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Running With the Black Dog Clan – An Interview with Malcolm Wong, Creator of the New Comic – Dog Eaters

Dog Eaters?

Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t heard of this exciting new freshman work just yet, as Issue 1 just hit stands last Wednesday, but let me help remedy that oversight with a quick synopsis of the setting. Dog Eaters takes place in the future 175 years after the Die Off, a global extinction of 90% of the world’s population. The remaining survivors live a nomadic and violent existence, with only a few scattered casino cities serving as reminders of civilization. One such group of survivors is the Black Dog Clan (the tale’s protagonists), who are looking to leave behind their nomadic lifestyle and found their own casino city.

In Issue 1, we join the Black Dog Clan as it is making its way through perilous territory–and the action comes fast and furious early on. I was impressed by the art, which is a hybrid of manga and comic styles, and found the story exciting and full of promise. So when I got the opportunity to ask a few questions of Malcolm Wong, the creator and writer of Dog Eaters, I couldn’t pass it up.

Read on for some great insights into his new world! And if you haven’t already, check out the free preview of Issue 1, here. It’s a great opportunity to explore the world of the Black Dog Clan, albeit in black and white. But not to worry, the first issue is in glorious color and a gripping read from cover to cover. Recommended.

I’d like to thank Malcolm for taking a moment to talk with us, and share his insights into this world. So without further ado…

Disclaimer: The following opinions are solely those of the respective individuals and do not represent the opinions of Things From Another World, or any of its related entities

Andrew(AM): Dog Eaters is set in in a post-apocalyptic world, 175 years after the Die Off–a self perpetuated extinction of 90% of the world’s population. I was immediately struck by the conclusions you had drawn about who would survive such a catastrophe and the ‘tribes’ they would subsequently create. Can you tell us a little more about the path of thought you followed to reach these conclusions?

Malcolm Wong(MW): The type of people that will survive the Die Off (I think it’s going to happen for real, sadly) have to be tough — with survival instincts honed over many generations.  I’m living in Tokyo now and almost all the people I see on the streets have a penchant for wandering aimlessly in traffic while texting on their cellphones, listening to music on iPods — completely oblivious to their surroundings.  I call them, “The Walking Dead.”  I’m not talking about zombies but they sort of remind me of them…

On the other hand, the people that populate the world of DOG EATERS can predict the weather with a sniff of the air, repair old recycled machinery, and live off the land.  They are not afraid to make hard choices and sacrifices.  The members of the Black Dog Clan are partly descended from Native American stock.  The Roaches are descended from inmates of well-shielded, high-security prisons who have interbred offspring of ferocious criminality.  There are many top-secret military bases in the U.S. Southwest.  The survivors of these types of people with military, engineering, and scientific training went to both the good and bad side.  There is a fluid social spectrum in this world.  Wanderers can be accepted into a clan if they have skills to offer.  Clan members can be exiled and left to die, go Roach, or start their own clan if they have the necessary charisma and resources.  Women marry into clans or live in the casino-cities.

AM: And what then, was the impetus for concluding that civilization would cluster around casino cities? Were you consciously making a statement about fate and its relationship to these survivors via metaphor, or was it more of a “That would be an awesome location for….” sort of development?

MW: I tried to create a consistent logical reality within this world and I asked myself questions like, “Where would people naturally gravitate to (re)create trade centers?”  There are already well-established casino-cities in the US Southwest and outside of the establishments in Nevada, they are owned by Native Americans.  These places combine business and pleasure, where people might have a natural tendency to congregate.

AM: I felt that in the preview there were some strong thematic elements suggesting that you’ve crafted a ‘New Wild West’, as evidenced by the armament, clothing, and even the Native American origins of some of your characters. Was this intentional from the beginning, or something that came to into existence as part of the creative process?

MW: The setting informed the people’s racial origins while the ideas for clothing were sourced from native design motifs from both North and South America.  Guillermo A. Angel, a Chilean, is the artist for this mini-series, and he’s able to view this from a South American perspective.  He had a lot of input in the look – after all, he is drawing it!  I gave him the initial direction and concepts and provided photo references, then it was just a matter of refining and approving the visuals that came out.

AM: After reading the character biographies, it’s clear that we’re in for some dramatic character and plot developments. I can’t help but think that six issues isn’t going to be enough! This may be a little early to be asking, but do you already have ideas tossing around in your brain for where the story goes after this initial arc?

