Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of The Very Final Last Girls! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what (or who) was its inspiration?
Josh Eiserike: Thank you! The Very Final Last Girls is about the women who seem to regularly survive horror movies—the “what happens after,” starting with Megan Williams -- a teenager who lost her family to zombies. My idea was to begin the story at the last five minutes of every zombie movie when the military swoops in to save the day… and then follow Megan as she’s shuffled through government bureaucracy to a rehabilitation center where she meets other girls from all walks of life who have survived their own horrors—anything from nightmare monsters to summer camp slashers (wink wink). Then, when the slaughter begins anew, these (mostly) girls have to put aside their differences to find out what’s going on and, once again, survive.
I got the inspiration for the book about ten years ago when I saw The Cabin in the Woods, maybe my favorite movie of the past decade. At the time, I wasn’t too familiar with the horror genre. But, boy, did that movie send me down a rabbit hole. I kept coming back to the final girl trope that Cabin so brilliantly skewers, as well as my love of teen stories like The Breakfast Club, where young characters who would never otherwise talk to each other are forced to interact… and clash. For example, I figured that in order to survive a horde of zombies, Megan would need to be exceptionally resourceful, so I made her a survivalist from Colorado. (Plus, artist Z. Crockett loved the idea of drawing zombies emerging from the snow.) But what happens when a survivalist kid who grew up off-grid is forced to bunk with a rich girl from Beverly Hills? To me, the kills and horror references are a ton of fun, but the heart of the book is these teens having to navigate their differences, and Megan’s subsequent emotional journey.
BD: What can you tell us about your shared creative process of bringing this story to life?
JE: As mentioned above, it was a 10-year process bringing The Very Final Last Girls to life… and incredibly collaborative! I met Z. during our student days at the University of Missouri, where we were both drawing comics for the school paper. We became friends and self-published a five-issue mini series titled Anyone But Virginia (about a superhero who plans to attend her high school reunion, inspired by Grosse Pointe Blank and my love of John Hughes). I knew I wanted to work with Z. again and thought her style would be a perfect blend of terror and sensitivity for The Very Final Last Girls.
Together, we slowly chipped away at it. Later, when Darby Pop Publishing came aboard (as well as colorist Michael Woods and artist Andres Barrero, who stepped in for the last two issues), we became a well-oiled machine. Z. was game for revisions on the early chapters, per Darby Pop’s suggestions. Michael was great at juggling multiple issues at a time. Andres did an incredible job of taking what Z. had built but also making the book his own… and did a particularly great job at the creature design in the later chapters!
BD: What makes Darby Pop the perfect home for The Very Final Last Girls?
JE: I really appreciated the collaboration in producing the book with Darby Pop. They were incredibly hands-on, making recommendations every step of the way—script, layout, inks, colors, lettering, you name it. And 99% of the time their notes made things better. But, in that rare instance when I disagreed with them, Darby Pop was happy to let me make the choice I felt was best for the book. What I think I most appreciated was that Darby Pop understood exactly what I was going for from the beginning. It was a positive collaboration and I’ve been thrilled to work with them.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Megan’s story will connect with and impact readers?
JE: Great question! It’s hard for me to say as the writer, as I never have any idea how an audience will react to my work, but I’ll do my best…
Megan goes through a lot in our story (zombies, government bureaucracy, fellow survivors at cross purposes, a machete-wielding villain, and other terrifying monsters), but it’s really about her emotional journey. Megan’s a survivalist, self-sufficient, and distrustful of authority. She needs to learn the value of having friends. Interrogating my writing further, The Very Final Last Girls is also pro-therapy. (My wife is a therapist; I suppose that was inevitable.) Megan—and all of these teenagers—have lived through serious trauma and need help. They need to open up and get support. They need people they can trust. My hope is that’s a good lesson for everyone!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JE: Absolutely! I’ve got Charm City, a five-issue Baltimore-set serial killer murder mystery—with magic!—from Scout Comics due sometime next year. It’s been announced, but we don’t have a release date yet. Z. Crockett and I are working on another book, as well, a raucous comedy that couldn’t be any more different from The Very Final Last Girls. Oh! And I’d LOVE to do the Final Girls sequel… I’ve got a bunch of ideas, and, hopefully, people will enjoy the first collected volume and want to read more!
To extrapolate on that for a moment—The Very Final Last Girls has a satisfying ending. If I never get to do the sequel, readers will still have experienced a gratifying conclusion to the story. But! But! I snuck some secret bonus content into the book that eagle-eyed readers can find… which teases where I’d like to go in The Very Final Last Girls 2…
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Very Final Last Girls and your other work?
JE: The Very Final Last Girls is on sale now from Darby Pop. Readers can ask their local shops, but the best way to get it is at DarbyPop.com, directly from the publisher. We’re on Amazon and Comixology, too.