Mark Rahner, along with Robert Horton, is the creator of ROTTEN, a zombie western comic that has received acclaim from comics fans and horror fans alike. He is also a friend, and as is usual, when we get together, the douchebaggery flows like wine. Our interview, conducted at Emerald City Comic Con this past March, is no exception. Special thanks to Chelsea Freund for transcription assistance.

Marc Mason: This is Marc Mason of the Comics Waiting Room. I am here with Mark Rahner, the writer of “Rotten,” a zombie western, from Moonstone Books. Mark, you just released trade paperback 1. Tell me about that.

Mark Rahner: Well, it’s 5 months late. What do you want to know, apart from that?

MM: Does that mean we got extra stuff in it, or you were just lazy?

MR: Naw, it wasn’t my doing. The publisher had some sort of speed bump. But thank God it’s finally out. Please, everyone go buy it. It’s the first 6 issues; the 9th issue is about to come out, and what I can tell you is that it keeps getting worse.

MM: That is an incentive to buy if I have ever heard one.

MR: That should be our motto. Like, “Rotten: It just keeps getting worse.”

MM: Why that isn’t on the t-shirts, I don’t know. And I see you are selling t-shirts; tell me about that.

MR: Well, they’re very absorbent.

MM: That’s excellent, because I don’t want the sweat staying on my skin, and I want a shirt that will do that for me.

MR: I think it would bring out…um, it would suit you. It would suit your figure, it would emphasize all the curves in the right way, and – –

MM: What about my complexion? Will it go with my complexion?

MR: Um, if I slap you.

MM: I’ll think about that, and I’ll get back to you.

MR: You put on one of those “Rotten” shirts, you’re not walking outta here alone.

MM: Am I walking out in cuffs? ‘Cause that’s usually how it works.

MR: Cuffs and a ball gag. The whole ensemble.

MM: Excellent, excellent. That’s my idea of a good time. That’s what I want out of a comic.

MR: All right. So, let’s get serious here. Good God. You are the Morley Safer of comic book interviewers, so let’s get down to business here.

MM: That is the highest praise I have ever received in my entire adult life.

MR. That’s sad. That’s the saddest thing I’ve heard all day, and we’re at a Comicon.

MM: It should’ve been. All right, so you’re saying issue 9 is coming soon?

MR: Issue 9 is coming soon (Ed. Note: It has now shipped), it’s a conclusion to a three-parter called “Revival of the Fittest,” and it’s really repugnant and offensive and filled with some really, we think, creative, hard core action and violence.

MM: How do you keep coming up with ideas that push the boundaries even further of bad taste?

MR: I like the way you put that, thank you. Well, there’s bad taste on a number of different levels. There’s action, which is kind of foul; like, for instance, in the 8th issue, the hero goes down a timber shoot chased by zombies that are torn to pieces while he is coasting down on his bite-proof leather coat, and that’s tasteless. But there’s also tastelessness in the sense that we have a zombie that looks like Sarah Palin that gets a spike through the forehead preceded by, “Shut the fuck up, you brain-dead bitch.” That is so tasteless, I felt like I should retire after that.

MM: I think I saw a bit of controversy online about that when you first released those pictures.

MR: It made Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog and I just felt like that was the pinnacle of my career, and then after that I should just do an Elvis and die on the toilet.

MM: I think we’re all expecting that.

MR: It’s gonna happen sooner or later. I just hope that when they find me I was reading something that wasn’t too embarrassing, you know?

MM: Like an issue of Vogue, or something recommended by Oprah?

MR: Certainly not an issue of Plumpers, or anything that you would have found in Michael Jackson’s house, you know? You wanna start the interview over again?

MM: Oh, God, no.

MR: Are we doing okay?

MM: We’re doing all right.

MR: Okay.

MM: So, after issue 9, are you going to another arc? Do you have an ending in sight, or – –

MR: If there is an ending, it’s a little ways down the line, but numbers 10 and 11 – I’ve literally been cackling as I write them. There’re some great set pieces in them. There’s a figure who will look very familiar to you, who is a bad guy, an evil character. And – –

MM: Does he look like John Layman, by any chance?

MR: No…he’s…I don’t wanna get too offensive. I mean, I want people to still read the book, and I want it to be dry. Numbers 10 and 11 also have variant covers now. We have a great new cover artist who paints the covers, his name is Steve Bryant, and – –

MM: Steve Bryant is fantastic.

MR: Yeah, I think he’s every bit as good as Alex Ross, and cheaper to hire than Alex Ross by a great deal. No, I love the guy, and we’re happy to have him be part of the “Rotten” family…although that sounds kinda gross, doesn’t it?

MM: Only a smidge.

