Genetic Profile: Terrence Zdunich

“And it’s my job, to steal, and rob…”

Terrence Zdunich (Zuh-doon-itch) is a name that you’ll hear me praising time and again. He’s an accomplished actor, singer, writer and illustrator. Born and raised in California, Zdunich has always known that he’s a bit creepy. He began drawing at an early age, and never stopped.

Influenced by graphic novels and a burning need to create, Zdunich started his career as an actor, but his desire or more brought him (along with co-creator Darren Smith) to write a play/musical hybrid stage show. In fact, you might have heard of it.

Credits

  • Co-creator of REPO! The Genetic Opera stage production. Also acted as Graverobber for the entire run.
  • Starred in a REPO! short film, that sadly won’t be seen due to legalities.
  • Creator/writer/illustrator of The Molting comic book series.
  • Reprised role as Graverobber in the full-length feature REPO! The Genetic Opera.
  • Co-creator/writer/star of The Devil’s Carnival.

The Molting is currently (March, 2012) sitting at 6 issues, approximately half-way through the concept and storyline that Zdunich has envisioned. The series focuses on Trevor and Joseph, brothers growing up in Anaheim, California, and chronicles their journey of survival while living with an apathetic father and psychologically disturbed mother. I got my hands on the first 6 issues at ComiCON in March, and I tore through them in a day.

Chapter 1, Guilty Susie – The series starts off in the 1960s, Susie is but a girl at this point, forced to live with the terrible tricks that life sometimes plays, as well as her aunt and uncle. I loathed the adults, Zdunich created very simple, yet powerfully despicable characters in the short span of this chapter. Susie isn’t completely stripped of innocence, as she has her big brother to protect her…mostly. The artwork has a deliberately orange/brown/purple hue, the tones warm but conveying the “ugly” feeling of the overall story. The climax is both chilling and shocking, and just what the hell is in the attic?

Chapter 2, The Happiest Place On Earth – The story fast-forwards itself to the 1990s and introduces us to Susie’s dysfunctional family: her apathetic husband Abe, and her two teenage sons Trevor and the new main protagonist, Joseph. Each character is given enough introductory depth to become attached to, and Trevor is one good deed away from being a hero.

Chapter 3, Ootheca – The female characters are the focus of this story, as we get a glimpse at just how disturbed Susie has become. Think OCD with a side of bi-polar. We’re also very graphically introduced to Sandra, Trevor’s chola girlfriend. This story builds tension in the family, as Trevor begins a hero, and ends the story a felon. The characters have now become familiar and the reader has had time to choose which member of the Pryzkind family they’re rooting for.

Chapter 4, Lethal Raids – The artwork takes centre stage in this chapter, the illustrations are vivid and far-reaching, necessary illustrations that forward the smaller plot of the story. Joseph must deal with bullying and a struggle that many artists go through. The reader is also exposed to a much larger degree of Susie’s psychosis, which I believe will divide readers between loving and hating her.

Chapter 5, Mother’s Day – The story takes place at Hallowe’en, and while Susie again brings the crazy, I have to believe that the title is a nod to Darren Lynn Bousman. This story focuses on Susie’s continued inability to provide a proper home for her family, as well as revealing more of Sandra’s personality and true intentions. While there isn’t as much violence as previous chapters, the overwhelming sense of despair and loss at the climax is undeniable, and squirm-inducing.

Chapter 6, Allied Forces – Trevor and Joseph band together to commit a crime, and while it’s atypical of brotherly role models to encourage theft, Joseph and Trevor bond together under the unusual circumstances. Zdunich doesn’t allow that to last, as the seeds of separation are planted, and alliances are truly chosen. This is the story that truly champions Joseph as the outcast of the Pryzkind clan.

The Molting series is much more than a comic, it truly is a graphic novel. The horror is unique and not always visual (a definite feather in the storytelling cap of Mr. Zdunich). The artwork is gritty yet refined, the colour palette evokes equal parts sympathy and misery, and most importantly the story feels real. I know I’m halfway through the series, and issue 7 can’t find my mailbox fast enough.

I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Terrence while he was in Toronto this past March, and he very graciously answered my questions about The Molting, as well as The Devil’s Carnival, his influences and other topics.

