Recently, ComicsVerse got to sit down with Donny Cates, creator of GOD COUNTRY and Skybound’s newest series REDNECK. The passionate writer and Vampire expert gives us an in-depth look at the world of REDNECK, the story of a family of Vampires in Texas. Find out how REDNECK escapes vampire norms and how it connects to the printing of the original Dracula!

Note: Daniel Warren Johnson, the creator of EXTREMITY, was in the room at the time of this interview.

Make sure to read our review of issue 1 first!

ComicsVerse: In your own way, how would you describe REDNECK?

Donny Cates: The way I like to describe the book is that it’s a photo negative of THE WALKING DEAD. Where TWD is about how humanity stays alive — like how can humans go back to a place of normality surrounded in a world that wants to hurt them, that’s trying to actively kill you — REDNECK is about a group of monsters who are trying to survive in a world where they are surrounded by us! We are a lot more problematic than zombies because we can get organized, we have vendettas, and we don’t let things go.

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CV: Not to interrupt, but you mentioned getting organized. In both GOD COUNTRY and REDNECK, religion feels like a powerful theme within the story. Will organized religion become one of the bigger forces driving a wedge between the townspeople and the Bowmans?

DC: You know, I never sit down and consciously write with Christianity on my mind. You know, the first time I ever did write about Christianity, I ended up getting the attention of an artist named Daniel Warren Johnson (DWJ laughs), and we did a book called GHOST FLEET together. Hi, buddy.

DWJ: Hiii.

DC: You know the reason those elements are in those books is because they live far out in West Texas and deep in East Texas. Not to have them, right, would just be disingenuous. The people we meet in REDNECK that identify themselves as Christian (deep breath) I want to be really, really clear is in no way, shape or form my thesis statement on Christianity, that they are just a bunch of douchebags who happen to call themselves Christians. Those assholes come in every creed and color.

READ: ComicsVerse Interviews Mark Waid!

CV: Another reason I asked about religion is the appearance of the character Father Landry. Can you tell me a little bit more about him?

DC: Landry’s a very interesting character, as is the whole Landry family. Landry kind of runs that town in a way that is in no way that make-believe or fantastical. Like, again, I grew up in Sulphur Springs. That’s really how the hierarchy works in those small Texas towns. It goes, like, sheriff, mayor, father of the church. Things run through him, and this father is not a great one. As you read the first issue, it’s clear that the Landrys and the Bowmans have history, so Father Landry knows what the Bowmans really are. Which is really interesting because, in his eyes, these people are monsters. These are beasts of the devil, and they need to be eradicated.

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The thing is, he is kind of right: they are good people, and they are not bothering anybody, but, from a basic standpoint, they are a bunch of monsters who feed on blood. But then again, he is a complete dick and says some pretty atrocious s***. I will say this about him: he is painted in very broad strokes as our villain in the first issue, but as we move forward I think audiences will come to find out that where that type of belief system comes from, and I think it’s going to be nice to see him actually evolve. But if I say anything further, I will be giving spoilers.

CV: So you’re originally from Texas. Can you tell me a little bit about the setting of Sulphur Springs, Texas?

DC: Yeah, I’m in Austin, but actually my entire family is from Sulphur Springs, where the story takes place, and a lot of people did not know that was a real place. Mostly because it sounds like a made-up place a bunch of vampires would live in. Like, “springs of sulfur” sounds like hell. So the main reason it’s set there is due to my entire extended family being in that part of the state.

CV: Can you explain a bit about your process in making these modern-age vampires?

DC: That’s part of the reason why I love this book so much. You know, being a vampire back in the Middle Ages in Europe was probably a total f****** bummer. I mean, nothing was open late, people were afraid of everything, and you had to kill people to get blood. But in 2017, there are ways to make it work. When REDNECK opens, the Bowman family has found a way to live in peace, and it’s not ideal life because they are very much in isolation, but they have the cattle ranch, and they live off the blood of the cattle, and they sell the meat to the local barbecue shop that the humans who work for them run. But it’s a very self-sustainable kind of a thing.

CV: So do any of their human employees know that they are vampires, or is it still a family secret?

DC: There are two humans that work for them, Phil and Evil — it’s just a dude named Evil — and they are very aware that the Bowmans are vampires. It’s this whole weird situation where the town kind of knows, but it’s very “don’t start none, won’t be none,” stay away from the Bowman’s property. It’s kind of one of those things where you live in the town long enough that even kids will talk to one another saying things like, “I heard they are vampires!” But nobody actually knows if that’s true or not because when the book opens, they are very much isolationists.

If you have read the first issue, there is this a line where JV says, “I won’t let my family be hunted down again,” like I won’t let it happen again. We get the impression that in this world there aren’t a lot of vampires anymore. They don’t hunt humans anymore, and it’s not because they are cowards, but they are just trying to stay alive.

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CV: When creating this project, were you a bit weary about it due to the over-saturation of vampires in media right now?

DC: No, man, and you want to know why? Because everyone — and this is not an indictment of you, with me saying this — but everyone seems to say that. Like, “Oh my God, there’s another vampire thing.” There’s so many vampire things. Well, vampires are evergreen. Every 10 or 15 years there’s something about vampires. There is a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Then it’ll be quiet for a while, and then we’ll have UNDERWORLD, and then it goes quiet, and then there’s a TRUE BLOOD, and then it goes quiet.

