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DEAD CANARY: The treatment of Muslims is very even-handed but one can’t escape your high horse morality with issues such as Burkas, Women’s rights and the general motivations of the Taliban. Would you say this story is for an American audience primarily?

MARK SABLE: I’m glad you think that our treatment of Muslims is even-handed. I think we showed that war brings out the worst in anyone. We’ve got an Afghan Police Officer that’s a child molester, and a Marine that’s a drug abuser. There are very few “good guys” in the story.

I’m not sure that I’d agree I’m on a high horse about morality with this book. I’ve tried to keep my politics out of the book – it’s not worth alienating half of my readers. I just tried to put the truth (as I understood it) out there, and I’ll let my readers make a moral judgment.

I don’t think the book is for an American or even Western audience. One of the first conventions the book debuted at was the first Middle East Film and Comic-Con in Dubai, which I had the honor of attending last year. The book was as well-received there as it was in San Diego, which is an American city with a ton of military personnel.

You’ve mentioned the motivations of the Taliban – that is mostly from drawn interviews I found conducted directly with Taliban members that were conducted by an Afghan.

Do I bring a bias to the book? I was born and raised in the West. I’ve never been to Afghanistan. There is probably unconscious bias, but I did everything in my power to make sure that I wasn’t only drawing on American sources.

@DeadCanaryComic’s Chris Baker interviewed with me about GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, my @imagecomics book drawn and co-created by @paulazaceta.  Unlike many interviews, I think I got asked some really tough questions about the more controversial aspects of the comic, which I appreciated.  Check out the full interview here.

"THE DAILY DEAD: Is there any feedback in particular that surprised you? What have you found that readers are taking away from this story?

MARK SABLE: San Diego has a large military community, and when we debuted the book at Comic-Con we had a lot of veterans and active duty service members come up to us. If there’s one thing members of the military and comic fans have in common it’s that they aren’t afraid to speak their mind, so I braced myself for the worst. I could have imagined them pissed at us for trivializing their experiences.

Instead, they thanked us for calling attention to the fact there’s a war going on, something you might not know from walking around the U.S. right now. And they shared their stories, which were heartbreaking.

For me, the most moving reaction was a request from a vet who wanted to use Paul’s cover from the first issue – a helmeted skull with a poppy plant running through it – as a tattoo. He wanted to ink the names of his fallen comrades in the roots. To this day that remains the best interaction I’ve ever had with a reader.

So it’s been particularly rewarding that people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan were not only okay with what we were doing but felt we did a good job of capturing what they’d experienced.

No word from the zombies yet, though.”

- from Tamika Jones’ THE DAILY DEAD interview with myself and Paul Azaceta about the GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES TPB, which is available in stores now.  

The collections not only features tons of exclusive extras, but a brand new story written and drawn by Paul (his comics writing debut).  And if you want to check out the first issue/chapter, you can can do so for free at Comixology here.

