Posted by:
Byron Brewer

Exclusive interview: E-I-C Matt Gagnon & Co-Writer Michael Alan Nelson Talk BOOM!'s New Day Men Ongoing

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7825 Vampires have been portrayed in many ways in modern comics, from vampire detectives to blood-sucking cows. But a new take on vampires and their world is coming in the form of a new monthly ongoing from BOOM! Studios, Day Men, by writers Matt Gagnon (Freelancers) and Michael Alan Nelson (Supergirl, Hexed) with art by industry legend Brian Stelfreeze.

Resident horror aficionado Byron Brewer, Managing Editor of Cosmic Book News, rounded up the writers at a mortuary near the CBN offices and quizzed them exclusively on the secrets behind this world of humans who do the bidding by day of vampire families that rule the world.

Cosmic Book News: Matt, as Editor-in-Chief of such a busy company as BOOM! how do you even have the time to write a monthly ongoing?

Matt Gagnon: I ask myself the same question daily! It’s definitely a challenge, but in the best possible way, and completely worth it. I’ve been sectioning off some time early in the morning to write, before I head to work. Frankly, once I get home at night from the office I don’t have much left in the tank. So the morning is the best time for me to tap into the creative energy. Like anything worthwhile, it takes a bit of sacrifice.

I have to say, I’m incredibly honored to have the opportunity to tell this story. It’s a story I’ve been dying to tell and Ross [Richie, BOOM! CEO & Founder] has been supportive of the idea since day one. I’m proud of what we’ve all built here at BOOM! and it really is a tremendous honor for me to have something published under the BOOM! banner.   

CBN: How will this combo of you and Michael Alan Nelson function? Have you two ever collaborated in the past?

Matt Gagnon: Mike and I have collaborated extensively over the years, but in a different dynamic. I was Mike’s editor for years on titles like Hexed, Dingo, and Fall of Cthulhu. Now, as Editor-in-Chief, I’m involved with all his BOOM! projects on a less day-to-day but more big picture basis. On series like 28 Days Later and Valen the Outcast we had some talented editors working with Mike; I was heavily involved with development, and then was able to hang back and watch the magic.

Obviously, I love Mike’s work. He’s a gifted writer. Mike was the only person that I wanted to work with on this series. Day Men is our first project co-writing together. As such, we’re still freestyling in terms of process. But in general, it goes something like this: Mike and I will talk out the story. I’ll go off and write a detailed plot. Mike takes the first pass at the script. I take the second pass. We tweak and adjust as necessary from there.

You could say I round up the kindling and ignite the fire, Mike gets it raging, and then we both sit around with a bottle of whiskey adding logs and jabbing the embers until it’s just right. How’s that for taking a metaphor past the brink?

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CBN: Tell us about the "50 Families" and what the titular Day Men are exactly.

Matt Gagnon: The “50 Families” are the (precariously) organized network of vampires that secretly run the world. They’re present on all continents and each family has their own beliefs and way of doing things. Every family has their own allegiances and adversaries born from centuries of conflict.

Our first story primarily follows two North American families: the Virgos and the Ramses. The Virgos are an old and respected family that controls most of the Northeastern seaboard. The Ramses are older still, and control New Yorkand a good deal of the Midwest. They both hate each other. They’ve been at an uneasy peace since the Civil War, but the nature of their relationship changes when the story begins.  

The Day Men are an ancient order of humans that are trained to protect their vampire employers. We all know the sunlight is a weakness to vampires; the Day Men are their daytime fixers, their mortal soldiers.

All 50 Families employ a Day Man. They work within this dangerous network of vampire families, oftentimes a bloody and violent business. Other times, it’s as mundane as making deliveries or cleaning up “feeding accidents.” There’s some duality to the position. Some regard the Day Men as a sacred and honored position, others regard them as base servants, the snarling dogs of vampires. The Day Men go forth at sunrise, alone into the world, doing the bidding of their sleeping benefactors.

CBN: Who is your chief daytime protagonist and what sunlight challenges does he face on behalf of the vampires?

Matt Gagnon: We’re following a guy named David Reid. He’s the Day Man for the Virgo family and he’s relatively new to the job. David is on the younger side for a Day Man and doesn’t have much on-the-job experience. He’s impeccably trained, and is getting the job done reasonably well, but his struggle is in proving to the Virgo higher-ups that he has value and belongs with the family.

When the first issue starts David is thrust into a conflict that’s sort of a worst-case scenario. Trying not to give too much away here, but his effectiveness will be tested, and tested fast.

David is a cool cat. He has a little bit of swagger, and confidence that comes from youth. He’s not arrogant, but he’s put in the hard work over his lifetime of training and feels like he’s prepared. I don’t think he fully understands the gravity of the position just yet. He’s regarded within the family with equal parts cautious optimism and outright skepticism depending on who you talk to.  

He’s a man striving to earn his place in the world.

CBN: Matt, how did you ever get the great Brian Stelfreeze to commit to an ongoing monthly and what does his art bring to the table here?

