In Conversation with SURVIVAL Writer SEAN LEWIS

From Dark Horse and 12 Gauge Comics comes Survival, a tale of military survivalists in the remote woods of Alaska on their own against a vampire invasion.

I got to talk to writer Sean Lewis ask him about his influences, creative process, and how political tension snuck its way into this comic about fighting Russian bloodsuckers.

MFR: Vampire stories have always been a hit, especially here in the comics industry. What struck you guys to make this sort of survivalist take on the genre?
SL: (12-Gauge President) Keven (Gardner) had reached out to me. He was interested in militaristic vampires and asked if I could come up with a take. Now, this was pre-Covid. Pre-Ukraine. I was interested in survivalists. I had read an article about groups of ex soldiers living off the grid who would have convention-style gatherings in Alaska. So I thought, what if these vampires landed there? They start in Russia but travel. 
The vampires are captives. They’ve been found in the GATE OF WOLVES, a mountain pass that exists in Chechnya. And the Russians are trying to make them into an army. But they escape, take a plane, and crash here in Alaska. But these vampires are different. The ones who keep up in blood supply to their diet are humanoid. Those who don’t become like feral animals. 
MFR: What has your creative process together been like? How much of the story develops through the script, and how much of it happens incidentally through the visuals?
SL: I had written a large bible of the entire series before Bryndon came on. AND I THINK I had already scripted half or more of the series. Of course once the visuals come in they always shift the script, if not the plot. 
MFR: You noted that this story was already written long before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and therefore also the public response to that ongoing event. How has the current social and political landscape around this war changed your own view of this story, if at all?
SL: I guess it gives a right now feel to it. I won’t lie, my goal wasn’t to write a “political” book. I wanted to write an entertaining book. I think we succeeded on the latter. What’s amazing right now is you can create a wild fiction and then two years later a bunch of it comes true. Russia, when I started, seemed like a cool place to start a big military experiment because of our history with them and because they seemed desperate in real life to try and rise to prior glory. 
MFR: Like all great genre stories, Survival is planted in the portrayal of its human characters as well as its monsters. How did you guys approach portraying the intricacies of your main cast – and their traumas?
SL: I just liked the idea of a single dad raising his kids in the woods. A guy whose decisions make him see the world as a very scary place. So he tries to prepare his kids for a world he knows but they don’t. I also wanted him to be complicit in this horrible world he sees for them. He is becoming a better man but only because he has a lot to answer for.
MFR: How did the folks at Dark Horse and 12 Gauge help in supporting your vision for Survival?
SL: Keven has dealt more with Dark Horse than me. So he can answer that. For 12-Gauge-, Keven built and found the rest of the team. I just write, Keven found and hired the artist, colorist, and letterer. He and I also went back and forth on multiple drafts too, so he operated as an editor too. 
MFR: This first issue of Survival feels like a mix of influences ranging from 30 Days of Night to Red Dawn. What were some of your own unique influences you brought into the creation of this comic?
SL: I don’t really think of influences while I’m writing. They just live in you. I really like B Movies from the ’80s and character driven movies from the ’70s. So yeah, Red Dawn, but also Near Dark by Bigelow. I love Southern Comfort. And Deliverance. I like when people enter a forest- figuratively or literally and in its grasp become someone else.
Be sure to grab Survival #1 from your local comic shop, on sale now!
Justin Munday
Justin Munday
Reader and hoarder of comics. Quietly sipping coffee, reading, and watching sci-fi in Knoxville, TN.