Originally published at Fangoria.com on Feb. 28, 2012
In Image Comics’ ALPHA GIRL (#1 out now), a street smart punk finds herself lost in a zombie apocalypse. The year is 1984 and Judith Meyers has just watched a third-rate cosmetics company doom the entire world. The streets are littered with masses of flesh-hungry zombie women and violent men hunting after them. FANGORIA spoke with authors Jean-Paul Bonjour and Jeff Roenning about their experience working in the comic book industry, how artist Robert Love came onboard with the project, and what readers should expect from the mini-series.
FANGORIA: Tell me how the premise came about.
JEFF ROENNING: I did a horror film five or six years ago. When I was done, I wanted to do some zombie stuff. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it on film. I cranked out a draft of a story about 130 pages. I gave it to Jean-Paul, and he and I started reworking it. That’s how we got to where we are. The initial incept comes from a story out of China in 1990. I don’t remember what they were producing. The men in the factory started growing breasts!
JEAN-PAUL BONJOUR: Jeff came to me with ALPHA GIRL and we started reworking the idea. We were thinking where it would best have a home. From a different sphere of influence, I know one particular person at Image, who’s been a longtime friend of mine. She’s always been into comics. She brought me to a comic book convention in early 2010. I’ve never been in that kind of world. From that point, I kinda had an idea that this was a great place to go. With San Diego Comic Con, the popularity of comics, a story like this in the comic book genre would be a hit. I don’t know who made the suggestion; hers or mine? All of a sudden, we were landing a home with Image.
The process was a fun one too; attaching an artist, seeing that work get pre-visualized in concept art, taking the script and pitching it to Image. We put a press kit together, seeing if Image was interested in it. That’s where we got publisher Eric Stephenson involved.
FANG: Tell me about your experience with ALPHA GIRL being your first comic book.
ROENNING: It’s a lot different than I expected. I figured, we have a story hammered out, it’s super-tight. We’ll drop that off with the artist. We’ll get some stuff back! We’re good to go! It’s a lot more work! In a lot of ways, it’s been great and also interesting learning how to tell a story differently. That’s been really cool. We work with great people at Image and artist Robert Love.
BONJOUR: All of the staff members at Image have facilitated things for us, walking through the process. From my standpoint, it’s been easier. I’m surprised at how rapidly Robert Love is able to turn out pages and how open-minded he is to changes. Being a first-time creator is a high learning curve—the terminology and procedure—but it’s been a really fun process. Now, we are thirteen months into the project and going to press. That’s not bad! In the film and computer software industry, it takes four to five years for getting a release.
FANG: Tell me about setting the narrative in 1984.
ROENNING: There are a couple of reasons. We were kids in the 80s. That’s a golden era for us. I love that time period a lot. We wanted to take down the technology level a little bit. There are no cell phones, no pagers, and no internet. Back in the 80s, the information thing was TV news or print. I like that, the isolation and the lack of information. We were both sold on that.
BONJOUR: For me, when Ice-T came out with POWER in the 80s, it had Jello Biafra, of the Dead Kennedys, talking over this megaphone about the end of the world. I’m reading sections of ALPHA GIRL—where the dissemblance of government still kind of exists in this fractured world with all this chaos—and I’m hearing Biafra’s voice in my head. “Stay in your home. Do not come out.” That’s how I felt the 80’s vibe.
FANG: Tell me about Judith Meyers, who is a street punk and a survivor.
BONJOUR: You’re dealing with a young girl that was dealt a bad hand. Though she has trauma introduced early in her life, she’s not a girl who’s a victim. That’s a really important piece of this story. She’s not a victim. She has a higher purpose than just being a victim in a zombie world. That’s what you always see in these zombie things. You’ve got a group, they’re a bunch of victims, the world ends. Oh crap! What’s going to happen to them? Judith is not that kind of person. Judith is like, “I have a mission. I need to do something. All of you are just in my way.” She’s a charismatic woman. I have a five year old daughter and I want her to grow up to be a charismatic, strong-willed woman. That’s what I take away.
