Driver for the Dead #1


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Driver for the Dead #1


  • Words: John Heffernan
  • Art: Leonardo Manco
  • Colors: Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo
  • Publisher: Radical Comics
  • Price: $4.99
  • Release Date: Jul 28, 2010

For a comic featuring a hot rod hearse piloted by a machine gun-toting driver with a bad attitude, one would think speed is of the essence. Such is not the case with Driver for the Dead #1 – and that’s a good thing.

Writer John Heffernan, the man who wrote the hell out of the screenplay for Snakes on a Plane, turns in a seriously strong first attempt at comics with Driver for the Dead. As stated in his recent interview with Broken Frontier, Heffernan isn’t just another “Hollywood guy” looking to use comics to make a quick, easy pitch to the studios. He’s a bonafide comic book nerd.

He knows things – things like new comics come out on Wednesdays and who published Nexus and Badger. It’s this genuine passion for comics that fuels his first comic book’s originality, craftsmanship, and ultimately its success.

Set in the Deep South, Heffernan’s plot unfolds languidly, naturally. That isn’t to say the pacing is lethargic or the plot overweight – both are quite the opposite, in fact. It simply felt like I was taking an evening stroll through the streets of Shreveport or New Orleans, allowed by the plot’s even pacing to relish the sights and sounds and shadows as they slid past.

Much of the plot’s balance stems from Heffernan’s fully realized characters and settings. Each new face is introduced to the audience organically and allowed the time and space to grow as the story unfolds, pushing the action as they mature. Hoodoo witch doctor Mose Freeman’s introduction and subsequent death in the book’s first act is a perfect example of Heffernan’s strong characterization. Although he may have only lived for 22 pages, Freeman engages the audience with his humility, charm, and bravery. His sudden death just less than halfway through the book comes as a genuine shock.

Heffernan’s script truly leaps off the page thanks to his artistic collaborator Leonardo Manco. His work here is absolutely phenomenal, treating the reader to stunning, panoramic establishing shots, dramatic camera angles, and expressive characters. Manco infuses every panel with fine detail, creating lush backgrounds and atmospheric settings with exquisite linework and an intuitive grasp of visual storytelling. Digital painters Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo accentuate Manco’s beautiful lines rather than overwhelm them with cheesy coloring effects, showing remarkable restraint in service to the story.

Driver for the Dead is one of those books you’re not sure what to make of when you first discover it. Once you crack the cover though, you discover that speed isn’t everything, even behind the wheel of a souped-up coffin wagon. Sometimes, finesse and craftsmanship and a little care make for just as satisfying a joyride.

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    BLEACHEDMAN Aug 4, 2010 at 12:22am

    Will never buy this book for one reason. I'm a huge Bleach fan and I can not support companies that swipe art and plagiarize. Radical Comics just doesn't seem to get it. Bleeding Cool has this post:


  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Aug 4, 2010 at 2:18am

    Aside from a similarity in basic concept (and even that's a stretch, Wild's character seems more like a collector of stories than corpses), I'm not so sure your link is a good example of swiping. Heffernan seems like he's on the up and up in my opinion and Manco definitely did not swipe any art from that comic. The pages are totally different and Manco's a superior artist in every facet of the word. He doesn't need to swipe. Couple that with the controversy around Bleach...I just don't think Radical would be that careless after Bleach. The market's far too competitive and they aren't large enough to absorb the financial repercussions of more bad press due to swiping. I do thank you for your opinion and the link though! You presented me with a different POV, which I appreciate.


    BLEACHEDMAN Aug 4, 2010 at 3:35am

    Hi Jason. I also appreciate your opinion. But knowing that Radical contacted Rudy and asked him to work for them prior to "Driver for the dead" and that Wild's book is about a guy driving a 60's style hearse, encountering supernatural and ghost stories, and that Murphy's Law is a free comic on comicmonsters.com, which has a preview for "Driver for the dead", you get where I'm going. It's pretty straight forward ripping.

    Looking closer at the page notice both hearses have their lights on and are drawn in the same position. Then notice that both hearses are running through stop signs. Then both pages focus in on the eyes of the hearse driver. All that with contacting the artist to work for you? I wouldn't be happy if I was him. And yes, I think both artists are very good.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 4, 2010 at 4:53am

    I must admit that there are similarities there ... especially in concept. What's even more suspect is the fact that they contacted Wild regarding his 'black hearse' story. Question now is, did Radical approached Hefferman with the 'black hearse' idea or was this something already in the pipeline from Hefferman?

