J.C. Ciesielski, Fanboy Comics Contributor: First and foremost, what was inspiration for you to create The Final Plague?
JD Arnold: I love horror. And, more specifically, I love zombies. I wanted to contribute my voice and vision to this well traveled genre, and I certainly wanted to do something different. I think we've achieved that with The Final Plague, which, by the way, is not a zombie book. (All will become clear as the story progresses.) Sure, we borrow elements from other zombie and zombie-like stories, but I think the way we blend it all will create a unique experience for the reader.
JC: I asked this of Tony (Guaraldi-Brown, artist of The Final Plague), now I'd like to hear your side of it. How much collaboration goes into creating a work like The Final Plague?
JA: A fair amount. Writing, for me, and for, I suspect, many writers, is a solitary pursuit. Not to say we don't confer and collaborate and tap outside sources for information and inspiration, but when I sit down to write the script, it is just me and the laptop. Once that 'finished' draft is sent to the editor, and then the artist (and letterer, etc.) the real, active collaboration begins. Tony and I often bounce ideas back and forth on how to tighten, and improve upon, the script. The end result is truly a marriage of visions.
JC: For those that may be unaware, The Final Plague is not your first trip to the rodeo, not your first foray in the world of writing. Your previous work, BB Wolf and the Three L.P.s (released in 2010), was nominated for multiple awards and earned you a bit of notoriety in the comic community. How much has this gone to your head? Do you believe you are a golden god or has your wife Katie, who gave you the suggestion of doing an updated Big Bad Wolf story, keep you grounded?
JA: Ha! Well, my illusions of godhood predated the release of BB Wolf by a good decade or so, and as my wife and many close to me will attest to, the success of BB did nothing but inflate my already dangerously bloated ego. But, seriously . . . BB Wolf was a great experience. I really couldn't have asked for a better inaugural dance. Working with the extremely talented, and consummate professional, Rich Koslowski, was an honor. Add to that being picked up by Top Shelf, publisher of some of the greatest American graphic novels EVER! Again, I couldn't have been luckier, and happier. And, of course, I do owe it all to my lovely wife Katie. It was she who planted the idea for BB Wolf in my brain. She is my muse.
JC: Can you tell us a little about how BB Wolf and the Three L.P.s grew from a suggestion to a fully complete book and also a rather interesting album?
JA: So, yeah, like I said, it started with Katie. I was 'in between jobs', and writing my a-- off. I had created a huge back log of scripts, many of which are still clamoring to see life, some of which are about to, when I hit a dry patch. A bit of the old 'Writer's Block'. To clear my head, and hopefully get the gears moving, I asked Katie to give me a writing assignment. She suggested writing a fresh take on a classic fairy tale. It was like a lightening strike. The idea literally flew into my head. I had plotted the whole story that first night. I think I finished the first draft to the book in under a week.
Fast forward about a year, and I am at SDCC (I think this is 2007, maybe '08). I meet Rich Koslowski, and we kind of hit it off. At the very least, he didn't ignore me, and I made sure to buy a few of his books to leave a good impression. I got a card, and about a week after the show, sent him an email, asking if he'd be willing to take a look at a script from an up-and-coming comic writer. He did and the rest is history, I suppose. The idea for the CD came one day when Rich was visiting me in Santa Cruz on a house hunting trip, wanting to move his family from the cold wilds of Wisconsin. (He did!) The whole project, start to finish, was such a joy. If I do nothing else in this business, I will at least be extremely proud of what we all accomplished with BB (but, for the record, I intend to do much more in this business!).
JC: Does being the co-owner of a comic shop (Comicopolis, located in Santa Cruz, CA) affect your work in any way? Does having to deal with more of the business side of things upset your process in creating, or do you just revel in the fact that you own a comic shop?
JA: Well, you know, it's all about hours in the day, right? There are only so many. Unfortunately, I am not YET at the point in my writing career where I can rely solely on that income to support me and my family. So, I have to work a day job. Fortunately (and believe me, I DO know how lucky I am), I get to spend those day job hours owning a comic shop. It really is a dream come true. I live comics. If I'm not writing them, I am selling them. Yes, it cuts into my writing time, but I do manage to get some writing done during those rare, slow hours at the shop. Most of us have more than one ball in the air. It's all in how we juggle them. And, to add to my own growing ball collection, I may be entering the world of comics publishing soon. I guess this is kind of an exclusive for you, J.C. You are among the first I've told this to. I can't discuss the fine details yet, but yes, I may become part of an established publishing house in the near future. Not entirely sure how I'll fit that into the finite hours of my day, but hey, I love a challenge.
JC: News of The Final Plague began to buzz online about a year ago, then known as The Rabid. Any specific reason for the change, or did you just think The Final Plague sounds more hardcore?
JA: First off, yeah, the new title is more hardcore. I love it. I liked The Rabid, but I'm glad we were, in a way, forced to change it. I think the new one is much better. The change came after a friend, and fan of an advance preview copy of issue #1 we sent out, did some online research and found a graphic novel published about 10 years ago by the same title. To avoid any possible complications, we started brainstorming new titles.
JC: The book is going to be a 5-part installment piece and then possibly a trade afterwards. People can check out Tony's Facebook page and see occasional updates of his work on the book as it goes from idea to pen and paper, but as an author doing that would be a bit more of a spoiler. What I'm asking is if the book is competed and ready to be inked or if you're still writing it as you go?
JA: Yes, the first story arc is 5 issues, and I can all but guarantee we'll see a trade paperback. But, if I have any say in it, this story will live beyond that initial 5 issues. As of this interview, I have finished writing issue #10, completing the 2nd story arc. There is still more story beyond the 10th issue, but being so far ahead, and having many other projects currently demanding my attention, I've left it there for the time being.
JC: Is there anything on the horizon for once The Final Plague is complete, or are you going to need a break after such an intense book?
JA: I live by the motto, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." And, being the father of a 3 year old, I've come to realize how true those words are. So, no, no rest for me. In the immediate future . . . I've got an 8-page story in issue #2 of Zombies vs. Cheerleaders, published by Three Finger Prints, and I may, as of issue #4, be a regular contributor to that book. I am also under contract to release a 6-issue graphic novel with Markosia Enterprises in early to mid-2014. It is a Sword & Sorcery Fantasy story titled The Dark Stones Trilogy: The Rise of Crox, with art by the very talented Angel Tovar. As the name suggests, this is just the first of three installments. I've also just began writing a web comic series based on a series of horror/fantasy novels. Can't mention the name yet, but I hope to make an announcement on that in the near future.
Beyond that, quite a few projects cooking, but nothing I can officially announce just yet. I hope to announce more writing, and maybe even a publishing related, projects soon.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to ramble on about The Final Plague, J.C. I hope everyone out there gives it a read. I think you'll be pleased.