TFQ: Is it at all intimidating to write a character like Herbert West, who's best known to this generation in film?
Keith: You know what's funny? The fact that I never once considered it when writing the story... and the fact that I had a bit of a panic attack as copies of Reanimator #1 were headed to stores about that very subject!
Dynamite's interpretation of Herbert West is based on the classic Lovecraft tale, completely independent of the film series. I'm a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft's writing, and I'm also continuity-obsessed when it comes to comics, so my driving focus in writing the four-issue miniseries was staying true to the author's original prose and somehow incorporating that feel into the larger scope of Dynamite's shared universe.
The Dynamite version of Herbert West had been, at times, a quirky nerd, serving as a comic foil in such series as Army of Darkness and Prophecy. Thankfully, 2014's Army of Darkness/Reanimator one-shot saw an evolution of that character, bringing back the darker edge of Lovecraft's original. That set the stage for my story, which I'd hoped would be dark and vicious.
It was only when the first issue was about to hit newsstands that I second-guessed myself, and realized that the fans of the Re-Animator film series might pick up the book, looking for something with a bit more humor in it. Fingers crossed, though, that any true fan of the film series is also a fan of the source material, so they'll enjoy it regardless!
TFQ: How did you begin to re-imagine this character and his new adventure? The possibilities seem endless to me, so how did you choose where to go? What influenced you?
Keith: One of the cool things about working at Dynamite Entertainment for my day job (as their marketing guy) is that I can take part in conversations about their future publishing program. The Reanimator series actually developed out of an idea pitched in one of those meetings.
We were brainstorming a special event for early 2015, something to take place in February, and I suggested a weekly release of four horror one-shots, each set in New Orleans to coincide with Mardi Gras. Each single issue would feature a different horror character (I'd suggested Evil Ernie, Vampirella, Reanimator, and I think Alice Cooper), facing off against a different enemy, all loosely tied into the holiday. New Orleans is such a great setting for terror tales, with its vast cemeteries, exotic Voodoo background, Old World architecture, etc.
While we decided not to pursue that month-long event (on account that there were already future plans in place for some of those characters), all the various villains of the story ended up dropping into a single idea involving Herbert West. It was really exciting -- basically recognizing that West is a villain who would suffer no rivals, whether it be Voodoo practitioners, cult leaders in masquerade masks, or great Cthulhu himself!
TFQ: Where you influenced at all by the previous incarnations of the Reanimator in comic form?
Keith: I read the multiple Dynamite appearances several times through, even going to far as to write a "Herbert West Bible" to chart the character's development over time. The character actually began his journey in the Army of Darkness series, as written by Jim Kuhoric (a good friend of mine), then became one of several players in the Prophecy crossover that established him as part of the much larger Dynamite universe alongside Red Sonja, Vampirella, Dracula, Athena, Eva, and more.
In fact, as a fan of continuity, I really wanted to incorporate Dynamite's monster hunter Eva, the Daughter of Dracula, as a minor supporting cast member in the Reanimator series, but the approved series length of four issues wouldn't allow for too many elements beyond what was absolutely necessary for the core story (I tend to be a pretty dense writer, as is). The plan was to have Eva make a cameo appearance for one scene, establishing that the "heroes" of the Dynamite universe really see Herbert West as a worm and lowlife, but a necessary one -- since he provides them with scientific means fo fighting evil (chemicals that could incapacitate werewolves, just as an idea). So West keeps most of his more... socially unacceptable... tendencies (murder, for instance) under wraps just to avoid the negative consequences of drawing attention from Eva, Vampirella, etc. It would have been an intriguing direction to pursue, but the story benefits from the tighter focus on West's drug operation and his mentorship of Susan Greene.
TFQ: Can you tell me any little hints about what we can expect from the rest of the series?
Keith: Oooh, what can I possibly say that wouldn't spoil it? Well, as we established in issue #1, there's a mystery surrounding Susan Greene -- she's discovered that Herbert West may have had something to do with the murder of her fiance. Issue #2 will definitely expand on that mystery, while Reanimator #3 contains (what I hope will be) a mind-blowing revelation. You're going to see the full extent of Herbert West's villainous genius.
Will you see more Cthulhu? Yes! More half-humn, half-alligator zombie hybrids? Yes! More skull-faced Voodoo hitmen? Yes! Will there be tentacles? Yes! Issue #4 is going to be overflowing with creepiness galore.
TFQ: Will there be any chance that the Reanimator will stick around for more than a mini-series?
Keith: The Reanimator series will definitely come to a close with issue #4, but we've been discussing what the next step is with Herbert West internally at Dynamite. Let's just say that a few doors are left open... and who knows what ugly, slimy, tentacled thing might crawl through!
ISSUE #2 OF THE REANIMATOR IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL COMIC SHOP NOW!