Interview: Max Brooks Discusses Extinction Parade, Harlem Fighters and more!

ExtinctionParade-vol-1-tpb (2)Max Brooks is a busy man. Not only is he penning Avatar PressExtinction Parade and its next volume Extinction Parade: War, but it was announced that the comic series has been optioned by Legendary Television and Digital. On top of his comic book duties, the writer has his recently released graphic novel Harlem Hellfighters making its way through the movie process.

We got a chance to chat with Brooks about Extinction Parade, Harlem Hellfighters, and a certain zombie film based off a best selling book of his.

Graphic Policy: First, congrats on the deal with Legendary. But before we get to that, for those that don’t know, what is Extinction Parade?  

Max Brooks: I’ve written a lot about zombie survival, about what individuals and nations would need to endure. This is also a zombie survival story, but a story about the necessary psychological, mental, and emotional tools. The series is anchored to the philosophy that if a species is fixed at the top of the food chain, its soft, easy existence will rob it of any survival skills. That species is vampires. They are supposed super beings, they have all these amazing physical gifts. But those gifts are actually curses because it has not prepared them to be problem solvers (unlike the ‘weaker’ humans). So when the zombies rise and start eating the vampire’s one food source, they find themselves completely unprepared for a crisis that could wipe them out.

ExtinctionParadeWar1-regGP: Where did the idea come from and why did you decide to do this as a comic as opposed to prose?

MB: I’d already written a short story version and William Christensen of Avatar Press offered me the chance to adapt it. I’d never done a sequential comic series before (G.I. Joe was more a character study), so I looked forward to the challenge.

GP: When did you first get the idea you wanted to turn this into a television series and what was your interest in doing so?

MB: I was about a third of the way into the comic series when I realized that each issue would make a great television show. Everything else I’d seen with vampires never dealt with the notion of privilege (or rather the pitfalls of privilege).  I thought, in the right hands, this could be a meaningful message.

GP: You have had a novel get turned into a movie, a graphic novel turning into a movie, and now this as a television series. How has your involvement been different with each?

MB: I literally had nothing to do with the World War Z movie whereas this process begins with me. We’re still in the earliest phases so I’m not sure how involved I’ll get to be with Extinction Parade. We’ll just have to wait and see how it shakes down.

ExtinctionParadeWar1-EndofSpeciesGP: Are there things you’ve learned as you’ve adapted your works from one medium to another?

MB: I’m always learning. I hope I never stop. There’s nothing healthier than feeling like the dumbest guy in the room. It keeps me sharp and alert and humble. Specifically transitioning from prose to comics has taught me how much effort goes into describing the work and how much research is needed to make a visual work accurate. There’s a lot of extra homework that goes into making a comic book, and, in a way, it makes me grateful for all the extra hours a dyslexic kid like me had to spend trying to get through school.

GP: You’re writing the first episode of the television series, what will your role be after that? The release said you’d be “closely tied” to the development.

MB: At this point, I am contractually obligated to write the pilot (if we ever get to that phase). Who knows what will happen after that. We’re talking about Television so I try to manage my expectations.

GP: What did Legendary bring to the table that had you set on working with them?

MB: There’s nobody else I’d rather work with than Legendary. They are smart, brave, and successful. I love their work. I love that their products have to makes sense as well as be fun to watch. I like that there is a level of depth rarely found in their competition. I’d match their Dark Knight series up against any and all other super hero movies. I’m also in awe of 42. Who doesn’t want to work with the folks that gave us 42?

GP: Extinction Parade in its simplest form is zombies vs vampires, how have you worked to make sure the series has stood out with something new and exciting?

MB: I don’t know if it’s new and exciting. I’ll let the readers make that judgment. For me, the whole point of this series is to expose the weakness of given strengths.  So far, I haven’t seen a vampire or zombie story that focus specifically on that philosophy. As a parent, trying to teach my son to survive out in the world, the notion of paying your dues drives so much of what I do.  Hopefully that will come across in the series.

GP: The series does focus on cultures in decline and the perils of privilege, is that a commentary on today’s society? A bit of a warning in the form of an allegory?

MB: Definitely a warning! Growing up, I saw kids who had to struggle and kids who had everything handed to them (which included physical gifts like strength and beauty). The kids had to struggle are now successful, resilient, and infinitely better off than the kids who never had to overcome great challenges. What scares me now is that emotional coddling has become our national culture. We’re living in a country where both little league teams get trophies, where college students get their parents to call their professors about grade and where 20 something’s are actually going to job interviews with their parents!  I keep hearing this term “epic fail” and I can’t understand why that’s a bad thing. Without epic fails you’ll never have epic lessons or learn epic survival skills!  In a country where the Kardashians are the gold standard for young people, is it so hard to make the jump to vampires?

GP: What else can expect from you over the year?

MB: I’ve still got to wrap up the Extinction Parade comic series and write the screenplay of Harlem Hellfighters.  When EP goes forward as a TV show, it’ll be a very busy year.