Michael Moreci, Tim Daniel, and Colin Lorimer Discuss their new BOOM! series Burning Fields
Dana Atkinson, a dishonorably discharged army investigator, is pulled back to the Middle East when a group of American oil technicians disappear under bizarre circumstances. With the help of an Iraqi investigator, what Dana discovers is unimaginable: A series of unusual incidents at the drill site lead her and her unlikely ally to discover a mythic evil that has been released, one that threatens both the lives of the entire region and the fragile peace that exists.
The combination of a horror story set in the Middle East sounded fascinating to me. I wanted to find out more, and got a chance to pick the brains of the creative team. Find out more below about what you can expect, and why this is a series that should be on your radar, and you should be pre-ordering to make sure you don’t miss out!
Graphic Policy: For those that don’t know, how would you describe Burning Fields?
Tim Daniel: BOOM! editorial came up with the excellent shorthand of “war horror” and that’s a great place to start. Under that umbrella, we have a pair of detectives, Dana Atkinson and Aban Fasad, each with a history of being severely hamstrung in their respective careers. Their dogged pursuit of the truth and their ability to enact justice has been met with resistance. Now, paired together against their will, they must track down whoever or whatever is responsible for a series of ritualistic murders in the Kirkuk, Iraq oilfields. Standing in their way is Verge – a Private Military Company headed up by a highly dedicated security officer, Decker Marce.
GP: Where did the idea come from?
TD: This sandwich is all Mike’s doing…I just put the mayo on the bread.
Michael Moreci: I’ve had a bone to pick with private military companies (PMCs) for a long time—they epitomize the hideous idea of war for profit, which is an unforgivable political execution. That said, I wanted to do a story that dug into the heart of PMCs and show how terrifying the truly are. It took me awhile to develop, because I couldn’t have a story that functioned purely as soapbox pontificating. There has to be some entertainment value, without question. After Curse wrapped, Tim and I started talking about next projects, and I had this one burning my mind. I had the nucleus and the central character/location locked down, but that was it. That’s when Tim and I started working on it—really intensely digging in—and things really took off from that point on. He added so much that enriched my thinking and adding something totally new—yet fitting—to the story.
GP: Michael and Tim, you’ve both done the monster/horror genre before, what do you enjoy about that type of story that has you coming back to it?
TD: Is there any other kind worth telling? Aside from the flippancy– I just write what interests me and when we collaborate the same applies, only the ideas and concepts we share have to meet our mutual interests. If it happened to be sci-fi or crime or a western – all of which we’ve knocked around – then we’d tell that story. Thus far, we’ve just picked the one idea each time that seems to click and take shape almost on its own. We’ve got another concept developing which would fit the horror genre and potentially complete our unintentional trilogy.
MM: Yeah, for me, it has to be about something. The story, dare I say, has to speak to me in some way. Whether it’s exposing PMCs, exploring the relationship between a father and his dying son (Curse), or ruminating about the course of humanity (Roche Limit), I need some gravitation force that keeps me grounded and interested. But, at the same time, this thematic core has be balanced with something, and that something is its entertainment value. You can have the best theme in the world, but if it goes down with your audience like a shot of cough medicine, you’re in trouble. Luckily, Tim and I share a commonality of growing up with the same tastes in genre, movies, books, etc. Because of that, it’s easy for us to really hone in on the genre we’re working in and add that layer of deconstruction to our projects.
GP: The cast is very diverse, and all of your two books have had that in the past. What does the diverse group of characters bring to this story? Is that something you consciously do?
TD: The composition of our casts is unconscious. The story arrives and the characters present themselves within the context of that framework. Because we’re not trying to shoehorn anything into our tale it makes for a very organic form of storytelling. We’re not crippling the story by trying to tick boxes in deference to current trends. We’ve got a smart readership I think, and they’d recognize pandering – what we try to deliver and what they deserve is authenticity and multi-dimensional characters that reflect our world not just a narrow band of experience.
GP: The story takes place in the Middle East. Why did you set the story there, as opposed to the oil fields of Alaska as an example?
TD: Mike is responsible for the setting. His original note to me was “Middle East.” I liked that, found it alien and challenging. His next series of notes designated the specific location of Kirkuk, Iraq. We dug in and did some research…and despite the almost “throw-a-dart” nature of his choice, we discovered that the city has been fraught with endless conflict primarily spurred by competing factions and their interest in the oil of the surrounding region. The choice of Kirkuk proved to be very serendipitous.
