Going Viral: David Hine Talks FVZA - Part 2

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David Hine is well known for his work at Marvel on such books as District X, Daredevil: Redemption, and Son of M. But in October, he takes a trip outside of the superhero world with Radical's FVZA, also known as the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency, a taskforce dedicated to eliminating the threat of the undead. Broken Frontier continues its chat with Hine about the book and its development today in the second part of our interview with the writer. Click here for Part 1.

BROKEN FRONTIER: How do you see the character of Hugh Pecos? He seems like a cross between Van Helsing and Captain Ahab.

DAVID HINE: That’s very good. Yes, he is obsessive and the Undead are his White Whale. He’s willing to sacrifice everything to that obsession, and that includes friendships and family. He’s willing to put his own life on the line but also the lives of others. That’s brutal but it’s the only way humanity will win this battle.

BF: What about the grandchildren? Is there a reason Vidal is more reluctant than Landra?

DH: They are just very different personalities. Landra is the favored child in the sense that she is a natural warrior. Vidal just wants to live a normal life and he’s less than convinced that the Undead are still out there. He gradually comes to believe that Pecos is just a crazy old man who wants to live his past glories vicariously through his grandchildren. The relationship becomes very strained. Once Pecos is proved right, Vidal signs up for the deal, but he is always reluctant. I guess, like any other young guy he would prefer to drink beer and get laid than spend his days wading through shit in some vampire-infested sewer.

BF: How do the vampire and zombie viruses spread?

DH: Pretty much in the traditional ways, through the exchange of body fluids. Usually in a bite or scratch. Also you wouldn’t really want to fuck a zombie. Once infected the disease works fast. Within a few hours you’ll start to exhibit flu-like symptoms and within twenty-four hours you’ll most likely be dead. Vampires and Zombies do not rise from the dead. It’s the unlucky ten percent or so who survive that 24-hour period who transform into the Undead. In the old days the vaccine could be used to save the victims if they were reached within that 24-hour window, but the new strains of the disease are immune to the existing vaccine. Also the zombie virus can be transmitted through the public water supply, which is how the initial outbreak occurs.

BF: What's the relationship between vampires and zombies in this book? Are the vampires able to use them for their own ends, given their apparently greater mental faculties?

DH: Some of the vampires see themselves as an elite – a master race. Not all of them. Many are appalled at what they’ve become but the longer they exist as vampires, the more likely they are to see themselves as a superior breed to humans. They regard zombies as scum, cannon fodder they can exploit in their war against humans. I like to think of the vampires as a ruling class exploiting the zombie underclass. "Zombies of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your brains!"

BF: What is the vampire mindset? What motivates them, beyond the lust for blood? Are there good vampires and bad vampires?

DH: Initially the personality of the newly-turned vampire is the same. A vegetarian liberal will be a vegetarian liberal and will have a hell of a lot of trouble adapting to their new existence. Someone like this may well jump off a very tall building rather than give in to the bloodlust. Others will revel in their new-found power, like the character Mandrake, who lead the terrorist attack on the USA. There is a tendency for even the most decent of vampires to become gradually dehumanized as time passes and the really old vampires, like the centuries-old Nephilis, are totally degenerate.


BF: The virus apparently was brought to the U.S. with some of the early waves of immigrants, and one of the issues addressed is the need to screen those entering the country, even today. Are there metaphors for xenophobia here?

DH: Inevitably. The USA, more than most countries has always seemed to need an ‘outsider’ threat, whether it’s Communism or Islamic fundamentalism or Canadians. I was recently treated to a rant about Mexicans pouring over the border to leech off the American welfare system thanks to Obama, who apparently has hidden his birth certificate because it proves he isn’t American at all, and is actually an Al Qaeda infiltrator whose purpose is to destroy the American economy. This from a taxi driver born in Russia. I wouldn’t want to pretend that FVZA is intended to be a heavily political work. It’s not. But these elements do fit nicely into the story.

BF: This series is heavily steeped in U.S. history, which leads me to ask about your own background, being a British writer who emigrated to the American comics market. What was that experience like, and after all these years working in it, do you feel to any degree "Americanized" in terms of absorbing the culture and feeling that it is to some extent your own?

DH: America has colonized the rest of the world with its culture for the past sixty years or more, I guess since Hollywood started cranking out movies. I’m totally comfortable with the culture. I switch back and forth from the British to the American idiom depending on the audience. I do make occasional errors but the internet helps a lot with research into the day-to-day things. I don’t feel Americanized though. My outlook is still one of world-weary pessimism. The glass-half-empty philosophy that makes Britain the wonderfully second-rate nation it is today. Did you know that in a recent survey, 97% of Americans said they believed the USA is the best country in the world? In a similar survey only 5% of Britons felt the same about their own country. 23% think Britain is ‘probably second best. Or third.’ 42% think it’s ‘complete crap’ and the rest couldn’t be bothered to fill in the questionnaire. I think that says it all really.

BF: Do you have any hesitation about mixing real life tragic events such as the Holocaust with a fantasy story such as this?

DH: I did think about that. I wouldn’t want to trivialize the Holocaust, but it seemed appropriate that in our alternative version of history, the Nazis would experiment with the vampire and zombie viruses on the concentration camp inmates.


BF: Have you given any thought, if this goes beyond the initial miniseries, to exploring some of the other eras of vampire/zombie history, or other countries?

DH: If we go to a second series we’ll be looking at Europe, specifically France. Ever since I visited the walled medieval city of Carcassone I’ve wanted to set a vampire story there.

BF: The artist on this book is Roy Allan Martinez. Are you pleased with what he's produced?

DH: I love Roy’s art. We worked together at Marvel on Son of M and I’ve been wanting to work with him again. He’s a great fan of horror and particularly zombies so he jumped at the chance to do this book. He has a fantastic eye for detail and captures his characters with a realism that goes beyond photo reference. There are too many artists who depend on photos and the result can often be cold. Roy makes everything convincing without depending on a camera. The storytelling is always perfect too. Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo have done a fantastic job on the digital coloring, giving it a painterly and cinematic feel. I think I can safely call the result breathtaking. I should add that in previous interviews I didn’t give credit to Jerry Choo, who is part of Kinsun’s studio. Everyone should get the credit they are due on this book, including Jimmy Betancourt and Richard Starkings' Comicraft for the wonderful letters and the fantastic covers by John Bolton, Clint Langley and a whole bunch of great artists who are doing variant covers for the following issues. The aforementioned Luis Reyes on edits, Jeremy Berger on art direction, Nick Cabugos on design and Gianluca Glazer for pimping the book like crazy. Dave Elliott for dragging me into Radical in the first place, Barry Levine for publishing the damned thing and my Mum and Dad for not paying too much attention to how I’m making a living.

BF: To wrap up, tell us about some of the other projects you're working on.

DH: Still putting the finishing touches to the second long-awaited volume of Poison Candy for Tokyopop, the three-part, Arkham: Reborn for DC, ******** **** for Marvel (yet to be announced), *** ******** for Top Cow (also in production and not yet announced), an episode of Days Missing for Archaia and a six-issue mini for Image with the legendary Shaky Kane called The Bulletproof Coffin. And I’m currently scripting the second issue of a new mini-series for Radical called Ryder on the Storm. When I have the time I’m also illustrating my own script for an issue of Richard Starkings' Elephantmen.

FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency #1 goes on sale from Radical at the end of October priced $4.99. You can also visit the official FVZA website.

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