DROP DEAD DANGEROUS:
Speaking with Chad Cabrera & Mike Banting
by Decapitated Dan
Decapitated Dan speaks with the creators behind the macabre murder mystery manga/hardboiled horror western, Drop Dead Dangerous.
First of all lets talk about you. Who are you and what do you do?
Chad Cabrera: Hey, thanks for having us! I'm a writer working on my very first comic book and that's about as interesting as I get! I am also very handsome.
Mike Banting: Heya! I provide the art for DDD. I'm kinda responsible for showing how a lot of good folks get killed in the comic. I can be pretty bombastic too!
DD: How did you find yourselves getting into making comics?
CC: We've been wanting to make comics as far back as we can remember. We started when we were kids and kept at it all the way through college. It wasn't until a couple years ago when we finally had the gall to publish one independently.
MB: I was exposed to comics way before I went to school, and when I met Chad and found out that we shared the same interest, I never stopped telling stories.
DD: So what can you tell me about Drop Dead Dangerous?
CC: Drop Dead Dangerous is an independent comic we produce and sell here in the Philippines, though it's also available in digital format online for readers around the world. It's a combination of several different genres with a strong East-meets-West vibe, but, mainly, it's a horror comic with lots of action, violence and a little bit of humor. And boobies.
MB: What he said. And boobies.
DD: What's it all about?
CC: Essentially, it's a murder mystery-cum-slasher that revolves around the identity of a serial killer who may or may not have come back from the dead. At least, it starts off that way until everything starts to unravel and things get weirder and weirder. The story takes place in our own unique spin on the Wild West-- sort of a more absurd, manga-ized version--where anything can and will happen. Things get a bit outlandish and, like I said before, what we've got is basically a hard-boiled detective story where, instead of fedoras, trenchcoats and gats, you got cowboy hats, ponchos and samurai swords. Basically.
CC: We've got a relatively large cast of characters, but the main protagonists are a private detective and his young assistant, both of whom have ties to the main villain, the killer known as the Raven. Their relationship, how they play off each other's unique personality and how they deal with their own personal issues, is pretty much the crux of the story. You'll also get to see some archetypes familiar to these types of stories-- the shadowy organization, the femme fatale, the, uh... man-eating monster-- but we try to put our own colorful spin on them whenever we can. I think there's something powerful about seeing familiar things in ways you never expected.
CC: I'm a huge fan of slasher movies, and I just thought it'd be cool to try to make one in comic book form but with our own particular sensibilities. The thing is, slasher movies, by design, are very simplistic and I wanted to go completely the other way and wrap what is usually a very basic formula around a really elaborate and over-the-top story. A lot of what passes off as "horror" is pretty absurd and I wanted to embrace that absurdity until we strangled it to death.
I mentioned familiarity earlier, and I think that's an important subject for everyone producing work in a creative industry. Originality is nigh impossible to come by; every story's already been told. That's not a resignation. That's an acknowledgement of a very real difficulty facing any medium so we know well enough to find ways around the reality of it. What we wanted to do was take advantage of it. If everything's familiar, then that gives you a common language between you and the reader. The challenge in using that language is infusing it with your own unique voice and if you succeed, your work becomes as distinct an individual as we all are.
MB: After reading an issue of the original Rawhide Kid series when I was little, I've had this fascination for the Wild West. I couldn't really point out what draws me to the era. It could have been the bar fights, the shootouts, the guns, the women, the architecture - heck, it could even have been the fashion. When Chad threw me the idea of making a murder mystery story, I suggested that we set it in a fictional West. Having adapted the visual style and some storytelling techniques used in manga, DDD is, as Chad mentioned, an East-meets-West story.
DD: If you were to give this book a movie style rating (G, PG, PG-13, R, X) what would it get, and why would you say that?
CC: If it was directly translated into a movie, it'd get an R-rating, easily. Maybe an NC-17. But I think people have come to expect more from comics, particularly because it's a static medium with only imaginary people. It takes a lot more to shock your average comic book reader and so far, I don't think we've dished out anything they can't handle. Hopefully, that'll change.
DD: In terms of horror what can we expect?
CC: The unexpected! I don't want to give anything away, but I don't think we've run out of ways to dismember the human body just yet! We'll also be playing up the more gothic elements of the story while ratcheting up the suspense factor and characterizations. Violence is fun, it's exciting, it taps into our primal instincts, and we'll try to find ways to make it feel more visceral visually and textually. Most importantly though, it gives the story weight and it raises the stakes for characters. But it's all for nothing if we don't get the more human aspects of the story right because then everything in between would just be filler.
MB: Ripping arms out was fun, but the challenge is in doing something not commonly seen in the genre. Hopefully, as the story gets more and more involving, the killing gets more and more amusing!
DD: What are you hoping readers can take away from this story?
CC: I'm hoping that they'd just have fun with it. If we nail that part right then that'd be great. If they find that it's a clever little well-written story that also looks good, then that'd be fantastic.
MB: It's always a good feeling for me when readers give you feedback on the book - whether negatively or positively, they're the ones helping us grow in our craft. Hopefully, they get to have a kick out of our story as much as we did in making it.
