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10 Questions with Monty Nero about his Death Sentence

Death Sentence CoverThis week sees the release of Death Sentence #1, the latest release from Titan Comics written by Monty Nero with art by Mike Dowling.. The series follows a few individuals who contract the G+ virus, a sexually transmitted disease that gives you super powers, but also kills you in 6 months.

The first issue blew me away with a great narrative and interesting concept and is an absolute “must buy” this week when it hits shelves. You can read our review here.

And now, “10 Questions” with Monty Nero

Graphic Policy: How did you get involved in the comic book industry?

Monty Nero: It started with street level stuff: The Beano, Buster. Then I moved on to hardcore addictions like 2000AD, Marvel and Vertigo. Pretty soon I was mainlining my own stuff. I’m a cautionary tale, man. Just say no!

GP: Do you read comics growing up? Do you read them now?

MN: Of course. Asterix the Gaul was a favourite growing up. I didn’t read much while making Death Sentence ‘cause I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone, so I’ve been gorging on comics since I finished. Matt Fraction and I.N.J. Culbard have stood out for me.

GP: Where did the idea of Death Sentence come from?

MN: From real life. I had a number of things on my mind at the time like parenthood, sex, creativity and the point of my life. They all fused together into this virus passed through sex which kills you in six months but makes you fantastically empowered. It’s a premise that let’s Mike and I tell dynamic stories with an interesting subtext.

GP: The first issue follows three different individuals, all from a different walk of life, why did you choose that route instead of focusing on one main character?

MN: It lets you tell the story of the virus in a more interesting and resonant way. Verity’s a wannabe artist frustrated by her life, someone we can all relate to. She’s the beating heart of the story. Weasel brings chaos and comedy, the decadent excesses of a rock n roll lifestyle. And Monty is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with celebrity culture. We use their contrary perspective to create some interesting and action-packed juxtapositions. That’s the magic of comics, mixing panels, captions and images together in exciting ways.

GP: Having read the first issue, the reactions of each person is very realistic. One becomes reckless, another goes off on their boss. Why was it important to show that as far as character development? Those seem like small details that add a lot to character, but other writers might skip over.

MN: Yeah, that was the whole rationale. I wanted to create something that dealt with an extraordinary situation in a very credible and realistic way, that’s everyone could relate to. It’s thrilling and entertaining, but it also says something about our lives in a way that most comics don’t.

GP: The G+ virus is contracted through unprotected sex. There are two things that stuck out to me because of this; this has to do with choice but also a dangerous game of Russian roulette being played with one’s health. What drew you to that aspect?

MN: It’s essential to making the story dramatic. Catching a fatal virus isn’t dramatic, it’s just sad. As soon as you introduce an element of choice, of your own actions determining your fate, it becomes a dramatic and intriguing situation. Especially as you become empowered to do incredible things and fulfil all your dreams.

GP: There’s also the real life issue of bugchasing, individuals who purposely seek out sexual partners with HIV and the flip side of those who are positive who purposely infect others. Did you look into this at all when working on the series?

MN: Yeah, it’s deeply satirical. The point there is that some people in this crazy fucked up world of ours are so desperate to be famous, or talented, that they would deliberately catch a fatal virus to get their moment in the spotlight. You can have an enormous amount of fun with that.

GP: The solicits have mentioned this is a six issue series. Do you have more than that planned? Is this just the first volume of hopefully many?

MN: Yeah, I’d love to do more. It’s a premise you could apply to any type of story and make it fresh. There are scores of Death Sentence stories to tell, though it’s entirely up to readers of course. If people order Death Sentence 1 from their LCS today we’ll be able to make more I’m sure. We’ve already finished the first six, so there’s plenty of time.

GP: What types of hurdles have you met creating comics, and any lessons learned you can share?

MN: What advice do you have for someone breaking into the entertainment industry?

Don’t do it for money, do it for love. The obvious hurdle is that no-one in the industry wants to give you work until you’ve had something published. So it’s better to create and publish personal work, listen and learn from feedback, and stay humble.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

MN: A shower and a shave! Then I’ll try and get a few more creator owned projects off the ground. So if there are any cool artists out there, be sure to get in touch.