Nick Tapalansky & Alex Eckman-Lawn Archaia Studios Press Awakening Volume 1

Awakening Volume 1 has been getting lots of press lately, and with good reason. The book is due in stores June 24, and it's really an awesome zombie noir tale that has a killer cliffhanger ending. You can preorder it for 45% off the list price, and you can check out Brandon's review if you need more convincing. Omnicomic was fortunate to get the creators of the book, Nick and Alex Exkman-Lawn, to take time out of their increasingly crowded schedule to talk about the book, the future, and midgets praising Formica countertops. Omnicomic: Where did you get the inspiration for the story? Nick: From a soul eviscerating journey of existential exploration. Duh. Alright, honestly it was an amalgamation of things. The biggest influence though would have to have been the glut of standardized zombie stories which, while many of them are well done, do nothing different to advance the genre or take a shot of it from a different perspective. Alex: It’s actually a re-imagining of the classic 1990 film, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro. Totally lifted from that movie. Omnicomic: Zombies are all the rage these days in just about every medium. Why do you think your zombie book stands out among the rest? Nick: Well first, I hope it does! It’s great of you to say so. What I wanted when I crafted the story was to grow it from the ground up, take a look at where a typical zombie story would go, and shuck the other way. From the perspective of the story, the slow escalation of the problem keeping it from public view, and the overall atmosphere of mystery, I think we’ve done a good job of setting ourselves apart. The action of the book, saved for when it counts and moves the story, also helps push us away from the pack. I don’t like to belabor it or beat people over the head. It’s happening – let’s focus less on the violence and action, less on the (wait for it) ‘awakenings’ as they’re happening and more on the search for understanding in a world which seems to be slowly rotting from the inside out. That’s more interesting to me, anyway. The story is as much existential horror and noir as it is satire – we’re examining both the zombie genre and the human condition at the same time, consistently exploring the latter while debunking the former. Alex: Nick pretty much said it all, and far better than I’ll be able to, but I think we’re coming from a different place than most zombie stories. It’s more of a zombie noir or zombie procedural than the usual blood and guts run for your life survival kind of affair. I guess our book is more about people and their reactions to the idea of zombies and what that means for our characters than about the physical shuffling undead themselves. Omnicomic: Alex Eckman-Lawn’s illustrations are pretty gripping. Were you going for that look with Awakening, or did it just work out that way? How did the two of you get connected for the book? Nick: I knew immediately that this stud was what I was looking for when I needed a partner to fly forth with. He’s one of the most talented illustrators I’ve ever met – the book wouldn’t be what it is without him attacking my words with vicious and voracious dedication. As for how we met… It was a dark time in Paris. The war was raging and I don’t mind telling you I was sure my end was near. Shells were exploding next to the trench getting closer and closer and I knew, knew, it was only a matter of time. To abandon our small safe haven would’ve been to expose myself to the enemy. To stay? Death. That’s when he arrived… Alex: That’s Nick’s version, the way I tell it is a little different. I was singing in a nightclub at the time. I made pretty good tips but the clientele of that particular dive was a rather rough bunch. Nick was the only one who treated me with any respect. One day a real brute of a man who’d had his eye on me got a little too fresh. Thankfully Nick put him in down with two mighty blows and carried me away from that place. We never looked back. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Omnicomic: Thomas Mauer's lettering seems unique as well. Was that planned? Do you feel that it effectively adds to the tone and atmosphere of the story? Nick: You know, I think hooking up with Thomas has been one of our luckiest breaks. He was a huge help when we were starting out since he had the most experience of any of us in the industry. He helped us make sure our I’s were crossed and our t’s dotted… or something like that. And if you think what he does is unique in this book, wait until you see what he’s got planned in our two-part Perhapanauts back-up story over at Image for my pal Todd Dezago! Alex: I’ve never met a man more genuinely excited about lettering comic books than Thomas! He’s a pro in every sense of the word, and always trying new things to make the book look better. He’s definitely earned his place on the cover. And yeah, he’s gonna blow some minds with the stuff he’s working on now. Omnicomic: The story vaguely reminds me of Twin Peaks and other stories where person X arrives at town Y and things are F’ed. Do you feel that’s a valid comparison? Will there be midgets dancing in the kitchen making me scared to death of the word “Formica?” Nick: This really makes me wish Twin Peaks was just a few slots higher on my DVD watch pile… Um… Yes. Midgets in Volume Two. I still have time for re-writes. Excuse me… Alex: I’ve not seen Twin Peaks either, but I just read the Wikipedia article and it sounds awesome. So thank you! Nick and I will have to take the next few months to watch it all and steal the ending. Also some terrifying zombie midgets gnawing at Derrick’s ankles!!! Omnicomic: Is there going to be more details about why Derrick quit the police force? Can we expect any more teamups with his partner? Nick: Volume Two is the place to be for this stuff, although “team-up” might be a funny way of putting it… Alex: haw haw Omnicomic: Is there some sort of connection between Derrick and Cynthia that makes him the only one that believes her and takes on the case? Nick: Absolutely – it’s a quick mention