ANGELES ó With his novel "World War Z,"
author Max Brooks won over a legion of readers, weaving
an epic tale told from the perspective of the survivors
of a global pandemic that saw the dead return to life.
Now Brooks is bringing his realistic approach to
fantastic storytelling to a paneled page with
"Shadow Walk." The new Legendary Comics
release, co-created with comic creator-writer Mark Waid
and artist Shane Davis, supposes that the Valley of
Death from the Old Testamentís Psalm 23 does in fact
exist, and itís a place where anyone who ventures
there is confronted by his or her deepest fears.
the first issue, John Raines, a soldier who allegedly
killed his entire platoon after entering the valley,
leads a group that includes a priest and an
astrophysicist back to the mysterious locale. Armed with
two arcane artifacts, the unit must try to determine if
the road to hell has opened on Earth. It was Legendary
Comics executive Thomas Tull who initially approached
the creators with the basic question: What if the Valley
of Death was not just a figurative term but a physical
place? Brooks, a history major, took the idea and ran
with it. We talked with him about the project.
What did you do to try to bring this world to life?
A lot of homework. You have to start with logic,
answering some of your own questions. So itís a real
place ó where would it be? You look around and you
say, "Well, yeah, Mesopotamia or Iraq." Then
you have to go through the history of it and say,
"Who has been through this country? Who used to own
it? Who used to fight over it?" Then you just study
the histories of these peoples and that gives you the
idea of how to build a world around it. So, Mesopotamia.
Before it was Muslim it was a Roman protectorate ... and
it (later) was part of the Turkish empire, then the
European powers came in and took it away from the Turks.
Then it became independent and fought a war with Iran.
Thatís fertile ground for doing world-building.
Was there any one specific thing that helped the concept
really take shape in your mind?
one specific compass needle, and I think this drives
Thomas a lot. He loves looking at myths and legends and
the actual root of the myth. Where did this come from?
Like ... We go back to the story of the Cyclops. The
Greeks would dig up woolly mammoth skulls. They didnít
know what they were. All they saw was this giant skull
with what looked like one eye. They didnít know that
there was cartilage separating them. If you didnít
know anything about science and you dig up this giant
skull with one eye, you can see how that can morph into
the legend of the Cyclops.
thought there was one thing that Mark Waid did that was
so brilliant. If you take nothing away from it ó there
was one subtle piece of a realization ó one of the
characters said, "You gotta realize that in an era
before science, everything was supernatural. So what
would shock us as a miracle back then is no more of a
miracle than lightning." I thought, ĎOh, my God,
what a great insight into the psychology of a
Assuming that everyone sees different things ó their
worst fear ó when traveling through this valley, what
might you see?
Well, thatís easy now that Iím a parent: My son in
rehab 20 years from now.
mean, when you become a parent, everything changes. I
donít know what my nightmare wouldíve been before,
but now that Iím a dad, and every minute of my life is
spent trying to craft a human being? Yeah, I think thatís
every nightmare of every parent, your (child) going into
rehab. Thereís your 30-year-old kid with bandages
around his wrists and he looks right at you and says,
"Yeah, this is your fault." I donít know
what parent hasnít had that nightmare.
Are you a religious person?
I donít know. I literally donít know. Iíd like to
think thereís an afterlife, and that when my body
turns to dust, that thereís another world beyond this.
Iíd like to think that my mom just got on an earlier
flight than my dad. But the truth is, I donít know. Iíve
neither found proof for or against.
Do you think that this graphic novel, religious but
grounded in reality, could usher in a wave of others
I donít know. Religion is part of our society. I think
thereís nothing wrong with questioning it. Iím not
saying itís good or saying itís bad, Iím just
saying that we need to embrace the debate. Religion is
not a museum. Religion is a living thing. It moves, it
changes with the time, it changes with the people and
the cultures, and we have to embrace the debate. You canít
just put it on the shelf and let it gather dust. Itís
got to be taken down and taken apart and put back
together again, and I hope people embrace the debate
when they read this.