Talking To Bill Jemas About His Night Of The Living Dead Comics From Take 2/Double Take… And Other Things

The word is out.

Double Take, the comic book division of Take Two Interactive Software is publishing a series of new comics , starting with the first scenes from the first episodes of three graphic novels: Rise, Soul and Insurrection. All are set in the universe established by the 1968 film, Night Of The Living Dead. 

And the guy putting this all together is ex-Publisher of Marvel Comics, Bill Jemas.

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Jemas is best known for his divisive stint at Marvel, co-creating Ultimate Spider-Man and the Ultimate line, hiring Joe Quesada as editor-in-chief of Marvel and basically making as much noise as possible, and throwing as many ideas at the wall to see what stuck. A hands-on micro-manager, he raised the profile of the publisher and helped bring it back from bankruptcy. At which point, the publisher turned on him and he was booted out of the door.

Last year he joined Take-Two to head up a new comics line that we haven't heard too much about. Until now…

And why choose this particular property to launch with? Well, the producers of the original missed out a copyright notice on the final version of the film which back then was vital in securing ownership, and the film entered the public domain. And they state that "all of us here at Double Take admire and respect the creators, cast, and crew of the Original, but, no one affiliated with the 1968 Night of the Living Dead film is in any way involved in the creation of the new stories."

I had the chance to talk to Jemas about the comics … and other things.

Rich Johnston: Bill, it's been said that the way to make a small fortune in publishing is to start with a large fortune, and that seems to have been your experience with 360EP and the like.

Bill Jemas: I love that line – but I also love the other side of the coin – Marvel threw 5,000 characters against the wall and Spider-Man stuck.

RJ: You seemed to then abandon comics, in favour of painting naked women with peace symbols, something that I am sure  many would prefer, then returned with your Go The Fuck To Sleep book for Zenescope. But each time, your post-Marvel comics projects appear to have met with failure and/or indifference – apart possibly from your behind the scenes involvement with Valiant Entertainment. Why will Double Take be different?

BJ: What a long-strange trip it's been.  I do like trying new things and don't lose a lot of sleep (or money for that matter) when something doesn't work.  By the way, I don't recall doing anything behind anyone at Valiant.

RJ: Then how do you explain Dinesh's constantly surprised expression on his face? Both Russo and Romero have worked on Living Dead comic books for a variety of publishers – any reason you didn't choose to have them involved? 

BJ: Right now, no one connected with the 1968 film is involved in the creation of our stories – as things progress and the stories develop it might be fun and profitable to work creators of the original.

RJ: Is there a danger of reaching saturation point regarding zombies, especially zombie comics? We have the Walking Dead, but other successes such as Crossed have to have a very different form of zombie to delineate themselves in the market. By going back to the Living Dead zombies, aren't you just creating stories that Walking Dead already does better, and more successfully? 

BJ: You have a better memory for this stuff than I do – but there were half a dozen Spider-Man titles and even more X-Men titles before we launched the Ultimate versions, and there was plenty of room for a fresh creative take those long-standing families.

RJ: I understand that occasional Bleeding Cool contributor Tony Lee is involved with you guys – what's he up to? 

BJ: We're seeing Tony in town next week..

RJ: Take Two a very strong reputation for storytelling in their games. Are you exploiting any of their games writing talent in the comics line?

BJ: Not directly, but I was fortunate to spend time with Ken Levine this summer and picked up some storytelling tradecraft that has been incredibly helpful.

RJ: The last time (and actually the only time) we met in person, you'd just been blanked by Paul Levitz at a John Nee-organized shindig after offering an olive branch of peace. Have you had any other opportunities of late to heal those deep wounds?

BJ: It would be nice if the worst we had to bear in life were our comic book wounds?

RJ: Would you have cancelled the Fantastic Four comic, if you'd got in a tizzy with Fox Studios over their handling of the movie and the attached rights? And.. do you still have a photo of Isaac Perlmutter I could have at all?

BJ: Sorry Rich, I don't have a photo, and have not been keeping track of Marvel or Fox.

RJ: I've had my own take running around in my head for a while now, Future Of The Dead, set 8,000 years after Night Of The Living Dead. Is it worth me sending in a pitch? Hey, it's a while since you asked me to pitch for Marville – I never did get a reply…

BJ: You know I like your writing, how would you feel about doing something in the 2T universe.

And with that my objectivity fell away… so here is a hastily created animated gif of Rise #1 from their Facebook previews…



About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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