Gary Kwapisz is best known for his work on Conan the Barbarian specifically The Savage Sword of Conan series. Not only did he excel at drawing Conan, but he put his talents to work on a number of Punisher stories as well as Hawkworld. Kwapisz has a new story out on shelves Rebel Dead Revenge that ventures into the Civil War, a time period Kwapisz is familiar with. He collaborated with Chuck Dixon on Civil War Adventure back in 2009 and 2015. I got the opportunity to chat with Gary Kwapisz about his new book, Rebel Dead Revenge.
Bounding Into Comics (BIC): You just released Rebel Dead Revenge what can you tell me about it.
Gary Kwapisz (Gary): After a lifetime of doing comics, it is my 340 page, full-color magnum opus! I wrote, drew, lettered and colored it.
This the synopsis…
With the Civil War raging, Satan, still angry at God’s interference in ‘his’ world at the country’s inception decides the time is ripe for him to raise up an army of dead soldiers and burn the whole country down! The only thing he is missing is a general of genius to lead his zombie army—and then Stonewall Jackson dies.
Jim Lewis, Stonewall Jackson’s African-American servant is tricked by the devil (in the form of a dead monkey) into helping him re-animate the general. But the devil discovers Stonewall is missing his arm, which will leak the dark energy that is reanimating him and alert the Watchers, so he sends Jim to dig it up. Jim digs up the arm only to discover that it’s alive and wants to kill him and get back to Jackson. Aware of the Devil’s plan now, Jim escapes with the arm. He is joined by a beautiful voodoo priestess, Jezabeau, who Satan had tricked into helping him, and together they have to figure out how to destroy a seemingly indestructible undead arm, all while dodging two warring armies with the Devil’s zombies hot on their trail.
The story is presented as unknown historical fact (Based on Jim Lewis’ recently discovered journal), R.E. Lee, Lincoln and other historical figures make appearances as the story follows the chronology of events between Stonewall’s death after the battle of Chancellorsville to Gettysburg.
BIC: I take it the book takes place during the Civil War then?
Gary: This is set right in the middle of the Civil War, following the battle of Chancellorsville. But, in saying that I don’t want to scare anyone off by making them think that if they don’t know (or care much) about the history that they won’t be able to get into the story. If you know any CW buffs, you’re probably aware that they can very happily get off into the weeds chasing minutia, but that is not what RDR is about. The history is a just a backdrop for an exciting horror-action-adventure story.
BIC: How much research did you do into Stonewall Jackson’s character? Does he maintain much of his personality after being resurrected?
Gary: When Chuck Dixon and I were doing our Civil War Adventure GNs we devoted more pages to Stonewall than any other person. We both did extensive research, and I probably read 5 or 6 biographies on him.
For me, he is the most fascinating character from the Civil War. He was brilliant and crazy—often at the same time. A lousy professor but a brilliant battlefield tactician, he was a boring, uninspired professor who became an inspiring leader of men on the battlefield. He was a terrible, unforgiving warrior but a loving husband and father and a devout Christian. Orphaned as a child, he struggled through loneliness and poverty to graduate from West Point, and by dint of his will became one of the most famous people in the world by the time he died. If he had been a fictional character he would have been considered a crazy, hack fantasy. He belonged in a novel!
Most of his dialogue from the beginning of the book comes directly from first-hand accounts of his death, so it’s as close to his actual personality as I could make it. After he died with the Satan’s dark energy animating him he starts to go slowly insane, and by the end, he is a raving Old Testament prophet calling down blood and destruction on pretty much everyone—until there is a surprise revelation and…but you’ll have to read it find out about that!
BIC: The book is 340 pages long. How long have you been working on it?
Gary: It seems like forever! But it is probably more like 7 years, but it was my baby and I would work at it every chance I got between paying jobs.
BIC: How does Satan plan to use Stonewall Jackson brilliant mind?
Gary: Satan’s plan was to get him a great army of undead soldiers after the next major battle, so Stonewall and the forces he does have shadow Lee and the Army of Virginia as they invaded the North on their way to the battle at Gettysburg, when, presumably, he would get his whole army and then he would proceed to destroy America.
BIC: There’s obviously demonic forces, will we also see angelic forces?
Gary: Throughout the story, Jim and Jezabeau are shadowed by demonic and angelic agents using birds as their avatars, and they battle in the background as they try and help or stop Jim from destroying Stonewall’s arm.
BIC: What do you hope readers take away from reading Rebel Dead Revenge?