ROENNING: When we started the original story, Judith wasn’t really Judith. She was just a girl. Let’s make her a little bit more raw. We kept evolving the character as we were doing drafts. When we finally found her, that’s her; that’s the chick who can handle this stuff well.
FANG: This is a different take on zombies. Tell me about the look of the zombies.
ROENNING: Artist Robert Love did pretty good characterizations, where he did different takes on it. We went from there. We wanted something different than the rotting, fleshy kind of thing. These women are infected, not necessarily dead.
BONJOUR: We didn’t want to write a story where zombies were dumb and stupid. We wanted fast, hard-hitting, scary, and gory women. That’s the direction Robert went.
FANG: There is a satirical edge to the first issue. There are masses of flesh-hungry zombie women hunting men. Tell me more about the social commentary
BONJOUR: There’s so much in here. You have the battle of the sexes. It was all started by a cosmetic company. The cosmetic industry is run by a company who objectifies women. Men are running from their wives, getting away from the women. You have two opposing sides. You have a protagonist, who straddles right in the middle. She’s being chased by zombies and chased by men, because she’s the last sane women. There’s a lot going on.
ROENNING: We took the basic dynamics; cosmetic company exploits women’s insecurities to make money. We flipped it around. They accidentally made women who don’t care about anything, and just want to kill men. They totally murdered the paradigm. Always for storytelling, when you can do something like that, it’s fun and gives you millions of avenues.
FANG: How did you collaborate on the script while keeping to your visions?
ROENNING: For most of it, we have a draft of the script. We sit down, read it, and make notes. We make post-its, rearrange the story arc, we discuss how the characters and scenes were drawn out, if it affected the story. We do another draft and we come back with notes. We did that for awhile.
BONJOUR: When we’re together collaborating on this, we really want to see a full picture of the entire story arc. The story is constantly driving, going in a particular direction, that we’re not rattling anything. Visually, we put the sticky notes up on a board. We can see how the story really goes and start playing with different sections, and start moving things around.
ROENNING: When we started, we wanted to have a lot of issues mapped out. We wanted to have a script, and cover a whole bunch of stuff. We wanted our story arcs really tight and really working out. The issues work really well in the sequence of the story. That was really important to us.
FANG: Tell me about artist Robert Love.
BONJOUR: We signed a deal with Image the Christmas of last year. For a few months, we were looking for an artist who could work closely with us, convey the story we were trying to tell, and bring his own style. Robert is an easy-going, fun-loving guy. We met him in San Francisco at WonderCon. He came highly recommended from Publisher Eric Stephenson and Accounts Manager Branwyn Bigglestone from Image. We had a meeting, looked at his art. All the artists are good. It’s really a matter of the personality you’re looking for and does it gel with your group.
ROENNING: We looked at several other artists. Robert was the one who could do the job for us. He’s the most flexible, easy-going guy ever. He’s not very protective of his art and great about taking criticisms, which is uncommon. Really good guy!
FANG: What can readers expect from ALPHA GIRL after issue #1?
BONJOUR: It only gets better!
ROENNING: Issue #1 is the setup. Issue #2 is where the plotline comes together. It puts Judith on a quest. That drives a lot of the narrative of the story. You can expect to see a nice story arc over five issues.
FANG: What are you working on now?
BONJOUR: We’re both developers at Apple. We are filmmakers. This is our first entry to the comic book world. We’re goal-orientated in computer science. Jeff is a fan of comics. Day to day, we’re hammering out issue three and four for the publishers.
ROENNING: Doing the book is a full-time gig right now. For sure, there is a film project way down the future.
BONJOUR: We’re strongly leaning towards an app for the iPhone and iPad, a first-person shooter based on the comic.
FANG: Where can readers find out more about ALPHA GIRL?
ALPHA GIRL #1 is on shelves now, with #2 hitting March 21.