So, readers: thanks a bunch! You guys are awesome.
DD: Is this a series that we can expect more from in the future?
CC: Oh yeah, definitely. The story's just started to open up and we're going to start seeing more and more out of it. We're building towards a huge ending here and it's not gonna be pretty. It's gonna be bloody. And messy.
MB: With boobies. Maybe.
DD: So how did you come to work together?
CC: We pretty much grew up together and started trying to make comics since we were in grade school! We just kept at it until we finally found the opportunity
MB: Grade school! We used to make these Mega Man-inspired superhero stories in several 20-leaf drawing pads. When Mortal Kombat first came out, we learned how to draw buckets of cartoon blood. Fun times!
DD: Can we expect more titles from you in the future?
CC: We don't have anything planned as of the moment, but eventually, yeah, I can imagine us doing something else when Drop Dead Dangerous is through.
DD: Can you talk a bit about your experiences so far with working in comics?
CC: It's been interesting, to say the least. There's never been any other medium I've wanted to work in than comics. It's just so versatile, you're limited only by your imagination, and there's very relatively little distance between what's in your head and what you can put to paper if you have the skills. The execution is also a lot smoother and organic because you have the visuals to convey the information you want to convey and the reader receives it almost instantaneously. Or they can take as long as they want-- that's sort of the beauty of it. It seems like the reader is just a passive recipient but they're actually interacting with the medium on a profound level. They're imagining the voices in their heads. They're filling in those gaps between the panels. Despite being a visual medium, comics are removed far enough from reality that they leave it up to the audience to make them real. Manga, especially, because they're so visually dynamic and unreal that there's more room for abstraction, more room for the reader to participate.
It's also been really interesting working in the Philippines. The climate we have right now in the local comic scene is just so effervescent. We don't really have comic book industry per se, most everyone's just doing it independently which is what makes it so exciting. We've got new creators coming out of the woodwork everyday, a lot of them really young, and not a single one bound by someone else's rules. Technology and the internet have given us the tools to make comics easier than before, and to promote and distribute our work to a wider audience. At the same time, there are more people making and selling comics locally than ever before and it's harder than ever to get your book noticed even if you think yours is a cut above the norm. It can be frustrating but I don't know if I'd rather have it any other way.
MB: There was a time when the local comic industry was so huge, there were more than a dozen titles on the newsstands every week. The current local comic scene, though not quite like it was before, is as unpredictable as it is exciting! As Chad has mentioned, there are a lot of new and promising creators cropping up each year, and that's the challenge we have to face.
DD: What kind of interest do you get in Korea, do people there dig what you are doing?
CC: To be honest, I don't know if anybody from Korea has ever read our work. I am aware though that there's demand over there for the type of content we produce and we'd love to reach out to that audience somehow if we could find a way around the language barrier.
MB: It'd be great to get our work out to even more places. I've had my fair share of manhwa (Korean term for comics), and though the art and technique may be similar to their manga cousins, they have a very distinct flavor that's really their own. I am pretty interested to know how our work would be received over there.
DD: Were you into any horror comics or movies growing up that lead you to want to create a book like this?
CC: Growing up, I was more of a superhero fan so I didn't really read any horror comics outside of Heavy Metal, though I did really enjoy the short stories drawn by Richard Corben in that magazine. But I'm a huge horror movie fan! I love 'em all, but the ones I take inspiration from for my work are slasher movies like the Friday the 13th series, and giallo films, mostly by Mario Bava and Dario Argento. There's also the recent wave of Japanese gore movies like Tokyo Gore Police (it has "gore" right in the title!) which are a lot of fun. A few years ago, I really got into Tim Seeley's Hack/Slash, and that's when I started to consider reading horror comics as well as making one myself.
MB: One film comes to mind: it was Look Who's Toxic. I thought it was the Toxic Avenger movie. It had this surgery scene which, being a 10 year old kid, almost made me hurl. And I could never forget the Evil Dead trilogy. That was the most fun I had with horror films back then! It was the perfect combination of horror and humor.
DD: What comics are you currently reading?
CC: I'm in between books right now. I just got finished with Steve Gerber's run on The Man-Thing and loved it. I'm looking forward to The Infernal Man-Thing [Editor's Note: issue #2 of The Infernal Man-Thing is out this week.], which is due out soon. I MIGHT go back to IDW's Godzilla series now that they've got a new creative team working on it. I'm also in the middle of re-reading the first 20 issues of Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
MB: The Rawhide Kid: Slap Leather and Rawhide Kid: The Sensational Seven graphic novels. I've yet to read the rest of the Blaze of Glory mini-series. I also occasionally reread stuff by Suehiro Maruo and Junji Ito now.
DD: So where can readers find out more about this book?
DD: So in summary give me a quick recap on Drop Dead Dangerous and why fans should give it a try.
MB: Boobies- I mean, DDD isn't your average Western-themed comic. It's a meaty Weird West serial killer story topped with some pretty generous servings of action and horror with a tinge of mystery, and comes with a modest helping of fanservice on the side. Best of all, it's fun!
DD: Thanks so much for your time guys!
"Decapitated" Dan Royer
blog comments powered by Disqus