Monsters come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. While the iconic Universal Monsters led the charge with vampires, mummies, wolf men, and gil men (to name only a few), George A. Romero gave the world the premiere depiction of zombies, then known as ghouls. His 1968 masterwork, Night of the Living Dead, ignited fans and critics imaginations and is currently preserved by the National Film Registry. To this day, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is still very much a part of the horror conversation and it was the very subject that Joe and I got to discuss with Gabe Yocum and Matt Summo of Double Take Comics while at C2E2 – Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.
Double Take, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software, the parent company of Rockstar and 2K Games, was founded back in 2013. Take Two, best known for video games like Grand Theft Auto, Bordershock, and Borderlands wanted to get into the comic book industry and create new IP, and “they’re an entertainment company so it made sense for them to move in a direction so they could diversify,” according to Gabe Yocum, the Sales and Marketing Coordinator. They hired Bill Jemas, who to many comic book fans is regarded as the architect behind the “Ultimate” universe for Marvel Comics, along with running the company for five years. *Interestingly, while some devoted comic fans should know, a lot of people don’t realize that Marvel was in bankruptcy in the 90’s and that it was because of Bill Jemas who was brought on board, was the man responsible for bringing them “out of the black.” With Jemas on board, Double Take knew they wanted to have a shared universe of stories and “finally after going through a list of properties, it was discovered that Night of the Living Dead almost famously fell into public domain because of a copyright error.” Because “everybody knows that movie and loves that movie”, Double Take immediately saw a more cohesive blend of story and art celebrating that title and universe.
Starting the Double Take Comic universe with stories spinning in and out of Night of the Living Dead, it’s safe to say that their developing universe deals with aliens, indestructible humans, and zombies. Monsters come in all shapes, forms, and sizes.
“If you love the movie and you like the characters, you’re going to be happy,” Gabe Yocum remarked in regards to the expanding nature of the series. All ten titles take place around the fictional Evans County, Pennsylvania during the events of the film and expand the nature of Night of the Living Dead in sometimes quite surprising and exciting ways.
Double Take launched their universe with 10 first issues, with “Dedication” being written by Matt Summo. When we asked Yocum about the idea and methodology behind launching a universe right out of the gate with ten titles and holding onto that kind of release, especially in a competitive sense with the likes of Marvel and DC releasing 20 or so comics a week, he had this to say:
“[Bill]’s kind of a visionary thinker and the fact of the matter is, the landscape we’re in today, where comics are so omni-present – they’re everywhere, independent companies often fail. The status quo is failure for independent companies. Because it’s the same thing over and over again, why not figure out something different? When we originally decided on this shared universe and that we were going to have ten titles, originally we thought – why not put out three the one month and two the next? But why would we expect a different result than everyone else? There’s no reason so why not try something different and if you’re launching an entire universe; a universe is born with a big bang, not with a whimper, we thought ‘Okay, why not do ten on one day? That’s a lot, but we could package them together. The big thing in media, right now, is binging so why not binge an entire universe at one time? For $20 bucks you get ten comic books; they all have connections and overlap. It’s a real cohesive universe. It just made sense.”
All ten titles will go five issues and then see trade paperbacks (graphic novels) release in the Fall of 2016. Some of the titles will be ongoing and by the end of the year, Double Take will expand with five to seven new titles that take place in 2016 but in the same shared universe. “50 years from the events of these books, super heroes have emerged; Pennsylvania has become a wasteland, and we go all over,” according to Yocum. “There’s also going to be a book about early 2o’s females in London.”
Our pick? Matt Summo’s “Dedication.” His title is described as “Thanks to some hungry customers, the closing shift at George’s Market has turned into a graveyard shift.” “Dedication” writer Matt Summo actually has experience in working at a grocery store. While working there, he published a book with an artist he found online. That journey led him to Double Take to seek out a position as an editor. “I put together a comic book, I could be an editor. I lettered it, I formatted it and so I sent it in [to Double Take] and they got back to me and said that they really liked my sample and ‘would you like to write for us?’ When it finally came around to Night of the Living Dead, Summo was asked to write one of the books based on his experience working at a grocery store.
Universal Monsters Universe is really excited about Double Take Comics’ developing universe. They’ve got a great creative and editorial team and an exciting set of books that can be found and picked up at your local comic shop. You could also check out more at Double Take Universe.
Interestingly, Lionsgate Films recently optioned one of Double Take’s comics, “Z-Men”, for a major motion picture.
(Steven Biscotti – @reggiemantleIII)