Icons of Fright Chats With BLOODTHIRSTY: ONE NATION UNDER WATER Writer Mark Landry!

BloodthirstyCollectionCoverTaking a cue from the real life tragedies hurricanes Katrina and Rita and crafting a very emotionally resonant tale involving a former Coast Guard and a murderous mystery that he stumbles upon, writer Mark Landry gives fans the very entertaining and human story of BLOODYTHIRSTY. A mixture of real tragedies injected with a vampiric consipiracy, Landry series is collected into its first trade paperback, BLOODTHIRSTY: ONE NATION UNDER WATER. I gave the book a read (actually, to be honest, I read it twice in a row), and thought it would be fun to chat about it with Landry himself, who had quite a few interesting things to say about the book’s genesis, its themes and the future of the story. Read on!

BLOODTHIRSTY has an incredible amount of heart to it and it’s very obvious that certain aspects of it were issues very close to your heart. Could you speak on the Genesis of the project?
ML: Thank you. I think people feel a connection to the place where they grew up, even if they end up traveling elsewhere. I grew up in Louisiana and went to undergrad there, so very much of who I am and the way that I developed is wrapped up in the warm, optimistic, but sometimes tragic spirit of that state. When Katrina and Rita struck in 2005, I felt something – a kind of pain – even though I was a couple thousand miles away. As a writer, I think pain is the genesis of any story that I’ve ever come up with, whether it’s pain that I’m feeling firsthand, or if I’m feeling it empathetically for someone else. It’s a strange thing to say, but I think some writers are just tuned into pain, or distress, and we feel an impulse to process that pain through narrative. In my case, those narratives usually end up exorcising the pain in some way – through a catharsis or what have you. With “Bloodthirsty,” I was tuned into the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011-2012, and the idea of the plutocracy feeding off the blood of the poor wouldn’t leave me alone. I had also been carrying around this ghost from Katrina and Rita, and so I decided to braid these things together, and to blow them all up so that – at least for me – I could move on and tell other stories.

The comic medium is a great way for storytellers to tell their stories in a way that’s not held down by a lot of monetary restrictions that say making a film would be. Is that something that made you want to have BLOODTHIRSTY be told via comics as opposed to a film?
ML: That’s part of it, yes – the idea that I (indeed most writers) would have had zero resources to secure the hundred million (or so) it would have taken to bring this story to life as a film – nor did I have the kinds of connections in Hollywood in 2011 that would have greenlit a big-budget action movie starring a mixed-race hero that nobody’s ever heard of. It’s just not a business proposition that Hollywood (as a thinking machine) typically understands. But all that aside, I had conceived of it as a graphic novel in the first place. I had wanted to do a comic since I was a kid, and had been seriously considering stories for at least six months. One of the ideas I had toyed with was adapting my nine-minute thesis film – a sci-fi story about a kid who finds out he’s part of a government cloning experiment – into a graphic novel. I still might do that at some point, but the subject matter just wasn’t something I was angry enough about, if you know what I mean. So I just tried to concentrate on what I cared about at the time, and to distill that down into a manageable story, which ended up being – basically – this idea of plutocracy supplanting democracy, and creating a character that would stand up to it.

There’s an excellent struggle in the story with its main character, one that puts him into conflict and allows him to slowly realize that these people not only count on him, but on each other too. It’s very much a story with real world issues. Were you ever reluctant to address real tragedy in the story or was it always your intention to tell a story that would make people really think about what makes us human?
ML: Oh, man. That’s a good question, and it deserves an honest answer. Personally, I think our species is far less advanced than we should be at this point, and in my opinion that has a whole lot to do with the ways in which we communicate and censor ourselves – a lot of that being controlled by greed. Now, I know I just said a lot (of stuff that some crazy guy in line at the post office might yell across the room), but I’ll attempt to explain. First, real world tragedies. Whoever said we can’t talk about them in fiction? Why? Because people were hurt? I say we should discuss tragic events and weave them into our narratives specifically because people were hurt, and because we don’t want to see people hurt in the same way in the future. So if we talk about what went wrong – about what is currently going wrong in our society (and also highlight what we’re getting right) – that’s the only way anything is going to progress or improve. That having been said, there are tasteful ways of doing this, and there are distasteful ways of doing it. I don’t think some cynical cash grab is ever going to be respected (and people know those when they see them). I also think – when you just present one point of view – a work can come off as preachy. So you have to present more of a 360 degree examination of the issues. As a writer, I feel it’s my job to do try – to push others to think about things, talk about them. And if people think what I’m doing is distasteful, then I’ll be (justly) publicly shamed for it, or nobody will ever like my work. On the other hand, if people see that it’s coming from a place of sincerity, thoughtfulness and care, then maybe something good will come out of it. Either way, I have to just keep trusting my gut. I appreciate you asking about that.

You used a crowdfunding campaign to help with the series. How was that experience and what made you choose that approach?
ML: I chose that approach because it was literally the only way to find funding for the project at the time. But at the end of the day, it only covered about half of the total expenses. That was on me; as much research as I did on how to put a comic together, and as much expert guidance that Georges Jeanty generously gave me, there were just real-world issues that nobody could have predicted if they hadn’t gone through this before. I learned a heck of a lot through just the project management aspect of it. Kickstarter is an amazing platform, and I highly recommend crowdfunding. Of course there will be a few angry trolls every now and then when the project hits a snag (as this one did, more than once), but overall, it was a success. I would probably do it again, though I would much rather find equity financing for my next project.

Will we be seeing a continuation of the story in the near future?
ML: Oh, yes. I’m slowly developing storylines that take place both before and after the events of “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water.” There are a few other projects that are taking up my time at the moment, but I absolutely plan to return to Virgil, New Orleans, and those damn hemovores. Thanks so much for reading!!