On Wednesday, September 30th I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Landry at the Meltdown. We discussed his debut comic book Bloodthirsty. There are several spoilers below. You’ve been warned.
You can check out Vanee’s review of Bloodthirsty here.
Joelle Monique: So, let’s just dive in, my first question is, “Why do another Katrina story?”
Mark Landry: It’s something I felt, during the time that it happened I was here (in L.A.) I felt frustrated because there was nothing I could do. You donate money to the Red Cross and everything, but you know it just kept festering for me. And I’m a writer and the things I like to write about most are the things that upset me.
Katrina, the social implications of Katrina the socio economic implications of Katrina all sort of bubbling up for me. During the height of the Occupy Wall Street protests is when it crystalized in my mind I wanted to do something that took vampires and made them blood sucking crazy people and I knew the best place to set that would be New Orleans.
Joelle: Yeah, New Orleans is a magical place so it works out pretty well. It seems natural. There’s a super great reveal at the end, speaking of the villain. Is she transgendered or… if you can answer this question, I know it’s only the first book.
Mark: That’s a good question. I think, for me, Mother Tunisia is…I think of Mother Tunisia as a cross-dressing performer, to be honest. For instance, if Blood Thirsty were ever to become a T.V. show Mother Tunisia could be a man or a woman. Doesn’t matter. It’s not important to me what gender. It’s going to become important to whomever is playing the role, but it doesn’t need to be a man, doesn’t need to be a woman.
Joelle: Mother Tunisia is a gender fluid character.
Mark: Right. Very good. The gender is incidental to what Mother Tunisia wants and needs. And mother Tunisia isn’t even in charge of the villains. We’ll get to that later.
Joelle: Tunisia definitely has a Batman feel as far as his villains go which is interesting because your super hero character The Spirit of New Orleans also has a super over the top protector of the city kind of feel. Virgil wears bastardization of Spirit’s armor on the cover. Can you tell us about that?
Mark: Who Dat, or The Spirit of New Orleans is sort of my take on the satirical pocket book hero. He’s a white guy who’s dressed really weird. Look, who is the hero of New Orleans?
Joelle: The Saints?
Mark: Comic book hero. Any super hero… Gambit?
Joelle: I’m so ashamed of myself right now.
Mark: Right, but you didn’t think of it so to me that is emblematic of how Gambit’s not a representative of New Orleans. I don’t want to diss Gambit, but we need something more.
Joelle: Something fresher, something newer.
Mark: Something more real. Someone from New Orleans. Something from today. I think Virgil being of mixed race and a coastguard rescue swimmer makes him part of the gumbo that is New Orleans. In my mind that’s the spirit of how the city is. It’s a big mix of people.
Joelle: I was wondering about your reasoning behind making Virgil both bi-racial and someone who physically had to fight the storm. The main villain of New Orleans for a while was Katrina.
Mark: Right, and as it’s mentioned in the issue one it’s coming again. Hurricane Rose, a new hurricane, is on its way. So, Virgil is this one man force against nature and the nature of greed in the villains that are causing all these problems for the citizens.
Joelle: I noticed you’re taking a new spin on Katrina. Where most people focus on the victims you’re focusing on the aftermath. And not just like Treme which was the immediate aftermath, but we’re looking ten years down the line at how people are still being affected. I was wondering about the superdome and the dome you have crested. Are there any connections or did you add it to the book because it such a landmark for New Orleans?
Mark: There’s definitely a real life connection. The dome definitely will play a part, I can’t say how just yet, in the next coming storm.
Joelle: What part of the real life dome has influenced what we’ve seen so far?
Mark: I met someone who was stuck in the dome for a few days. It was a very young couple and they ended up getting engaged during the crisis right between the super dome and the convention center. I kind of got their story and what their take on it was.
I watched Spike Lee’s documentary (When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts) probably two or three times, which was fascinating. And you got a sense watching that of the dire and desperate conditions that they were under. It was ninety degrees with ninety to a hundred percent humidity. People were baking, and they didn’t have food, and they didn’t have electricity. So in issue one when Virgil references the dome as a blind spot that people don’t want to think about because it’s too painful.
