If you’re going to Kapow Comic Con then keep your eye out for independent creator, publisher and overall sicko, Adam Cheal. He’ll be showing off his controversial series, Zyklon B, which bursts into life with issue #1 later this month.
Here’s a sneak preview of Zyklon B, and a taste of what to expect from both the comic and its creator.
Simon Fisher is wrongly executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin. Using the power of the occult he is ‘saved’ when his physical form is mutated into the gas that takes his life – Hydrogen Cyanide – better known as Zyklon B. Simon, now living devoid of form and substance, is out for revenge on those who framed him…
Simon Fisher is pissed, and he’s made of poisonous gas. He’s not going to pull any punches, and neither does the comic itself, attracting controversy from the start with its title even before a page has been turned. For those who don’t know, Zyklon B was the gas used by the Nazis in the unspeakable atrocities committed in World War II. The choice of that particular name for this series has attracted criticism, albeit mainly from people who have not looked any more closely than the title itself. As Cheal himself points out, “When people tell me they’re offended I want to know more, I want to explore why they are offended, or at least why they think they should be offended. I used the title for a reaction, not to shock, but to make people think. The name is not gratuitous; it’s supported by the back story of the main character and the overall story arc. Zyklon B is still used to execute people; they’ve just removed the name, that’s more offensive than my comic.”
But it’s not just the name that has raised eyebrows. The heavy gore content was labeled ‘unpublishable’’ by Chris Ryall, Creative Officer at graphic novel powerhouse, IDW publishing and the colourful language has been questioned by Cheal’s independent publishing peers.
Understandably, established writers have less of a problem on the issue of content. You don’t get much more shocking than Garth Ennis, but because he’s proved himself as a master of his craft, he’s less likely to be criticised for the extremity of his content. It’s far more likely that criticism would be levelled at a new writer, perhaps because of the temptation to use shock and gore to hide a lack of real creativity, but this is absolutely not the case with Cheal and Zyklon B.
Over a year in the making, the creation and production of the Zyklon B series has been a labour of love for its creator. Comic publishers rarely accept text scripts; they want to see – quite literally – the whole picture, so Cheal had to find an artist, a colourist and a letterer. This is not an easy task for someone with no proven track record and a limited budget, but after a few false starts a team was formed, comprising of freelance artist Joel J Cotejar, colourist Mike Summers and Mindy Lopkin, rising star in the industry and much more than a letterer. With Cheal now more Project Manager than writer, he started working evenings and weekends on his regular job to fund the project, and production cranked up to the dizzy rate of 5 pages a month.
In a bid to raise more funds he dipped into crowd funding, a fairly new concept where punters can contribute to a creative project in return for benefits such as signed artwork, limited edition merchandise and for the high rollers, even a production credit. So far this has not filled the Zyclon B coffers to bursting, but as a result there are plenty of tasty looking rewards still up for grabs.
The fact that Zyclon B #1 is ready for launch, and the next three installments in the series well under way is testament to the tenacity and sheer belief of its creator. A shameless horror nut, Adam Cheal was that kid in the eighties whose parents never seemed to be around so you could all steam round to his to watch the latest video nasties. These VHS shockers were a huge influence on Cheal’s creative output, along with the work of Clive Barker, Wes Craven and Alan Moore. As Cheal explained, “I was completely immersed in horror all my life, and as a result I don’t even consider that something might be shocking.” The influence of horror is clear on his other other upcoming projects. In Slowheart, the protagonist, after 200 years on earth, has done everything and tired of everything so resorts to depravity for kicks. In Terminus at Fenton’s Green, the unassuming Theodore Paulsen is exposed to the demons and decay hidden beneath the veneer of normality.
There is a real danger that readers will dismiss Zyclon B as exploitative and crass. It isn’t by any means. It’s a wonderfully crafted and highly polished piece of work which would not look out of place on the Avatar roster. I hope it succeeds and I’m looking forward to more output from the Adam Cheal stable.