  • johnheffernan

    johnheffernan Aug 9, 2010 at 1:39am

    Hey Everybody,

    John Heffernan here. Thanks to everyone who has picked up Driver For The Dead, hope you enjoyed the read. As regards the allegations of swiping, I can tell you that in this case it just didn't happen. I came up with the idea for Driver after reading a newspaper article about a hearse driver who was carjacked and brought it to Radical way back in 2005, long before Murphy's Law was published, and I can document this. It took a while to go from conception to creation, but there it is. I've never read Murphy's Law, and although it looks interesting, I didn't even know it existed until reading about it here in the Swipe File. Any similarities in the storyline are purely coincidental. As to the similarity of the images above, all I can say is there's only so many ways to draw a hearse. And more importantly, Leonardo Manco doesn't need to swipe. He's too good. I don't know anything about Rudy Vasquez or when he met with Radical; I've never met with or spoke to the guy. I'm aware of the alleged plagiarism surrounding Radical's book Incarnate, and it was unfortunate, and I don't endorse or support swiping either, believe me. But in this case I can categorically deny that anything like that went down. Thanks and please give the book a try.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 9, 2010 at 2:49am

    Thanks for taking the time to clear things up, John. Similarities in concept aren't that uncommon in comic books so I guess it is just unfortunate circumstances which make it no less unpleasant for you as the creator. As for the art, Manco's page is definitely not a swipe, I'm a big Manco fan and it shows the typical kind of pacing with wide shots and close ups that he uses in his toolbox.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 24, 2010 at 3:54am

    I finally got a chance to read it and I must say that I immensely liked the book. Although I'm normally not too big on voodoo stories (purely subjective stance) it sucked me right in! New fan, right here ...

  • Horror Knights

    Horror Knights Oct 12, 2010 at 10:31pm

    This swipe has come up a few times in talking comics, over the last couple of months. I looked into it and quickly found these facts out.

    Fact Number 1: Heffernan says above that he took the idea for Driver for the Dead, to Radical Comics and Barry Levine in 2005. But in an interview on Comic Monsters, Heffernan states that a producer friend, referred him to Barry Levine at Radical Comics, "for having a reputation for being known for publishing great properties that would make great movies".


    Fact Number 2: Radical Comics began in 2007.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Radical_Comics

    Fact Number 3: Radical Comics first published a book in May of 2008.
    So for Heffernan to have been referred to Barry Levine at Radical Comics, "for having a reputation for being known for publishing great properties that would make great movies", Heffernan would have to have been referred after July of 2008 at least. Not 2005.

    Fact Number 4: The statement by Heffernan, is inaccurate. Unless he has a time machine.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 13, 2010 at 1:13am

    the written word... o well.
    In this case the concept may be overlapping but it is too far a stretch for me to believe this to be a true swipe.
    I go with Hefferman on this one!

  • johnheffernan

    johnheffernan Oct 13, 2010 at 10:12am

    Hey Everybody,

    John Heffernan here. Sorry to keep dragging this out but I don't appreciate allegations of swiping or plagiarism when none occurred, so please allow me to clarify things and set the record straight. Here is the sequence of events re: the creation of Driver For The Dead exactly as it happened:

    I first met Barry Levine when he was working for Dark Horse in the early 2000s. Barry then left Dark Horse to start his own label called Blatant Entertainment, which would ultimately become Radical Publishing. I brought the idea for Driver For The Dead to Barry and Blatant (which would soon become Radical) in 2005. Barry liked the idea but the money/IP deal wasn't there so the project didn't happen. Later, in 2009, I pitched the idea to a movie producer named Josh McLaughlin at The Mark Gordon Company, a film production company in Hollywood. Josh liked the idea as well but knew I wanted to do it as a comic, so he suggested we bring it back to Barry and Radical, which by then did indeed have a reputation for publishing great properties that would make great movies. This time the money/IP deal was right, and with Josh and Mark Gordon attached as producers, the project went forward.

    At no time during this long process did I ever see or was ever even aware of the Funhouse Of Horror series or its "Murphy's Law" issue. And I think anyone who has read both books will agree that Driver For The Dead and Murphy's Law have very little in common artistically, conceptually, or thematically, besides the fact that the main characters in both books drive hearses.

    Anyway, that's the long boring truth of it all. I encourage everyone to pick up Driver For The Dead and see for themselves; issue #2 is on sale now! And thanks for your support.

  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 13, 2010 at 11:02am

    thanks for clearing this John!
    And boring? NO WAY!
    I am intrigued!!!
    Thanks for the inside and good lcuk on #2!

  • Jason Wilkins

    Jason Wilkins Oct 13, 2010 at 7:13pm

    Wow. I can't believe this is still going on. Talk about beating a dead horse. Apparently, this forum has been mistaken for one of those other comics news sites that encourage divisiveness based on incomplete understanding of the situation. Thanks for chiming in John, though I'm sorry it was necessary.

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