Interview: ‘Swamp Dogs’ Comic Creators (with Exclusive Variant Covers)

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Black Caravan

As longtime fans of horror comics, the upcoming Swamp Dogs series has been on our radar. We recently had the opportunity to talk with co-writers Theo Prasidis and J.M. Brandt about the 5-issue miniseries Swamp Dogs: House of Crows, which will launch the Swamp Dogs universe. Coming to Scout Comics imprint Black Caravan on October 13, 2021.

Horror Geek Life: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Can you tell our readers what they can expect with Swamp Dogs, and what inspired the series?

Theo Prasidis: Swamp Dogs is our love letter to the horror genre, really. It’s inspired by everything from the classic 1930s monster movies, and the 1950s Hammer gems, to the grindhouse and exploitation cinema of the 1970s, and the Stephen King-esque suburban horror of the 1980s. Now if you can take all that, pour it in a shaker, add a few doses of occult History, Voodoo lore, and heavy metal music, and give it a few shakes, you’ll come out with a pretty good idea of what to expect from the book.

J.M. Brandt: We wanted to kick off all our Swamp Dogs stories in exactly the right way… so we basically wrote up a 5-issue horror movie. The Swamp Dogs are a really unique sort of monster/big bad, so we wanted to give them an introductory story. There are also a couple characters that aren’t raging undead sadists that will have an influence over where the world of the Swamp Dogs heads; so we popped them into this book as well. You can expect to laugh. You can expect to be titillated. You can expect to smile. You can expect to chuckle to yourself. You can expect to be grossed out a little. And you can expect to be surprised with where we went with some of this.

HGL: How did the two of you begin collaborating?

TP: We were both writing for Screen Rant and started noticing each other’s articles and tweets. Movies, games, music — our taste in art and pop culture in general was ridiculously similar. When Image Comics announced my first book, J.M. talked to me about this dream project of his that wouldn’t let him sleep at night, this cool horror comics universe, filled with undead Confederate soldiers, and nefarious voodoo rituals, and super sexy leads. I was immediately hooked. I loved how specific his vision was, as well as the worldbuilding potential of it, and before we knew it, we started putting together our creative team.

JMB: After hearing about Theo’s Image deal (the book he did with Maarten Donders is really cool and worth checking out, by the way)… and seeing him pull off an art show with Christophe Szpajdel (the legendary metal logo artist responsible for 75% of the killer band logos you can’t read)… it seemed like the guy was born with a horseshoe up his ass. So on top of him already being a writer, and us sharing an ungodly amount of tastes with one another, he had this aura of good luck and getting shit done that I absolutely don’t feel like I have. So I let him into my brain for this book. And when he saw the mean, mean toys I was already playing around with, he and I figured out how to improve them. And we both got onboard with making this our passion project!

HGL: As we’ve seen showcased on social media, you have a really talented team helping bring this project to life. Can you tell us more about those involved?

JMB: Yeah. Robert Sammelin is our primary cover artist. He’s based in Sweden. I’d been following his work for years (he’s designed some really major video games but on the horror front, he’s responsible for several iconic Mondo posters and several projects for Waxwork Records), and just knew he would be the perfect fit to bring our creations to life and get people to stop dead in their tracks at our spot on the bookshelves of stores. I love our variant covers, and they’ve brought so many different flavors and personalities to our book; but Robert really understands the core and heart of Swamp Dogs. We originally had another deal offered to us when our comic team had another artist on-board. When the artist dropped out and the deal kinda fell apart, Theo and I both came up with a list of 50+ artists. We debated; did a battle royale in our heads between artists based on their ability to do cool horror and gore and beautiful women. And when the dust cleared, the winner was Brazilian artist Kewber Baal (whose work we knew from Garth Ennis’ Jennifer Blood and from an Army of Darkness book). So he was the first name on a list of over 100 names, and he was gracious enough to accept the initiation into our band of misfits. Similarly, we were mystified by the gorgeous color-work of Irish (by way of Canada) artist Ruth Redmond. She’d done the Gerry Duggan run of Deadpool and a bunch of other fun books. And she has completely trampled our already near-impossible expectations. Letterer Steve Wands (the only other American on the team) was thanks to Theo’s aforementioned horseshoe. Steve is like a god-level letterer. He’s been in the business forever. He’s worked on virtually every big name you can think of. And yet here this titan of typography obliged us and our book just based on the strength of our idea. So we somehow managed to amass this weapons-grade arsenal of talent based on an elevator pitch and a nice how-do-you-do that spans 5 countries on 4 continents.

TP: They’re all people whose work we were already acquainted with, and deeply admired. They’re all masters of comic art, and masters of horror, and it’s a wonder to see them happily bring to life the sick stuff we put on paper. We’re so lucky to have them on board with us — I’m not even sure we deserve them!

HGL: Let’s talk about the Swamp Dogs, which are described as truly nasty villains, right down to their roots. What has it been like creating this bunch and exploring their sadistic ways?