I’m not just asking you for money this month.  (Although if you want to donate to the DRACULA: SON OF THE DRAGON KICKSTARTER, please do.)  Here’s the link if you want to pledge and share:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/78669939/dracula-son-of-the-dragon
In honor of the TPB release by @PaulAzaceta and I - in PREVIEWS now for pre-release (MAR130502) and out May 1st - @ImageComics is releasing the 1st Issue of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES for FREE on @Comixology.  Download by clicking here, and feel free to share the link:
https://comics.imagecomics.com/#/view/11175/Graveyard-of-Empires-1-of-4-
In addition to all four issues and the usual extras, the GRAVEYARD trade will also include a brand new story written and drawn by Paul Azaceta in his comics writing debut.  Which means I might really need the Kickstarter money since that could put me out of a job.
Here’s the official Image Comics Press Release:
AN ARMY OF THE DEAD IN GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES
Graphic novel set in present-day Afghan conflict
From Alexander the Great’s Macedonian army to Genghis Khan’s Mongol horde to the British Imperial machine of the nineteenth to the Soviet Union to the twenty-first century United States of America, no occupying force has ever been able to control Afghanistan — the very reason it’s known as the Graveyard of Empires. Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta drew upon that history in their Image Comics series GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, set in present-day Afghanistan, where American troops are caught in a seemingly unending conflict with the Taliban. That is, until a new enemy enters the field: the undead. The only way to defeat them is for the Americans and Taliban to unite forces, and as former enemies become uneasy allies, tension will rise on all sides.
All four issues of the critically acclaimed, controversial GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES will be collected into a new trade paperback, set to be in stores on May 1.
"Zombies are the perfect metaphor for modern insurgents," said writer Sable.  "A seemingly endless foe with inscrutable motives that comes in unstoppable waves.  In counter-insurgency theory, there’s something we came across in our research called ‘insurgent math".  It’s the idea that by killing one terrorist, you can create ten more because you’ve inspired their friends and family.  Similarly, in a world where the dead are coming back to life, anyone you kill can return to infect your comrades and turn them against you."
"It was a challenge to do the book because I wanted to get it right. Not just the uniforms and the guns but Afghan culture and it’s wonderful landscape. While digging around for reference the things that surprised me most was the beauty of the country," said artist Azaceta.
The trade paperback will give a whole new set of readers the chance to read the comic book that Weekly Comic Book review called “a wonderfully crafted tale which was researched in incredible detail.” Part of the research was aided by photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who co-directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary Restrepo and who was killed in a mortar attack in Mistrata in 2011 by Libyan government forces while covering the Libyan civil war. Sable and Azaceta dedicated GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES to his memory.
Meticulously detailed and boldly drawn, GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES can be pre-ordered now (Diamond Comics code MAR130502, ISBN 978-1-60706-739-9). A 128-page full-color graphic novel, its retail price $14.99

I’m not just asking you for money this month.  (Although if you want to donate to the DRACULA: SON OF THE DRAGON KICKSTARTER, please do.)  Here’s the link if you want to pledge and share:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/78669939/dracula-son-of-the-dragon

In honor of the TPB release by @PaulAzaceta and I - in PREVIEWS now for pre-release (MAR130502) and out May 1st - @ImageComics is releasing the 1st Issue of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES for FREE on @Comixology.  Download by clicking here, and feel free to share the link:

https://comics.imagecomics.com/#/view/11175/Graveyard-of-Empires-1-of-4-

In addition to all four issues and the usual extras, the GRAVEYARD trade will also include a brand new story written and drawn by Paul Azaceta in his comics writing debut.  Which means I might really need the Kickstarter money since that could put me out of a job.

Here’s the official Image Comics Press Release:

AN ARMY OF THE DEAD IN GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES

Graphic novel set in present-day Afghan conflict

From Alexander the Great’s Macedonian army to Genghis Khan’s Mongol horde to the British Imperial machine of the nineteenth to the Soviet Union to the twenty-first century United States of America, no occupying force has ever been able to control Afghanistan — the very reason it’s known as the Graveyard of Empires. Mark Sable and Paul Azaceta drew upon that history in their Image Comics series GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES, set in present-day Afghanistan, where American troops are caught in a seemingly unending conflict with the Taliban. That is, until a new enemy enters the field: the undead. The only way to defeat them is for the Americans and Taliban to unite forces, and as former enemies become uneasy allies, tension will rise on all sides.

All four issues of the critically acclaimed, controversial GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES will be collected into a new trade paperback, set to be in stores on May 1.

"Zombies are the perfect metaphor for modern insurgents," said writer Sable.  "A seemingly endless foe with inscrutable motives that comes in unstoppable waves.  In counter-insurgency theory, there’s something we came across in our research called ‘insurgent math".  It’s the idea that by killing one terrorist, you can create ten more because you’ve inspired their friends and family.  Similarly, in a world where the dead are coming back to life, anyone you kill can return to infect your comrades and turn them against you."

"It was a challenge to do the book because I wanted to get it right. Not just the uniforms and the guns but Afghan culture and it’s wonderful landscape. While digging around for reference the things that surprised me most was the beauty of the country," said artist Azaceta.

