Q&A with Writer David Lapham

The Mayan calendar predicts this Wednesday, 12/12/12, will spell the end of the world as we know it, but David Lapham feels fine.

Crossed fans know David Lapham very well. Whether it was his Family Values or Psychopath mini-series, his Crossed 3D graphic novel, or his recently completed 4-part arc titled “Yellow Belly”  in Crossed: Badlands. He hasa new Crossed arc starting with #22.

But did you know the Eisner Award-winning author also currently writes three original series for Avatar Press, and all three arrive in comic shops this Wednesday?

In addition to the debut of Caligula: Heart of Rome – the sequel to his supernatural horror tale set in ancient Rome – Wednesday will also premiere the collection of his original Ferals werewolf crime/horror comic series, and the most recent issue of his detective series, Dan The Unharmable #8.

We spoke with Lapham to see what inspires these personal labors of love and his approach on writing each one…

The first Caligula ended with Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus meeting his fatal end and Junius “Felix” taking on the role of the new Caligula. Is that where the new series picks up?

The new series picks with many of the same characters but several years later.  We find out that there’s some pretty sick things going on through the underbelly of Rome.  Caligula was destroyed but the demon within’ him lives on and has found a new host which has for years been committing the most horrible murders through Rome.  Laurentius is the only one that knows the murderer is part of the Caligula demon, but his superiors think he’s crazy.  Meanwhile, Junius has fallen far into depression and depravity.  He’s sold his Olive Farm and runs a small stable of gladiators to make a living but gambles and whores away all his earnings.

Laurentius, the noble Roman who was scarred defeating the demon horse, Incitatus… what will his role be in this new series?

He’s a big part of this series.  The detective pursuing the serial killer.  Eventually he will end up leaving the Praetorian Guard to find and destroy the the new possessor of the Caligula Demon.  It’s his obsession and it’s personal.

Is this story self-contained, where new readers can easily pick up? Or, is the first series required reading to make sense of what is going on in Heart of Rome?

It’s not necessary.  Everything that’s important is explained and some of the new elements, like a young Nero, are known to most everybody.  Still, one of the elements here is seeing where the characters you grew attached to in the first book have ended up.  So, those readers will get a larger sense of the drama.

What is it about the story of Caligula – whether the setting, the theme, the characters – that draws you back? Or, when writing the original Caligula, was there always a second story to be told?

The time period is so twisted all on its own.  The stories kind of just suggest themselves.  Introduce a demon into the mix and everything just fits in like a perfect puzzle.  In a matter of years, we go from one of the most depraved and insane men who ever lived in Caligula, to the next most insane and depraved man who ever lived in Nero.

Since this is a period piece, set nearly 2,000 years ago in ancient Rome, did you find yourself doing a tremendous amount of research? Was this a challenge, or do you enjoy learning more about that time period so you could enhance the story?

The research has been fun.  It’s amazing how much is known and unknown about that time period.  It’s just separated enough from the line that leads to us that there’s an alien sensibility about it.  The real challenge though comes in the details.  How did they use money?  How did they eat?  What did they eat?  What were their homes like?

You are known for your over-the-top gruesome horror. A Comic Book Blog described your Crossed: Family Values as “…the most visually disturbing comic of 2010.” The original Caligula did not disappoint. Can fans expect that same level of horror in Caligula: Heart of Rome?

It’s very disturbing visually.  It all fits.  Even better here than in Crossed.  I feel, while Caligula might be more visually graphic, it’s also more purposeful.  Again, there’s a theme of depravity.  But the heart of the story is that one man is trying to retain his honor and dignity in the face of that.

Do you find it to be a personal challenge to out-do yourself when it comes to providing your fans with the type of gruesome horror they have come to expect from David Lapham?

I did when I did my first Crossed.  I felt that Garth had created that and established a level of disturbing gore that I had to try and match and surpass if I could.  But after that, I just write them.  Avatar books have established a certain type of – of almost their own genre.  We select subjects and themes that fit in that zone and I just write.

Let’s discuss your on-going horror series, Ferals. Or, should I say, “Crime/Horror” series? When describing the story, for simplicities sake, I often refer to it as “Sopranos meets Werewolves.” When developing this series, did you take the approach of developing the crime/drama story, or redefining the werewolf mythos first?

The idea was to do Werewolves differently.  In that I had a certain tone and landscape I saw for a setting.  The snow, the mountains.  Small town America.  Simple people.  Dale Chesnutt suggested himself.  He’s the detective from the Mayberry on the wrong side of the tracks.  He’s really turned into a very dynamic character and very natural to write.  For my part, I do think of it like the what if the Andy Griffith Show were invaded by booze and werewolves… and David Koresh.

Your first arc of Ferals (issues #1-6) is collected for the first time this week. For those readers who haven’t tried Ferals yet, what can you tell them about this series?

