What can you say about John Rozum? In the pages of Emergents Presents, from InterPop Comics, this veteran comics writer has brought the Abyss to life in a series of fan-favorite anthology stories, teaming with artist Cliff Richards. The Abyss, the mysterious crime fighter from the shadows, has consistently won fan voting to return again and again to Emergents Presents, and now Rozum and Richards are launching a new, ongoing series starring the Abyss.
It all kicked off at SXSW in early March when visitors of InterPop’s experiential pop-up were treated to a free NFT of The Abyss #0, a collection of the Abyss’s previous stories from Emergents Presents with a new cover by artist Juan Doe. Later in 2022, InterPop will launch The Abyss #1, and fans will be treated to full-length stories of this shadowy mystery man.
So how is Rozum reacting to all of this fan interest for this red-cloaked hero? Read on…
InterPop: You’re known as both a horror and suspense comics writer (Midnight, Mass; X-Files; Hellraiser) and you also run a Hollywood horror film website called the Grim Gallery. How have you adapted your love of classic horror into writing The Abyss?
John: My love of horror appears in a less direct form in The Abyss. I am writing it as a superhero story with a pulp character sensibility, but there’s a sense of the uncanny to the Abyss and even his rogues gallery. While their abilities all fall into the categories of Emergents, they bend the rule of that a bit and are a bit more unsettling that more traditional powers. There’s something that’s not normal going on in this corner of Culverton. From Memento Mori’s invisible skin and supernatural weapons, ASMR’s bogeyman-vampire aspects, and Family Crest’s weird, sentient coat of arms, there’s something creepy about all of them, and this will continue as his rogues gallery is expanded.
As we discover more about the Abyss himself, we will see some things that venture deep into the uncanny. As much as I love horror, I’ve also devoured myths, folklore and fairy tales, and magic of both kids, so there’s a lot of that informing the stories as well. I think The Abyss is the perfect tool for letting readers peer into the darker corners of Culverton.
InterPop: The Abyss has become a fan-favorite, having won the vote in Emergents Presents #1 and reappearing in issue 3. What about him do you think resonates with fans?
John: I was really surprised by just how popular the Abyss has turned out to be. I think a lot of his popularity is because of the mystery of who he is, combined with the visual of a character in a cloak. I always try to write the best stories I can with any character, and I definitely feel a deep connection to this character and his stories. Perhaps the readers are picking up on that? I have things for the Abyss pretty well thought out into the future, which I think allows me to carefully construct stories around him that give just enough glimpses into his character without giving everything away at once. I’ve also been really determined to develop a worthy rogues’ gallery of opponents for him, and I think they probably have something to do with his popularity as well.
InterPop: What was the last great graphic novel or comic you read?
John: I read a lot of graphic novels, comic book collections, and collections of newspaper strips. I highly recommend A Journal of My Father by Jiro Taniguchi. I’m also about to read The Strange Death of Alex Raymond by Dave Sim and Carson Grubaugh, which I’m really looking forward to.
InterPop: What attracted you to InterPop and its universe initially?
John: My favorite part of my job is the world building aspect of it, so getting in so close to the ground floor of a new universe was really appealing to me. The foundation that InterPop has provided makes it extremely easy to build on and to work within, so I am really enjoying that aspect of my work. I like that even though it’s all new, that there’s still a back story of a few years that is slowly being revealed to the fans, and also allows the creators to mine to bring weight to their characters. When Rachel Gluckstern showed me the Abyss and the overview of the character, there was exactly the right amount of information to let me know what the skeleton was that I’d be fleshing out, and I didn’t need to do much thinking before I knew exactly what I wanted to do with him, and felt like I was onto something exciting. My experience with InterPop as a whole has been extremely positive.
InterPop: What are your thoughts on the Abyss getting his own series?
John: Obviously, I’m delighted by this. It’s something I was really hoping would happen. I really loved writing the eight-page stories, and would be happy to write more of them, but there are a few stories I’d been thinking of, and that will appear in the ongoing series, that would have been impossible to do in the eight-page format – certainly, since I was really trying to maintain crafting stories that were complete in eight-pages without a need for a part two to continue.
I expect to be maintaining the self contained stories as much as I can, though there may be a couple two part stories. Knowing there is a regular schedule, and that we’re not reliant on voting on whether there will be a next story, or not, also makes it a lot easier to plan ahead.
Issue #1 is designed to reintroduce the character, so that readers who may not have read the eight-page stories in Emergents Presents will get a sense of who he is and what he’s about. It will also introduce a new batch of villains while reintroducing a couple of established villains, one of whom will be determined by fan voting. The next issues will pick up with stories I’d been planning from around the time I wrote the second eight-page story and really had a grasp of where I wanted to take the character and build up his corner of the of the world of Culverton. I’m really looking forward to expanding the world of The Abyss with our outstanding creative team, and it’s been really gratifying that the fans have reacted so overwhelmingly positive to the work we’ve been doing.
InterPop: How are you seeing this new relationship with readers as far as fan voting?
John: Obviously, without the fans, and fan voting, there would not be a regular ongoing The Abyss series, so I’m grateful to them. As a writer, who likes to write ahead as much as possible, it’s a bit of a hurdle, since certain aspects of the story will be determined by fan voting. Group Editor Rachel Gluckstern, and I have been laying out plans for how it can be done. While writing ahead means that certain scenes can’t be written until voting is finalized, it also allows me to find ways in which fans can participate in how the story unfolds, and gives me a chance to think about my options, in advance, depending on how voting unfolds.
I think, as of right now, we’ve figured out what elements the readers will be voting on for the first four or five issues. We cover a wide range of things from returning characters, to which plot we will follow in the next issue, to what the cover will look like. We want to make it interesting for the fans as well. Reader feedback is important to me. It’s helpful to know what aspects of the series they will be responding to, and which things they aren’t. I’d like to periodically direct some of the voting to ranking of supporting characters, and what they’d like to see more of, or less of, in general.