The trade paperback will give a whole new set of readers the chance to read the comic book that Weekly Comic Book review called “a wonderfully crafted tale which was researched in incredible detail.” Part of the research was aided by photojournalist Tim Hetherington, who co-directed the Academy Award-nominated documentary Restrepo and who was killed in a mortar attack in Mistrata in 2011 by Libyan government forces while covering the Libyan civil war. Sable and Azaceta dedicated GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES to his memory.

Meticulously detailed and boldly drawn, GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES can be pre-ordered now (Diamond Comics code MAR130502, ISBN 978-1-60706-739-9). A 128-page full-color graphic novel, its retail price $14.99

This Wednesday, July 25th, the fourth and final issue of GRAVEYARD hits stands.  You can check out a five page preview of it at Comicosity.  I urge you to visit your local retailer and pick it up, since the trade won’t be available until late this year, and possibly early next year.
I think this may be the best issue of anything Paul Azaceta has ever done.  It literally spans thousands of years of history.  I’ve said it before, but this was the best collaboration I’ve had in comics.  It wasn’t just me handing Paul a script; He and I went back and forth over every page, panel, image and word.
Matt Wilson’s colors brought this book to life, doing things with light and seasons that made him as much a storyteller as me or Paul.  And letterer/designer Thomas Mauer made the book readable (while making sure Paul’s art wasn’t obscured by my words).  I couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved, and more thankful for all the support Image has given us.
I can’t thank all the people who contributed to the research for GRAVEYARD for security reasons.  But I will try to post a bibliography of open sources I used if people are interested in further reading.
The people I owe the most thanks to are the fans and retailers who’ve waited patiently for the series to conclude (for now).  This started out as a three issue mini, and grew into four issues, each 32 pages (or close to it).  
I hope to have more news about my other projects soon, but for now I hope you enjoy what we’ve done with GRAVEYARD.  I’ve never been more proud of a comic than this one.

This Wednesday, July 25th, the fourth and final issue of GRAVEYARD hits stands.  You can check out a five page preview of it at Comicosity.  I urge you to visit your local retailer and pick it up, since the trade won’t be available until late this year, and possibly early next year.

I think this may be the best issue of anything Paul Azaceta has ever done.  It literally spans thousands of years of history.  I’ve said it before, but this was the best collaboration I’ve had in comics.  It wasn’t just me handing Paul a script; He and I went back and forth over every page, panel, image and word.

Matt Wilson’s colors brought this book to life, doing things with light and seasons that made him as much a storyteller as me or Paul.  And letterer/designer Thomas Mauer made the book readable (while making sure Paul’s art wasn’t obscured by my words).  I couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved, and more thankful for all the support Image has given us.

I can’t thank all the people who contributed to the research for GRAVEYARD for security reasons.  But I will try to post a bibliography of open sources I used if people are interested in further reading.

The people I owe the most thanks to are the fans and retailers who’ve waited patiently for the series to conclude (for now).  This started out as a three issue mini, and grew into four issues, each 32 pages (or close to it).  

I hope to have more news about my other projects soon, but for now I hope you enjoy what we’ve done with GRAVEYARD.  I’ve never been more proud of a comic than this one.

When I first heard that Graveyard of Empires had sold out and we were going to do a second printing, I jokingly suggested to artist/co-creator Paul Azaceta that we should do a zombie Osama Bin Laden cover.  Well…maybe half-jokingly.  Everyone was still excited he’d been killed, and Barack Obama variants had done so well…

Paul (rightly) thought it was in bad taste.  Evidently, the makers of the above trailer (courtesy of Aint It Cool) for “Osombie” disagree.

