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Abandon All Hope: An Interview with Jacen Burrows

Posted by Luke Brown On September - 12 - 2008

Avatar Press’ latest horror comic, Crossed, comes from the brains of Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows. Lucky for us, Jacen was good enough to answer some questions about the upcoming series. Hit the jump to see what he had to say about working on Crossed.

Those who didn’t grab the #0 issue missed out on some great set-up. What can you tell us about what’s happening once the regular series begins?

The regular series will hop between the first few days of the initial outbreak and roughly a year later. Each issue has a flashback section unveiling a bit more of the first days while the main story focuses on their attempt to survive a world overrun with homicidal lunatics and what you have to do to keep going once the whole world you know is simply over. It’s dark and bleak stuff but I think when you get into those dark areas you really get at the core of what it means to be alive.

Crossed is different from most horror in that it’s more grounded in reality. There’s no hulking monster rampaging about, there’s just really messed up people continuing to spread some type of infection. What types of things are you looking at to convey that reality in your work?

My neighbors, the people at the Mall, my own friends. When you start thinking about how anyone could get infected and turn on the people around them, even the people who love them, in the most brutal ways imaginable, it isn’t hard to get a sense of the real horror of random violence. If I’m going to look for inspiration for films, tv or video games I am usually going to be drawn to war material before horror. The best War stuff has a certain somber, reverential approach that doesn’t trivialize violence so much as explore how people react when violence has imposed itself into their reality.

This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Garth, so I’m sure nothing he throws at you shocks you, or is unexpected, but it’s evident he also trusts in your pencil. When you get one of his scripts, how much of it is left up to you when it comes to penciling?

I have a good deal of freedom when it comes to designing environments, secondary characters, fleshing out background action and even camera angles some of the time. Garth will direct a lot of the flow of the page as it affects dialog and story beats but whatever doesn’t disrupt the momentum of the plot he generally trusts me to flesh out. His scripts are very concise to begin with so there is very little risk of not getting his vision for the book and ultimately that is what I see my job to be.

Avatar publishes books from, among others, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis and Alan Moore. I can’t think of a better group of writers to work with. You seem to be the go-to artist whenever those guys have their next big project coming out. Is it safe to say you enjoy your time at Avatar?

I feel like I won the penciler lottery. While a lot of industry people might get to work on a handful of projects with writers of this caliber through the course of their entire career, I have an ever increasing library of trades with the best of the best and I still feel like I am just starting to hit my stride as a pro. Before I broke into comics my dream was to be a Vertigo type of artist and now I work with all of those writers.

It’s been said that every comic is someone’s first. One thing I always like to ask a creator is which book of theirs they want to be someone’s first.

The real answer is whatever is most recent because it is always going to be a little bit stronger artistically but my stuff is really all over the place. I have depressing stories about cops going insane, a comedy about the antichrist, a war book, horror stuff…it really depends on what genre they like in other mediums. I’d guess Chronicles of Wormwood would be the thing I’d show to most people first. Everyone loves that talking rabbit!

Thanks to Jacen for taking the time out of his busy penciling schedule for this interview. If your shop ordered enough copies, you can find Crossed #0 in stores now for $1 (if not, head to another shop to find a copy). The first issue should be available by the end of the month, so check with your LCS on its availability. You can find out even more about Chronicles of Wormwood and all the other fine Avatar titles at www.AvatarPress.com.


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