DIE!DIE!DIE! is a must read for any comic fan that loves action stories. This comic takes the term sibling rivalry to the very edge of extremity. Writers Robert Kirkman (THE WALKING DEAD) and Scott M. Gimple with artist Chris Burnham (BATMAN INCORPORATED) surprise us with their radical new Image comics series. The story focuses on triplets who work for a secret organization within the United States government. 

ComicVerse had the chance to talk to Chris Burnham and get some insight into this awesome comic.

[Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

ComicsVerse (CV): So to start off, can you tell us a little about your new Image series DIE!DIE!DIE!?

Chris Burnham (CB): It’s basically about super spy murder triplets.

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More specifically, there’s a secret cabal inside the US government that nudges world events into place via financial manipulation, targeted assassination, and intestinal prankery. Working in and around this cabal are three identical brothers: Paul (the good one), George (the bad one), and John (the chaotic neutral-ish one). As of issue 4, Paul has been killed and George has secretly taken his place. Will George succeed in using the cabal for chaos and financial gain? Does Paul’s buddy Nate suspect the truth? Will John come to the rescue and straighten things out? I don’t know! But as we find out there will definitely be lots of action, violence, and horrible horrible jokes.

CV: DIE!DIE!DIE! was a secret comic project that you worked on with Robert Kirkman, Scott M. Gimple, and Nathan Fairbairn. How long had it been in development? What was it like having to keep it a secret for so long?

CB: I don’t remember exactly when, but it was in development for a few years. Keeping the secret was only hard at comic conventions. Ignoring people’s questions about what you’re working on via Twitter is easy enough, but it’s pretty exhausting to tell dozens and dozens of nice people to their face that you can’t tell them what you’re working on. If I do this again maybe I’ll just lie and say I’m doing an INHUMANOIDS / JAYCE AND THE WHEELED WARRIORS crossover. That’ll shut them up REAL quick!

CV: What was your initial reaction after reading the script for DIE!DIE!DIE!!?

CB: I thought “Good lord, that is a LOT of panels!” Somehow I’d made it ten or fifteen years into a career in comics without ever doing a nine-panel grid.

CV: What were you doing when you officially found out that you would be working on a comic book with Robert Kirkman? 

CB: Ha! I was eating breakfast with Robert Kirkman! He called me up out of the blue one day and asked me to meet him the next morning. I figured that he was probably going to pitch me a book, but in the back of my head, I thought he might have just wanted me to explain the end of NAMELESS to him!

CV: How much creative freedom do you have working on DIE!DIE!DIE!?

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CB: The script for any given issue is pretty well set, but I can add or take away panels if I think it’ll help me tell the story better. But Kirkman has a pretty good sense of how many panels a sequence needs to be understandable, so I don’t need to do that very often.

CV: DIE!DIE!DIE! has some pretty complex action sequences. What’s your process on approaching them? What were some influences that inspired you while drawing this comic?

CB: Well thanks! When it comes to fight scenes, my first concern is always clarity. The storytelling needs to be as clear as possible so the reader can see exactly what’s going on instantaneously. If you have to pause for even a fraction of a second to figure out what’s happening, the action comes to a screeching halt and you’re ripped out of the story.

At the start of my process, I draw veeeery tiny thumbnail sketches, often multiple versions of each page to try out different panel arrangements and camera angles. And I’m always trying to figure out how much visual information I need to give the reader so they understand precisely what’s happening. Do I need the fighter’s full bodies? Do I need to show the entire environment? Are the character’s physical relationships established well enough that I can cut all the way into a tight closeup? And so on.

My main influence for fight scenes is Tetsuo Hara, the artist of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR. I have a complete run of the series in Japanese but I can’t read a word of it, which makes it very easy to study his brilliant panel-to-panel work without getting distracted by all the dumb words.

CV: What’s the most difficult part of the art process for DIE!DIE!DIE!? What’s the easiest?

CB: I think the easiest part is drawing the main characters’ faces. At this point, I feel like I’ve gotten them dialed pretty well in. The hard part is everything else! Oh! Guns. I find drawing guns to be very difficult and time-consuming. Especially rifles. In order for a drawing of someone shooting a rifle to be really convincing, the proportions and positions of the head, shoulders, arms, hands, and the gun itself all have to be perfect. You can kinda wing it with a pistol, but a rifle is especially tricky. (For me, at least!).

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CV: Between BATMAN INCORPORATED and DIE!DIE!DIE!, the art style has some similarities. What were some things that you couldn’t incorporate into Batman that you could do in DIE!DIE!DIE!?

CB: I started out trying to draw DIE!DIE!DIE! in a somewhat cartoonier, brushier style, but I feel like I quickly reverted back to normal. I think any stylistic difference in art style is really down to me drawing better than I did four or five years ago. And people in suits just look different than people in tights.

Batman doesn’t seem to have a sonic poop gun. That would have been super fun to draw!

CV: I know you’re a fan of joke covers. Which comic character would you love to make a joke cover for?

CB: There’s an old cover trope where astronauts or aliens are looking out of their spaceship window, and something CRAZY has happened to the earth. It’s a cube, it’s been split in half, it’s about to be eaten, it’s grown a set of eyes, whatever. WEIRD FANTASY #16 is the first one that comes to mind but there’s been a million of them. But I’m determined to do one where the continents have been rearranged to form the bat symbol. One of these years the stars will be right!

…or maybe one where Jan & Jayce and Zan & Jayna walk in on Blip the Space Monkey painting himself blue. He and Gleek were the same all along!!!

… or maybe one where an army of zombie Chuck Norrises are chasing after Rick and the gang. Get it? WALKERS?!? Aw, the hell with you.

CV: Of the main characters we’ve met so far in the story, would you rather be Paul or Nate, and why?

CB: Well, Paul’s dead. So I’d rather be Nate. Unless both of my sons are crying in my ears while the dog is barking. In those moments I’d rather be Paul.

CV: Can you tell us anything about the next upcoming issue of DIE!DIE!DIE!?

CB: Hmm… We try to keep things secretive, but I can tell you that in issue 5 I’m particularly proud of a sad expression on Nate’s face. I really nailed the eyes and Nathan made them subtly shiny so that it looks like they’re just about to start welling up. There’s also a rad explosion, some more horrific body mangling, a bunch of fun character bits, and some good old-fashioned plot development! This comic is great!

CV: Do you have any other projects in the works you’d like to mention or talk about?

CB: DIE!DIE!DIE! is the girl that brung me. I’m gonna dance with HER!

DIE!DIE!DIE! started on July 11th, but it’s not too late to catch up! Check out the first issue here!

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