Ferals is the story about what if Werewolves were a people more than just monsters?  What if they were like the Quakers and lived in cloistered societies and just wanted to be left alone to be who they are?  But then something happens to draw the outside world in and a drunk, womanizing cop became infected with their disease.  He became the middle man is a potential explosion between these small town folk and the government.

Having read the single issues following the collection, it is apparent you are building toward a larger story than just the murder mystery we are presented in the first arc. There is an ominous feeling of big things looming ahead. Can you give fans a tease of what to expect?

I think one of the most successful aspects of Ferals is that we really created a credible secret society within’ our own.  The Ferals are out there and they want to be left alone, but if we’re not going to leave them alone than we’re going to die.  Nobody puts the Ferals in a corner.

As far as a teaser, we definitely take it to the next level in the second arc.  Dale infiltrates a new town of Ferals and learns that they are very real and diverse people. He also learns there is dissension among them — or at least disagreement on how they should “attack” the human problem.

And then there is Dan. The Unharmable Dan. The carefree and bum-like detective, often compared to “The Dude,” in The Big Lebowski. Where did you get the idea for this character?

From King Buzzo of the Melvin’s hair.  I wanted to do a character with that hair.  Had to.  I also wanted to do more traditional crime and going back to Stray Bullet’s Amy Racecar and Sadie Dawkins from Young Liars. I love the idea of a character that is unstoppable, at least physically.  People think that means there’s no jeopardy, but I think that heightens everything.  There are so many things worse than dropping someone on their head from 40-stories up.

Do you have fun finding different ways for people to try to hurt/maim/kill him?

Not really.  I mean it IS fun, but I don’t spend a lot of time on it or make it a point of pride.  I just try and think creatively there.

For new readers, what can they expect to find in the first story arc, being collected this January?

I think they can expect a very traditional detective noir story skewed only by the fact that the characters are unique.  I actually don’t think Dan is Lebowski in terms of personality, but there is a tone that that film has very traditional noir elements but the characters are oddballs and color the story that way.  Anyway, it’s about an indestructible homeless man who likes living a simple, uncomplicated life taking small detective jobs for a few bucks or sometimes sex.  He’s built his life mentally indestructible as well.  You can’t insult him.  He doesn’t get angry.  And he doesn’t become attached to people.  His life gets very complicated when he learns he has four children fathered by a woman he doesn’t remember who has been murdered in very classic Hollywood fashion.   The kids hire him to solve the murder forcing Dan to learn a little something about his life he doesn’t care to remember.

Who is scarier? Caligula – a seemingly normal person possessed by a demon, Crossed – homicidal maniacs running wild, or Ferals – ancient beasts who can rip you apart as soon as look at you?

Depends on where you’re at.  One on one Caligula would be very prolonged and very painful.  The Crossed would be very painful and terrifying but short lived and The Ferals would be very, very short lived.  The downside would be if it’s Crossed, it would mean the end of the world.

What scares David Lapham?

Why?  So you can use it against me and force me into embarrassing moments and take pictures of me screaming like a little girl and post them on the internet, so I can never show my face in civilized society ever again as long as I live and have to get plastic surgery and move to Southeast Asia and die in an opium den alone and unloved?  No thanks.

I ain’t scared of nothin’.

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  • Amdazzler

    I think it’s the twenty first, actually, but I don’t think anything’s going to happen. There are FAR too many blowing things out of proportion..

  • qp

    the current issue of ferals mentions “stormfront” is coming? another mention of WP/nazi groups in an avatar comic.

    pretty fuct in combination with the semi-swastika symbol seen on a previous cover, along with avatars nazi/swastika, iron cross and KKK covers… not to mention bleeding cool banning me when i called out Dynamite on thier Hitler/swastika cover! The author even indicated he’d rather be nazi then accused of being zionist! He failed to pay respect to the holocaust as politely requested, but after i was banned he came back to BS the forums. Dynamite are probably NOT WP, but they fucked up and didnt make any retraction or statement about it so i boycott them. now i feel the need to boycott avatar. i hope they wakeup one day and recognize the seriousness of what they are playing with and it leads them to make the appropriate statements against white power, neo-nazis, etc. Failure to do so lends AID and COMFORT to the enemy, regardless of personal politics or intent.

    feel free to keep ignoring concern about this, but the examples are building.
    no accusation at avatar but they are not wiling to make an anit-WP/nazi statement so far, so goodbye folks.

    PS: death to pedos & nazis!!

  • qp

    hey look!

    Bleeding Cool now has nazi & swastika emoticons!! but golly gee, that dont mean nothin’ right?

