Interview: Suicide Squad Creator John Ostander and Tom Mandrake on Kros: Hallowed Ground - Dread Central
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Interview: Suicide Squad Creator John Ostander and Tom Mandrake on Kros: Hallowed Ground

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Writer John Ostrander and illustrator Tom Mandrake are an established duo in the comic industry, and having worked together on multiple series including The Spectre, Batman and Martian Manhunter, they are now using KickStarter to bring their latest project, Kros: Hallowed Ground, to life.

Ostrander is also the creator of Suicide Squad, which unless you’ve been living in a cave on Mars, you will know is being turned into a film out next year. How satisfying it is to see such a great creator having his work receive such widespread recognition.

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Dread Central: Firstly, what is Kros: Hallowed Ground?

John Ostrander: Kros: Hallowed Ground is a 128-page graphic novel by me and Tom Mandrake. We are legendary. Folks may know us from our work on GrimJack, Firestorm, The Spectre, The Kents, and Martian Manhunter, as well as a Batman or two. The story is set during the American Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg. Two sets of battles are being fought: the battle between the armies of the North and South during the day and another at night, when vampires come to prey on the wounded. Blood calls to blood, and the vampires come like carrion predators to prey on the weak and dying. Opposing them is the vampire hunter, a damphyr, known as Kros. He has many of the vampires’ abilities and few of their weaknesses, but if he should ever taste human blood — the blood of the innocent — he himself could become what he hates. As it is, he is a man with an obsessive mission – killing vampires.

Tom Mandrake: Kros: Hallowed Ground is a horror story set during the Battle of Gettysburg, but our focus is on Major Kros and the vampires he has been drawn to this place to destroy. His past is complex—born nearly 200 years before the events of this story, Kros has been pursuing vampires for most of his life. He has seen many of the other damphyr he has known fall to the temptation of human blood. Intent on the mission that seems to forever be before him and drawn to this place by the same scent of blood as the vampires, Kros is on the verge of losing his own humanity. It is a struggle he might not win.

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DC: Is crowdfunding the best way to get original independent comics off the ground?

JO: We think so. We hope so. We have a fan base, and we’re going directly to them to try to make this happen. I’ve worked for a lot of companies and I’ve enjoyed it, but for Kros we want to control the whole thing. With everything else we’ve done, it’s time Tom and I did a creator-owned story, and I’m very excited to be doing Kros!

TM: I’ve done all sorts of comics for established companies, horror, superhero, movie adaptations—everything—and I’ve had a blast drawing all of these books!  But Kros is the kind of story that you don’t see very often in mainstream comics. It’s an unusual meld of history and the supernatural. Mostly, we didn’t think that the story of Kros would fit well within any established universe, so we decided to strike out on our own. Given that both John and I have worked in mainstream comics for over 30 years, it’s probably the one big thing left on both of our creative bucket lists!

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DC: Can you talk about the vampires of the world that you are creating?

JO: We’re old school. Our vampires are monsters; they’re predators. They suck the life out of you. Monsters are important; monsters show us the dark side of our own natures. Trying to soften that, to make them sexier or tragic romantic heroes, for me misses the point. The better the monster, the better we see ourselves in that dark mirror. Vampires are devoid of love; they know only feeding, what they want. We live with many vampires today; they just don’t all have fangs.

TM: The vampires in Kros are very traditional in the sense that their roots go back to when vampires, ghouls, werewolves and their kind were considered to be one and the same. All of them wanted to kill mortals and steal what makes you human. They’re the alpha predator – fierce, amoral killing machines. They take you away from yourself and leave a shell that seeks sustenance for it’s own survival.

DC: Is Major Kros more of an anti-hero?

JO: Kros himself, having vampire blood in him, is also a monster. He is hyper-focused on his self-appointed mission – all vampires must die. He is isolated from others and he’s done that to himself. He is in danger of losing the human side of his nature.

TM: I’d say that Kros is an anti-hero. He’s a monster fighting monsters. The war means nothing to him. Human beings mean little to him, and yet, he finds himself fighting to save humanity from more terrible monsters than himself. I’d say, in that respect, he has some of the true hero in his nature as well.

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DC: How will the Civil War setting be utilized?

JO: As I’ve said elsewhere, all wars are horror stories. Brother was killing brother in the Civil War, and that’s nightmarish to start with. The battle at Gettysburg took place in several locations around Gettysburg and lasted three days. At different times Tom and I have both visited the battleground, and you get a sense of the size and the scope of the fighting. The place is haunting and haunted, and we intend to work that eerieness into the story.

TM: There are aspects to the Battle of Gettysbrug that really hit you at your core—like the choking amount of smoke from the gunpowder, the sheer number of dead, the streams that ran red with blood. That’s real horror. We Americans learn all about the events that took place at Gettysburg in history class—the names, the locations, the troop movements, but can we ever really understand the magnitude of what happened there? I don’t think most of us do.  In Kros we add a layer of supernatural horror which, for me, is a way of comprehending it all.

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DC: Can you talk about the style of artwork?

