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Mark Rahner Talks Career 2.0 And The New Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance

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  • Mark Rahner Talks Career 2.0 And The New Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance

    Gail Simone, writer on Red Sonja #14, talks with writer Mark Rahner about The Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance #1, both on sale now.


    TZSS01CovCShawGAIL SIMONE: Okay, Mark, I am excited to talk to you about this new Twilight Zone book, and I’ll explain why in just a bit. But for those readers who are not familiar with your work (and this is actually the first story of yours I have read as well), could you give a little background, how you got to be a writer, how you came to be chosen for a high profile title like Twilight Zone?


    MARK RAHNER: In that case, I say welcome to the Mark party!


    I’ve been doing comics since around 2009. I came from Career 1.0 as a newspaper reporter and critic – largely at The Seattle Times – and began Career 2.0 with my creator-owned zombie-western, Rotten, from Moonstone Books. So doing the math, I’ve made my living as a writer for 20 years and the last six of those have been much more fun. You can find out – and read – a bunch more by and about me at www.markrahner.com.


    As far as doing Twilight Zone, you could say I “proved in” with a lot of previous Dynamite work, as well as being an obsessive, lifelong TZ and Rod Serling devotee – and letting our authority-figure editors know it.


    TZSS01CovBFrancavillaGS: Here’s the thing about myself and The Twilight Zone. I’m a fan. I mean, hardcore. I watch the series over and over, I even watch the color version with Forrest Whitaker. I have a stack of the prose collections, I have every issue of Carol Serling’s Twilight Zone magazine. I’ve read and seen many, many attempts to nail that voice, that feeling of unease, and most of the time, they never quite get it. But I literally could tell from your first narration that you had utterly nailed it. I heard Rod Serling’s voice as I was reading, which is no small accomplishment. So, I have to ask, were you a fan previously? What went into getting the tone so tight?


    MR: That means a lot to me, especially coming from a fellow Twilight Zone cultist. I’ve said from the time I started writing my previous TZ volumes – the 2014 Annual and Lost Tales– that that was my goal. So I hope you and the other readers will check those out, too.


    We’re the same on the hardcore front. The original show is gospel to me. I’m very familiar with Serling’s life. I read all the prose collections when I was a kid, have all those magazines, Night Gallery, Serling’s previous live TV work, interviews, biographies … you get the idea. It was in my veins at an early age, and I’ve been getting continuous infusions.


    TZSS01CovDSubLauGS: You’ve written some beloved cult icons before, in Dejah Thoris and the Avenger, for example. But this is The Twilight Zone. If you get it wrong, it seems like writers all over the world would hate you forever. (smiles) I know something about the pressure of getting fan favorites right. Did you have any concern about this story, keeping up with the standards not just of the show, but the importance it had in people’s memories?


    MR: There’s no pressure greater than the prospect of hating myself if I screw up something that’s so important to me. But my career 1.0 was good schooling in performing under the greatest of pressures, and on deadlines.


    My main concern with “Stumbling Distance” was that it’s more personal than I’ve gotten in comics. Writing those long-established characters like Dejah Thoris and The Avenger– whom I also love – doesn’t lend itself to that so easily. But Serling went deep, and writing is risk.


    As far as people’s expectations, I want to exceed them. At least that’s what I strive for. I’m a compulsive researcher with a knack for getting the tones of things, but I also have no interest in inbred fan fiction or recycling catchphrases like “Submitted for your approval.” My stories are meant to be completely faithful, but still new and raw and experimental and angry.


    GS: Tell me a little bit about your story, why did you choose to tell a story of a writer confronting his demons? This was a favorite theme of many TZ writers, obviously, but what made you go to that place?


    TZSS01CovAVilanovaMR: The story had been percolating with me for a while. What would you say to your younger self – especially at a crucial moment? After you’d grown up, become civilized like a human, gained some perspective on what you’d lived through. Would you want to protect a child from the bad parts of what made you who you are?


    I rewatched “Walking Distance” on Blu-ray recently, and it nearly brought me to tears. Beautiful. One of the landmark Twilight Zone stories, and it features one of Serling’s most prominent obsessions: nostalgia for his childhood and hometown. So here’s my own inverted version of that, with a vaguely familiar feel, but it goes down a whole different path. I don’t want to retell or update the old stories. I’ve got plenty of my own.


    GS: And finally, can you break down for us what’s coming up? I have to say, I’m down. I was very pleasantly drawn into this story and I will be following every issue. So what can you tell us about your future issues?


    MR: Glad to hear it! The next one is more science-fiction, about a prisoner in an overly comfortable containment facility run by giant aliens. Then some weird phobia-suspense from my recurring nightmare about waking up on a mattress on the pinnacle of a skyscraper swaying in the wind.


    These are meant to feel like they could be episodes, yet still contemporary. I want you to feel like you’re in good hands. But hands that’ll give you a brisk shake.


    For more on Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1, click here.

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