GET YOUR “XOMBIE” ON: INTERVIEW WITH JAMES FARR Image

Whilst cruising through my usual horror website haunts, I checked out an article about this online comic called “Xombie.” While on the surface it about to be just another series about zombies, it was much different. This wasn’t just an online comic, it was also an animated series that was animated, written and produced by one man, James Farr. On top of that, it wasn’t a series of small, disconnected skits, it was an epic story about the end of the world that unfolded in brillaint episode upon episode. “Xombie” was not a typical horror series about the end of the world at the hands of the walking dead, it was something else entirely, and I became a huge fan.

My fan-dom extended eventually to the creator of “Xombie” as well, as James Farr, while reveling in all his online success, also appeared to be a humble and honest guy. He was funny, kind and ultimately very thankful to anyone who wanted to spread the word about his series, or even just discuss it at length, because Farr is on a mission. He wants to turn “Xombie” into a movie.

Farr has continued this mission for years and has no intention of stopping any time soon. Despite many obstacles getting his main character Dirge on-screen, including the lack of vision of the average studio executive that just doesn’t get “Xombie,” Farr has remained upbeat and I was able to grab Farr during his busy schedule to discuss all things “Xombie.”

For those who aren’t very familiar with “Xombie,” what does it entail?
“Xombie” is the story of Dirge, an undead man with a mind of his own. Where he chooses to go, and how he chooses to use his curse to others’ advantage is what drives the heart of the story.

Were you surprised your first episode and following episodes received such a huge reaction from online viewers?
Yes! If I’d known it was going to receive so much attention right out of the gate, I definitely would have hired a better artist. At the outset, I was mostly experimenting with Flash, and seeing how far I could push it toward the pace and tone of TV animation.

There are so much exhausting zombie fare these days from comedies, online series, comic books, movies, etc…. why do you think “Xombie” has risen among the others in popularity?
Well, don’t get me wrong. I love zombies. But at the same time, I’m sick of zombie movies. Not because those involved aren’t ridiculously talented. But because the stories are all the same! People trapped in a house. People trapped in a mall. People trapped in a church. It’s like, okay, we get it. Now, can we do something new here? “Xombie” was my attempt to do something new, and inject a few fresh ideas into the genre. The sentient zombie twist really lets me explore things from a different perspective. We’ve seen humans dealing with their own potential death. Now we can see dead characters dealing with their own deaths after the fact. With the great equalizer come and gone, what motivation do they have to be good people? I find that question acutely interesting.

What are some of your favorites zombie films or zombie fare?
My favorite zombie movie of all time is “Night of the Living Dead” (the 1990 remake with Patricia Tallman). It was my first zombie movie experience, and for that reason, probably the most potent. Recently, the “Dawn of the Dead” remake really surprised me. Once I got over the ‘running zombie’ thing, I could see it was expertly done. My list of least favorites is way longer.

Why do you think there’s been such a glut in the zombie sub-genre these days? What do you think has contributed to everyone’s need to create a zombie tale?
Well, above and beyond the fact that zombies are a cheap monster to create on screen, they represent a very primal fear for almost everyone. We’re all horrified by death, and the idea that it not only creeps up on us, but will break down our doors and eat our brain is pretty freaking scary. For that reason, they resonate in a very genuine way. Zombies epitomize death. And that scares us.

Do you attribute the walking dead craze on the fascination with death, or just a need to re-create Romero’s legacy?
It’s all cyclic. Five years ago it was vampires. Before that it was something else. After a while, everything looks fresh again. And honestly, zombie films allow filmmakers to address some pretty interesting issues against a moody backdrop. So it will always be an attractive genre.

I read in the Fangoria interview on your site that a feature was set to be released in 2006, can you explain why it hasn’t materialized, yet?
The short answer is, studios were put off by the new ideas. A few even went so far as to suggest we not have a sentient zombie as the hero. Anything new is generally synonymous with risk, and that’s perfectly understandable. The comics are helping to put the story in perspective for them, though. They couldn’t understand a movie with a heroic zombie. But they can understand a comic-book adaptation. So it’s all a means to an end, we hope.

If and or when you do make “Xombie” into a feature film, would you opt to keep Geoff Edwards (The voice of Dirge) in the head of the table, like Aardman did with Peter Sallis in the “Wallace and Gromit” film?
Absolutely. Geoff is responsible for bringing Dirge to life (unavoidable pun) over the last four years. When you see Dirge’s picture, Geoff’s voice immediately pops into your head. It even wound up influencing the lettering style of the comic book. So, for that reason, I can’t imagine using anybody else at this point.