JO: Tom’s artwork is creepy and spooky and eerie, but also downright beautiful. No one’s art in the comics field today looks like his. No one. It is elegant even when he’s freaking you out. It’s classic; you can go back to the masters of EC and Warren and see their artistic DNA in Tom’s work. The storytelling is concise, the characterization is profound, and the effect is incredible. Actually, just look at it, look at the sample pages, look at what he’s done in the past; and you won’t need me to tell you how wonderful it is. It’s right there on the page.

TM:  I traveled to Gettysburg for inspiration late this past spring. I want to be able to capture the misty quality of the light, the rolling fields, the harsh rock formations at Devil’s Den, the eerie quality the light has at sunset. My job is to translate all this into art. I am really excited about this challenge! My daughter, Sian, is doing the colors on Kros. We talked a lot about capturing the feel of the era by toning the color toward grayed out sepia tones with hints of color like old-time hand-colored photographs.

DC: The two of you are known for creating new series and characters that go onto become iconic, such as Grimjack. How do you approach an original idea and turn it into something that is bound to be memorable?

JO: The way Tom and I approach an original idea is to explore it. You kick it around and discuss the ramifications of what you’re establishing. Tom and I take our different strengths and talents and then pool them. You ask questions – how is this different. What tropes do we use, which ones do we downplay? Ultimately, why should it matter? Why should the reader care? Each answer begets more questions and you follow those answers as well. It can be a lot of fun and that’s important; if we aren’t having fun, it’s guaranteed that the reader won’t have fun. With Kros, Tom and I are having a lot of fun.

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DC: Also, you’ve collaborated on many occasions so was it a natural decision for you to work together on Kros?

JO: I really enjoy working with Tom and jump at any opportunity to do so. We were actually looking for something to do together and wanted to combine two areas in which we are fascinated – the Civil War and horror stories. As these things sometimes do, we were talking together, and Kros eventually emerged as the result.

TM: Working on Kros was definitely a natural extension of our other collaborations—which were always exciting and a lot of fun!  Kros started out as a Western, but the more John and I explored the character, we determined that we wanted to place this story during an event that had historical importance. The Battle of Gettysburg came up, and we realized that what happened there would work incredibly well for the story.

DC: Can we expect to see more of Major Kros?

JO: There are other stories we can tell – assuming he survives this one.

TM: While Kros’ future isn’t guaranteed, we do have about 170 years of his past to explore. I would love to be able to tell those stories!

DC: As Suicide Squad, which you created, is headed to the big screen, is there any chance of Kros being turned into a movie?

JO: Oh man, I’d love that. Nothing planned at the moment, but we can hope. We always hope.

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Check Out the Opening 2 Minutes of Another WolfCop

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It was just earlier today that we brought you guys The Dude Design’s the newest poster for writer-director Lowell Dean’s horror-comedy sequel Another WolfCop.

And now we have the movie’s opening 2 minutes!

The clip showcases the new flick’s villain trying to sell us on his “Chicken Milk Beer” before losing his cool and taking it out the commercial’s crew. We then cut to a ragtag group of criminals, dressed as homeless Santas trying to outrun the cops.

A fun two-minutes if you ask me!

You can check out Another WolfCop‘s opening scene below and then make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media!

The film is written and directed by Lowell Dean, produced by Bernie Hernando, Deborah Marks, and Hugh Patterson, and distributed worldwide by Cineplex.

Another WolfCop co-stars Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, and Serena Miller. The film also features special appearances from Canadian music icon Gowan and legendary filmmaker Kevin Smith. It was executive produced by Sean Buckley, J. Joly, Bill Marks, Brian Wideen, Michael Kennedy, and Michael Hirsch.

The film is slated for a wide Cineplex theatrical release on Friday, December 8, 2017, with the film seeing a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital home entertainment release through A71 and Black Fawn in 2018.

Synopsis:

A month has passed since the eclipse transformed hard-drinking Officer Lou Garou into the crime-fighting hellion WolfCop. Although the Shape Shifters controlling the town have been extinguished, Woodhaven is far from returning to normal. Lou’s liquor-fueled antics and full moon outbursts are seriously testing his relationship with Officer Tina Walsh – the new Chief of Police. An old friend has mysteriously reappeared with a truly bizarre secret to share, and a homicidal new villain has emerged from the shadows looking to finish what the Shape Shifters started. To defeat this lethal adversary, it will take more than a lone wolf packing a pistol.

Prepare for the next chapter of WolfCop that will be more dirty and hairy than the original! Consider yourself warned.

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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.86 (7 votes)
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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – First Trailer and Artwork!

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As a fan of flicks like Mad Monster Party, I was surprisingly pleased with the last two Hotel Transylvania affairs. For my money you can put the classic monsters in just about anything, and I’ll watch it happily, and these animated features feel like a natural progression of the 1967 Rankin and Bass classic. Which is why I’m looking forward to Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and if you are too, check out the film’s new trailer and poster.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who co-wrote the film with Michael McCullers, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation features the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, and Mel Brooks.

Look for it in theaters on July 13, 2018.

Synopsis:
In Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, join our favorite monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else’s vacation at the hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans.

But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.

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