They have a Kickstarter page to raise money to make an actual film.  Of course, if you donate it will eventually wind up back in my hands after we sue their asses:)

My buddy Sam Humphries is on a roll this year.  First up was the self-then-Image published Our Love is Real, bushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in comics with it’s vegesexuals, minerasexuals and a cover with a gun boning a dog; then the time-traveling, epileptic tripping Aztec Warriors meets Joy Division indie sensation Sacrifice; and Marvel’s upcoming John Carter: God of Mars, with art by the great Ramon Perez and time for the movie based on the same Edgar Rice Burroughs character.
It seemed like Sam Humphries could do no wrong.  Then, courtesy of Boom! Studios, comes Fanboys vs. Zombies.  Oh no.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a killer concept, one of those “why didn’t I think of that” that’s a license to print money.  It’s got a painted cover by Marvel Zombies’ (and Hard Case Crime novel) artist Arthur Suydam.  It seems like a surefire hit if there ever was one.
But what poor Sam doesn’t realize is that with every interview, signing and review journalists and fans are going to be asking him the same question Paul Azaceta and I got hit with in Graveyard of Empires: why another zombie comic?
I understand why people ask that question.  There was a surge in zombie comics following The Walking Dead, and a surge in popular culture with the remake of Dawn of The Dead, AMC’s TV adaptation of The Walking Dead, Max Brooks World War Z etc. 
But this is comics.  If we’re going to talk about a genre that’s overpopulated…why not start every review with “why another superhero comic”.  I would have loved to have seen that question asked of every DC creator 52 times last fall.
Welcome to the world of zombie fiction, Sam Humphries…hope you survive the experience!
In all seriousness…when I look at this cover I don’t even think zombies.  I’ve been saying for years that San Diego Comic-Con is the one of the softest terrorist targets in America.  Tens of thousands of people trapped in a poorly ventilated, confined space with little to no security.  Hell…YOU’RE ALLOWED TO CARRY WEAPONS IN.
And don’t get me started on the germs…no matter how many bottles of Purell you bring it’s almost impossible not to catch the dreaded con flu…that place is an incubator for bio-warfare if I ever saw one.
Maybe this comic is a warning to all of us who attend San Diego.  Regardless, it’s one zombie comic you should be picking up.
samhumphries:

Sam Humphries Pits “Fanboys vs. Zombies”
An interview with me at CBR about my next new book, FANBOYS VS. ZOMBIES, coming out in April! 

The heroes are a group of fanboys and fangirls who have been experiencing and disgracing Comic-Con together, every year. This year, the group is in crisis because of an ill-considered romantic complication. They’re hungover, frustrated and angry at each other, and trapped in a giant steel-and-glass greenhouse with a hundred-thousand-and-change zombies. These are not ideal conditions for repairing friendships for the ages. 

My buddy Sam Humphries is on a roll this year.  First up was the self-then-Image published Our Love is Real, bushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in comics with it’s vegesexuals, minerasexuals and a cover with a gun boning a dog; then the time-traveling, epileptic tripping Aztec Warriors meets Joy Division indie sensation Sacrifice; and Marvel’s upcoming John Carter: God of Mars, with art by the great Ramon Perez and time for the movie based on the same Edgar Rice Burroughs character.

It seemed like Sam Humphries could do no wrong.  Then, courtesy of Boom! Studios, comes Fanboys vs. Zombies.  Oh no.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a killer concept, one of those “why didn’t I think of that” that’s a license to print money.  It’s got a painted cover by Marvel Zombies’ (and Hard Case Crime novel) artist Arthur Suydam.  It seems like a surefire hit if there ever was one.

But what poor Sam doesn’t realize is that with every interview, signing and review journalists and fans are going to be asking him the same question Paul Azaceta and I got hit with in Graveyard of Empires: why another zombie comic?

I understand why people ask that question.  There was a surge in zombie comics following The Walking Dead, and a surge in popular culture with the remake of Dawn of The Dead, AMC’s TV adaptation of The Walking Dead, Max Brooks World War Z etc. 

But this is comics.  If we’re going to talk about a genre that’s overpopulated…why not start every review with “why another superhero comic”.  I would have loved to have seen that question asked of every DC creator 52 times last fall.

Welcome to the world of zombie fiction, Sam Humphries…hope you survive the experience!

In all seriousness…when I look at this cover I don’t even think zombies.  I’ve been saying for years that San Diego Comic-Con is the one of the softest terrorist targets in America.  Tens of thousands of people trapped in a poorly ventilated, confined space with little to no security.  Hell…YOU’RE ALLOWED TO CARRY WEAPONS IN.

