In his first Army of Darkness storyline, Elliott Serrano introduced us to Ashley K. Williams, the female alternate reality Ash. With The King Is Dead, Long Live The Queen, he gets to go back to his female anti-hero and the hell-scape where all the various Ashes meet. Jai Nitz caught up with Serrano to talk all things Evil Dead.
JAI NITZ: How many times have you seen the Evil Dead/Army of Darkness movies?
ELLIOTT SERRANO: Wow, I think I've lost count! When you consider the number of times I've seen them on video, cable and in the theater. Especially since I made a point of watching them whenever I was stuck trying to write Ash's "voice" for the comics, I'm guessing I've seen Army of Darkness at least a hundred times. Evil Dead 2 considerably less. Confessions: I've watched the first Evil Dead film twice. It creeps me out too much. I actually found the remake to be less unsettling.
JN: What attracted you to writing Army of Darkness? Was it Sam Raimi? Was it Bruce Campbell?
ES: Bruce Campbell all the way, man! It's one of those cases where if you had any other actor in the role, I doubt that the character strikes the same resonant chord with the audience. Can you imagine anyone but Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones? Remember how Lucas wanted to cast Tom Selleck in the role? I don't think so. Or Eddie Murphy playing Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop? You know that role was written for Sylvester Stallone, right? Same goes with Campbell and Ash. Put that chainsaw on someone else and I don't think it takes off. He brought that special blend of heroic and doofus that made the character so endearing and someone you wanted to root for.
Of course, Sam Raimi's direction and witty scripts played a significant part in making the character who he was, but Bruce is…and always will be…the King.
JN: You've written a few projects now at Dynamite. Where did that come from? How did you break in?
ES: Like many writers who have broken into the business of comic books, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I've told this story before, and it's full of too many coincidences to be real: I'd become friends with Brandon Jerwa at Dragon-Con a few years back. At the time he was fighting off comic-writers groupies for his work on G.I.Joe, Highlander and Battlestar Galactica. We have a very similar sense of humor and attitude about the world, so we hit it off immediately.
Anyway, a couple years later while Brandon and I were hanging out together at San Diego Comic Con, he introduced me to Joe Rybandt, editor at Dynamite Entertainment. Another guy that I get along with since Joe has such a strong personality. Anyway, we're hanging out at one of those after "after-con" bars and Brandon asks me what character I'd ever want to write given a chance. I think about it and I'm kind of stuck. There are a lot of characters that I love, but few that I really feel I'd wanna write.
I mean, I'm a huge Superman fan, but really have no interest in writing him. Batman bores me to tears. Double goes for Wolverine.
Then you get into the Dynamite characters. At the time they had just gotten The Lone Ranger and Zorro. And Army of Darkness. Zorro and Ash wrestle in my subconscious for a few seconds and the idiot with the chainsaw wins out. Ash Williams is the one that comes to mind, which would turn out to be fortuitous for me in the future. Anyway, I tell Brandon that I'd love to write Ash, but that it's a pipe dream for me at the time because Dynamite already had a great writer on the book in James Kuhoric.
Flash forward a year or so and Brandon is calling me at the office to ask if I'd be interested in teaming up with him on Xena/Army of Darkness 2: What Again? The first mini-series, written by John Layman, did really well and Dynamite wanted a sequel. Brandon remembers the conversation we had before and tells me that he'd like to have someone who really "gets" the Ash character to help out with the script. Of course I jump at it!
After that wraps up, Joe Rybandt was impressed enough by my work on the mini that he offered me a Army of Darkness one-shot. I would write issue #16 of the last volume and get to write an "untold story" from Ash's past that involved an undead Aztec King and a bunch of butt jokes. My – um – peculiar sense of humor would then land me the mini-series "Ash Saves Obama" where the President of the United States would cross paths with Ash and the Necronomicon. Sort of.
That ultimately landed me on the last "Army of Darkness" ongoing which is now collected in trade paperback .
JN: You work as a journalist. How does that factor into your scripting process?
ES: I wouldn't say that it does, really. While both involve processing information and making ideas accessible for the reader, writing for the Chicago Redeye is very different from writing for Dynamite. When I write for Redeye, I have about a million readers in mind. When I write a comic script I'm thinking about 2 people, the artist and Joe Rybandt, the editor.
It's tougher writing for 2 than the million if you ask me. Ha!
JN: This is your second Army of Darkness TPB. What's the story about and does it stand alone?
ES: "The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen" concludes the story of Ashley K. Williams, the female "alternate Ash" that we introduced in the last collection. The idea being that throughout the AoD mythos, there are countless realities and dimensions, but every Ash who endured torment in each one ultimately ends up in a single place: a hell dimension that serves as a gateway between our world and the worlds of darkness.
The idea of there being "alternate Ashes" was something that was introduced in the "Army of Darkness versus Marvel Zombies," and allowed me to subtly pull in some elements from other AoD media like the video games.
I'm really proud of what we were able to accomplish in the series, telling rousing new tales that were full of action, adventure and some creepy characters.
JN: Tell me about the art in this book. I'm working with Jose Malaga now and I love his stuff. How did the artists handle your scripts?
ES: I got to see Jose doing some of his first AoD work, so yeah, that was a real thrill! Over time, as I got comfortable with each artist, I didn't give them as much direction as I did in the beginning. I would get the pages back and go "damn, they made my stuff look better!" So yeah, that was always fun to see.
My biggest thrill was partnering with Dietrich Smith for a few issues. He would take my pages, and I swear he had a hotline into my psyche because he would draw exactly what I saw in my head. It was eerie! Be on the lookout for that kid, he's gonna be a star!
JN: What's next for you at Dynamite? What other projects do you have upcoming?
ES: I'm currently working on a creator-owned project that has been consuming any spare time that I have. I also have a few story pitches that I'll be running by Joe and Nick in the months to come. I have a Red Sonja story in me that I'd love to re-team with Dietrich on, should schedules allow.
Beyond that I'm currently doing a "geek fit" project where I'm working to become a "real-life" Jedi Knight, using the Star Wars movies as a template. I'm recording the experience on a Facebook page (Facebook.com/JediTrainingChallenge) and those entries will serve as the basis of a book in the future.
Army Of Darkness Vol 2: The King Is Dead, Long Live The Queen is on sale now.
Jai Nitz is a writer in his own right having written for Marvel, DC, Image and currently Dynamite on Grimm: The Warlock debuting next month.