In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Greg Wright discusses the twisted landscape of robots, car chases, and gunfighters within Monstrous: Mad Dash. With a fondness for horror literature, Monstrous takes its quirky premise to another level, with a fun story and eye-popping illustrations
As we previously mentioned, Monstrous returns with this very exciting one-shot, Mad Dash. In this all-new adventure, Doctor Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll take a daring trip into the wastelands. They will try everything to rescue Jekyll’s daughter, but who will try to stand in their way? Are they powerful enough to withstand the horror of Mr. Hyde?
With Monstrous: Mad Dash out in stores now, Wright discusses his personal creative process, his collaboration with artist Ken Lamug, and his upcoming projects.
VILLAIN MEDIA: What I found interesting with Monstrous was its twist on an infamous character in horror literature. Tell me about what interests you about Doctor Victor Frankenstein.
GREG WRIGHT: Dr. Frankenstein is a terrific character to work with in a story. I would say that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the original mad scientist, but there was in fact a story published 30 years before her novel by François-Félix Nogaret that featured an inventor named Frankenstein who created a life-size artificial man. In Nogaret’s story, the creation was an automaton, not a monster, so there’s even a literary and historical precedent for me having Dr. Frankenstein make both monsters and steam-powered robots.
As far as the character of Dr. Frankenstein himself, he has always fascinated me. My spin is not all that original when I say that he’s the monster, not his creation. But at the same time, most of what drives him are values we all share. He’s curious, intelligent, and hard-working. I’d say that both Dr. Frankenstein and his monster are misunderstood. There are so many stories out there about scientists who reach too far with their ambition, but I’m almost always in favor of advancing knowledge rather than restricting it.
I mean, scientists are out there making hot cocoa-flavored Oreos. If that’s not an unholy abomination, then how bad could making a monster really be?
VM: Doctor Frankenstein is at times, an anti-hero, a tragic figure seeking redemption, and a gunslinger. Because Frankenstein is a public domain character, was it easier to play around with the characterization?
GW: Yes, I always enjoy writing the Victor Frankenstein character. Plus, in Monstrous, Dr. Frankenstein is really the one who changed the entire world. Sure, he created a monster, but then he quickly lost control. That monster made more monsters, and so Dr. Frankenstein tries to regain the upper hand by creating robots. Those choices are the catalyst for all of the stories in the Monstrous series, even if the stories are about vampires or zombies or robots powered by brains in jars. Once Dr. Frankenstein made this technological leap, the world could never go back.
That’s something that has always appealed to me in science fiction stories. So often the stories end with the advancements destroyed or the threat ended. But genies can’t just go back in the bottle! In my stories, Frankenstein’s Europe has been redefined, affecting “regular” people everywhere.
Also, in terms of the characterization, Dr. Frankenstein is almost always my easiest character to write. He is so clearly defined in my head that I always know what he will do and say, what his attitude will be. He really has been baked into our cultural DNA in some ways, making possible everything from Harry Potter to Rick and Morty.
Added bonus! I will always appreciate that the character of Dr. Frankenstein, so widely adapted as a grave robber who makes a monster out of corpses, is something that I, too, could dig up, steal, and transform into something of my own…
VM: Tell me how artist Ken Lamug became involved in Monstrous.
GW: I initially “met” Ken through Twitter, and he and I have never actually spoken face to face. Not that we’re avoiding each other, of course! I live in Michigan, and he lives in Nevada. It was a happy accident, and I’m delighted I reached out to him online.
I would recommend that anybody creative work harder to connect with others. Put yourself out there. Meet new people. Network. There will be lots of things that don’t work out, but if you keep plugging away, there will be some that do. Persevere! Rah! Rah! Go, you!
In any case, from looking at Ken’s art online, I thought it would be really cool to work together. Several of his projects have a dash of the macabre mixed in with the humor and vice-versa, so I thought I’d pitch Monstrous to him. It was an excellent fit! We thought we’d work on just one story told in a one-shot comic to start out, and now we’re working on our eighth issue together. And I still thank my lucky stars to have such a wonderful collaborator!
For the record, though, I don’t really ever say “thank my lucky stars.” I say something much cooler and hipper. I’d tell you, but it’s a secret!
VM: Tell me about how Mad Dash came about.
GW: After the first four issues–which are all one-shot stories–I had thought we could tell another series of four stories, except these stories would expand beyond Frankenstein’s Europe, showing how these events wind up having a global impact. There are outlines for characters going to Africa, North America, Asia, and Australia. And we will still tell those stories. But Mad Dash is the first story of that set that we are putting out just now. I will tell the story of what’s next a little bit later…
To stick with how Mad Dash came about, the inspiration for almost all of the Monstrous stories is throwing together pieces from old Universal Studios monster movies and Hammer Studios horror, mixed-in with odd bits like John Wayne westerns or RoboCop or even The Three Stooges.
The story throws Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Frankenstein together on a cross-country road trip rescue mission to save Jekyll’s daughter in Australia from a gang of renegade robots. Mr. Hyde shows up, and lots of things explode.