And don’t get me started on the germs…no matter how many bottles of Purell you bring it’s almost impossible not to catch the dreaded con flu…that place is an incubator for bio-warfare if I ever saw one.

Maybe this comic is a warning to all of us who attend San Diego.  Regardless, it’s one zombie comic you should be picking up.

samhumphries:

Sam Humphries Pits “Fanboys vs. Zombies”

An interview with me at CBR about my next new book, FANBOYS VS. ZOMBIES, coming out in April! 

The heroes are a group of fanboys and fangirls who have been experiencing and disgracing Comic-Con together, every year. This year, the group is in crisis because of an ill-considered romantic complication. They’re hungover, frustrated and angry at each other, and trapped in a giant steel-and-glass greenhouse with a hundred-thousand-and-change zombies. These are not ideal conditions for repairing friendships for the ages. 

Reblogged from samhumphries

GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES REFERENCE

While you’re waiting for Issue 4 of Graveyard of Empires, I thought I would share some of the research that goes into the book.  At some point I’m going to compile a bibliography of all the books, films etc. that Paul and I used for Graveyard - maybe in the last issue, if we have room (it’s looking like a 27 pager now), maybe in the trade.

Paul has an incredibly cool extra planned for the trade if his schedule allows, and I’d like to do something similar to what I did with the Fearless trade, where I showed the evolution of the project from concept to execution in both words and art.  Graveyard might actually lend itself better to that, as the back and forth between he and I on the story has been unlike any collaboration I’ve had so far.

There will be some sources that - as pretentious as it may sound - I’ll never be able to reveal or thank publicly, but I think what follows is pretty safe.  And gives you a good idea of just how intense the research and collaborative process has been.  

Google Images has been a godsend for comic creators, and my scripts have become filled with more and more hyperlinks.  But sometimes you still have to do the leg work.

This weekend, I sent the following images to Paul along with a revised script:

The first image is a cover to “Northwest-Frontier 1837-1947”, part of Osprey Publishing’s “Men-At-Arms” Series.  I highly recommend their books for visual reference on anything related to military history, from ancient times to the war on terror.

Here’s a scan from the book itself.  It depicts a scene from the first Anglo-Afghan war.  What follows are what I really love about the books, the color plates depicting how soldiers were dressed.  In this case, British soldiers (and their Indian Allies) from the 2nd Afghan war at the tail end of the 19th century.

Maybe my favorite image is the of these Afghan Tribesman…because other than their guns very little has changed in the way of dress over the centuries:

I don’t think that sending this much research is that out of the ordinary for a single comic issue.   But this is all for a SINGLE PAGE (which I really hope makes it into the book). 

(At some point, I hope to post the page and along with the reference to show how Paul incorporates it).

The book - and Afghanistan - is called “The Graveyard of Empires” for a reason.  From Alexander the Great to the British and Soviet Empires to our own, it’s been argued that Imperial ambition has been dashed against the rocky terrain of this supposedly unconquerable land.

In Issue 2, we began flashing back to a year before the events of the story.  In issue 3, we flashed back 30 years to the Soviet invasion and the secret war that the CIA waged to kick the Russians out (interestingly enough, part of the motivation for the British occupation of Afghanistan was to keep the Russians from threatening their Empire in India).

In Issue 4, we’re going to be going back further in time.  Way before the British Invasion…although when and why is a secret I’d like to save for the actual book.

Meanwhile, sitting on both my desk and artist Salgood Sam are just a couple of the dozen or so books in the Osprey series I’ve been sending him for DRACULA: SON OF THE DRAGON:

I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s comic that’s part horror, part historical-fiction, revealing how the real 15th century Vlad the Impaler became the (fictional) vampire in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  It’s something the novel glosses over and Coppola’s film spent very little time on, and has been an obsession of mine ever since I read the novel in high school, if not before. 

As ambitious of an undertaking as Graveyard was, Dracula proves to be even moreso.  Hopefully, the conclusion to the former and the beginning to the latter will be worth the wait.

GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES Review and Update (with never before seen art)

Along with the great FEARLESS TPB review in my preceding tumblr post, someone was nice enough to send me another amazing review of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES. 

