Riley Rossmo: Infecting the Ecosystem with Rebel Blood

A comics interview article by: Joshua Pantalleresco

Everyone knows a thing or two about zombies, especially in comics, The Walking Dead being the prime example of an amazing story involving those popular antagonists. Not too many zombie stories deal with environmental issues, however, which adds an intriguing twist to the concept. In Rebel Blood, the zombie-centric Image miniseries that hit stands this week, Riley Rossmo infects not just people, but birds, wolves and the whole ecosystem.

The series marks Rossmo's writing debut while he continues to draw in his usual standout style. The story is quick and comes in guns firing, as the first thing you see is Chuck, the main character, defending his life from a zombie wolf. Chuck is a broken down character, a fearless firefighter -- until his injuries -- and now he finds himself in a dead end. He plays a guitar and has a vivid imagination. That imagination leads to some of my favorites pages in the book. Chuck's head plays out several creative scenarios as he drives up back to his family's house. Some are cliché and some are quite surprising, all of them fun scenes that nicely build up and leave you completely unprepared for what happens at the end. Not bad for a guy more comfortable drawing pictures than describing them.

For this interview, I met Riley Rossmo at the coffee place known as The House in Kensington in Calgary. He was in a pretty good mood. We broke the ice talking about some comics. All through our small talk about crossovers and comics we love, Riley was nervous about Rebel Blood. In his own words, he has no one to blame if something goes wrong. But he's proud of it too. And he should be.

Joshua Pantalleresco for Comics Bulletin: How did Rebel Blood come to be?

Riley Rossmo: I think I was working on Green Wake and I just wanted to do something for myself.  My brother came over and we were talking about horror movies. We were talking about the ideas and the more we talked the more I wanted to do this.

CB: Will you do any more Green Wake and Proof up the road?

Rossmo: I doubt I’ll do Green Wake in the foreseeable future. We (Kurtis J. Wiebe and I) didn’t make any money at it. If we do well with the trade paperback, it may happen up the road.  

Riley Rossmo Interview - Rebel Blood

CB: So now with Rebel Blood, you are writing on top of the art. What’s writing like for you?

Rossmo: Really, really hard. Super hard. That’s why I got Alex for help. I had the ending and the beginning nailed up. I drew the first five pages and had the ending, but fleshing it out was a challenge. Alex really helped me with issues two and three.

CB: Would you do another story again?

Rossmo: I would if I had someone help me with the script. I have an idea for something else, but I have so much on my plate, I’m just taking it a project at a time right now.

CB: What else are you doing?

Rossmo: I have more Daken coming up next week. I’m doing a short OGN called Wildchildren coming out in June or July. Another book with Kurtis called Debris.

CB: What’s Wildchildren about?

Rossmo: Think Grant Morrison’s Kill your Girlfriend and violence in high schools. That book really pushes the medium graphically.

CB: What’s Debris about?

Rossmo: It’s like Transformers meets The Legend. It’s science-fantasy. It was inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light.

Riley Rossmo Interview - Rebel Blood

CB: I love Lord of Light. I love Amber too.

Rossmo: I wasn’t crazy about Amber. I liked the books -- don’t get me wrong. But it reminded me of Michael Moorcock. Did they come out at the same time?

CB: They did -- at least the first five. I don’t remember exactly when the second five books came out.

Rossmo: Ah. Well, I was reading Amber and I liked it, but wasn’t really crazy about it until I read Lord of Light, and then I thought Zelazny was awesome.

CB: I really love the fact that Zelazny’s stuff was short but just perfect prose.

Rossmo: It’s very poetic. Have you ever read  Andrew Vachss ? He writes short stuff but in comparison he’s very choppy. Each sentence hits at a clip. But Zelazny, he’s very poetic and you get a great story out of it.

CB: Are you going to be doing any more at Marvel?

Rossmo: I don’t know. The last time they called me, they wanted to know if I could get four pages done in a few days. It pays to be fast.

CB: How did you get started with Marvel?

Rossmo: I knew C.B. Cebulski before he became talent VP. I had been sending him pages ever since I was doing Proof. I think about seven months before the story happened, they contacted me and said they may have something. They weren’t sure. I just continued to submit some stuff, and finally they called me up and asked me to do some pages for Daken.

Riley Rossmo Interview - Rebel Blood

CB: What makes Rebel Blood unique? Zombies have been done to death.

Rossmo: The big difference with Rebel Blood is the idea of a disease spreading across species and the idea of a zombie-infected ecosystem. Resident Evil toyed with the idea a little, but Rebel Blood tackles this head-on. This is a completely infected ecosystem. We’re talking birds, reptiles, everything. If you think about rats, imagine them carrying a virus. Could you just imagine hyper-aggressive rats? There are thousands of them. The infection would spread overnight. 

CB: That’s cool. So, then, do you talk about environmental issues at all?

Rossmo: A little. It’s not heavy-handed or preachy or anything like that, but it’s there.

CB: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Rossmo: Issue two has infected rabbits attacking someone. Which is awesome.

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