Gary: I hope they have an exciting read and that they love the art enough to give it an extended look. Also, like Stonewall, this book is unapologetically Christian—albeit not of the sort that will get the approval of the church ladies (God bless ’em!). I’m not the sort who likes to back away from righteous conflicts, and I got tired of listening to all the bitching about the SJWs taking over the comics, so I decided to see if I couldn’t do a book with my worldview that didn’t preach or put the message ahead of the story.
BIC: Can you elaborate on how the book is unapologetically Christian?
Gary: I would describe what I’ve done as literary action-horror from a Christian worldview. It is more than a little strange that Christianity, which is the engine of Western Civilization — the greatest achievement of mankind—has been forced into a cultural ghetto by secular Leftism where it is self-regulated by church ladies. And the most bizarre aspect of this is that the Christians have been shamed into accepting it.
In studying the Civil War I became fascinated by men like R.E. Lee, Jeb Stuart, and Jackson. All were tough men in tough times who had to make tough choices who were willing to die for those choices. And, while they were far from perfect these men were all fiercely Christian, and I explore that spirit with Stonewall in my story. While the main thrust of the book is the action-adventure-horror, zombies eating people, zombies getting blown apart with grapeshot and set on fire, the underlying theme is Jim’s and Jezabeau’s faith journey and their dealing with Satan and the snares he sets to entrap them.
I’m unapologetic to the God-less Left who find any mention of religious faith ‘problematic,’ and I don’t accept from the religious Right that a story with sex, horror, and rough language can’t be Christian. And, I apologize to neither for my masculine fascination with violence.
BIC: You are publishing the book through Dark Legion Comics, is there a reason you chose to publish through them?
Gary: I had already worked with Vox before, doing cartoons under the pen name of Red Meat for his SJWs Always Lie books, so when he started doing comics it was a natural way to go.
He and Chuck Dixon are bringing an exciting new point of view to comics with their Alt-Hero and Avalon books, but more importantly, Vox is doing something new with the business model for making comics. All the Right/Left posturing is important but if the way comics are made doesn’t change—in a positive way—there won’t be many professionals making comics in the future. There are lots of independent publishers putting out comics, but other than some of the people doing crowd-funding and Alterna, I don’t see anyone offering a way forward for comics publishing, and Vox is doing that.
Chuck and I also collaborated on an adaptation of P. G. Wodehouse’s, Right Ho, Jeeves for them as well.
BIC: Aside from Rebel Dead Revenge what else are you working on?
Gary: When my daughter was homeschooling she was writing fanfiction, I looked at it and asked her why she was writing that when she could write her own book. So we collaborated on a humorous middle-grade book, Barbie and Ben versus the Troll. Part of the novel is a fantasy story that one of the characters is writing, and I am drawing that, probably to appear first as a webcomic.
BIC: Do you and Chuck Dixon have any plans for a future collaboration?
Gary: Chuck and I do a weekly, online comic, Pellucidar for ERB but beyond that nothing at this point. Comics are a hobby for me now, and so I have a limited amount of time I can spend on them, so with the webcomic I’m doing based on my daughter and my novel, my time is pretty much spoken for.
BIC: What are your thoughts on the current comic industry? Do you think the industry is in a healthy place to go forward?
Gary: I think the comics industry is in a long death spiral. Part of that is deliberate, the SJW jihad to replace their core male audience with a new woke, female one. But probably the more significant part of its demise is cultural and technology based. When I saw the first Spider-man movie, I was amazed to see how he swung between buildings, and it was then that I saw the writing on the wall for comics. The biggest problem with the medium is baked in; you have to read them. With the advancement of the visuals in movies and games, comic-books main readers, males, could now get their need for visualized fantasy fulfilled by beautiful ‘moving pictures’ that required no reading. Anyone reading this might disagree with that assessment, but you’re reading this and are probably the exception to the rule. Ninety percent of the world hate to read. With the loss of the reader went the ability to pay talented artists a professional wage, and so those artists will now go elsewhere looking for a career. Most comic artists could make more money as an assistant manager at McDonald’s than they can drawing comics now. Comic books are a unique art form, so they will always exist, but their days as part of mass popular culture are over.
BIC: Are you interested in ever returning to work on Conan or The Punisher? Are there any characters you would want to work on?
Gary: Working on SSoC was my favorite time in comics, and I’ll always have a fondness for Conan, but I figure that ship has sailed.You can purchase Gary Kwapisz’s Rebel Dead Revenge right here.