I feel like growing up in Louisiana that’s how we were as a people. I think it’s in Louisiana we kind of embrace the tragic side of life a little more. In my experience we didn’t like to talk about bad things that happen. So that’s why it’s seen as a blind spot.
Joelle: So in the back of Southern Bastards they have all these cool recipes and southern nick-nacks. Do you think we’ll get anything like that in the back of Blood Thirsty?
Mark: What we’ve decided to do in issue two there’s some development about a capricious character. There are going to be sketches of the villain that the artist (Ashley Witter) has done.
Also in each issue, for example in issue one, there’s General Russell Honoré talking about what he’s doing now in terms of his environmental crusade for Louisiana. In each issue there’s going to be someone talking about Katrina: what we are now and what happened then. Issue one is General Honoré, issue two is an environmental activist, a representative of Louisiana Environmental Action Network, talking about the wetlands, and in issues three, four and five it all coastguard who were rescue swimmers and there’s even a captain and they share their experiences.
Joelle: Wow. So you’re really trying hard to not just talk about these things in a parallel universe aspect, but you’re bringing it back to real world.
Mark: Yeah, I think it’s important to talk about things as a society and as a culture. That we remember them and reflect on them so we can improve for the future. I think journalism is a great form of storytelling.
Joelle: You’ve got a kind of fairytale rise in getting this comic published. First you were mentored by famed artist Georges Jeanty, then you became a staff pick at kickstarter the day after you launched, that bleeding cool interview came in, in the last three days of your campaign earning the final thousand so the project could become officially funded. Were you holding you breath the whole time?
Mark: Oh man. It’s been a rollercoaster for sure. The process has been nerve racking and anxious, but I’ve also always been sure of it. I didn’t think it would be a waste. I felt if I liked it other people would too. So it’s going to get somewhere. Someone’s going to like it. I just have to reach that audience.
Joelle: When you were finally funded how did you feel? Was their relief of were you like, “Oh gosh now the real work begins”?
Mark: It was both. It was major relief cause I knew that had to be accomplished before the real work could begin. And it really was a lot of work.
Joelle: Two years right?
Mark: Yeah, two years. Ashley (Witter) is, obviously, a wonderful artist, but her style take a little longer, plus she has other jobs. She actually does issues one through three and then a new team comes in. She’ll continue to do covers.
Joelle: Who’s doing issues four and five?
Mark: Richard Pace is doing pencils and inks.
Joelle: Did you have a media plan going in?
Mark: No. It was all winging it. You know Titan has their market.
Joelle: When did Titan come into the picture?
Mark: About a year ago. June of 2014 and umm it was an eight issue series at that point, but they asked us to scale it back to five.
Joelle: Sure, it’s what they do.
Mark: I think it’s actually better. It helps give it focus.
Joelle: In an interview with Horror Talk you came out as a big proponent of education noting Louisiana ranks 48th in Math and Science. Will you touch on these issues in the comic, particularly with a character like, Dante?
Mark: Without giving too much away. My theory is to put some of that in Virgil’s story and what he wants to see comic out of this journey and Dante is emblematic of the future. So hopefully we’ll get to see some of that.
Joelle: What comics are you reading right now?
Mark: Just picked up the new Batman Annual. Sean Guinea’s doing the art so I had to check it out. Also doing some remedial reading. I just picked up Hush and I’m reading it for the first time.
Joelle: Enjoy it!
Mark: Just picked up Goon someone recommended it to me. Oh and Greg Miller’s run on Daredevil.
Joelle: Well, that’s it. Thank you so much for sitting down with me.
So that’s all she wrote, folks. If you liked this interview with Mr. Landry and you want to support his work pre-order Bloodthirsty at your local comic shop. You can follow Landry on twitter and Facebook.
Joelle’s heart belongs to Chicago but she’s living in Los Angeles attempting to make a life as a freelance writer. She’s the co-creator of web comic Harsh Mellow on Tumblr. She’s an avid fan of period dramas over three hours long and full glasses of wine. She can usually be found in between the pages of a comic-book or under a coffee spigot.