GP: Horror stories are often allegories or reflections of our own insecurities of our times. Clearly the Middle East has some real world horrors going on currently. How are the real world events impacting your telling of the story?
TD: We’re not culling headlines by any means but we certainly seem to be focusing upon topical events or items of interest which serve as a springboard for our stories. With Burning Fields set in Iraq there is a wealth of material to drawn from. Anytime you have as many competing interests as you do there, especially Kirkuk, someone is going to pay the price. Corporations routinely forsake human beings for profit. That does not just apply to the oil companies or private military outfits depicted in Burning Fields, that also applies to the health care system touched on in Curse. With little other recourse, the disenfranchised end up taking radical measures to ensure their survival. That’s a smashing of the lamp and letting the genie run amok scenario. That’s scary as shit, when our actions contribute to the creation of something far more powerful and destructive than avarice or immorality. You could liken it to climate change – it’s our collective creation and it’s wholly indifferent to our politics or profit motives…
MM: Like Tim touches on, I’m always fascinated with the monsters that we, as people, create, more than most horror. Because, ultimately, those monsters are reflections—and extensions—of us, and thus give rife opportunity to explore, as they say, the mores of our time. And Burning Fields is definitely rife with this—monsters that are created and threaten to consume us. In a larger sense, that’s a big story of Iraq, in that we created a monster there (and other Middle Eastern countries), it’s not unrealistic to think we won’t suffer consequences for that someday.
GP: You’ve all worked together on Curse, which was also published by BOOM!. Is there anything that you learned after coming off of that book as a team that you’re using here?
TD: Our collaborative process was established on Curse and now it’s all about refinement. Yet, Burning Fields is more complex — there are a lot more moving parts which required more research. The series is also twice as long as Curse so the structure of the eight issues required a lot of advance planning. You’d think we’d have it all down pat but every story should be it’s own, with it’s own set of rules and conditions. That’s welcomed since I really feel it keeps everything about the creative process and resulting story very fresh.
GP: Colin, As far as the art, how much real world reference did you?
Colin Lorimer: I do a lot of research with every project I ‘m involved with and this one was no different. Tim also supplies some photo-ref for certain scenes and characters to help get the ball rolling. I do try to get a good sense of place with the visuals to keep it grounded in reality but have to take a certain amount of artistic liberty with some of the scenes as I may not have the appropriate reference available to me. The choice of palette by the excellent, Joana Lafuente plays a big part in helping to convey the setting, imbuing the scenes with the appropriate mood and atmosphere.
GP: There’s pretty graphic imagery coming out of that area with certain terrorist attacks and statements. Was there visuals you all wanted to stay away from due to that?
TD: Indeed. I’ve seen enough carnage already. We did not shy away from anything in particular. One thing we can’t do is appropriate imagery or certain regional factions in an exploitive manner. Everything we do has to be responsible and by that I mean respectful. We’ve infused the story with quite a bit of our own imagery and symbolism which is both liberating and creatively fulfilling – we as much basing this in reality and regional mythology as we are augmenting and bringing our own visual elements to the story.
CL: Yeah, that was a concern for me. The last thing you ever want to do is be is in any way exploitative in nature. I think concentrating on the working, every day people of Iraq and attempting to put a more human face to the country is the proper approach; in effect another perspective on a country that gets some very poor, and at times, very biased and less than accurate media coverage.
GP: What else can we expect from all of you?
TD: Hopefully more new, more fresh, more original stories spanning different genres geared towards readers that are willing to be as adventurous in their reading choices as we strive to be in our storytelling.
MM: I just want to do stories that I’m passionate about and give me opportunity to say something, hopefully, worthwhile. My work, in some ways, is difficult and challenging—but I think the rewards in books like Curse and Roche Limit have proven to be worth the journey. If I can continue to do that, I’ll be a happy man.
As for concrete plans, I have Roche Limit ending in February, then starting volume two of the trilogy in May. Hoax Hunters, now with Heavy Metal, is back in March, and my Black Mask book, Transference, drops in June. Busy first half of 2015!
CL: Embarrassing photos surfacing on the internet and a short stint in rehab. I’ll also be part of the team bringing back Frank Black with the IDW series Millennium in January and will be writing another series that should be hitting sometime in 2016.