Webcomic collective ACT-I-VATE recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. And to celebrate, they've launched a new anthology series by musician, filmmaker, and writer, Chris Miskiewicz called Everywhere. I'll let Chris fill you in on the particulars of the premise, but the rough sketch is that each installment involves a particular animal overrunning the globe and how the population responds. With a new artist in tow for each episode, Miskiewicz plans to mine the comedy and horror from a world overrun by spiders, horses, and yes, bunnies.
MTV Geek: So you mentioned that the idea for Everywhere sprang from a drunken brainstorming session—tell us a little about that.
Chris Miskiewicz: I was with artist Andrew Wendel in the Mark Bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn discussing another project when we got very drunk, started riffing, and came up with the concept for Everywhere. I believe his line was “anything can happen in comics” in reference to always drawing talking heads while wanting to draw stuff that was based in fantasy.
When I sobered up, I read through a dozen cocktail napkins and started scripting. I had the first six scripts finished by the end of the week. Then I sent them to Dean Haspiel to get his opinion, and he called a few hours later saying, “Don’t pitch this to anyone else. This is an ACT-I-VATE comic.”
Geek: What was the appeal of the concept for you?
CM: A few things. For those who are unfamiliar with the premise of Everywhere it’s an EC Comics-type horror-parody that sits very well within a Twilight Zone theme.
You wake up to find that one animal species has exponentially appeared everywhere around the globe at the same time, and follow each episode’s lead character through their portion of the event.
I didn’t want to do a straight-out creature feature, as much as a series of offbeat tales that were possibly set somewhere inside of a creature feature. That was my main goal, and I feel like we’ve pulled that off. Another draw was that they would be short web content single issues without recurring characters.
ACT-I-VATE didn’t have a monthly comic. Their platform is based around creators putting up a few pages per week. So we used the opportunity to make it an anthology and invited artists to take part. Each episode has a different animal theme and is drawn by a different artist, the same way a standard television season uses different directors.
All of that hooked me.
Overall it’s been a huge success for the site. The amount of hits that “Everywhere” has gotten has surprised everyone.
Geek: Could you tell us about a couple of your favorite vignettes from the anthology?
CM: I’m a fan of the pilot episode, “Horses Everywhere.” Andrew [Wendel, the artist] took his time to get that one right, and I think it shows. I’ve had a conversation with Daniel J. Kramer about turning it into a motion comic later in the year.
Bobby Timony of Night Owls just finished “Bunnies Everywhere” which is our next episode and a great laugh. His style is so spot on for this.
Working with the legendary Rick Parker on “Worms” was a blast. Rick has a great eye and sentiment for the weird and creepy.
Maurice Fontenot the creator of “Ghost Pimp” on MTV GEEK is working on “Kittens Everywhere” starring the British rock band “Big Linda.” I cannot wait to see this episode finished. It’s hysterical, and all about the last page.
Our 4th episode is a photocomix by Seth Kushner “Spiders Everywhere.” I’m excited because it’s photography, which throws a curveball showing that format is even up for grabs.
Beyond that we have Chris Sinderson, Nathan Schrieber, Dennis Calero, and Rodney Ramos doing episodes later this year, and newcomer Kate Mc’Elroy is really going to turn heads with hers.
Geek: Were you ever a big fan of the animals run amok movies? If so, were there any that made a particular impression on you?
CM: I can’t say that I’m a fan of animal disaster films.
I like The Birds, but that’s because I dig how Hitchcock shows the knife, and then the chocolate syrup, but never the stabbing. (And yes, I know that’s the wrong film.) I admire how he used the audience’s own experiences to come up with the frames they’re not seeing. It’s shock, but not gore. Being afraid, but never seeing the baddy man that’s chasing you. Oh, and birds too.
Geek: Given its anthology format, do you have a framing sequence or do the stories bounce between characters?
CM: They’re designed to be single issue short content stories for the web. I’m very interested in the future of the web for both webcomix and short content web series. You can do almost anything on there, and if it’s good, if it has merit, your fan base will find you. We designed this to be short content that anyone can enjoy.
Geek: How did you choose the artists for the project?
CM I begged them. There’s a lot of truth to that comment.
Once Haspiel wanted this for ACT-I-VATE I started calling and emailing artists I wanted to work with. I wanted to have six episodes in the can before our launch, and while those were in the works other people liked the idea and wanted to work on the series.
Geek: What animal would you want to go up against the least? Which would you have the best chance against?
CM: Insects freak me out. Spiders, roaches, most of all. I’ve had a few pretty bad spider bites before. Our upcoming episode “Spiders Everywhere” handles the fear of millions of legs crawling over you.
People/humans are pretty frightening when you think of us as a species. In nature, everything eats everything, but we really do eat everything. I’m working on a treatment for an episode told from the POV of an animal looking at us. It’s got a good twist ending.
Geek: What are you up to after this?
CM: I’m working on a science fiction photocomic novel called Complex that I co-wrote with photographer Seth Kushner, and Emmy winner Dean Haspiel.
We’re shooting it like a film, casting actors, and then warping the images into a comic. It’s an ambitious project, but I know Seth is going to pull it off. For those who don’t know him, he’s pretty much the only guy out there rocking and blending photography and comics.
I’m also writing/producing a live action web series with director Christopher Piazza and comedian Zachariah Durr called Secret Identity, which is about a group of D-Level urban vigilantes in New York. The tag line is “The Office meets Kick-Ass.”
We have a well-known musician attached to play our lead villain that I’m keeping hush-hush for now, an Emmy winner, and a several local comedians and actors.
It’s a super hero parody. The scripts are hysterical, and our team is in place. We’re due to start filming this summer.