Sunday, July 23, 2017
Home  >  Features  >  Zombie Apocalypse Now: Mark Kidwell on Image's '68

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We got the chance to talk to '68 writer Mark Kidwell about Rule of War, and also got an exclusive look at the next chapter in the '68 chronicle, Homefront, from Image Comics!

'68: RULE OF WAR #1 Variant

 

In a doom-shadowed Cambodia infested with the living dead, CIA Special Agent Declan Rule and his canine companion Nero stalk a human monster, a neurosurgeon bent on carrying out grisly experiments that turn P.O.W.s into vicious instruments of war. 

... Pretty freaking spooky, right??! That's what we have in store of us with '68: Rule of War from Image Comics, hitting stores this April.

'68 is the killer comic book series following the exploits of soldiers, agents, scientists, and others of the like roaming the remote jungles of Vietnam in 1968, during the zombie outbreak of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead. We got the chance to talk to writer Mark Kidwell, who not only shared details on Rule of War, but also gave us an exclusive look at the next chapter in the '68 chronicle, Homefront

 

MightyVille: Tell us about '68: Rule of War and how it fits into the larger '68 saga.

Mark Kidwell: Rule of War is the next chapter in the main, ongoing storyline of the ’68 series. It focuses on rogue CIA Agent Declan Rule, who came to ‘Nam posing as a news director following Hollywood actress Fawn Landers on her anti-war propaganda junket in the series’ first story arc. Readers will learn that his real reason for being “in-country” is to find crazed French/Vietnamese neurosurgeon Ngyun Than Morneau. Morneau is responsible for the death of Rule’s son, having operated on him after his capture as a POW and turning him into a hard-wired, radio-controlled suicide bomber. The arc will also follow main character Yam and his band of survivors as they take to the skies and learn of the existence of a US aircraft carrier nearby that might offer them a ticket back to “the world”. All of that, plus a madman wearing a dead soldier’s face recruiting an army of the dead, the return of a certain German shepherd named after a dead Roman emperor and a visit from a one-man death machine named JIM.

What was the inspiration behind mashing up two popular genres: Vietnam and Zombie stories?

The time period, to start. George Romero and John Russo’s classic Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968, so you have to take that year as gospel in reckoning the rise of the cannibalistic dead. Once that date is established, you ask yourself, “What else was going on in ’68?” Obvious answer: Vietnam. Delving deeper into the possibilities presented by the concept, you realize that the basic zombie story can take a decidedly different tone in Vietnam. Everybody’s armed … everybody’s trained to kill and have already been fighting for their lives on a daily basis, so the initial shock of the dead rising creates far less impact. In other words, humans with a previously hardened outlook on horror are faced with an all-new one, but they’re packin’ heat. Add that to the already shaky, unsure world-order of the late 1960’s and it’s easier to see civilization crumble in a matter of days.

'68 started on February 13th, 1968. Is there any significance to that date?

Heh … yeah, it was Friday the 13th. Can’t imagine anything unluckier than watching the living dead take over the planet.

 

'68: RULE OF WAR #1 by Nat Jones

 

'68: RULE OF WAR Preview Art

 

Each '68 story focuses on a different character. My favorite is Jungle Jim. He's like a combination of Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe and DC's Unknown Soldier, my two favorite "war characters". What were his creative origins?

“JIM” was born of three separate fathers. Jay Fotos and I wanted to do another ’68 one-shot to fill the schedule between main four-issue story arcs and he had contacted artist Nate Van Dyke to provide the line work. Nate wanted to do something small, something where he didn’t have to draw a bunch of buildings, cars, etc., so I wrote the script to please Nate as much as myself and ’68 fans, keeping the setting limited to mostly jungle with a few “hooches” and a tree house as the only pertinent scenery. I knew the story needed a singular focus, so I wondered what it would be like to create a “loner” within the confines of the ’68 universe. I wanted someone well trained, hard core and “driven”, figuring that only a bit of madness would cause someone to avoid other survivors and face armies of Viet Cong and the dead on their own. So, JUNGLE JIM was born. I sent the script to Fotos and Van Dyke and they loved it, but made a couple of changes to the character. My initial vision of Jim was a guy wrapped head to toe in burlap, uniform and helmet. His face was to be swathed in burlap and his eyes protected by goggles. Jay came up with using the gas mask instead and also added the bamboo gauntlets as “bite proof armor”. I thought that was super cool and Nate started sending in design sketches, locking the concept down and making him completely bas ass. We produced the one-shot and big Jim took his first bloody steps into Vietnam. 

Additionally, artist Jeff Zornow stepped in as illustrator on the full Jungle Jim: Hellhole mini-series (’68: Trade Paperback Collection, Volume 3 combines the whole Jungle Jim story line) and really helped set the tone of the character, helping make him the zombie-slaughtering death machine he is today!

 

'68's Jungle Jim

 

Why tell the '68 story from many viewpoints? And which have you most enjoyed writing?