    “Ach, mein Leben!

    no need to get Nazi”

    in case it didnt cop, here is the URL…look to #73:

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/front-page-comic-news/64947-so-what-hell-going-dc-right-now-8.html

  • Amdazzler

    I glossed over a few of their comments, and honestly, in making these, I think they’re just acting trollish. Maybe a few see it as funny, but I’m betting whoever came up with the whole concept did so just to see how much of a rise they could get from others. That’s the typical troll mindset, they want people to get angry, and they’ll go to great lengths to try and drive some folks up the wall at times, just for a laugh. My advice? Just try to ignore them. Trolls feed off attention. Deny them that, and they tend to go away.

  • Amdazzler

    I glossed over a few of their comments, and honestly, in making these, I think they’re just acting trollish. Maybe a few see it as funny, but I’m betting whoever came up with the whole concept did so just to see how much of a rise they could get from others. That’s the typical troll mindset, they want people to get angry, and they’ll go to great lengths to try and drive some folks up the wall at times, just for a laugh. My advice? Just try to ignore them. Trolls feed off attention. Deny them that, and they tend to go away.

  • Boberto

    Can’t wait for Dan #8! “Evvenn flooooowwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!!” ………sorry for the pearl jam outburst.

  • qp

    Thanks Dazzler, good points.
    still it makes me wonder what other icons, etc they have hidden away, and why avatar allows them. clearly this indicates that they dont mind this kind of thing on thier products, BC, etc. i have been assured that they do not support the WP agenda, but they dont seem to take much (or any) care in stopping it either. it seems to be ok by them for this stuff to propagate.

    its sad and disgusting IMO.
    happy holidays!

  • qp

    just need to add an apology to David Lapham for being so off topic in the thread about his interview. although in all fairness his books have WP/nazi shit in them too. i wonder if ‘stormfront is coming’ is a warning or a threat.

  • qp

    i guess if get attacked/murdered sometime soon we will know then.

  • sam

    lol see ya!

  • sam

    lol see ya!

  • Amdazzler

    Who knows? Though I’m hoping nothing happens to ya anytime soom. You seem like a pretty nice person, and I’ve had fun chatting with you on here. :3

  • Amdazzler

    *Soon.

  • Amdazzler

    I don’t know how invested Avatar is in running forums like that. Maybe not at all, like you said, and they leave it up to a friend, or some tech-savy moderator, who doesn’t think much of it when he allows things like this to slip by, who knows? But if he(they?) were to suddenly start not allowing certain icons/ topics/ etc, you can bet there’d be a whole bunch of people complaining, rambling on about how bans stifle things like free speech, etc. If they cave to that crowd, then someone who supports a ban on things like the Nazi emoticons might jump down their throats. It seems no matter the call, someone is going to be upset, which is a no win situation. So maybe whoever’s running the site is deciding to stay neutral in the hopes of avoiding an outcome like that? Who knows? I don’t, I’m just speculating lol..
    But anyways, thanks, and I hope you have a great Christmas too. Have fun, and stay safe. :)

  • qp

    heya Dazzler,

    since BC now has a magazine published by avatar, id say their involvement is tight enough to warrant criticism. BC’s crap is avatars crap too.
    they already stifle free speech on BC and ban those who dare criticize the in-crowd, but nazi symbols/ icons and emoticons are apparently OK? it seems like they keep them hidden from view until you reach 10k posts. the big man tech has been far from neutral IMO, seeing as he used a lie to have me banned (from here) at one point. they cant hide behind freedom of speech IMO since they have erased my comments in the past, that censorship. but whatever, this whole world is shit and i cant wait to be dead so i wont have to see this shit anymore. every fucking day i see people being worse then animals, when all it takes is some fucking compassion. i thought avatar had a clue but i guess not. in the meantime they should get a nice sales boost from the wannabe nazis around the world.

    happy holidays.

    FVK PMA

  • Amdazzler

    Granted, there’s some crazy stuff going on in the world, but it’s not all gloom and doom twenty four/ seven. People are out there working to make a difference, and while I have run into some unpleasant folk, I’ve also come across couples who are kind and compassionate, which is proof to me that there is still some good in this world. Sometimes you have to dig hard to find people like this, but they ARE out there. And sometimes life isn’t fair, but no one ever said it would be the first place. We’re going to hit a few rough patches in life, whether we want to or not, and because of that we often think that things won’t get any better, but they can, if given the chance.
    I am sorry though that the folks at BC seem to be giving you such a rough time. If you wish to stop visiting these sites, I understand. It’s been a pleasure talking with you though. Take care.

  • qp

    thanks for the good thought man, happy holidays to you and yours.

    i hope the Avatar & BC people are well and enjoy thier holidays. but i really hope they get thier heads out of thier butts and do some serious soul searching about the WP/nazi imagery they play with. i dont think a public statement against WP/nazi scum is too much to ask for….

    peace, love and death to nazis!