April 27th sees the debut of the long awaited KILLBOX #1 by Tom Riordan and Nathan Gooden. Suspenseful, action-packed, and beautifully violent, KILLBOX takes the reader into the seedy Los Angeles underground where gambling on human life is the hot-ticket item. Writer and creator Tom Riordan sat down with us to answer a few of our questions about the highly anticipated series hitting stores in two weeks.
American Gothic Press: So you said you’ve been thinking about KILLBOX since the first season of SURVIVOR (2000). What did some of the earlier ideas entail, and what characters or plot lines did you know were going to make it to the final draft?
Tom Riordan: I would have to say that this series was less influenced by the “Kill Game” books and movies that have come before and more from the actual reality shows themselves. I hate to say it, but it’s true. With these programs we focus on narcissism which leads to violent encounters. For the most part they are screaming matches or fairly controlled fistfights, but it’s there. The other brand of these shows are competition programs, many physically violent or military themed (i.e. THE ULTIMATE FIGHTER, TOP SHOT). I hope I’m not prophetic with KILLBOX, but as I said on the panel at WonderCon, I would not be shocked to find this book come to pass in the real world within my lifetime. It seems like a natural evolution, sadly.
AGP: You call KILLBOX your twist on an old story of man-versus-man that we’ve seen in stories like THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, THE RUNNING MAN, and BATTLE ROYALE. What steps did you take to make sure that it was your own story, and didn’t read as a knock-off?
TR: Separating KILLBOX from the rest… I had to make sure that The Killbox itself was the smaller world which resides in a dark corner of a massive storyverse. I also wanted to make sure that the game was not made available for mass consumption within this world. It’s not broadcast on television and the vast majority of the inhabitants of this near off future are completely unaware of it’s existence; in fact, great pains are gone through to ensure its secrecy. It’s not a spectacle; it’s gritty, dark, forbidden, and hidden.
AGP: What’s the collaboration process like with you and artist Nathan Gooden? When did you two first meet?
TR: Nathan is great. What an amazingly talented guy. The collaboration went as smoothly as I ever could have hoped for. It was pretty standard at first, pages would come in, we’d (Holly Interlandi and myself) make some notes or suggestions, back and forth yada yada, but pretty early on Nathan and I began speaking regularly or texting as the panels were flowing onto the page. “What do you think of this,” “I’ve got an idea or question,” and I think that made a world of difference, as my need to chime in on the finished pages became less and less essential, since it was being handled in real time. And did I mention, this guy is insanely talented?
AGP: Gooden’s art is absolute eye-candy! Do you think you’d be able to survive in the Killbox if you were a contestant? What would be your weapon of choice? What would you do with your winnings?
TR: I’d be dead pretty quick, brother. There would be no winnings as I would not have made it past issue one. Weapon of choice? Seeing as I’m definitely gonna die in there, I guess I’d intentionally infect myself with Hep C beforehand so that if the person who killed me got my blood on ’em, I’d get them in the end. So, weapon? Hep C blood.
AGP: That’s cold-blooded. This world you’ve created can easily produce several volumes worth of stories over the next few years, especially with the Killbox moving around someplace different every year. Are you committed to just KILLBOX at this point, or are you thinking of other new stories as well?
TR: Oh yes, I’m all in with the story. I’ve already turned in issues 5-8 and have written nine and most of ten. AGP seems pretty confident in the title so I think we’ll see through issue eight at least, past that are factors that I have little control over (sales, promotion, etc.). But short answer: Yes.
AGP: Which authors influence your writing?
TR: Far and away, it’s Stephen King. I’ve been reading his stuff since I was a kid, literally. I can remember that my dad didn’t care what I read as long as I was reading. So in short, this was my first “grown up stuff,” so there is a sense of nostalgia associated with his novels as well as the pure enjoyment of them… I’m a true fan. Lesser love affairs include H.P. Lovecraft, Phillip K. Dick, J.R.R. Tolkien, and on again off again relationships with Dean Koontz, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Allen Poe. The list goes on from there. I would like to add that the Kindle is the greatest invention since the internet. Now when someone throws a book at me, that “You should check this guy out,” conversation that never sent me running to the bookstore, that book is just a click away, and I’m always two novels in the rears. I’m reading THE HAUNTED MESA by L’Amour right now, with 99 on deck.
AGP: Which comics have you been enjoying recently from American Gothic Press?
TR: The titles so far have all been really solid, but I’d have to say my favorite is PROJECT NEMESIS. It has a nice displaced feel to it, kinda like reality adjacent and I like that. The other title I’m digging is IRWIN ALLEN’S LOST IN SPACE: THE LOST ADVENTURES. This is so fun, un-produced scripts from the original as source material giving us a handful of new or lost adventures.