The threads of the story are borrowing from so many different things at once that it’s a bit difficult to keep up: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, spaghetti westerns, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Searchers, old Road Runner cartoons, Ex Machina, and the Terminator movies. My brain is kind of a weird place to live…
VM: What I really liked about Mad Dash is how the story works as a standalone, while bringing in development to Doctor Frankenstein. Was it tricky making this installment an easy introduction to new readers, while fulfilling your own creative needs?
GW: Right now, I think that telling standalone stories has become as strength of mine, as I’m kind of learning that serialized storytelling is fairly difficult with smaller independent comics. I have to count on every issue being somebody’s first issue.
If somebody encounters me at a comic con, I want to offer them lots of entry points into the world of the story. If everybody has to start out with the first issue, then all the other issues are pretty much worthless once somebody buys only the first one “just to try it.” Unless we print more, the math will never work out. So most of the stories I try to tell these days are one-and-done. That said, I want world-building to take place. I want the characters to develop and new issues to confront them. But I also want to avoid the potentially intimidating “gateway” to new readers.
For instance, I love The X-Men, and I’ve been reading them for years. But I have almost always felt like I was a terrible fan. I’m constantly thinking, “Wait, now who is that? Why do these two hate each other again? Isn’t that one dead?” Unless you’re reading a solid 200 issues in linear order and you have a really solid memory, you wind up feeling a bit stupid and lost. Or I do, in any case.
So I want all of my stories to be welcoming. Even the linear ones, I want to find a way to bring readers up to speed. If they just read the previous issue, I don’t want it to be redundant, but if they didn’t read the last issue (or, hey, if they just have a lot going on in their lives and can’t always remember exactly what’s going on in some random comic book story), I don’t want the story to be too convoluted.
Speaking of which, all of this blathering is a convoluted way of me saying, I try to tell straightforward, escapist stories anybody and everybody can enjoy; more or less.
VM: What is it about Ken Lamug’s artwork that captures your story in Mad Dash?
GW: Remember when I was talking about my love of mad scientists? That’s Ken Lamug! I always have a layout in my head of what the pages will look like, and I try to communicate that visual design through the script. It never quite looks like I think it will, but it almost always looks better!
One thing that Ken captures so well in this story is the brightness of it all. The stories in Monstrous are all supposed to be fun and fast-paced, but the first four are literally dark. Here, he tells a wild, daylight story in a sun-baked Australian landscape of hellish robot gangs. It’s just as fun as the other stories, but it shakes up the Gothic atmosphere and lets the reader know that this is a completely different kind of wild ride.
VM: What’s next for the Monstrous series?
GW: There were so many fans interested in the characters in the first four stories, as well as interested in the setting of Frankenstein’s Europe, that it was sort of like, “Hold on, let’s hang out here with these characters a bit longer…” So Ken and I are creating a four-issue arc called “European Getaway” that will feature Hans–a robot powered by a human brain in a jar from the second issue–getting framed for the murder of Dr. Frankenstein. There are going to be lots of familiar faces, as well as plenty of twists and turns, and I can’t wait to unleash it onto the world!
Plus, as with all of the Monstrous stories, there is going to be the fun of seeing beloved monsters pop up. We’ve seen Count Dracula, zombies, a werewolf, and Igor. So if you’re a reader who has been asking “What about mummies?” or “Where’s a Cthulhu-type demon-god?” … well, let’s just say we’ve got you covered.
VM: What other projects are you working on now?
GW: Yes! I can’t wait to talk about all the great stuff I have on the way! I am really looking forward to 2018, and not just because 2017 was kind of a lousy year for a lot of people.
There will be a follow-up to Wild Bullets, my first stand-alone comic. In the book, each of the members of the Bullet family take a turn telling the story, and when they do, a different artist takes over in a different style and genre. It’s loads of pulp-fueled fun following a dysfunctional family of trigger-happy adventurers. The first story happened on Thanksgiving, and the new one takes place during Christmas. We’ll eventually collect them and call it, “Homicide for the Holidays.” Check ’em out!
More Monstrous is on the way, as I mentioned earlier!
My graphic novel, Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic, based on the cult TV show by Adam Green, is also getting a follow-up. The first comic (with pencils and inks by Steve Sharar and colors and letters by Josh Werner) was so successful, we’re making another one, featuring all of the fan-favorite characters from the horror-comedy sitcom about broke horror filmmakers. The next story is “Carnival of Carnage,” and it shows what happens when the carnival comes to Holliston … along with zombies, murderous clowns, and bumper cars of DOOM!
And finally, I have a new comic book series coming out called Last Monster Standing. My artist is Erik Reichenbach, who was also a contestant on Survivor twice, which ties in with the story of Last Monster Standing: Giant monsters invade Tokyo, and then they get their own reality show. It’s going to be tons of kaiju fun as these rampaging, radioactive contestants will remind you that they’re “not here to make friends.”
Plus, I have some other projects in development, so please stay tuned, folks!
VM: Thank you so much for speaking with me!
Monstrous: Tales of Valor and Villainy and Holliston: Friendship Is Tragic are both available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and all of Wright’s comics can be purchased directly from Source Point Press.
Readers can check out Greg Wright’s website here!
They can also find Wright on Facebook:
For those who like prefer digital copies to physical copies, all of his comics are available digitally through Comixology, Drive Thru Comics, and ComicsBlitz.
Readers can look up everything about Monstrous here!
– By Jorge Solis