The Work Continues – Update


From James: I pulled out my draft of DEAD#5 to edit and rewrite while Jen finishes up thumbs for DEAD#4, and the opening for this latest issue made me giddy. I can’t wait to see how she arranges the panels for it. 

The best thing is when you pull out a draft of something you worked on nearly five months ago and still enjoy what’s on the pages. Since this doesn’t happen every time, you need to relish these rare occurrences when they come along.

New The Dead updates coming your way soon!

Notes: On Zombies and Titles…


THE DEAD has finally hit ComiXology, and Jen and I couldn’t be happier. Leading up to the release, we’ve received enough attention for the book that we’re excited to see how it will perform to a larger audience. However, there is one thing that has me cautious: general readers and their expectations of the word “dead”.

THE DEAD was given its name deliberately. The meaning of the title and how it plays into the series is a discussion I’d like to avoid, but it does have meaning beyond initial shock of vocabulary and current associations.

Now, say all you want about not judging a book by its cover, but we all know that first impressions are a big deal.

When Mike Carey read the opening two issues of the book, he wrote to me saying that I had “got” him. He had thought the story was going to be about zombies.

Now, I’ll admit that I’m a zombie fan. Books, Comics, Movies, Puppet Shows: If it has a zombie in it, I’m down to give it a chance, but the damn things are everywhere (which is how they actually work as a predator, I guess). They’ve infiltrated the mainstream, and because of that, anything that comes near zombie terminology has the stink of rotten flesh all over it. Also, they don’t seem to be going away any time soon.

THE DEAD is not a zombie book.

Not. A Zombie. Book.

I knew there would be complications from keeping the series under the same name I’d been calling it since before the zombie fad. It was a decision that I made because DEAD doesn’t necessarily mean ZOMBIE, and given the nature of my story, the title has bearing to certain notions I’d like our readers to consider after the final page.

Whether or not that happens is another thing altogether, but to know that it’s a possibility is enough for me.

Anyway, go check out THE DEAD on ComiXology knowing full well that zombies are in short supply. And if you like it, please leave a rating; and if you don’t, then you can skip the rating bit [smile/wink/nudge/whatever].

Notes From Jen Hickman:


I keep thinking of how I want to explain this project. “Do you like dead people??? This comic is BURSTING with them!” Or maybe, “This is a comic about not dying again after you’re dead and everyone is still a dick.” Or even, “One of the protagonists never wears a shirt and he’s totally ripped. Yes I am wiggling my eyebrows at you”

But here’s my real pitch.

Indie comics are magical unicorns, labors of love, and they defy mainstream expectations for storytelling style, content, and art. They ask the question of how formulaic exactly we’ve allowed our media to become, and the only way you can answer that is by supporting the comics you like, not just the comics that come from a big publisher. By taking risks on a project that doesn’t have a team of editors behind it.

Anyway. I’ve been working on this comic for a while now, and it’s finally available for purchase on ComiXology.

It’s literally one dollar.

Also if you want to read the first ten pages for free, head on over

Notes: Stories Are Everywhere


My wife once said to me: “If you were stranded on a deserted island, the single palm tree sprouting from that tiny spot of land would be covered with an interesting story by the time someone came by to rescue you.”

Stories. They are everywhere and everything.

When I started writing THE DEAD as a novel back in 2003, the motivating factor behind my pen was the various stories that could exist in any given world. Surf the channels of your television and you’ll come across a range of them. Walk down a city street and start watching the people around you. Each have a tale in progress. Some of them are great, many of them are…

Continue reading

Notes: On Room Creation


One of the more challenging things about writing THE DEAD is room creation. In order to create believable new rooms, I have to feel like I know those rooms inside & out. When working with a story of such a vast number of diverse settings, fully fleshing them out can become time-consuming.

In the past, I’ve forgotten this rule and tried to rush carefree into the concept of a room before pulling the due-diligence. Before long, I’d start stumbling over my own mind as it tries to make sense of the setting; quickly spilling all my attention on the mechanics of that setting rather than the characters. In those moments, I’d find it’s best to pause, take a breath, break out the notebook and start scribbling about room details until I feel comfortable in the surroundings of that scene.

Of course, there are some cameo rooms that are just snapshots to help with the world-building, and those are nothing to dream up. But for rooms like Devi’s Bar, the War Room (coming soon), or The Prison (coming very soon), whole floor plans have been drafted. Pages of notes scribbled. Reference pictures have filled folders. I tend to get lost in the history of these exotic and exciting locales, and before I know it, hours have passed.

It’s easy to get lost in the creation process, but deadlines are deadlines—even when they’re self-imposed, so when I get trapped in a room, pushing extra hard to get my schedule back on track becomes the new focus.



THE DEAD began its creation years ago, when in college, James came up the idea for a novel that took place in a house of the mind. That novel was written and became a beautiful example of great American fiction. The next step for the book was natural: It disappeared into a desk, never to be seen again. Long after writing this book, James hit some luck creating independent comics with Broken Icon. His first graphic novel, Nightmare Unknown with artist Rob Dumo, received some acclaim from comic review sites and his follow-up project The Horror Show with Todd Beistel started doing even better. But the concept for that first novel kept eating away at him with every comic script he wrote.

James kept imagining how amazing the various rooms he created would look illustrated for the comics page. Given the right artist, the concepts and settings could jump off the page and create a sense of awe in the reader. The story would have to be adapted and improved (James likes to think he has grown as a storyteller in the passing years), but that would be the easy (and fun!) part.

Jump to the 2012 Baltimore Comic Con and a chance meeting of the perfect artist for this story: Jen Hickman. After sending a few test pages her way, the illustrations she made for the series left no doubts. The two creators were on their way.

After a few weeks hard at work on the title, Jen and James had a solid lead on pages and a great direction for the events of the tale. Now, they’re ready to release THE DEAD on readers all over the internet, and with enough push, they can find a large publisher to bring it to the printed page.

James and Jen have a lot of interesting ideas to bring to this title, so stay tuned and you’ll discover how far comics can be taken both—in story and in medium.


James Maddox & Jen Hickman