This November, Dark Horse are bringing us Resurrectionists, written by Fred Van Lente, with art by Maurizio Rosenzweig and Moreno DiNisio and cover art by Juan Doe. If you've been hearing some chatter about this series, it's because Van Lente has dialed his historical obsessions up to full tilt and combined them with a heist story spanning thousands of years through the auspices of reincarnation.
There's also something of the conspiracy theory about all of this, with characters who are capable of "unlocking" their inner memories of past lives to become more empowered and wheels within wheels seem to be turning in this history-drama-mystery-heist story combo. What holds it all together are Van Lente's keen sense for characterization and the dynamics of relationships, as well as the rather revelatory arrival of artists Rosenzweig and DiNisio. They have somehow managed to create a deep texture and painted feel while retaining highly active linework in their artwork, which brings a vital, modern feel to Ancient Egypt and plenty of historical weight to modern day.
Resurrectionists is going to break onto the comics market with significant impact due to its powerful, tightly-planned plotline that looks to open out through other characters in future arcs, according to Van Lente, and also through its immediate visual statement.
Van Lente talks to us here at Bleeding Cool about all manner of things, from his research bent to his overt discussion of gender roles in the comic.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Are you a history buff? Has Egyptology been something that's interested you for awhile?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, a lot of things I'm known for, whether it's Action Philosophers, Incredible Hercules, or Archer & Armstrong, involve history in same way, and Resurrectionists is a way to work those muscles while making it very much relatable to the modern world. One of the original pitches for this series was "What if Philip K. Dick wrote historical fiction?"
The kernel of this story came about many years ago, when I was first starting out as a pro, researching a Rama-Tut story for Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four — and the fact I was actually doing historical research for an issue of Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four says pretty much all you need to know about me — and I came across a passage in a book about ancient Egypt that said that tomb robbing was an actual profession in the days of the Pharaohs. Resurrectionists would be hired by nobles to destroy the mummies and loot the tombs of their enemies to screw them in the afterlife.
And then I thought, well, what if our modern world was the afterlife, and reincarnation was eternal life? And you had these tomb robbers, trying over and over and over again to pull off the same heist for three thousand years, until finally, in our day, they look like they're about to succeed. And that's where Resurrectionists comes from.
HMS: Reincarnation and past lives make for a great story because you can open up so many windows in history as well as exploring character traits. How do you construct a character based on more than one lifetime? What were your goals there with Tao/Jericho?
FVL: There are two major storylines in Resurrectionists, one Jericho Way's in AD 2015, and one is Tao the Master Maker's in 1050 BC. There are other eras, but these are the two we're focusing on in the first arc.
The idea is our lives play out in similar ways over thousands of years, with slightly different combinations of similar themes. The people we meet in our lives are archetypes that we've known throughout all our various reincarnations, serving similar roles — like the specialists in a team of criminals. So what's fun for the reader will be noticing how some characters are active in Egypt but not in New York City, and vice-versa. Each era has Easter Eggs planted for the other throughout.
HMS: What were some of your strategies for rendering Egyptian culture and life accessible to a modern day reader? I notice your dialogue is very modern, almost slangy for us.
FVL: One of my biggest influences in history and historical comics and comics in general is the great cartoonist Jack Jackson, aka Jaxon, the amazing chronicler of Texas history. In his books like Los Tejanos and Comanche Moon he had people speaking in English and Spanish and Comanche and other Native languages, but they all spoke with a modern bent. That made sense to me — I mean, after all, it's not like we're hearing "raw sound," the literal lines are quote-unquote translated into English for the comic anyway. So why not make it sound colloquial?
[Some panels from Comanche Moon]
HMS: How deep did you have to dig into the Book of the Dead to come up with the iconic terminology in this comic, like "Answerers", and such? On that note, Have you been casing museums for your heist elements, Fred? Tell the truth.
FVL: When I was a guest at London Supercon a while back I hit the British Museum, which has one of the greatest Egyptian collections in the world, and came back burdened with all sorts of research materials, including a beautiful illustrated Book of the Dead. I am burying Maurizio and Moreno with as much picture reference as I can, and they haven't murdered me yet!
I came up with the way Gardner and Way pull off their first heist in the American Museum of Natural History here in New York, though. :)
HMS: There is some gender subtext here, or rather text proper, from seeing women as objects, to asking whether women are out for rich husbands, or whether they need money to be attractive. Is this intentional foregrounding of gender roles?
FVL: Yeah, definitely text proper. One of the themes of Resurrectionists, the major one, really, is the fluidity of identity. Some characters who are female in certain eras, are male in others, sometimes a character who's straight in one era is gay in another. At the center of the 2015 storyline is a bisexual, tri-racial love triangle. So part of the idea is to explode not just traditional gender roles, but roles and identity politics period.
HMS: There is some very impressive artwork here on the series. What about it particularly makes this story have the feel you were hoping for?
FVL: Maurizio and Moreno are blowing me away — they are going to be super-huge once Resurrectionists comes out. This is one of the most beautiful-looking books on the stands and I couldn't feel luckier getting to work on my first major creator-owned book in a dog's age with them.
Resurrectionists arrives November 11th from Dark Horse Comics and is currently listed in Previews with order code SEP140019