There's an eerie buzz in the air over IDW's upcoming The Fly: Outbreak miniseries, resurrecting the saga of the cursed Brundle family that began with director David Cronenberg's The Fly from the '80s.
This infectious new swarm of comics, spawned by the heavyweight creative team of Brandon Seifert (Hellraiser, Seekers of the Weird) and Menton3 (Silent Hill, Monocyte), is one of the most anticipated titles of the year. Seifert's elegantly twisted Witch Doctor series with artist Lukas Ketner reignited the biological horror realm, carved from the deep Lovecraftian recesses of their minds. The Fly: Outbreak picks up after the 1989 sequel to Cronenberg's The Fly, with Seth Brundle's son, Martin, taking the perilous business of cross-species genetic research into frightening new places.
So swat away any distractions and check out our chat with writer Brandon Seifert at January's Wizard World Portland Comic-Con and hear his plans for the Brundle clan. Then explore our peek at an exclusive gallery of covers below. The Fly: Outbreak #1 spreads to comic shops March 4, 2015.
How did this five-issue miniseries for The Fly: Outbreak land in your lap?
I did a couple issues of Doctor Who for IDW a few years ago, and ever since then I've been talking to editors there about doing more work. One of the editors, Denton Tipton, immediately thought of me when they got the license for The Fly early last year because of the biological horror thing I was doing with Witch Doctor. And it turns out he wasn't the only person on the editorial staff that thought the same thing. He reached out to me and asked if I was interested, and I came up with a couple pitches before I came up with The Fly: Outbreak.
How did you settle on that visceral title?
I came up with Outbreak because of the transgenic elements. The core of the story is an epidemic, so it just kind of made sense. And there is also a lighter side that contrasts with the more horror-themed elements. Cronenberg's The Fly was a horror movie first and a love story/romance second, and that's what I'm shooting for in my comic series. That kind of balance.
The brilliant Menton3 is doing the art for The Fly: Outbreak. How were you paired up with his disturbing genius?
Denton brought Menton along, and I think he's a great fit for the project. Part of why Cronenberg's film was so popular was because of the extreme graphic details, and Menton's art has those stylized, photorealistic qualities and a dark feel to it. Menton and I actually met on a convention panel a few years ago, and he was a big fan of Witch Doctor.
30 Days of Night cover, art by Menton3
Had you seen Cronenberg's The Fly before this project?
I actually had not seen the Cronenberg movie. I don't do gore very well. I can look at real-world bodily deformities and medical operations, but I'd never actually watched the film until my editor asked me if it was interested. It was hard to watch, and it was a bit traumatizing for me. Especially when the Brundlefly did his full transformation and bits of him were falling off. I was not prepared for it! It startled me and revolted me in a way I'd never seen in a movie before. I think it's a fantastic film and can see why it's a classic. After that viewing I knew I really wanted to do the project. It's such a classic movie, and so heavily stylized, and the balance is so precise between the horror element and star-crossed love element and how the tone changes radically. For me the first half of the film is a superhero origin story, then it goes horribly wrong and new layers appear of how it's affecting them.
How does your story intersect with the movies?
The main characters will be the same characters as in the 1989 sequel. It picks up a few years after The Fly II. Seth Brundle's son, Martin, is married now and his wife, Beth, has her own career. Martin is a successful award-winning geneticist. Martin's pet project is trying to correct the worst thing he's ever done, passing his curse on to someone else. He passed it to a bad person in The Fly II, but Martin has a strong moral compass. In his spare time he's been trying to cure the transgenic fly infection without simply passing it to another host. It goes horribly wrong and ends up with Martin and his colleagues being infected by the genetic disease. I'm trying to use the Cronenberg original as the touchstone for the comics. I find the 1980s Fly very interesting.
Have you ever seen the classic 1958 version of The Fly with Vincent Price?
I haven't seen it. But I did research it, and it's so totally different that I intentionally didn't watch it.
GMO (genetically modified organisms) are a hot topic these days, especially here in Oregon, where we live. How did paranoia over that component help inspire your story?
The whole GMO controversy is one of the things that most attracted me on doing a modern take on Cronenberg's work. When the movie came out in the '80s it was huge. It's a story about a human being with insect genes, and in the '80s it still made sense for that to be caused by a teleportation accident! I find it quaint that teleportation and GMO were still very science-fictional concepts back then. And GMO is so scary and people are so terrified of it that it's kind of ripe for horror storytelling. But I am someone who is very pro-science and pro-technology, and if I'm gonna write a cautionary tale I want it clear that it's about a misuse of technology, not the technology itself. Ultimately it's up to us how we choose to use technology.
How does Menton3's delightfully demented, painted artwork lend itself best to the comic?
Menton is such a good fit! Anything I write he's gonna make it more brooding and foreboding and dark, and so in the sad scenes he's gonna be amplifying those emotions and that also gave me an opportunity to do lighter material. The contrast is very interesting to me. It gives it levels of depth.
Silent Hill: Past Life, art by Menton3
How are you handling the potent aspects of sexuality injected into the films?
Cronenberg has gone on the record stating that his film was not an AIDS allegory, but I think it very much has an AIDS pandemic sexuality. Another of the things that attracted me to doing a modern followup is taking the sexuality of the original and updating it to a world of sexting and homemade porn and a world where you can buy vibrators at Target or Fred Meyers. The sexual climate in the world of 2015 is so different than the world of 1986. Most of us don't see sex as a life-threatening affair. We're in a world now where we're more afraid of catching something lethal on the bus than we are in the bedroom.
The world's view on infectious diseases has shifted through the decades. How did you address those glaring issues?
The infectious disease aspect is extremely important to me. There were three things that attracted me to playing in Cronenberg's sandbox: The genetic modification controversy, changes in sexual culture, and the different focus on infectious diseases that we have now. The one big infectious epidemic in the '80s was HIV, but in the last 10 years we've has SARS , bird flu, swine flu, MERS, plus mad cow, antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- it's a huge explosion of these things. The focus is not on STDs now, it's more centered on pandemic disease, infections spread globally and diseases you can catch publicly instead of privately.
Are you pleased with the story arc you've crafted for The Fly: Outbreak?
The more I care about a project, the less satisfied I end up with it. This is a series where I have such large shoes to fill and I have all these topical modern elements that I want to plug into the source material, while still being true to what made the original such a classic to the best of my ability. This is the project I have tortured myself the most for, but in the end I feel it will be stronger because of it. It was an interesting challenge and probably the thing I've done that I have a greatest affinity for, after Witch Doctor.