My main goal with all the ’68 scripts has been to produce a huge overall story in small chunks, building characterization, but not sacrificing action. I love fast moving horror, stuff that utilizes clever “cut-away” editing to propel storylines forward. The way ’68 rolls along, you can introduce concepts and characters and even feature a good bit of conversation between parties that fills readers in on global situations, then BAM! Turn the page and an elephant is exploding! Within the pages of ’68 we strive to make sure you’re never given the opportunity to get bored or relax. You can’t “BOO” scare readers in a comic book, but you can put them on-edge and shock ‘em by going too far. We go too far every issue and we do it fast. As far as my favorites, I dearly love Agent Declan Rule. He’s my kinda hard-ass. I’ve enjoyed watching Yam grow up and love the paranoid self-instruction and criticism of Jungle Jim’s inner narrative. Of all the ’68 books so far though, the one closest to my heart is Hardship.

One of my favorite things about the series is how real world events from that time are tied into the story details, like the Berkeley riots. How much research on the time period did you do? On Vietnam? On Zombie lore? I imagine quite a bit...

For Vietnam and the period of the late 1960’s in general, I've done tons. I've been lucky though … all the ’68 creators have done tons of research; so many story angles and ideas have come from the group. It’s my job to take all these facts and tidbits and mold them into the story so that they flow and enhance the overall series experience. It’s like a big research funnel … Nat Jones finds something cool, passes it on … Jay finds something cool, passes it on … I collect it, mold it, build characters and situations around it and whoooosh! It goes down the funnel and ends up a part of the story. As far as zombie stuff, we’re all horror nerds, so we pretty much had that business in the bag on day one.

 

'68: RULE OF WAR #2 by Nat Jones

 

 

If '68: The Movie were made, who would you cast as Jungle Jim? Agent Rule? Private Yam?

Edward Norton would make a great Jungle Jim. A younger Alec Baldwin for Rule and for Yam, I think a talented Asian American unknown would be best. I think a role like Yam’s in the ’68 universe would really “make” an actor and I think the audience would benefit from not having seen the guy before in a sitcom or on a car commercial.

Which is more terrifying: being trapped in a room full of zombies, or in a room full of Kardashians?

Gosh, that’s a tough one. I’d have a different strategy for each. In the zombie room, I’d turn my gun on the undead. In the other … I’d simply turn it on myself.

Any other projects your fans should be on the lookout for?

2014 is a big year for ’68! We’re working on a second four-issue series for release this year called ’68: Homefront. It’s a cool concept, featuring two separate storylines that serialize over the four-issue run. The first is called Peece and Love and brings the story back to the US heartland. The second, entitled Dodgers, takes you to Canada as a couple of recent draftees decide to head north instead of Far East. We’ve got another ’68 one-shot in the works as well and, not to say too much, it’ll serve up another helping of everyone’s favorite “Grim Reaper in a Gas Mask”. Other than all of that, there are pots bubbling over with plans for 2015 and beyond. Lotsa good stuff … some of it brand spankin’ NEW! Curious fans can keep their fingers on the ’68 pulse and find out about upcoming releases by friending us on Facebook and checking out our website at 68zombie.com. There’s an all-new mailing list they can sign up for under the Mail Call button that will provide them with an e mail newsletter that offers exclusive content, behind the scenes stuff and tons more!

Also, I recently wrote a werewolf book for comic artist Andrew Mangum to illustrate. The book came out amazingly well and was published in October of last year by Monsterverse publishing. It’s called Wilder and centers on a US army grunt behind the lines during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. It’s a helluva horror romp and I think ’68 fans would dig its Horror/War vibe in an earlier setting. 

 

EXCLUSIVE: '68: HOMEFRONT Cover by Nat Jones

MightyVille Exlcusive: '68: Homefront #1 by Nat Jones

 

Thanks a lot for your time, Mark. We'll be one the lookout for all things '68!

Thank you!

(Artwork provided by Jay Fotos.)

Well, there you have it everyone! Be sure to pick up '68: Rule of War in April and '68: Homefront later this year. And, while you're at it, let us know which chapter of the '68 saga is your favorite in the comments below. First person to comment wins the first three issues of the 2011 '68 series! 

 

More Interviews on MightyVille:

A Man of Two Worlds: Nick Spencer at the Image EXPO

Adventure Ahoy! Kel Symons on THE MERCENARY SEA and More

Saving AIRBOY: A Conversation with James Robinson

 

Comments (2)
  • Leggacy  - 68 Scars!
    Huge fan of them all but if I had to choose it'd be Scars. Doesn't stop me from trying to get my hands on every cover from each chapter. Big '68 fan!!
  • MightyVille  - Congrats Leggacy!
    Congrats, Leggacy! You've won the first three issues of the 2011 '68 series! We'll be reaching out soon to get your mailing address. Thanks for being a valued MightyVille member.

    We really dug SCARS, too, but my personal favorite, as shown above, is JUNGLE JIM.
Only registered users can write comments!
 

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