Inside Look: Dead Man's Run #1

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Inside Look is Broken Frontier's director’s commentary-like feature in which creators take you behind the scenes of one of their latest comics to hit the stands. In this edition: Greg Pak on Dead Man's Run #1.

When Valhalla Entertainment's Ben Roberts called me up a couple of years ago and said "Jailbreak from Hell," I was instantly hooked. So it's a huge thrill this week to be debuting Dead Man's Run #1, a miniseries following a young cartographer as he builds a team of villains and monsters to break his sister out of a maximum security prison that just happens to be Hell itself.

The book was developed with Valhalla's Gale Anne Hurd, the legendary producer of Aliens and The Walking Dead, and the amazing crew at Aspen, including Frank Mastromauro and Vince Hernandez. The brilliant Tony Parker is pencilling and inking the book, with letters by Josh Reed and colors by David Curiel.

Read on for a few thoughts about the creative choices behind these first five pages -- and please feel free to ask your local retailer to hold a copy of the book for you today!


We pick up immediately after the events of Dead Man's Run #0, which hit stores back in October. It's always a challenge to figure out how to deal with #0 and #1 issues. Low cost #0 issues are a great way to hook readers into a new storyline. But that leaves you with the challenge of introducing your world again in a new way without treading water with the #1 issue. Our solution was to tell the story of Captain Romero and his journey to Hell in issue #0. Now in issue #1, we start with Romero's death, setting up the introduction of our actual main character, Sam Tinker, who's mentioned on this page.


Yes, I'm paid to write. But every once in a while, words fail me, particularly when describing subtle emotional states or expressions. With a couple of tricky panels on this page, I did something ridiculous I'd never tried before -- and took photos of myself trying to replicate the expressions in my head. So here I am trying to show Sam's deadpan surprise in panel 2 and Juniper's wry smile in panel 5.


Tony did an amazing job tolerating my craziness and bringing out the awesome in all these pages. Although I'm a little disappointed he didn't give Juniper my stubble.


A scene with just two people talking can be incredibly dramatic on a human level. But if you're telling your story visually, it's key to work in some kind of action and movement. Here we have Sam and Juniper in a car, which provides at least a touch of subconscious suspense -- on some level, we're wondering where they're going and if they'll get there.

At the same time, Tony's doing a great job of varying the angles panel-by-panel and moving in closer for more intimate moments, which creates its own sense of movement. And finally, Juniper's passing Sam this old map, which gives us something interesting visually to bring this past they're discussing to life. Great actors are geniuses with prop work -- Marlon Brando with the kitten in The Godfather might be the most classic example. Just the way a character handles an object can reveal something -- I'm a little bit in love with the way Juniper's handing the paper over using two fingers rather than her thumb in the last panel of Page Three. Again, almost on a subconscious level, a little detail like that helps dramatize Juniper's sass and spirit.

It's worth noting that the movement here is pretty minimal and subtle. We certainly could have found bigger ways to put our characters in motion. But storytelling depends a lot on contrast, and the quietness of these moments serves as a set up for...


...the big crash on this page. If we'd spent the previous couple of pages in slam-bang action, this crash might not have had the visceral impact it should.

Tony has fun here with tilting panels for impact. And he does a great job with the tiny emotional moment between Sam and Juniper. The  hope is that by spending a couple of pages watching Sam and Juniper fight and reconcile in jokey brother-sister fashion, we've helped give this moment of crisis some real emotional impact.

Here on page 5 we're also paying off one of the promises on page 1. Romero says he wants Tinker; this crash is the means by which he gets him, as we'll soon see. I think it's valuable to be able to circle something around like that in the first four or five pages; it's like Act One of a screenplay. You want to resolve an element while pumping the story up to the next level.

Many thanks for reading, and please feel free to ping me via Twitter if you have any thoughts or questions about Dead Man's Run.

See you in Hell!

Dead Man's Run #1 by Greg Pak and Tony Parker is out now from Aspen Entertainment.

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