Zac Thompson on Catching a DreamWave

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In the new comic Cemetery Kids Don’t Die from writer Zac Thompson and artist Daniel Irizarri, people are obsessed with the gaming console DreamWave, which works while you’re sleeping. But maybe NightmareWave is a better name, as this horror/science fiction story shows friends known as the Cemetery Kids get in over their heads. Cemetery Dance spoke with Thompson about the comic’s inspiration, his interest in horror comics, and how shonen manga (Japanese comics aimed for boys) inspired the artwork. 

(Interview conducted by Danica Davidson)

cover of Cemetery Kids Don't Die CEMETERY DANCE: What was the inspiration for DreamWave?

ZAC THOMPSON: To be perfectly candid it was the Gamepod from David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. I love that movie and think it was profoundly ahead of its time. I wanted to build off the idea behind the Gamepod. So the DreamWave that’s used to play the game is a bio-organic video game console that quite literally uses your body as an operating system. The design, in and of itself, is a representation of how invasive something like this would actually be. It’s using your mind while you’re asleep. It’s got this strange skin all over it. It threads into your ears. So there’s an element of transgression to how the console is used. Beyond that though — it’s very much reflective of the idea that the technology we use ends up using us in some way. As the series progresses you’re going to see what DreamWave players are really trading away in order to access the game. It’s not a passive process. I’ll just say that.

How did you get interested in horror comics?

Really my love for horror comics started with Alan Moore and John Totleben’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. It was the first horror comic I remember reading that really lit my brain on fire with the potential for scares on the static page. From there I started reading everything I could get my hands on. But I think it was Charles Burns’ Black Hole that really showed me the true potential of what could be done with horror comics. There are images from that book that are burned into my psyche.

How did shonen manga influence the art in Cemetery Kids Don’t Die?

Shonen manga is all over the design of the game world and characters. Daniel and I worked to create incredibly interesting character designs that just leapt off the page. When it came to the action scenes within the game world, we wanted things to be big and kinetic. Lots of slashing, cutting things in half, lots of motion on the page. We’re endeavoring to bring readers visceral moments of horror and big, bombastic action scenes that will stop them dead. The idea is to load the book with moments that will make you stop and soak in the insanity.

What do you want readers to take away from this story?

The book is really a meditation on how much of ourselves we give to technology. It’s about asking questions around how we look at “secondary realities” and the dangers of not making clear boundaries with things that are addictive by design.

Where can people learn more about your work?

I would say follow me on Instagram or Twitter — @ZacBeThompon or subscribe to my newsletter on Substack — The Voice in Your Head Is Mine.

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