Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Your new series, The Final Plague will be releasing its first issue in June through Action Lab: Danger Zone, the mature reader line of comics from Action Lab Entertainment. For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the series, how would you describe its premise?
Johnnie Arnold: It’s the zombie story you haven’t seen yet. Oh, and it isn’t a zombie story. But, seriously, it is the end of the world brought about by a mutated rabies virus that creates a short term ‘zombie-like’ effect in its host as a means of further spreading. The animal kingdom has turned against mankind. Ecosystems, and civilization, begin to crumble.
BD: What was your inspiration for the story?
JA: I’m a long-time horror fan, and a fan of zombie fiction. I wanted to do something different, and put my own stamp on a well traveled genre.
BD: How did the creative team form on this series, and how would you describe the creative process of working with Tony Guaraldi-Brown?
JA: Tony and I met at WonderCon back in 2002? 2003? We’ve had a couple of false starts getting projects off the ground. At about the same time we met Dave Dwonch, one of the co-founders of Action Lab Entertainment. Dave came to me after I had casually mentioned the idea a few years back. He suggested that Tony be the artist. A few days later, we were signed and on our way. As for the creative process . . . Tony is a pleasure to work with. In addition to being an extremely talented artist, he is very smart and knows comics. I will hand Tony a ‘finished’ script. From there we will have some back and forth, mainly tweaking the visual flow as Tony sees fit, maybe trimming some dialogue, etc. It’s a pretty easy collaboration.
BD: The zombie genre has become incredibly popular over the last several years with properties like The Walking Dead and 28 Days Later paving the way. How does The Final Plague breathe new life into the genre, and does the series contain fast or slow-moving zombies?
JA: As I said above, I think this is the zombie story you haven’t seen yet, and one that will, ultimately, prove not to be a zombie story. But, it plays out like, feels like, the zombie apocalypse. I wanted to do this to set the story within the realm of zombie fiction. As for the speed of the zombies . . . we are seeing recently deceased animals, for the most part. They move quite fast in the early stages of the infection, and then slow down as rigor mortis sets in or other injuries occur.
BD: As an independent creator, can you describe the process of working with Action Lab Entertainment as a publisher, given their support of creator-owned works?
JA: Action Lab has been nothing but a joy to work with. Professional, friendly, and committed to producing quality, independent comics. I run all my scripts by an editor, and they are very involved in reviewing the artwork and lettering. Definitely a team effort.
BD: Besides The Final Plague, are there any other projects on which you are currently working?
JA: I have an 8-page story in the 2nd issue of the newly re-launched Zombies Vs. Cheerleaders comic from Three Finger Prints, releasing in May. I also have a 6-issue series that will be collected into a TPB published by Markosia Enterprises titled Dark Stones: The Rise of Crox. It’s a Sword and Sorcery Fantasy story co-created with, and art by, Angel Tovar. That will see print in mid 2014. A few other projects in the works, but nothing I can talk about just yet.
BD: This being Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your own favorite comic books?
JA: Oh, man. So many. I have been reading and collecting comics for . . . well, a LONG time now (tries not to give away his age), and I own a comic shop, so I read a lot! Lifelong X-Men fan, and mostly Marvel, but lately Image has really been knocking it out of the park. Saga, Prophet, The Manhattan Projects, just to name a few. Rachel Rising is fantastic. Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt over at Dark Horse. Brilliant. And, of course, really looking forward to reading all the books coming out of ALE: Danger Zone. And, you should be, too!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell Fanboy Comics' readers who would like to learn more about The Final Plague?
JA: Pick up the first 5-issue story arc. The first issue is a slow burn, but it really kicks into gear, well, on the last page of Issue #1, but by the middle of the arc, we are really rolling. There will be many twists and turns, and one in the second arc that will literally change the whole concept of the book. What you think you know early on will not hold true. Keep checking Action Lab’s website and Facebook page for updates, and look me up on FB if you want info on all my projects, and the occasional politically themed rant. Thanks!