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Interview: Christopher Sebela and Brian Churilla prepare 'Cruel Biology' at DARK HORSE PRESENTS

Find out more about this WWII horror story coming early next year.

It's always great to see something new and different. DARK HORSE PRESENTS is constantly giving us just that. In February's DARK HORSE PRESENTS #33, we'll see a rather interesting sounding story that will run through issue 36. "Dark Biology" is written by Christopher Sebela (CAPTAIN MARVEL, GHOST) with art by Brian Churilla and colors by Dave Stewart.

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COMIC VINE: You guys have a story, "Cruel Biology," coming in DARK HORSE PRESENTS #33-36. What can you tell us about the story?

CHRISTOPHER SEBELA: It's a horror story set during WWII, about a crew of military planespotters stationed on an island in the middle of nowhere, sharing it with the local natives. Their job is to watch for Japanese planes or anything dangerous heading towards America and alert the brass, and one day they see a Japanese balloon floating in and what it's carrying is nothing but bad news for everyone unlucky enough to be trapped on the island.

CV: Where did the idea come from to mix horror and a WWII story?

CS: It's all from historical fact, actually. I just exaggerated some details. The Japanese dropped plague-infected ticks on China in WWII, and towards the end of the war, they started experimenting with balloon bombs, sending them floating towards America. One reached Oregon and killed several people — the only homeland casualties of WW2. Balloons were found washed up on California beaches with empty canisters attached. All I did was think of something horrible to put in that canister and somewhere to drop it.

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CV: Both you have some variety in your past works. How did working on this story compare to previous ones?

CS: This was actually the first comics story I ever wrote, like 10 years ago, as part of an anthology that was going to include myself, Sam Humphries and Kieron Gillen among others. It never went anywhere and rotted on a hard drive somewhere. Last year, I pulled it out between big projects and expanded it from its original 12 page short story form into something more substantial. So, this one is really unique for me, that it's actually seeing the light of day and especially that Brian and Dave Stewart are the ones bringing it to life.

BRIAN CHURILLA: I was able to draw on my experiences as a WWII vet. My time in the south pacific really came in handy with this story. Truth be told, it’s not that much different from working on anything else. It was nice to finally work with Chris though, as we’ve both been trying to make that happen for some time.

CV: How does the DHP schedule work? Have you guys already finished working on this or are you still working on it?

CS: We're about halfway done with it right now, but we're actually ahead of schedule on everything, because we are a well-oiled machine of comics intensity. Plus we're having fun with it and I think that helps us move swiftly since keeping the fun alive is half the battle.

BC: Yeah, it’s nice to be well ahead of schedule. Being behind the eight ball is the worst feeling.

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CV: Was any research into the time period required?

CS: Some, but a lot of the research came from before the story. I'd read Ed Regis' "Biology of Doom" about biological warfare and his imagery of a Japanese war balloon floating onto a beach in California got me wondering where did it come from? Did it maybe interact with someone on the way? Because we're on a fictional remote island, research was pretty easy, as far as getting period props and whether they had beer bottles or cans, and whether those cans had pull tabs or church keys, it's all small stuff that we made sure to get correct. That patina of truthiness helps make a messed up story easier to swallow.

BC: Google image search is my best friend.

CV: Is there a different feeling working on shorter chapters rather than full length ones? More cliffhanger moments?

CS: Yeah, this was originally written as a one-shot, so there was some creative editing solutions between me and Jim Gibbons, our editor, as far as making each chapter its own thing, and that each one is part of a greater whole. It's a lot harder than writing full issues, you have to pick your battles way more often, but it let you be more creative with your shorthand. And you need cliffhanger-y moments, but horror stories are slow burns, where everything goes crazier as it goes, so cliffhangers are more like dread hiatuses.

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CV: What are you most proud of with this story?

CS: That I somehow fooled the universe into persuading Brian Churilla and Dave Stewart to draw and color this story. And that we're telling what's going to be a bloody little story that owes just as much to the inhumanity of world history as it does John Carpenter movies.

BC: Finally working with my two closest dudebros.

"Cruel Biology" begins in DARK HORSE PRESENTS #33 (DEC130103), on sale February 19, 2014. Be sure to let your comic shop know you're interested in a copy.