So Bram Stoker wrote the original Dracula, which is not the invention of the vampire. It’s just the invention of the character Dracula. He wrote it in… 1877 — but you can fact check me. Actually, I believe it was 1897. And that kind of idea of the vampire has never really fallen out of favor. What I’m trying to do in this — it’s not something I set out to do in this book… All the times you see vampires and popular fiction — it could just be you and me hanging out watching WESTWORLD, and now we’re fully quaffed, and we are fully eloquent and reading poetry and all that s*** — it always rang as such bull.

READ: ComivsVerse Reviews Donny Cate’s GOD COUNTRY#1!

It kind of came from where REDNECK was born. What I liked about it were that these people were just a bunch of Backwoods Texas country people, and then they got bit and they kind of just stay that way, you know? They’re not deep, they are not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, and they are not connected to any other vampires. They don’t know if there are covens in Russia, and they could give a s***. I love that about the book because you never see that.

Like, at some point, one of the characters asks if being stabbed with a stake through the heart will kill you. He goes, “Well, I’ve never been staked through the heart. I don’t f****** know. I would imagine probably it wouldn’t be ideal, I guess?” And then he goes to the guy asking him all this s***, “When you were human, did you know every little thing about how human biology works?” And he goes “No,” and then he goes, “Then why the f*** would I know?”

And I love that idea; I’m not getting hung up on the rules and just painting as you go because the characters could give a s*** about being vampires a certain extent, you know?

CV: I get it, that’s a great take, so let me see…

DC: 1897! Just looked it up. I will point out that the original printing of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is always misquoted as May the 22nd. That is actually not true whatsoever; it actually came out one month earlier than that. Which means that REDNECK will be coming out 120 years to the date to the month that Dracula was published, and for a vampire nut job like me, I think that’s pretty f****** cool.

CV: That is really cool. I’d be putting that everywhere any social media outlet I could.

DC: I could. Unfortunately, the number of people who would give a shit are me… the end. (Laughs) I actually don’t mean to backtrack to go back to the subject of God and GOD COUNTRY.

CV: Yeah, of course, go ahead…

DC: It’s one of those things that are all but unavoidable: you have the small west Texas town; you are raised by your family to believe whatever they believe in. Then suddenly, one day there’s this 20-foot tall dude on your lawn saying he’s the god of war and blood and honor and doing things that are pretty godly. So it’s pretty impossible to not talk about the concept of Christ you were raised with. How do you deal with this idea that my father, while dying in his bed of Alzheimer’s, forgetting us… that I prayed to the God that I have always prayed to, and then suddenly a god does show up, but it wasn’t that one?

How do I write about that? How do I maintain faith in a world where those things go down? What’s beautiful about writing things like that is that there will never be an answer to that question. These people aren’t going to be able to answer it, these people who are sitting in this room talking to Jesus even though all these things went down. You know, there’s never going to be a point in that book that one of them looks somebody and says, “Oh, you know, that makes a lot of sense. Case closed.” You know? And I think that’s really beautiful and something I really enjoyed about writing in the book.

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CV: Thank you for touching back on that. I know a lot of people, including me, enjoyed GOD COUNTRY, so I think we can wrap it up with one more question.

DC: Sure, go ahead.

CV: Something I like to ask creators: is there any title you’re currently reading and enjoying?

DC: Yeah… But some people in this room aren’t going to like this answer. (DWJ laughs.) They’re just not going to like it. Because there’s this new book from Skybound, EXTREMITY, that is the most mother f****** infuriating book I ever read in my life. Because I don’t know if you guys know this, but Daniel Warren Johnson and I did a little book called GHOST FLEET. I read EXTREMITY, and I felt immediately that I was just not needed on GHOST FLEET at all! (DWJ laughs.) At all!

READ: ComicsVerse Interviews Daniel Warren Johnson!

Even if we weren’t friends or in the same room I would still be saying the same thing because it’s a f****** phenomenal book. That being said, there is some s*** about it that could be better. (Room laughs.) No vampires so far. No, man, seriously, when I read the outline I thought it was f****** gorgeous and I still think so right now. Glad to be back on the same team!

Daniel Warren Johnson: (Laughs) Likewise, man.

DC: Label mates, bro! Other than that, SOUTHERN BASTARDS is the best comic to ever be made. SOUTHERN BASTARDS is the comic I put on the bottom of my stack because, if I read SOUTHERN BASTARDS first, I’ll just give up on writing for the day because, if I had a thousand years, I wouldn’t be as good as Jason Aaron is on the first day he started writing.

CV: Well not going to say Jason Aaron isn’t awesome, but you are doing a really f****** good job.

DC: Well, thank you. I… I can’t really soak in what you just said. I truly believe Jason Aaron is the greatest living comic book writer. I really do. His THOR run and SOUTHERN BASTARDS, it’s all flawless. He is the one writer that I’m still such a nerd around. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to meeting people like Mark Waid. When I first started speaking to Mark I was nervous, but now we’re friends. But Jason Aaron… well do you remember the Chris Farley sketch it on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE? Like you remember when Coach Moss, when he did this? It’s f****** awesome dude.

I truly hope Jason Aaron has no memory of any interaction I have made with him because I make a mess of myself. Anyway, I think I took up too much of your time.

CV: No, man, thank you for taking the time to talk today, I really appreciate it.

DC: Not a problem. Anytime!

REDNECK #1 is out now!

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