Dead 2: Beyond Dead by Dawn”!