MW: I do have another story arc in mind with additional characters and locations. DOG EATERS has been complete for about two years now, which has been long enough for ideas to come percolating up out of my subconscious. If — and that’s a big if — I’m fortunate enough to sell the movie rights, my manager told me that I may lose the right to write a sequel, depending on the contract.  On the other hand, if I complete a sequel and publish it as a comic/graphic novel, maybe it might be considered a separate property.

AM: We (the readers) are just about to get our first taste of the post Die Off world, but you’ve been living in it for years and have a far greater intimacy with it than we at this point. Are there any particular elements, such as specific characters, locations, etc. – which you’ve come to be particularly fond of?

MW:
I think most writers love all of their characters — be they heroes or villains —  at least I do! But I do feel an especially strong connection with the male characters Bevan, Stevie, Tommy, and Lamont. An interesting thing happened when the female characters I created, who previously existed as mere words, became manifested as images.  After seeing how Guillermo rendered the young women in this story, I started to feel a little differently about them!  Schwing!

AM: I really enjoy the attention to detail given to the character design in regards to their occupations and habitat. For example, the attire of the Black Dog Clan seem to be a mix of tribal dress and gang garb reminiscent of The Warriors, whereas Bronco is attired in more of an Old West Villain and Dolemite hybrid style (Readers, note the Bling Bling written in the captions of the Bronco character study). I’m wondering how much of the final look and feel of these characters was set in stone from the beginning, and how much room to run wild did Guillermo A. Angel have in the designs?

MW: Character, and I guess you would call it production design, was collaborative.  I provided the script, of course, and a description of the characters and locations both in text and photo references.  Guillermo did sketches and again we went through a tag team process until we got what we wanted.  Guillermo has really given this project his all for the past year.  He’s just a great artist and wonderful to work with.

AM: Shifting gears, Dog Eaters began its journey as a screenplay, and you’ve publicly spoken about your desire to see it made into a movie. Taking considerations like budget, availability, etc. out of the picture, have you thought of anyone as being particularly well suited to fill a given role? In particular I’m curious as to who you think might make an ideal Lamont or Tommy?

MW: If it were up to me, I would like to see someone like Viggo Mortensen, Daniel Craig, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe or Hugh Jackman play Lamont.  Maybe Brad Pitt or Val Kilmer.  Clive Owen.  Any of these actors would be great.  Will Smith or Denzel Washington might be interesting as well – take it in a more ethnic direction.  Lamont is a man’s man and they could all slide into that role with gusto, I’m sure!

The actor that plays Tommy would have to be able to combine the attitude of Sid Vicious with the hand-eye coordination and competitiveness of Kobe Bryant.  I think there are a number of young male actors that have the right look, but it would take a special talent to combine that with the attitude and grace of movement that Tommy has.

But film is a director’s medium and my choice for director – if I had one — would be Ridley Scott, Ang Lee, or Curtis Hanson.  Coming at it from a completely different direction (all action, all the time), maybe Michael Bay might be interesting…

AM: We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, particularly given how busy you must be with Dog Eaters #1 about to hit the stands. Any last thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

MW: There is still a lot of work ahead even though the story is locked-in.  We’ve been grinding away at the art with the deadlines for each issue getting closer and tighter.  Keeping the creative team motivated and happy is a priority for me over the next several months.  While seeing this story through to completion is reward enough for me, I must also build the readership for DOG EATERS, the mini-series to give myself the opportunity to take this to the next level.  I hope that it will be a case of, “Print it and they will come (to read it),” but we’ll have to see.  Putting DOG EATERS out into the public and presenting it in a way that people notice and like it is one of the more intriguing and challenging aspects of this journey.

AM: Thank you for making a few minutes for us Malcolm. I wish you and the Black Dog Clan the best of fortune in your adventure.

MW: You’re welcome, Andrew!

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Written by Andrew@TFAW

Andrew is a lifelong adherent to all things geeky. His spare time is spent reading comics, playing video games, and navigating the presumed dichotomy between form and function. When he's not busy trying to do his part to make your experience with TFAW the best it can be, in all likelihood he is working towards fulfilling his dream of commanding an invincible zombie army. But in a good way.