in Chapter One, when Cynthia says point blank “I knew you’d listen. You have to.” but we really dig into it in Chapter Five when we see more about their past, including a small peak at what played into Derrick’s early retirement. Alex: Rest assured, Nick knows what he’s doing. It’s all coming together, we promise! Omnicomic: What qualifies Doctor Howe to be the one brought in to help? Nick: He’s a young hotshot with a jetpack and a devil-may-care attitude! According to him this isn’t the first time he’s been dropped in to clean up some kind of mess. Clearly he’s had some success with it in the past but what happens when he faces something so different? As we move through Volume One he’s clearly baffled by what’s happening – he might have to try a new tact to really crack this thing open. Omnicomic: Is Doctor Howe going to have a larger role in the next volume? Nick: It’ll continue to expand, yeah. As we move forward with the ensemble cast we’ll find ourselves spending more time with each character as they each approach the growing problem from a different angle of understanding. Alex: I like to think of Volume One as setting the table, and Volume Two is when dinner begins. We’ve established a number of characters in the first half, and in Volume Two we’ll really start to get into them. It’s gonna be a feast! Nick: Get it? A feast. It’s punny! Omnicomic: Where do the zombies go during the day or when they’re not attacking someone? It seemed they just appear then disappear. Is there some sort of zombie day job we don’t know about? Nick: It’s…impossible…to…keep…in… WAL-MART! Sorry. I’d actually like to point out that in Chapter Two, Sandra was attacked during the day at the very start of the issue. It was gloomy out but it was still daylight. He might have been on his way to work and stopped for a quick bite. Ha! Oh man we’re good. Other than that, you’ll find as the volume continues the attacks by whatever these are, zombies or otherwise, increase in frequency. A lot of it happens in the background, some people talking about something somebody saw or moving quickly away in small groups from something. Like I said above, it’s not something to beat people over the head with. It’s slowly escalating – eventually people beyond our cast start to notice and react to it. Alex: Whenever you can’t see one on the page they’re probably right behind you. Omnicomic: When can we expect to see volume 2 in stores? Nick: Schedule looks to put us out one year after Volume One. Next June, kids – mark you calendars! Omnicomic: Any spoilers/hints you can give on the cliffhanger? Nick: Our cast gets pushed to the brink when Daniel admits his homosexuality and Derrick gets Sandra knocked up. Big developments when the paternity test comes back and it’s actually the Chief of Police’s baby! The truth is, I’d hate to spoil too much. If you have lingering questions (and you should) at the end of Volume One, rest assured that they’ll be answered in Volume Two – Derrick’s past, and his present, are explored in greater detail while Sandra attempts to come to grips with what’s happening around her and what it means for her and her faith and Daniel makes a fateful choice to push the envelope in order to find a cause and solution all while the situation escalates. Everyone has choices they have to make and time is running out… Alex: Without giving too much away, Charlie, Derrick’s old partner, will play a part in the lives of our cast in the coming months, but not necessarily the one you’d expect. So keep an eye on that dude! Omnicomic: What’s your second favorite zombie story (movie or book) after Awakening? Nick: Shaun of the Dead. No doubt there – it’s one of my favorite movies period, genre or otherwise. I can watch it on repeat and never get sick of it. Alex: That is an excellent choice, Nick. Wild Zero is also a classic. Japanese noise band Guitar Wolf teaches us what true rock and roll means while saving the world from zombies AND aliens. “Love has no borders, nationalities or genders!” Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor? Nick: Absolutely – we’re thrilled to announce an amazing deal we’ve put together with Discount Comic Book Service (DCBS for short), which is offering the book with not only an EXCLUSIVE print signed by Alex but at a ridiculously discounted price of 45% off. For the math-slow, like me, that translates to $10.97! You can go directly to the product page for Awakening Volume One by going to this address - Order that puppy while the discount’s on and the prints last! As for what comes next, Alex and I are hard at work finishing the second of a two-part Perhapanauts back up story, “A Grim’s Haunt”, set to run in issues 10 and 11 of that series over at Image this summer (just in time to pick up Awakening Volume One when you’re done). That and we were just asked to submit a short-story to an anthology which, for the moment, must remain nameless (sorry!) – that story is well underway and should be seeing print not too long after both Volume One and the Perhapanauts back-ups! It’s based around a world Alex created in a badass short prose story he wrote a few years back and, beyond the story’s appearance in the anthology, will also be showing up in a book of interconnecting shorts about that world that he an I are putting together. And then, of course, there are the four’ish projects we’re planning on following Awakening with after it wraps up in June of next year… So look out – we’re coming. That’s what she said. Alex: Ew. If you happen to be in the Philadelphia area, check out the Autumn Society’s joker show up at brave new worlds comics in old city (on 2nd street just north of market). I, and a lot of close pals of mine, have pieces in the show. And of course, while you’re there why not have them order you a copy of the awakening hardcover? There are a bunch more Autumn Society shows coming up and you can keep up with them all here: If you happen to listen to metal, pick up Hacride’s new album Lazarus on April 20th. I happen to have done the art but it’s also an amazing album. Thanks, this was fun! Nick: Thanks, Jonathan! Omnicomic: Thanks for your time guys!