Matt Gagnon: Brian’s art makes this project an event, plain and simple. He’s a master. One of the best we have in this industry. There have been very few times in his career that he’s committed to a long-form series like this, so it’s a very special circumstance. And believe me, I’d say the exact thing if he was on a different book. Any time this guy steps up to the plate it’s time to pay attention.

When Brian agreed to the project I felt like one of those characters who pull off a heist at the end of a movie. Me and Filip Sablik (BOOM!’s VP of Publishing & Marketing) were driving down to San Diego Comic-Con last year and I was telling him about Day Men. Filip had literally just started at the company; we had known each other for years being in the L.A. comics community, but we were now hanging out as colleagues and buddies. So I was filling him in on a bunch of projects and initiatives and Day Men was one of them.

So Filip says with all sincerity, “You know who would be the perfect artist for Day Men? Brian Stelfreeze.” My response is something like, “Uh...yeah. OF COURSE! Wait, you’re being serious ...” Once we started jamming on the practicality of it, and the excitement creatively, we were getting kind of pumped up on the idea. Filip had known Brian from his days as Publisher of Top Cow and reached out. From there, we had a direct line to Brian and began to sell him on the dream. And as it turns out, dreams do come true.

CBN: Mike, what is your take on the function of these Day Men?

Michael Alan Nelson: At its most simple, I would say their main function is simply crises management. They're the janitors, the errand boys, the handymen, the fix-it guys. Which, at first blush, sounds kind of thankless. But they've been let into a world that mortals aren't allowed to experience except if it's as food. Day Men have an integral function in protecting and propagating the fortunes of the family they serve. Because the thing to remember is that they walk in both worlds. Vampires can't really function during the day and they need someone to take care of the "day-to-day" business. Even though vampires are immortal and live and thrive at night, it's still a human world that moves and meanders in daylight. They need someone who can navigate that world. It may not seem like a very important job, much like a trash collector. But without them, the streets would be filled with stinking piles of filth. Day Men are essential to the world order. Without them greasing the wheels and keeping everything neat and tidy, the world would get very ugly for vampire and human alike very, very quickly.

CBN: Besides the obvious difficulties of vampires as employers, who are some of big-bads these Day Men might face?

Michael Alan Nelson: That's the crazy thing about being a Day Man. The big-bads they have to face could be anyone from a rogue vampire to a mafia don who doesn't like the idea of sharing his territory with anyone else. Human or supernatural, it doesn't matter. A Day Man has to be able to step up no matter what the threat. If the family says you have to jump into a circus ring and wrestle a lion, that's what you do. That's why Day Men undergo such thorough training. They have to be able to face whatever comes their way. Sometimes it might be a handful of thugs armed with machine guns or a coked-out vampire armed with fangs and an insatiable thirst. And on those unlucky days, both at the same time.

CBN: These 50 families are rivals seeking power in the world, obviously reflecting the mob. In what form will we see these rivalries and power struggles in Day Men?

Michael Alan Nelson: The hierarchy of the 50 families is pretty rigid the closer to the trunk of the family tree you get. But things are more fluid toward the outer branches. The oldest families go back thousands of years while the youngest only a few hundred. Today, most families understand their place in the world and rarely do anything to upset that hierarchy. But there are rivalries and insults that go back centuries not to mention newer players who want to make their mark. So there are always machinations on how to move a family higher up the ladder. Or take another family down a rung or two. Alliances can shift or solidify, depending on which family supports/opposes another. But the most important thing to remember is that these families are in it for the long game. If one family wants another's territory, it may take decades, if not centuries to see it come to pass. No one has patience like a vampire.

CBN: What is working with Matt Gagnon like? And artist Brian Stelfreeze?

Michael Alan Nelson: I've been working with Matt for years now and it's always a wonderful experience. He really knows story. It was one of the first things that really stood out about him. And when he pitched me the idea for Day Men I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. I remember when he was telling me about this idea over the phone, I couldn't WAIT to get started on it. It was such a brilliant concept. And Matt being Matt, I knew that it was going to be more than just a brilliant concept, but an amazing story as well. The guy just knows storytelling.

As for working with Brian, what can I really say? The man is a master and a legend. You want to talk about a guy who knows storytelling. I mean, let's put aside his artistic talent for the moment. Brian has an incredibly broad and sharp intellect. He's able to see ideas and subtext and metaphor within a script and bring it out through his art in a way that is simply awe inspiring. It's like handing him a roughly hewn slap of marble and he gives you Michelangelo's "David" in return. Every time I see one of his pages, I'm at a loss for words. He really is just that damn good.

CBN: Mike, do you have any other projects present or future you would like to discuss?

Michael Alan Nelson: Oh dear, I have a lot of things percolating at the moment. I have a couple of other projects with BOOM! that are in the development stage. I'm also writing Supergirl for DC Comics and am working on a couple of young adult novels as well. So, you know, keeping busy.

Cosmic Book News would like to thank Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson for taking time out of their busy schedules to discuss “Day Men.” We would also like to thank Filip Sablik and Brianna Hart who helped make this interview possible.

“Day Men” #1 hits shelves July 10th!

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