Keith Davidsen writes for Bleeding Cool.
If you're a Little Bleeder, you've heard the name David Lapham quite a lot. As one of the most distinct voices in the comic book business, he's worked on such groundbreaking, gritty works as Stray Bullets, Young Liars, Detective Comics, Terror Inc., and DeadpoolMAX.
His latest completed work was the Crossed: Family Values limited series, frequently covered here at Bleeding Cool for its extreme and super-awesome content (if you haven't picked it up, then you're really missing out on some high-quality "guilty pleasure" reading). As an immediate follow-up to Family Values, Lapham provided the no-holds-barred script for Crossed 3D, an original graphic novel to be released in January.
And now he's poised to expand his Avatar body of work with not one, but two new projects, launching in February and March. I recently had an opportunity to pick his brain, and see into the creative process behind his new projects. I'll break it up into two parts; this first bit below focuses on his work on Crossed and the new series Crossed: Psychopath, while tomorrow we'll have breaking news on Lapham's new series… Caligula! Crossed: Psychopath is a seven issue full-color series with art by Raulo (Captain Swing) Caceres that starts in February 2011.
Keith Davidsen: When Avatar Press invited you to come on-board for your first Crossed storyline, what were your initial thoughts about the opportunity to play in its bleak, bloody world?
David Lapham: Well, to tell you the truth, my first thoughts were just being excited to sink my teeth into something that was going to be fast-tracked to the stands. I had been and continue to work on another book with Avatar of my own creation, which has been going along at a more normal pace as we searched for the right artist. All that is well and good, but I'm by nature a very impatient person; as soon as I write it, I want it on the stands, so just on that alone I was excited by the Crossed opportunity.
Added to that, it was something I knew I could do well, and it was such a solid horror concept that Garth created… well, yeah, it was all good thoughts.
Keith Davidsen: Garth wrote the first volume of the Crossed series, and people were taken aback by its bleak landscape and sheer violence. Then Family Values came along… and the message boards lit up with fans delighting in a whole new level of gruesomeness. Crossed 3D and Psychopath are poised to deliver even more uncompromising nastiness. How do you feel about the notoriety of your work on Crossed?
David Lapham: If that's true, that's great. Since Stray Bullets went on hiatus, I've been looking for projects that people can associate with me. Or, more importantly, projects that I can bring what's unique about me to. I had found that out in my Vertigo series Young Liars, which to me was everything I love wrapped up in one book. However, it was a surreal and layered book and didn't quite find a large enough audience, and I only got to issue #18… Here's where I start to cry for many minutes… So now, with Crossed, it's a certain thing, an extreme horror book that asks me not to hold back in the extreme horror, but also not to hold back in the way I tell a story.
Even though I'm known for doing crime books or hard-edged work, in reality I try to be appropriate to the project. Crossed is not Stray Bullets. It's not Young Liars. It's a horror book about the absolute worst aspects of human nature. It's supposed to be filled with uncompromising nastiness. To me that's a challenge. Garth set the stage and the bar; my job, as I see it, is to take it as far as I can.
Keith Davidsen: In your Crossed work, you've created some truly despicable human beings (Joe Pratt in Family Values, Harold Lorre in the upcoming Psychopath). When the world's been overrun by people infected by pure evil, why choose to introduce these particular villains?
David Lapham: The Crossed are the Crossed… horrible, violent, primal. To me, the stories that seem compelling are how that affects the survivors, how this new environment brings out the best and worst in regular people. Yes, the Crossed are pure evil, but they're also animal and immediate. They don't plan your torture; they torture in the moment. A patient, calculated, thinking human is capable of much worse. If that's the kind of person you want to be, then there's no better environment than the Crossed world. You know those people who go to war, and in the chaos suddenly let down their inhibitions and rape and kill women and children, and make pyramids out of naked prisoners? It's like that, times a hundred.
Villains are always interesting. To try and follow along in that mindset is perfect for horror. In Crossed: Psychopath my main character, Harold Lorre narrates the tale. The story is told from his perspective and we follow his logic right to murder and worse. It's my Jim Thompson moment. Fun to write, but man, it's a dark place to go. There are no inhibitions in the Crossed world.
I chose these evil types because that's fascinating to me, but there are other types too. Addy and her siblings in Family Values. And the "S.W.A.T." team in Crossed 3D are all a bunch of flawed guys trying to bring out their better nature and become heroes.
Keith Davidsen: Psychopath's Harold Lorre is a delusional… a dangerous man who has suffered a break from reality. He clearly mirrors some awful people that we've seen in newspaper headlines. Were there real-life influences that inspired the creation of this character?
David Lapham: Not specifically. He's a creation of my imagination, but I really try and go there – to that place that he is and not hold back. This is not a disconnected killer that stalks our heroes. We're Lorre. We're seeped in him and reading his thoughts, and following the logic that leads to murder is more horrible than the violent act itself. There's a logic that's off with him, and it'll be up to the readers to judge if he really has a break or if what he is happens to be his true nature, just brought forth in the new landscape.
Keith Davidsen: Family Values took place in the backwoods of America, starting in North Carolina. Crossed 3D takes place in New York City. Where is the setting of Psychopath? Since Crossed features a worldwide epidemic, what has drawn you to these specific locations to craft your stories?
David Lapham: In Family Values, this was a horse family that believes in freedom and wide-open spaces. The Pratts' security depended on being out in wide-open spaces. Psychopath is also set out in the wilderness of Middle America, but it's less about setting and more about the inner workings of Lorre. It's a character piece. In Crossed 3D, the environment was very important. The whole point was Manhattan as the ultimate death trap and a symbol of how the Crossed are wiping away all of civilization that came before. But what you say is interesting and why there are so many more stories to tell. What's going on in Europe, in Samoa, Australia, etc.? Is it the same? We need to get a news crew out there!
Keith Davidsen used to write comics, but sold his soul and went to work for The Man. Now he's back in the publishing arena as Avatar's point person for retailers and the media.
David Lapham is a really nice guy who tends to write lots of frightening stuff. You should buy his comics. Trust me, they're nifty. Here are some Crossed Psychopath covers…