Do you think the difficulties of turning “Xombie” into a feature is attributed to studios just not getting it, or fearing it may not bank with customers?
A combination of both. Despite the fact that “Xombie’s” popularity hinges on the twists that make it different, the studios are hesitant to devote so much money to something that isn’t tried and true. Then again, we see the same zombie plot get churned out over and over, and people are starting to react poorly. It’s only a matter of time until they decide to shake it up. Blade was a brilliant twist on the vampire genre, and it took ages for studios to make that. So you wait, and you smile, and you hope the guy in the suit eventually says “Okay, what the hell?”

Without naming names, what are some of the oddest comments or observations in regards to “Xombie,” where it was clear the person just didn’t get your property?
Overall, the persistent comments are that its too funny, or too approachable or just too “charming.” For a zombie film, I agree, those definitely seem like pretty incongruous elements. But those are the same things people seem to key in on in the comic reviews. And those are the elements they like the best. We’ve seen heads chopped off in every conceivable way at this point, and to make that the centerpiece of any new zombie story just seems lazy.

Who would be your ideal director for a live action or animated “Xombie” feature?
Verbinski or Cuaròn, for sure. Somebody who understands that just because zombies play a pivotal role doesn’t mean it’s simply a “zombie movie.”

I always seem to get a “Hellboy” vibe whenever I watch the series. Is that coincidental, or would you say that the series has somewhat influenced “Xombie” somewhat?
I’m sure it has, even subconsciously. I adore Hellboy, and all its incarnations. Doug Jones commented that Dirge and Hellboy would probably get along famously. Or at least grab a beer together.

When I see “Xombie” crossing over with a famous horror character, I see Ash from “Evil Dead.” Who would be your ideal cross over with Dirge?
Optimus Prime. But seriously! Ash would be a stone blast, since they’d obviously hate each other.

So, like all other horror geeks, I’m sure you (like I) sometimes think about a plan in case zombies actually do take over the world. So… how long do you think you’d actually last during a zombie apocalypse?
I have thought about this far longer than any rational human should think about it. But I am pretty comfortable saying that I would last longer than anyone. If this were a movie, of course, I would be the first guy to die. Right after I said that.

And what would be your weapon of choice?
A shovel, of course. A 34” inch bolt action long rifle. And a power nailer. Oh, and Barry Manilow. I think that music could actually rend flesh if played loudly enough.

People who haven’t read your series don’t know yet that “Xombie” has a bigger fan base than many know, it’s pretty damn huge. I’m curious have you had that “scary fan” just yet?
Ha. A few. Most of them simply email me and ask for the characters in “questionable” poses or situations. And I’m pretty confident Nephthys and Zoe will never interact in said fashion.

Do you have any other ideas for other characters cooking up in that noggin, or is it Dirge for a good long while?
Tons. At the moment, it’s a matter of trying to get Dirge on his feet. Then the sky’s the limit. There are at least two additional comic book series, and one feature film waiting to drop. Hopefully we’ll get the green light to announce those soon. As for “Xombie,” we’ve only scratched the surface. Providing “Reanimated” sells as well as we’d hoped, there are legions of new characters set to either team up with Dirge, or beat the crap out of him.

I saw the previews to the “Xombie” print comic, congratulations, man!
Thanks!!

How did your partnership with Devil’s Due Publishing come about? And, have they presented a firm grasp in understanding the concept of your character?
Devil’s Due is like my extended family at this point. They have been so kind and gracious to me, and really gave me carte blanche with the story. They know what makes it different and cool, and try their best to play that up at every available opportunity. One of my producers was actually acquainted with Josh Baylock, the president of the company. I’m told there were a few drinks involved. Perhaps a blood sacrifice. But he agreed to give us a shot, and I love him.

Have you pushed for any help from your fans involved in the film world to give an extra word for a movie?
Sort of. I’m surrounded by a team of producers, and as a group, we have ties to every major studio in the world. At this point, it’s just a matter of proving what the fans want. Fan reaction and input is a hotly debated topic at the moment (“Snakes on a Plane,” “Transformers,” “Iron Man,” etc.) and studios aren’t quite sure how closely they should listen.

So if you’re able to get “Xombie” up on the big or little screen, what’s the plan? Would you go for a franchise? Or perhaps a series? Do you think this series has the potential to be a phenomenon beyond the internet?
I would definitely hope so. “Xombie,” as a whole, is much larger than a single movie, comic book series or what have you. The bigger questions and the greater conflicts were always intended as a trilogy at least. We’ve come very close to getting just that, so we’ll see what develops as the comics roll out.

Would you direct the movie if you were given the chance? I think you’ve done a hell of a job so far.
Bless you and thanks! I might consider it if it were animated. But I would much rather defer to an expert than try to pass myself off as one.

So tell me, what’s next for you and Dirge and that ever running road?
Comic Con! I’ll be there with the Devil’s Due crew all 5 days. Hope everyone comes by to say hello!

Farr and his animated series “Xombie” can now be seen at Xombie Online. “Xombie: The Movie” coming to a theater near you? It could happen…

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