Behind The Ink: An Interview With Writer Mark Landry
Author Mark Landry had a vision as a child which turned into reality with his comic book turned novel, ” Bloodthirsty. ” We had the pleasure of speaking with Mark concerning his journey. Here’s a little Q&A we conducted.
I grew up in Southwest Louisiana – in a town called Lake Charles. In college, I studied film and media at LSU, then Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. My first internship was for Lucasfilm on Skywalker Ranch (nerd heaven), and then for the Donners’ Company, which as a Superman and Goonies fan, was like a dream. I’ve been writing stories since I was a wee lad, and professionally for about seven years now. “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water” is my first comic book (if we don’t count the doodles and false starts as a kid), and the story brings me back to Louisiana.
2 – What’s the story about?
It’s about a (fictional) Coast Guard rescue swimmer, Virgil, who loses everyone he cares about in Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. When he uncovers a group of blood-sucking disaster capitalist hemovores (non-supernatural vampires) that are sucking New Orleans dry, he wages a one-man war to take them down before a new hurricane hits.
3 – Where did the idea for the story come from?
The ever-present fire under my ass to write anything is a deep hatred for anyone who oppresses or otherwise victimizes someone else – one could call it a passion for justice. It’s why I write anything. Luckily for me, there’s an infinite number of ways to treat this in stories: funny, melodramatic, thrilling, scary, etc. What got me going on “Bloodthirsty” was this idea that so many people were so helpless for so long in the Katrina crisis that it didn’t feel like it could happen in the USA. It felt like some far-flung, low-tech backwater kind of disaster. And that really pissed me off. I got frustrated about it, and also felt guilty (because what did I do to help?). So the story started working on me, telling me what it wanted to be – to express and rid myself of this constant anger. I suppose like most stories, it was an exorcism.
4 – What is it about the story that made you want to write the book?
What lit the fuse in my head was this idea of “bloodthirsty” – as the term is used to describe greedy people – marrying greed with the literal blood thirst of vampires. Except that I didn’t want the villains to be supernatural – at all – for one important reason: I didn’t want to let humans off the hook for being assholes. The villains in this story are human beings who happen to have a mutation that keeps them looking youthful while requiring them to drink blood. They treat their victims in pretty much the same way that greedy humans treat other humans in real life – as fodder, cogs, or as a meal. This concept got the green light turned on in my head, and from there the work became about shaping both the villains’ plan and the everyday heroes who would rise up against them.
5 – How long did the book take to write?
The script took about two years, as I was working on other projects off and on during that time. Once it was written, the art took another three years. Fortunately, Titan Comics picked up the book in the meantime. They published it as five monthly comic book issues starting last September (10 years after Katrina hit); the issues are being collected and published as a single volume (graphic novel) this June.
6 – How did you create the characters?
Having started with the villains (which I already kind of discussed), my focus then shifted to the heroes. New Orleans is a very diverse city – Louisiana is a diverse state. So I didn’t want the heroes to all be your standard-issue general white guys. I see that every time I look in the mirror, so it gets a little old. I also knew that I wanted to pull the main character from the U.S. Coast Guard because they were such a positive force during the Katrina crisis that so many people seem to have forgotten about. That’s why Virgil LaFleur – the main character – is both racially mixed (just like his city) and a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. To me, he represents the best of humanity to have emerged from the Katrina disaster. Along the way, he develops allies from the homeless community, a street kid, a corrupt cop, and a doctor – a diverse group of people who come together for a common purpose.
7 – What’s makes this story stand out from others?
Back when I wrote the story, the BlackLivesMatter movement hadn’t really gotten started yet. It was the Occupy Wall Street movement – that summer – when I outlined the script. If I had actually gotten it published back then, it might have been ahead of its time. But now, we’re seeing a much stronger push in pop culture for more diversity in our storytelling. And I’m not just talking about race – gender, age, religion, occupation, and even a diversity of scenery. Audiences want to see more of America than just L.A. and New York every time they turn on the TV, go to the cinema, or open a comic book. What I hope makes “Bloodthirsty” stand out is its no-nonsense reflection of America. I hope people will read it and recognize it as their country – not just an idealized, commercial version of real, but a tough-love kind of real.
8 – What is your favorite horror book?
“The Shining,” by Stephen King. I also love the film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick.
9 – As a writer, who is your biggest influence?
As a writer of comics, my biggest influence would be Frank Miller. I was a kid in the ‘80s when he was really nailing Batman, and “The Dark Knight Returns” was the first comic I ever fell in love with. I think I was 10 when I first read it. I’m sure I’ve stolen a ton from it unconsciously for “Bloodthirsty.” As a screenwriter, I would say my two greatest influences have been Stanley Kubrick and Paddy Chayefsky. “Dr. Strangelove” and “Network,” respectively, are two of the most perfect pieces of any art I’ve ever experienced.
10 – Would the book work as a movie?
Absolutely. Honestly, I don’t think there are many stories that couldn’t be adapted into other media. The trick is in doing the work it takes to adapt something properly. I think that’s where many adaptations fall short. Kubrick said that – and I’m paraphrasing here – a film is a film, and a book is a book. You can’t shoot a book; you have to shoot a film. To me, that means that the intense work of boiling down a story to its essence and then re-sculpting it for whatever new medium you’re working within is essential in order to get an adaptation right. I think “Bloodthirsty” would be a rather easy piece to translate into a screenplay. It’s about the right length.
11 – Any other projects in the works?
Yes: I’m currently working on a script for the Disney Channel; also an R-rated vampire screenplay for a different set of producers. I think you guys would love that one once it’s set up and produced; I certainly do. There are three or four other scripts in the outline phases (comics and movies), as well. I’ll never stop.
12 – What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
There’s very little about it that I don’t enjoy, but I would have to say what I enjoy most is being able to sit in quiet, focus, and construct a creative expression of thoughts and feelings – the craft of it. It’s the thing that feels the most to me like freedom, and that’s pretty much the best feeling there is.
Mark Landry, writer/creator of “Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water”
Release Date for Graphic Novel: June 8, 2016
Titan Comics/Random House