This is from Ted Brown at Comics Forge:

"I am always on the look out for new unique takes on the zombie genre, as of late they are rare, but Graveyard of Empires from Image Comics is just that a perfect blending of a intense war drama with the looming doom created by an zombie invasion….The war drama sections that make up most of this first issue are of the highest quality and are on par with such war classics as Apocalypse Now and Jarhead. 

Writer Mark Sable does a great job at recreating the war atmosphere….previously I really enjoyed Sable’s work on Two-Face Year one, now after picking up Graveyard of Empires I plan to look deeper into his career. It was very ballsy move in my opinion to even combine the current conflict in the Middle East to a zombie invasion…

…On top of tremendous story telling readers are also treated to some remarkable art from fellow Grounded co-creator Paul Azaceta….the art style is basic and gritty, honestly it sort of reminds me of the way many bible stories were presented early on as they were turned into story books and comics but considering the geographical location the story takes place in it really adds a extra layer of atmosphere. The gore is handled in very realistic and often grisly ways giving the writing more believability by not going too over the top and treading to deep into fantasy. This makes for a far more interesting read in my opinion and really makes the political undertones more effective and prominent…

…if you enjoyed World War Z chances are you will find enjoyment with in the pages of Graveyard of Empires.”

I’m glad someone else remembers my work on BATMAN: TWO-FACE YEAR ONE, which is the work-for-hire book I’m most proud of.   I hadn’t thought of Paul’s work as reminiscent of how Bible stories have been illustrated, but I think Ted may be on to something there.  And any comparison to World War Z is beyond flattering…I think it’s THE masterwork of zombie fiction.  Thanks to Ted for the review.

Assuming you’ve made it through me heavily quoting a positive review of my own work, you are probably asking - WHERE IS THE THIRD ISSUE OF GRAVEYARD?!!!!  Especially since both issues seem to have sold out completely from Diamond.

Along with the FEARLESS TPB from Image and DECOY from Kickstart, I’m also hoping the third book of GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES will be out in November.

Now free his NORTHLANDERS commitments,  Paul has been hard at work on the third issue of Graveyard.  He’s been trying something new with the inks, adding grays to the issue before Matt Wilson comes in with the colors.

To show you an example, here’s what a black and white page from GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES #2 looks like:

Now, here’s a NEVER BEFORE SEEN page from Issue 3:

It’s pretty rare to see and artist change his style so drastically in the middle of a series.  As I understand it, the end product won’t be all that different; it’s actually to help communicate the colors Paul wants to Matt better.  There’s some real tricky stuff this issue - Stinger surface-to-air-missiles locking onto heat signatures, night vision etc. 

Oh…and if those don’t look like American helicopters to you, that’s because they are Mi-24 Hind helicopters being taken down by Mujahadeen fighters (some of whom will become the Taliban we met in Issues 1 and 2).  Just as we flashed back to earlier period of Operation: Enduring Freedom in Issue 2, were flashing back to the Soviet Invasion of the 1980s in Issue 3.  Afghanistan is called the Graveyard of Empires because of all the “imperial” armies that have met their end there.  Just wait until you see how far we flash back to in Issue 4.

We’re trying to make all those flashbacks clear from art, color and minimal captions rather than long winded exposition.  At the same time, we want each era’s flashback to have a different feel.

That’s on top of the fact that the present day fighting each issue takes place a little later each day, so we are trying to change the lighting in a way that’s noticeable yet subtle.

All that is time consuming.  That’s not to say Paul is to blame for the book being late (November will mean we’re slightly off our bi-monthly shipping schedule).  Everyone involved in this book is a perfectionist, and Paul and I have been sharing the role of editor.  I’ve never done so many script drafts.  But this isn’t about me trying to please a huge corporate publishing entity, it’s about making sure every scene works right.  When issue 3 comes out, I’ll point out a scene or two we argued over, and it will be interesting to see what readers reactions are.

In the meantime, I thank everyone for their patience.  We’re trying to do something special here, and I hope you’ll find it worth the wait.