MR: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up. We’re pretty excited about it, and it looks like we’re going to finally get some issues out one month after the next, and then this summer in June there is a prose book which is the lost diary of Agent Flynn, and Robert Horton wrote that. It’s sort of a really creepy but wryly humorous kind of prequel to what starts in the first issue, and it’s really good. Horton is an outstanding writer, although I try to keep him out of sight and completely eclipsed most of the time.

MM: Is that coming out through Moonstone as well?

MR: It is. It’s a little hardcover book and it’s substantial enough so that you can really club somebody with it. You can’t do much damage with these single issues, even if you roll one up and do it like in “Alien,” try and jam it down somebody’s throat.

MM: Sure.

MR: The trade you could do a little bit more damage with, but still, you can’t beat a hardcover for assaulting someone.

MM: I agree 100 percent. I think that’s effective thinking and good work on your part.

MR: Now you’re the Piers Morgan of comic book interviewers. Throw me another softball.

MM: How was it shaving your testicles this morning?

MR: Well, it takes a long time, as you might imagine.

MM: A little gnarly? You might try some conditioner first.

MR: There’s a lot of area to cover. I mean, how far do you wanna take this? You’re not talking to Brandon Jerwa, okay?

MM: All right. So you said you had an ending in sight. How far away is it?

MR: Well, it depends on when I go bankrupt. No, there is an ending. We’re thinking kinda like in the Preacher range, in the Chew range, something like that, but if it must happen, we can truncate the thing. But we’ve got all the story lines completely plotted out, except the thing is, when we get together to fill things out and write the issues, we keep on coming up with other story lines. After “Revival of the Fittest,” the story line is called “Love the Sinner.” We’re writing that one, and there were a couple of people I was pissed at, and wanted to make caricatures out of, like an evil guy and his retarded sidekick. We thought of some great episodes that take place in an orphanage full of living dead children. So, we have a structured beginning, middle and end, but cool stuff keeps on coming up that we just, we have to do. Why wouldn’t you want to see an orphanage full of the living dead, for God’s sake?

MM: I want to adopt – –

MR: It sells itself, right there. Don’t you feel it?

MM: If Angelina Jolie hasn’t adopted them all by the time I get there, I will take one.

MR: Oh…I was trying to give you an opening for a Charlie Sheen joke, but you went for an Angelina.

MM: Sorry.

MR: Nah, it’s okay.

MM: And with the problems you had getting the first trade version, are those cleared up? Will we see trade 2 by the end of this year?

MR: Hope so. You know, I don’t want to get too insider baseball, but Moonstone sends things off to the printer in batches, and one of their titles was late, and it was really frustrating because I would like to have the story finished and out there before I’m in diapers. So, yeah, hopefully things will go smoother next time, and we’ll have some extras in it as well. The first trade is bare bones and as inexpensive as possible to get it into peoples’ hands, 16 bucks instead of 20 or more. The second will be issues 7-11 and will have a cover gallery and all sorts of other doo dads…maybe a centerfold. What do you think about a centerfold?

MM: I think it’s a great idea. It should be somebody from that orphanage of living dead children.

MR: Now you’re crossing a line that even I won’t cross, but – –

MM: Who knew that was possible?

MR: I’m going to take that bold move of not making pedophilia jokes. It’s a bold position to stake out, but I’m comfortable there.

MM: I’m shocked and amazed.

MR: Maybe that could be, like, a one-shot issue that Horton writes. Hey – can you rewrite that before you post it?

MM: Thanks to Mark Rahner. This is Marc Mason with the Comics Waiting Room, and we’ll see you next time.

MR: Forget you heard that.


Written by Shannon Eric Denton and Drawn by Anthony Hightower
Published by
Image Comics

It’s a rite of passage we all must face: the invite to a high school reunion. For one group of friends, it invites the typical reactions: anger, bitterness, resentment, and terror at the thought of seeing all those people again. But for another guy, one who didn’t get an invitation, the reaction is quite different… and a smidge supernatural. Now he’s on a collision course with those he grew up with, and the results aren’t going to be pretty. They will, however, be gruesome.

High school as a metaphor for horror has been tapped for a number of great stories and series (BUFFY, most notably), but the fear of returning to those years still has plenty of life left in it to exploit, and that’s where GUTWRENCHER sets its course. And my to my surprise, it does a really good job of it.

Frankly, going into any horror title, I tend to expect very little, especially on the character end of things. Most “scary” comics are too preoccupied with getting to the gore to actually create and develop interesting characters you can give a shit about. But Denton does exactly that; in fact, the early murders are the least interesting thing about this book. What really draws you in are the people on the pages. I liked them; I felt for them. And since my twenty-year reunion looms this summer, I also empathized with them.

The SHADOWLINE imprint at Image has kind of struggled to find a good companion to its best book on the stands, BOMB QUEEN, but with GUTWRECNHER, I think they’ve finally found a worthy entry. It’s a keeper.

Marc Mason