I personally would like to thank Terrence Zdunich yet again for that opportunity, as well as for putting up with my prior fanboying. For more information on Terrence, please visit his website. To pick up your copies of The Molting, visit the store. To gain admittance into Hell, visit The Devil’s Carnival.

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Genetic Profile – Darren Lynn Bousman

This past weekend at Toronto ComiCON horror fans were treated to an absolutely amazing array of guests and frankly, some of my personal influences. For example: the first thing I did when I met Darren Lynn Bousman was trip over my tongue while fanboying.

Bousman is either most known for his work on the SAW series – he wrote and directed SAW II, and helmed SAW III and IV – or as the co-creator and director of REPO! The Genetic Opera. He began his career in writing, as he himself told me (see below) that he’s always written screenplays, and actually began his career directing theatre.

Born and raised in Overland Park, Kansas, Bousman attended Kansas University as a theatre major for about a year and a half. He moved on to a film school in Florida where the script-writing bug bit him. A short time later he moved to Los Angeles, continuing to write scripts while directing music videos to support himself. It was during this time that he wrote a script called “The Desperate”, which would become something completely different after being introduced to producers Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg and Oren Koules. Those men produced a little movie called SAW, and hired Bousman to direct SAW II, and used his “The Desperate” as the basis for that film.

Filmography

  • SAW II is widely regarded as the most different of the SAW series, as it takes the concept from the first and multiplies it. A house full of strangers being poisoned, all while their captor is held in custody by the police, they must fight time and each other to find the antidotes. Many critics felt that this film didn’t “flow” with the first, however I found it to be one of the best in the series.
  • SAW III sees Jigsaw die, a fact that Bousman initially tried to implement in II, but was able to convince producers that the timing was right.
  • SAW IV has a timeline that runs parallel to III, so the viewer is treated to Jigsaw being both dead and alive through the use of cut scenes. IV doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors, but given that Bousman himself believed the series done after III, IV does a good job of advancing the plot into the focus of new characters.
  • REPO! The Genetic Opera focuses on two dysfunctional families, one who control the futuristic plastic surgery industry through a unique financing system, and the other family torn apart due to disease and deception. Bousman himself regards this film as his masterpiece (as of this writing, at least) and while I am a die-hard SAW fan, I must say that to date, REPO! is by far my favourite Darren Lynn Bousman film.
  • New Year’s Day was an episode of the Fear Itself TV series. Unfortunately I’ve not seen the episode, but knowing that Bousman collaborated with Steve Niles has me very interested.
  • Mother’s Day is a remake of the 1980 Troma classic…that you will very likely never see. Listen to the audio below for the reason. I’ve obviously not seen it, however the remake was given the blessing of both Charles and Lloyd Kaufman, so it’s gotta be damn good.
  • 11-11-11 Follows an author trying to escape the pain of the death of his wife and child. He learns that 11/11/11 is a day of bad omen for him.
  • The Devil’s Carnival will be out in April/May depending on where you live. I had the opportunity to see a trailer for this, and I can’t fucking wait. All I can say is that it’s another goth-opera, but we’re all going to hell.

One little tidbit that I’d like to spoil for anyone other than those superfans out there: REPO! was a stage play long before it became a film. In fact, it was also a short film directed by Bousman (and starring a very different cast outside of co-creator Terrence Zdunich). Sadly, we won’t see it as there’s legal flotsam to run around, and when you hear the audio, you’ll understand that Bousman isn’t a fan of lawyers.

Bousman also has his hand in the literary world, identifying himself as a writer (screenwriter) and is the creator of the comic Abattoir. So far there’s only one issue, but Bousman does plan on getting more out there. In terms of literary influences, I’ll let the man speak for himself:

I’ve said “audio” a few times, haven’t I? Not only was Bousman incredibly accessible all weekend (hence the above snippet), he also participated in two separate panels. Below, you’ll find an hour-long audio clip of Darren speaking frankly with fans about filmmaking in general, as well as brief commentary on some of his favourite (and least favourite) movies, where the hell Mother’s Day is, a little bit about REPO! and his upcoming film project, The Devil’s Carnival.

For more information on Darren Lynn Bousman, visit his website. You can find a brief synopsis of Abattoir here, and I implore you to buy your tickets to The Devil’s Carnival.