Mike Oliveri: Breaking Down The Pack Mentality

A comics interview article by: Alex Rodrik
Recently I got the chance to sit down with Bram Stoker Award winning author Mike Oliveri to take a look at his latest series The Pack. Mike gives us a look into the workings of the werewolf mythos he’s created and what’s to come for his characters.


Alex Rodrik: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Mike Oliveri: My bio says I’m a writer, martial artist, father, and tech guy, so let’s start there. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t get serious about it until much later. I’ve been studying Shuri-ryu karate for three years, and I’m currently a brown belt. I’m happily married and we have three of the coolest kids on the planet. I’m a computer tech for a school district, which is how I pay the bills until the writing can do the job. I also ride a motorcycle (a Honda Shadow at the moment) and smoke cigars (Avos rule), which has prompted Cullen Bunn (writer of Oni’s The Damned and The 6th Gun) to declare my alignment as “lawful badass.”

AR: How’d you get involved in the world of comics?

MO: I’ve been a comics fan since I was a kid, and when I started getting serious about writing I knew I wanted to try comics at some point. At first I had trouble finding an artist to work with, but then I discovered my new local comic shop was also owned by the folks who run Moonstone Comics. I pitched them Werewolves: Call of the Wild, the precursor to The Pack, and they put me in touch with artist Joe Bucco. It’s all rolled on from there.

AR: Tell us about The Pack.

MO: The Pack is the story of the Tylers, a family of werewolves struggling to survive in the human world. Things have been quiet for them for many years, but new events have led to deadly consequences for the family and are threatening both their secret and their way of life.

Most of the stories will be crime/suspense thrillers with werewolves and a dash of family drama. The series started with the three-issue Call of the Wild comic series and now will be published in both prose and graphic novel formats by Evileye Books.

The first book in the series, The Pack: Winter Kill, came out in December and I’ve been thrilled with the fan response it has received so far. It’s available on Amazon now in both trade paperback and Kindle editions, and we hope to have bookstore distribution lined up soon.

AR: How’d you get involved with Evileye?

MO: A mutual friend introduced me to Aaron Ommus at Wizard World shortly after the third issue of Call of the Wild came out. We chatted about comics, publishing, and digital media, and things just seemed to gel between us. When he started telling me about his plans for Evileye Books, I was hooked.

AR: Coming soon we’ll be getting a deeper look at the origin of our cast in “Big Bad Wolves.” What insight will “Big Bad Wolves” provide about our protagonists?

MO: “Big Bad Wolves” is going to be the first of several shorts offering glimpses into the backstory and personalities of the various characters in The Pack. “Big Bad Wolves” will explain the Bigfoot references in The Pack: Winter Kill and is a closer look at Sean and Ronnie after big brother Cole got all the attention in Call of the Wild.

AR: Tell us about what readers can look forward to in the coming Chimaera.

MO: The Chimaera graphic novel is about the Tyler boys’ sister Diana, who is away at college. We’ll find she’s not as big a fan of her werewolf side as her brothers are, and when someone or something starts slaughtering students on campus, she tries to steer clear of trouble. Unfortunately she’s drawn in as some of her close friends are killed, and she learns the killer is a lot closer to her than she imagined.

AR: How is your take on the classic werewolf mythos different from what readers have seen before?

MO: The question of whether the lycanthropy is a gift or a curse, and whether the werewolves themselves are noble warriors or bloodthirsty monsters, is up to the characters. For example, if Lawrence Talbot existed in one of my books, does he murder people because he’s been cursed with the monster or because the curse awakened something within him? I may be working with supernatural creatures with a long pop culture history, but characters and story are key and they dictate the rules.

As for the mythology itself, that will play out as the series progresses. I’d rather show it organically than lay it all out like a rulebook. So far, Cole has called bullshit on silver bullets in Call of the Wild, it’s implied the Tylers inherited their lycanthropy, and they appear to have control over their transformations, so I’ve touched on some of the key elements. There’s plenty more to play with, though.

AR: Who are some of your biggest influences and what was it about their work that really enticed you as both a writer and a reader?

MO: It’s tough to pin it down to any one influence as I’m kind of a pop culture sponge. I grew up on fantasy and science fiction, then shifted to horror and crime. I read comics, played roleplaying games, watched Saturday morning cartoons, and I was raised on movies like Aliens, First Blood, Terminator, and Robocop. Hell, my family wore out a VHS copy of Carpenter’s The Thing my old man recorded off some old cable service in the early ‘80s. I’m sure all of that has taken its toll on my sanity -- er, had its influence on my writing over time.

AR: So I presume it’s safe to say you’re on “Team Jacob” (oh yeah, I’m goin’ there… haha!)? What do you think of the whole Twilight craze and what the films have done to the genre of werewolf and vampire films and literature?

MO: I guess I’m on Team Jacob by default. Heh. In general, though, I’m not a big fan of the Twilight series. My wife read the books, and she told me how Edward cries after he gets laid in the fourth book. After I stopped laughing, I decided those books just weren’t for me. I don’t even think of them as horror or vampire/werewolf books and movies; they’re young adult romances. Rather than follow the formula for a monster flick, Meyer uses them as tools for her particular story. Sparkling, pretty-boy vampires may not do it for me, but I give her credit for making them work for her and her fans.

There are some who think Twilight will spark the next vampire craze or finally put werewolves in the spotlight, but I’m not so sure about that. Story is key, and the people who really love Twilight aren’t generally the same people who are going to enjoy flicks like The Howling or An American Werewolf in London. Despite the monsters, they really are two separate genres with two separate groups of fans. If there had been a new craze for werewolves, the remake of The Wolfman would have done a lot better in the box office.

Of course, that may not stop Hollywood from deciding werewolves will be the next big thing. In which case Evileye and I have a really kick-ass property to bring to a willing studio...

AR: What other works of yours should our readers keep their eyes open for in 2010?

MO: The Pack is covering the bulk of it. “Big Bad Wolves” will be up this Spring, and sometime this Fall we’ll release the second prose book. (It doesn’t have a title yet because I tend to drop that in last). Chimaera is a little behind due to difficulties landing an artist, but we’re still confident it will start rolling this year. Once the second prose book is done, I’ll start scripting the next graphic novel in the series.

Beyond that, I’ve got a few short stories scheduled to appear in anthologies, and a novella called “Restore from Backup” (co-written with JF Gonzalez, author of Survivor) goes digital this summer. I don’t have any firm information on those yet, but fans can keep an eye on my website at www.mikeoliveri.com to get all the latest news.

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