You probably think you know all about the Black Plague: rats, masks, and a ravaged Europe. The usual. Oh, and also the first unrecorded zombie infestation and black ops Vatican teams. Pestilence, a new creator-owned series at AfterShock Comics from Frank Tieri and Oleg Okunev, explores this “untold” history. We caught up with the Frank about his new series, medieval zombies, Church conspiracies and more!
Monkey Fighting Robots: It’s not a stretch to say that this is a unique story; how did you come up with the premise for Pestilence?
Frank Tieri: Actually, it was AfterShock who initially approached me with the idea—“What if the Black Plague in actuality was a previously undisclosed zombie apocalypse that was covered up by the Church?”– and then I came in and further developed and expanded on it. But you’re right, it’s certainly unique…it’s the type of thing that has everyone’s ears perk up as soon as you tell them what the tagline is.
So yeah, it’s not your typical zombie story. And if it was, I wouldn’t have agreed to do it, to be honest.
MFR: What story are you trying tell with Pestilence?
Tieri: Well, right off the bat, like I said… yes, this is a zombie story. But with zombie stories — with The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, World War Z, etc. — well, let’s just say the zombie genre has been done to death (No pun intended… ah fuck it, pun intended). So this had to be different, this had to have something else going on for it — and we def believe that it does.
Our story follows an ex Crusader named Roderick Helms who leads a sort of medieval black ops team of knights — think of them as a kind of medieval Dirty Dozen — called Fiat Lux. They’re basically the “cleaners” for the Church of that era. So in other words, if the Church wants someone whacked, these are the guys doing the fucking whacking.
So when the zombie apocalypse breaks out? You guessed it, these are the guys who get the call — although what they find along the way is that zombies are not their only problem. There are those within the Church itself who may have known about what was going on all along — and they may ultimately be the bigger problem in the end.
MFR: Why was Oleg Okunev the perfect choice for art on this book?
Tieri: We needed a guy with this series that could nail huge fight scenes with lots of zombies getting sliced up and bodies getting torn to shit and your basic massive fucking chaos—and we saw that in Oleg. And honestly, he’s gotten even better and better as the series has progressed. Trust me when I say Oleg is a guy you’re going to start hearing more and more about after this.
MFR: The solicit for the book calls you “the master of violence, gore, and mayhem.” Pestilence is certainly no exception. What about the setting of Pestilence allows you to use violence in a new or unique way?
Tieri: Yeah…“the master of violence, gore, and mayhem”, they write. Thanks, AfterShock. Now I’m going to have fucking cops pulling me in for questioning and digging up my backyard next week, for crissakes. Dicks.
But all joking aside, yeah, sure I’ve done lot of stuff with violence, stuff with horror—and there’s no shortage of any of that here. Trust me when I say there’ll be plenty of kick ass, gory, over the top knights vs zombies fight scenes in different and unique situations from the Holy Land to all over Europe. If you like seeing knights chopping the shit out of massive amounts of zombies and zombies eating and killing and eating some more, then this is your book.
And then of course, there’s the zombies themselves. Yes, they start off as your typical “walker” type zombies. But let’s put it this way…they might not necessarily end up that way. And we’ll just leave it as that.
MFR: What can we expect from Pestilence in the future?
Tieri: I mean, hey, we’d like to do a sequel. And to that end, ultimately, as we’ll see, the conspiracy within the Church may actually turn out to be the bigger danger than the zombies themselves. And really, it’s exploring that conspiracy that Roderick uncovers that has plenty of potential as far as possible sequels go. Not to spoil anything, but I def leave the series in a place where there can be more… so it’s up to the fans, really. If you show us you want more PESTILENCE, more of Roderick and his band of zombie killing brethren… then there will be more.
Get your armor ready because Pestilence comes shambling in to wherever you buy comics starting tomorrow, May 3.
PESTILENCE #1 / $3.99 / 32 pages / Color
writer: Frank Tieri
artist: Oleg Okunev
colors: Rob Schwager
letters: Marshall Dillon
cover: Tim Bradstreet
It’s the late 14th Century, and a Great Pestilence—the “Black Death”— is sweeping across Europe, killing over 100 million people. BUT, what if history as we know it was a lie? What if, in reality, this was no straightforward plague, but the FIRST non-recorded Zombie Infestation of man? Ex-Crusader Roderick Helms and his fellow “black ops” agents for the Church, Fiat Lux, must seek out the cause of this undead outbreak and vanquish it before mankind ceases to exist!
Written by the master of violence, gore, and mayhem, Frank Tieri (Marvel vs Capcom, Wolverine, Deadpool), with spectacular art from Disney illustrator, Oleg Okunev, and covers by Eisner Award-nominated artist Tim Bradstreet (The Punisher, Hellblazer)!
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