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After shaking up the horror-film business with his nerve-frying shocker WOLF CREEK in 2005, Australian writer/director Greg Mclean is now tackling a new medium: comics. Written by Mclean, Chris Wheeler and Jason M. Burns and hitting stores from Ape Entertainment this October, DARK AXIS: RISE OF THE OVERMEN #1 (see exclusive art and teaser trailer below) offers an even more horrific version of WWII Nazi mischief.
In the story, battle-hardened veteran Sgt. Bryce is ordered to scout a mountain valley, accompanied by a squad of useless recruits. After finding a treasure map on a dead SS deserter, Bryce leads his team to a hidden German facility full of incredible machines and advanced technology. It appears completely abandoned, but when one of his men vanishes, ripped apart by “something lurking in the shadows,” Bryce realizes too late that they’re not alone. Mclean gave us the scoop, along with an update on his WOLF CREEK sequel…
FANGORIA: What inspired you to get into comics? Is this a new endeavor?
GREG MCLEAN: I actually spent my early years in art school painting and drawing, and I’ve always been reading, collecting and drawing comics. At one point I did seriously consider becoming a comic-book artist but moved into directing instead, though it’s an art form I’ve always been passionate about and enjoyed. My friends and I usually fell in love with an artist’s work, and then we’d tend to follow them and track down all their stuff. Mobius, John Byrne, Mike Zeck, Bill Sienkiewicz, Arthur Adams, Frank Miller, Geoff Darrow, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor Smith and Jack (King) Kirby are personal favorites. This background helped me moving into films as I storyboard my own stuff, which really helps communicate shot ideas, sequences and design concepts. I’m more of a sporadic collector now, dipping into different books, artists and writers if I can make it past the collectibles. I’ve sworn off buying more, as I literally have no more shelf space for action figures. I need to grow up one day!
So I started Deizel Punk, our publishing company, last year to pursue storytelling in the comic-book form. I guess working with artists all the time and writing screenplays with big ideas and visual concepts evolved naturally into making comics. It’s a passion project for all of us involved, and great to be part of during the long haul between financing movies, which can sometimes take a few years to sort out.
FANG: Nazis and horror make a good mix. What is your approach?
MCLEAN: There’s no one better to blow away than a stinkin’ Nazi—as they’re already real monsters. And human monsters at that, the worst kind. And probably no one scarier in history either. I would say, however, tonally, the Nazis in DARK AXIS are from the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK school of storytelling, and our tale takes place in a heightened action-adventure style. This is a fantasy story, after all, set in WWII, and it should be taken that way. I’ve outlined a pretty vast storyline that weaves all the way through the war, in which we see our heroes battle the various Axis powers and their insane mechanical weapons and creatures of war. All major theaters of battle are covered, so hopefully there’s six more adventure/horror tales coming up if people dig what we did with this book. I’m keen to bring out the Russian Mecha vs. Nazi Warbeasts on the Eastern Front!
FANG: How is the work divided between your collaborators?
MCLEAN: I wrote a screenplay with Christopher Wheeler, a great Australian writer and friend who sadly passed away recently, and we created some amazing concept art during the process, which led us to think how cool the story would be told as a comic book. Xavier Irvine was one of the many talented artists working with us, and we talked about the idea, then met the guys at Ape Entertainment, who we really dug, and decided to collaborate with them to make the book. David Hedgecock’s been great to work with, as has Brent E. Unwin. Jason Burns adapted the script, and then Xavier worked from that, and funnily enough the process of working with him was like directing a movie.
The best part is that you can say, “I think there should be a 1,000 undead German supersoldiers fighting our heroes in this sequence,” and it’s sketched out the next day. Xavier roughs out sections of story and then sends them to me for notes, and once it’s approved, he inks and then it goes to Luis for coloring. Once that’s done, lettering is applied, but we’re tweaking and changing all the time as good ideas and suggestions pop up from anyone on the DARK AXIS team. From coming up with crazy sound effects for monsters to improving lines of dialogue, it’s all focused on making the best book possible.
FANG: What kind of guidelines have you given your artists? How graphic will DARK AXIS be?
MCCLEAN: Xavier has been working as a concept artist on the project for a while, so he was really familiar with the world we were creating. In fact, he designed lots of it! I really love his drawing style, and he has a fantastic instinct for visual storytelling and narrative. We’d really just chat about a section or character or moment, and he’d go away and go for it, so he had enormous freedom to create. How graphic? There’s some serious splatter and gore as Nazis and their various creatures are given a dose of good ol’ fashioned GI firepower. The exploding-head count is pretty high too, and gets higher as the issues progress. The best one is in issue #3, where an SS soldier is ripped in half and devoured by “Creepers” while holding a gramophone. All drawn very neatly, of course.
FANG: What kind of worldwide distribution is the comic getting?
MCLEAN: The book will be available everywhere via the usual pre-ordering sites and at comic-book stores all over. And if you like the look of DARK AXIS, ask your local store to order some copies!
FANG: How many issues are you doing?
MCLEAN: The first book—RISE OF THE OVERMEN—is four issues, which we’ll also bring out as a one-off graphic novel later this year. The teaser trailer was directed by a really talented writer/director named Cameron Oliver, based on the piece of concept art with the Overmen being created, by Jacob Winkler, another super-talented artist. The newsreel idea came from the opening sequence of issue #1 of DARK AXIS, and we’ll be bringing out some more surprises and fun content for fans as the four issues release over the next few months…all taking them deeper into the world of DARK AXIS.
FANG: When does your horror film 6 MIRANDA DRIVE go into production?
MCLEAN: Because WOLF CREEK 2 is financed now, we’re going into prep much earlier, so it’s most probably going to come after that one now. Very excited about that script. It’s a genuinely scary piece and spooky as hell.
FANG: How has working with Lionsgate been going?
MCLEAN: They’re cool and obviously very good at making just the kind of movies I dig. Hoping to do more with them too.
FANG: What’s the latest on WOLF CREEK 2?
MCLEAN: I’ve just been over to South Australia, where we’ll be shooting, checking out the new studios they’ve just built—which are bloody amazing! We’ll be the first feature film in there, which we’re excited about. [Producer] Matt Hearn and I are getting ridiculously excited about getting back out in the desert with the madman [John Jarratt] again and terrorizing people once more. The script has got some of the gnarliest sequences we could come up with, but still keeping the atmosphere of intense realism, dread and suspense that worked well in the first movie. We do get to learn more about the psychotic pig shooter Mick Taylor, though, and get a glimpse into the darkest corners of the character’s insanity. So things are ramping up now, and I’m going to start storyboarding soon. Time to get out my pencils and start sketching things out! Let the carnage begin!
FANG: Will you throw in any American backpackers this time?
MCLEAN: American backpackers? Not in this one, as it’s based on another true case, so it’s closer to that story. One day perhaps…
For more on DARK AXIS, visit its official website and that of Ape Comics.
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