Ghouls. Walkers. Biters. Creepers. Call them what you will, whether they walk, run, or crawl, feast on brains or any bite of flesh available, they are known widely under one connecting moniker. Zombies. But, there is one aspect of a world gone rampant from viral pandemic or Hell boiling over that rarely gets any mention. Animals. Where do they play into the equation? What happens to or by the ones that hedge along the periphery? What if they're the ones that turn, and it's the fault of humanity. You shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you, but if you are being constantly prodded, medically enhanced, and subjected to humiliating post mortem dissection, you could see where that saying may be throw to the wayside.
The Final Plague uses that unique perspective as a basis for its tale. Written by Johnnie Arnold with the well coordinated artwork of Tony Guaraldi-Brown, this book (due out in late June 2013) is already on my short list. Having been almost written off for me by the over doing of all things "zombie" as of late, my interest was re-kindled when this comic's synopsis came across my desk. Carefully constructed writing fleshes out the situation, showing not just the beginnings of something verging to take on a grander scale, but also making a point to inform that the issue at hand may not just start at one place or another. It would be easy to explain that the zombie rat outbreak began in a New Jersey lab or a back alley in New York City. Coincidences happen and, hey, Jersey to NYC is just a train ride or two away. But, letting us in that not only do incidences occur at roughly the same time on the Eastern sea board, but a few hours earlier we are shown in the opening panels a farmer's wife fending off and eventually having to behead a rather death-resistant rat, a rat "living" over 1000 mile away in rural Iowa. Did it happen on the same day on purpose or was it merely a day in the life? Hopefully, these questions will be answered in the following issues that are being released by Action Lab: Danger Zone. In the meantime, we were able to get a few questions answered by The Final Plague artist Tony Guaraldi-Brown.
J.C. Ciesielski, Fanboy Comics Contributor: You've had some interesting, previously-released work, specifically working on the the back covers for NOFX's 7" of the Month Club. How did you get involved with that? Artist submission request? Friend of a friend? Are you tight with the band?
Tony Guaraldi-Brown: Hahaha, it's funny you asked about that, because I just posted that image on Tumblr about an hour ago. Man, that piece was done a long time ago. I had a friend Elaine who used to work for Fat Wreck Chords, and she suggested I submit my work to Brian Archer, the art director. I also did this painting of Fat Mike and his wife Erin as the Misfits' 'Die Die Die' cover to get in their good graces. When the 7" came up, Mike asked Brian to get me to paint NOFX as a bunch of Misfits zombies. That was a lot of fun, and Brian was a really cool dude to work with. I didn't have much contact with Mike; he has a business to run and all, haha.
JC: You and a few other authors and artists were involved in the recently released Tales of Hot Rod Horror Vol. 2, a follow-up to the original publication released in 2006. Can you tell us a little about the piece you worked on, "Death Jump?"
TG-B - The piece is a time travel story gone awry. Two greaser kids, a couple, have a '57 Chevy that has a time traveling device in it that allows them to jump to different time areas, so that they can do bank robberies. Well, they get pulled into limbo by Virgil, from Dante's Inferno, and he 'challenges' them to a race where they have to rally against zombies and what not. It gets a bit heavy once you learn about the twist in the race. It was fun to do. I love drawing cars and hot rods, especially racing. I showed Devon Deveroux some work I was doing for a graphic novel called The Showdown with Russ Lippitt, a creature feature hot rod story, and Devon asked me if I wanted to be a part of the next hot rod horror anthology. I was pretty stoked.
JC: How did you become the artistic half of the duo, along with author Johnnie Arnold, to create The Final Plague?
TG-B - I've known Johnnie for 10 years, and he and I have always tried to get projects started, but time or lack of opportunity prevented us from seeing them through to publication. When he told me he was submitting (what was then called The Rabid) The Final Plague to Action Lab Entertainment, I asked if I could be a part of it. Dave Dwonch, the creative director, actually wanted me to be a part of it but I didn't want to ask, because I was in the midst of doing The Showdown. So, I did some drawings and everyone was excited; and then, the slow tedious work came to actually finishing a comic started, haha.
JC: How much collaboration goes into creating a work like The Final Plague?
TG-B - Johnnie is pretty open to suggestions, he'll hold his ground if he feels that something is essential to the story, but he is really easy to work with. I have a tendency to want to change what's in the script to match the visual flow, and I think because of his easy-going nature, I push that a bit too much, but he'll tell me if I've gone too far. For the most part, he trusts me, because he knows I like his work and I want to visually do right by it.
JC: The first installment (of 5) is set for release in June of this year, and you've already began working on the cover work for Issue #2. Is there a rough estimate on when readers can look forward to in the next chapter in this tale?
TG-B - Because of my teaching schedule, we have to put the issues out every other month, so #1 in June, #2 in August, #3 in October, #4 in December, and #5 in January, with the trade probably coming out in the spring. Issue three is pretty much penciled and inked, I just have to lay down colors and do the cover; then it's on to #4 and so on.
JC: Any final thoughts on how the process leading up to this release has gone so far, where it's going, and where people can check out other pieces you've worked on?
TG-B - Oh, dear lord, haha, this process has been one of trial and error. I know that conventional comics want the art to be tight and sterile and look the same all the way through, but for me I want them to grow and mold with the feeling of the book. I've tried to have that with this story. As the terror ramps up, the art stops looking so soft and becomes more firm and tight, so you can see the details of what people are physically going through in the story. Feeling and mood play a huge part in this book; I think that is the backbone of any good horror story. If you want to see more of my work, Facebook is a good place as well as my site, www.tgbart.com. By the way, thanks for the interview, I appreciate it.
No, no, no. Thank you.
Lab rats, street rats, farm rats. As long as they're not members of the band RATT, I'm going to be keeping tabs on vermin in The Final Plague. If you're a fan of rodents named Ben that are BFF's with a young Michael Jackson, you may want to avert your gaze. If red-eyed buddies of Willard are more up your alley, make sure to keep an eye out for The Final Plague dropping June 2013.
You can thank me later.