REDNECK: DONNY CATES Talking Texas Vampires

Vampires deep in the heart of Texas? The Bowmans serve barbecue, consume blood…but not human.

Why did this scary brood stake out territory out west and how it’s all about to go south in a bad blood feud.

Redneck #1 by Donny Cates (God Country), Lisandro Estherren and Dee Cunniffe from Skybound Comics introduces a twist on vampire horror in comic book shops this week.

Redneck courtesy Skybound Comics

Forget capes and European accents, these horrific hillbillies just want to be left alone but their secret is bleeding out. Writer Donny Cates pulls from his own haunted experiences in Texas to create a clan of bloodsuckers in a new series.

Redneck is said with pride by some, with scorn by others. How did Cates take the moniker to give it a new meaning?

“The honest answer is. I live in Texas. Grew up in a little town called Garland. The inspiration for Arland in King of the Hill.  It’s exactly like that. I spent a lot of my childhood in and around East Texas in a town called Sulphur Springs which is where this (Redneck) takes place. It sounds like a made up place but it’s real.

I was looking up the word redneck and it dawned on me, it would make a great pun for a vampire book. I was like, man, has anybody done that yet? Backwoods Texan vampires? That’s the original genesis of it right there. I got it in my head that I wanted to do that. And then as I started writing it, it became obvious really quick that I was not just writing about vampires. I was kinda writing about my own family, growing up and the south. It has become one of the most personal things I’ve ever done.”

The Bowman clan survives on cow blood. But the reclusive family’s peaceful coexistence is about to be ripped like teeth in flesh. How did these vamps end up in rural Texas?

“When we open the first issue we allude to the fact that they are in hiding. It’s entirely possible that they are the last vampires around. As we go forward in the book we start to get a better understanding of why they settled in East Texas. The Bowman family has been in Texas before Texas was even Texas going back hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years on that land. And that is gonna be explored in the third and fourth issue of the first arc. We’ll see a time in which their numbers were very strong in the old west. You can see them hunting down prey in the open plains. And we get to see why their numbers aren’t as great as they once were and why the eventually to eat other things.

From a personal standpoint growing up and being around east Texas, most of my extended family is from east Texas. As a kid East Texas kinda always scared the shit out of me. If you’ve ever been out there, it is a isolated scary place. It’s dark and hidden away – it be a real good place for a family of vampires.”

With Redneck, Cates aims to stake out a new claim on vampire fiction. How do you escape a long history of stories starring the undead and what were his influences?

“The influences on Redneck are more historical Texan stories. I never really referred to any vampire stories.  I wanted to create my own world rather than rely on what come before it.

When I pitch vampire stories, I’ve heard vampire stories are played out. I disagree strongly. I think vampires have always been popular. The thing that I’ve brought to this as far my interest. Southern vampires. I really love the idea of vampires who have zero interest (in covens, councils) and being vampires. They’re just a bunch of backwoods people before they got bit and after they got bit, they went back on the porch and got drunk. As the book goes along you’ll start to see that no one in this family really knows what the vampire rules are.

At a certain point someone asks Bartlett (Bowman) “Hey man is that whole stake through the heart thing real? Will I die? ” His answer, “yeah I imagine you’d die. I’ve never been staked so I don’t know. I imagine it’s not good for ya. How would I know?”

Like every great vampire story, it’s not really about vampires. It’s always using them as a jumping off point to talk about other things.”

If the Bowmans are the protagonists, Father Landry looks to be the villain of this twisted tragedy. I told Cates how after just one appearance I want to see this guy do bad things. The writer said he will and revealed how the character’s look was meant to be.

“Yeah Landry is a real son of a bitch.  About Landry’s character design, I think the script didn’t say anything about what he looked like. I think all it said was – this guy needs to have the most punchable face you’ve ever seen – and then the pages came in – and I was like oh yeah – perfect.”

Vampire stories start with a leading creature of the night then evolve into a dark universe. Is Cates plotting a greater world and how are the Bowmans tied to it?

“We’ll be staying in east Texas for a little while but certainly the book does move around a little – can’t really tell you where it goes. You’re gonna see a lot of cool Texas things and as far as larger world goes – absolutely. I’m writing right now actually where we start to see the ramifications of the first arc – are enormous. Things that happen in the first arc gets a lot of people’s attention and we start to get a larger idea of other families – vampire families. One of the things I find extraordinarily interesting is seeing how other vampire families. the Bowmans have found a way to live with the cattle farm and with the blood of the cattle. They don’t hurt anybody. And them not hurting anybody is not out of any moral code. It’s trouble. It’s so they don’t get caught. If they could still kill people and get away with it they would but that’s not the world they live in anymore. So it’s fun to see how other families have dealt with that…or not.”

The art of Redneck fits the story but how did this creative team come together?

“Every book I’ve ever done in the past, the pitch came with the artist attached. So Redneck was weird, I was working on Redneck. I hadn’t shown a person in the world. I think I started writing it on a Monday just for myself. I had an idea and I wanted to get it out of my head.  And I think that Thursday Skybound emailed me, like out of the clear blue sky and wanted to see if you anything to toss our way.  I was like yeah I have this one thing I’ve been working on this week so I sent it over and it was approved. So it was the first time in my career that I was approved without art attached. After that the process was really fun because we got to scour through portfolios for the right person and Lisandro has this amazing ability to make ugly look really great, and Dee was a natural fit and Joe, what he’s doing on it is really awesome. His stuff looks like it was already there/arched air. he’s adopted the same kind of line art quality.”

Redneck follows the smashing success of God Country, Cates revealed more about the artistic decisions when creating Redneck:

“For a lot of retailers they’re gonna find to stock Redneck right next door to God Country and in a lot of ways it’s kind of the other side of the coin. Especially those who have the first issue will catch certain similarities. With that in mind I wanted to share one cool art thing – I think it’s cool. The color palette of God Country was based on the wildflowers of Texas. It’s blue bonnets. For Redneck we did the exact same color palette but for those flowers dead so it’s all the colors of dead flowers. So it’s the exact same color palette in God Country just inverted and dead and dying. Really really cool.”

Redneck #1  from Skybound and the new issue of God Country are in comic book shops now.

By Editor