  1. So what do I do with my three issues of the Awakening comic book. Now it seems I have to buy the same thing again. And how do I know the second volume will be published, when the comic book version was discontinued?

  2. Hey, Mike --

    Thanks for the comment and double thanks for being one of the pre-hardcover supporters of the book! The decision to go exclusively to two hardcover volumes from floppy issues was based on a number of factors and was made by both Alex and I and Archaia.

    For any number of reasons, indie floppy books, especially from smaller publishers which are only just beginning to grow a strong and consistent line, have difficulty finding success in a comic shop. After all, when shelf space is as limited as it is in most shops what are you going to give the slot to - a new, unproven book from a small publisher and a brand new creative team or the 81st tie in to Secret Final Civil Identity Crisis Invasion War? One of them has guaranteed sales. The other is a risk. Unfortunately, it's just smart business on the retailer's end. We bore the brunt of that uphill battle for three issues before Archaia began undergoing its reconstruction and, if not for said reconstruction, would have continued chasing that for seven more issues.

    However, between the year-long restructuring (it's complete now and the company is in an excellent position going into the June re-launch) and taking those very obstacles mentioned above into consideration, it didn't seem prudent to return with issue 4 after being absent for a year and a half. Further, releasing in hardcover volumes allows us instant access/exposure to the book trade market (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc) which gives us even more avenues to offer the book. In turn, that gives us a much better chance of putting the book into a reader's hands.

    As for buying the same thing again - yes and no (and isn't that the very nature of a collected edition release?). Sure the first three issues are included, but so are 10-pages of supplemental material that are story based and deal heavily with the time between events in the issues and five brand new pinups from fantastic artists. In addition to that you get two more chapters and, if you order through DCBS, you're getting all this in a 144-page hardcover volume (with dust jacket) AND an exclusive signed print for just $10.97 - that should ease any pain of the money previously spent on issues.

    I don't control the fates, the winds, or the fickle publishing industry so no, I can't guarantee beyond any horrifying doubt that Volume Two is coming. I can tell you that Archaia is an incredibly strong company, that the book is written and artwork has begun, and that we're on track to put it out in June of 2010. The surest way to make certain it DOES come out isn't to second guess it but to support the book - even if the very worst happens and Archaia isn't around in a year, strong sales would make certain another publisher would happily snap the book up for Volume Two.

    And hang on to those issues - supporting the book is one way to guarantee that those limited copies of issues 1 - 3 in the market might actually be worth more than cover price some day! :)



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