JMB: Like taking a lukewarm bath because I am evil and psychotic in the worst ways imaginable. Haha. But seriously, it’s been really interesting. I’m a horror hound, tried and true, but I am also a really gentle guy who grew up a model boy scout. I’ve never really understood the mentalities that focus on the dehumanization of others, grabbing for power at all costs, and taking pleasure in others’ misery. But I’ve made it a point to dig in and not just show the trappings of ‘capital E’ Evil, but also to figure out the mechanics behind it and how that affects their other interpersonal relationships. We needed to show just how truly ruthless and despicable these 12 people were and are, while not flattening them into complete caricatures. The truth is that really rarely is anyone so single-minded that there isn’t a belief in something or an aspiration to something above just carnage and chaos. These aren’t chaotic neutral lunatics just looking for mayhem at all costs (not even the craziest of them). They all have motivations. And figuring out how to balance that with the most depraved acts we can think of has been a really fascinating project.

Twice now, Theo has asked me to tone down some of my parts of the story simply because it was too much for the average horror fan. And even still, our editor read the script for Issue 3 and responded by saying, “Whoa. This is hardcore.”  For me, it’s been really fun to draw on all the horror I’ve seen and read and all the sick, invasive thoughts I’ve ever had bubble up in my noggin, and attribute them to characters I’m writing.

TP: I particularly enjoyed digging into their past. I love researching History for my projects, and the Civil War is a striking period to look back to, in all its entropy, brutality, and sheer absurdity. On one hand, you think it’s nearly impossible that this amount of carnage and hate happened only 150 years ago, on the other witnessing Trump’s America you realise we might not be that far off. But the storytelling potential of wartime periods is fascinating to me. Especially when a war is established, and the belligerent situation becomes the new normalcy — the most peculiar tales and characters can pop up right there. Our Issue 3 is a big flashback issue, so people will have the chance to taste some of the Swamp Dogs’ horrible past, but the Civil War-era aspect of our story is something I really look forward to expanding even further in the near future.

HGL: Speaking of expanding on this universe, can you tell us a bit more about what the future holds?

TP: What we want to do is to set a vast, post-apocalyptic, horror mythology, so new god-like creatures, secret Satan-worshiping societies, and bigger, scarier monsters are some of the things readers might or might not encounter down the road.

JMB: There are two ongoing series that we’ve really talked about spinning out of House of Crows (the mini-series). One takes place in the near future, and sets the stage for how the world isn’t just conquered, but essentially ends. The second one goes further into that bleak future to become something bigger and more expansive than anyone can probably envision from House of Crows. It will be a much more action-packed take on horror thanks to its post-apocalyptic narrative. There are some really, really fun characters there that I can’t wait to introduce readers to. We’ve also begun discussing a third main series to come out of House of Crows that helps to bridge the gaps and establish some of its own mythology in the process.

But on top of that, if fans want it and our publishers see fit, we created a really deep backstory for each of the 12 Swamp Dogs. Any of their stories is worth at least a one-shot or mini-series. So we can go super far back in time, just as easily as we plan to jump ahead in time. And the post-apocalyptic book, tentatively subtitled War Pigs, will have a crazy amount of spin-off potential that I hope to get to explore. I don’t think either one of us will be sick of working in the world of the Swamp Dogs anytime soon. And I’m willing to wager that most comic fans and horror fans will feel the same way.

HGL: What has the working relationship been like with Scout Comics and their Black Caravan imprint?

TP: It’s been great so far. Both Rich and Joe, our Black Caravan publishers, and our editor Shawn French, are comic creators, so we share a mutual appreciation and understanding. They embraced the project enthusiastically from the beginning and I can’t thank them enough for it. They’re always there for us in every step of the way, making a wonderful, flowing working environment.

JMB: In our first meeting with Rich and Joe, they told us they almost tried signing us on the strength of Robert’s cover alone. But that when they looked through the pitch (which they told us was the coolest looking pitch they’d ever seen), they fell in love with the concept. They see this as one of the big building blocks of Black Caravan, and have brainstormed up some pretty killer ideas for it in terms of merchandising and all that. Scout and Black Caravan are both very much on the rise and are doing some really exciting stuff. And I’m glad to be a part of it.

HGL: Are there any other projects you’re involved with that you’d like to let readers know about?

TP: Besides our Swamp Dogs-related plans for world domination, I have a TKO book coming out this October as well, a horror/fantasy series that’s going to be announced with their fourth wave really soon, so keep a look out. And I’m also working on an animated feature film, along with the brilliant artist and filmmaker Adrian Dexter, whom people might know from his lavish illustrations for the heavy psych/prog band Elder. I can’t say much about it yet, but I’m extremely excited about it — it’s a truly magical epic.

JMB: The truth is that I’m more-or-less eating, breathing, and sleeping Swamp Dogs at the moment. But I am slowly gathering my thoughts and outlines for another short horror series that I think has the makings of something epic. And I’ve got the cooperation of some really talented people just waiting for me to take a break from the Swamp Dogs media machine to start working on it. I’m also talking to a few publishers about some other awesome ideas of mine. So nothing I can exactly point to… but I will make it a point of promising that this is only just the beginning of horror fans and comic fans hearing about my work.

We would like to thank J.M. and Theo for their time. Be sure to follow Swamp Dogs on Instagram for more updates, visit the official Black Caravan website, and check out these exclusive, limited covers!

Cover by Sajad Shah – coming to Comic Kingdom of Canada
Cover by Rudy Ao – coming to The Comic Book Dealer

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