In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writers Sean Reliford and Scott Duvall talk about the supernatural and the family drama within their Going Green comic. Along with co-creator/artist Vincenzo Federici, Reliford and Duvall dive into the twisted world of biological horror.
The Plot: “The story begins in the Pacific Northwest after the Dunn children suffer the tragic loss of their father. Instead of burying him, they go the route of an affordable new method of laying your loved ones to rest called Going Green, which composts the remains into soil as a greener alternative. Shortly after, their lives of the Dunn kids, Cliff and Molly, begin to change dramatically as their formerly deceased dad is reincarnated as a plant-hybrid creature.”
Ahead of the comic’s launch date – November 8th – on Zoop, Reliford and Duvall open up about how the concept came about, co-writing, and what pledgers should expect. Joins us as we head into the writer’s room and discuss the craft of storytelling.
Villain Media: Tell me how Going Green came about.
Sean Reliford: A few years back, Scott calls me up with a list of ideas for various projects he had cooking. He really wanted to come up with his own creator-owned series. He read off a few ideas and one of them really stuck out to me and just sent my imagination racing.
The idea would eventually become Going Green. The thing I love most about this concept was creating creatures that could be both monstrous, and human and everything in between. I remember the day he first told me about it I was sitting at a restaurant with my family after we had gone sledding, and I had to excuse myself from the table to call him to talk about it further. I was pacing back and forth in the snow outside this place talking to him about plant/human hybrids. That was a surreal experience for sure.
Scott Duvall: At the time I was writing the Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep comic crossover with our artist Vincenzo Federici, and we were having a blast working on that when he suggested we should team up again on a creator-owned project in a similar vein.
I had just read a news article about how Washington state had just made composting a legal option to dispose of human remains and that’s what really planted the seed for Going Green and got my writer brain going. I had been wanting to tell a story about death and what comes after and how we deal with it, and the idea of family members rising from their composted remains seemed like the best vehicle to tell that story.
After Vincenzo got on board, I shared the idea with my best friend and writing partner, Sean Reliford, and it got his creative juices flowing and he began adding new layers to the narrative.
VM: Tell me about co-writing together to find a narrative voice.
SD: Co-writing with Sean is fun, because we speak the same language and have a short-hand because we’re such close friends and can drop movie references on each other to get our point across. Not to age ourselves, but our co-writing partnership began over two decades ago, and has continued on-and-off over the years, so it was easy to mesh our voices together in service of the characters and story while bringing out the best in each other, as we’re not afraid to critique the other if something’s not working or to go to bat for our ideas in a respectful manner. It can sometimes become a democratic process, but the best ideas that make the most sense always win out. It’s incredibly rewarding because Sean is one of the best writers I know and it’s a pleasure to work on something together again that we’re both this passionate about.
SR: We have distinct styles that interweave nicely. At times I can lean a bit more bombastic when it comes to writing action or finding the absurdities and irony in certain situations. Whereas Scott will look for the humanity in quiet moments. For instance, he wrote this scene where Cliff breaks the news of his father’s death to his grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. It was done with few words and was quite effective. But then he can switch modes and he’ll write a scene with a guy getting impaled on the toilet. But once we’ve gone over the script and blended our individual writings together, it’s sometimes hard to remember who wrote what, which is a sign of great collaboration in my opinion.
VM: Tell me about the sibling relationship between Cliff and Molly, especially since they are dealing with grief.
SD: Cliff and Molly have quite an age gap, which puts Cliff more in the position of one of Molly’s caretakers, than that of a typical brother/sister relationship. He’s got a lot more responsibility than your average teen. Now with the tragic death of their father, not long after their mother’s untimely loss, it brings them closer together as a family unit, clinging onto one another as they can’t bear the idea of losing yet another family member.
SR: Molly looks at the world from a place of innocence, whereas Cliff looks at it from the point of view of someone who was forced to grow up too quickly because circumstances forced him to become both mother and father to Molly.
This story isn’t just about grief it’s about what one does when given a second chance at life. We’d all like to think that we’d right the wrongs we made in our past life and make amends with people. But what if you make things worse? We explore both ideas in the book.
VM: Tell me about working with artist Vincenzo Federici on Going Green.
SR: This is my first comic so he’s the first artist I have ever worked with. He’s easy to work with and is filled with amazing ideas, I hope all artist I work with in the future are like him.
SD: Vincenzo is immensely talented and we’re lucky to have him on Going Green. On the Army of Darkness crossover, he really pushed me to up the ante and write more scenes with monsters for him to draw, so with Going Green, we came up with even MORE monsters! He is just as comfortable drawing emotional scenes, which this project requires, as he is at action, so we’re leaning into his strengths and giving him plenty of both to draw on this. I love an artist that can challenge you as a writer to come up with wilder ideas to give them something exciting to draw, and Vincenzo is that artist!
VM: Tell me about the campaign for comics crowdfunder, Zoop. What types of rewards are there for pledgers?
SD: In addition to the 100-page paperback graphic novel, which gives you the full story of Going Green, plus bonus features, fans can commission Vincenzo to draw them their favorite character.
Fans can also pledge to see themselves appear in the story, plus signed items such as high-quality art prints from Vincenzo, and copies of Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep #1 signed by me.
VM: Tell me how Going Green changed you as a storyteller?
SD: It’s made me think about death a lot more, haha. Even though it’s sci-fi and not based in reality, in many ways it’s a very personal story and because I’ve spent so much time with these characters, it’s felt like I’m writing my own children, which makes releasing this story and these characters into the world that much more nerve-wracking. At the same time, I’ve also never been more excited to share Going Green with everyone.
SP: As I mentioned, this is the first comic I’ve ever worked on, and it’s made me look at storytelling totally differently because comics are a two-dimensional art form. One dimension being the written word and the other being Vincenzo’s art. Comics are the art of letting the pictures tell the reader as much as possible and having the words give voice and sounds to the images.
VM: What are you working on now?
SD: Going Green has been taking up most of my time, but in addition I’m currently in the middle of writing a spin-off graphic novel to The Impure with my writer/artist pal and frequent collaborator, Ralf Singh. I’m also working on another original project that I’ve been discussing with writer/artist Gisele Lágacè which I don’t want to reveal too much until we have something to show.
SR: The way Scott and I work together is we’ll write a really long script with all our ideas in it, then slowly chip away at it until it’s just its bare essentials. It’s a bit like sculpting, we’re never at a loss for material.Then after this story is done, we’re thinking about future stories that take place in the Going Green universe.
Readers can find out more about Going Green on Zoop.