A Writer’s Commentary: Elliott Serrano
talks the Army of Darkness: Election Special
one-shot, now on sale from Dynamite
. Cover by Elliot Fernandez
and interiors byDiego Galindo
Hey everyone! Elliott Serrano, former series writer for “Army of Darkness”, here with a writer’s commentary for the “Army of Darkness: Election Special.” I had a lot of fun writing it, when I wasn’t banging my head against a wall trying to balance a number of story elements in a comic book about a store clerk turned monster hunter running for president of the United States.For all you millennials, the title is a nod to the political thriller “The Manchurian Candidate.” The book has also been referred to as “Ash For President,” but we’d rather not confuse it with the current ad campaign Starz has going for the “Ash VS Evil Dead” television series. Some folks have asked me if we were inspired by the television show or anything that happened during the show to produce this story, and I’ll just come out and say…nope.The idea of having Ash get involved in the presidential race was proposed by Dynamite Entertainment editor Joe Rybandt as one of several scenarios where we could use the AoD title to comment on the current state of American politics. And after my experience with the “Ash Saves Obama” mini-series, Joe asked me if I’d take a crack at it. I’m glad that I did!
So we start off with the image of our hero holding the Necronomicon and recounting some of his previous adventures, this way we get a sense of where this story takes place in Ash’s “timeline.”Page Two
This image of the Necronomicon screaming came to me in the shower, which oddly enough is when a lot of story ideas tend to pop into my head. I wanted to start the story off with a powerful image, and I couldn’t think of another time when the book behaved in this manner.
Notice the little details that artist Diego Galindo puts in Ash’s apartment? I made a note in the script that Ash’s “hovel” not look like the trailer that he lives in in the new series — we didn’t want to get into any problems with the licensors — but Galindo still managed to sneak an Easter egg or two in there.Page Three
Now we’re off to meet the sidekick for this adventure. Of course when you’re dealing with demons and strange prophecies, you need to bring a psychic into the mix. Originally this character was going to be a man with a daughter who Ash would flirt with, but then I realized that I was just cluttering the story with too many characters and made the medium a woman. She’s named after author and friend Delilah S. Dawson who has written YA novels and even a Star Wars novella. I’d love to see her take a crack at Army of Darkness someday!It should also be noted that the script simply describes Delilah as “a looker.” Diego came up with her appearance all on his own. I wonder if she looks like anyone he knows? I’ll have to ask him if I ever see him.Page Four
So here’s where we set up the dynamic between Ash and Delilah. Of course Ash is the wise-ass who wants to impress the pretty girl. But I wanted Delilah to come across as someone who could hold her own with him. I had this whole backstory in my head about how Delilah grew up in a family of mediums, witches and warlocks, and that she had many adventures of her own before meeting Ash. She’s not going to be a “screaming mimi” in this story, as we’ll see later on.Page Five
It’s important for Delilah to demonstrate that she is in fact a true psychic medium and not some fraud since her powers really play a vital part in the story. She establishes a link to the Necronomicon and can see everything the demon presence within the book is experiencing…Page Six
…which is a threat that is unlike anything Ash has ever faced before (of course it is, this is a 48-page special!) and even has the demon realm frightened. Diego manages to sneak a couple more Easter eggs in this scene, including a cameo by a particular “Evil Dead” demon.
By the way, the name of “The Great Darkness” is my tip of the cap to Paul Levitz’ “Great Darkness Saga” from DC Comics’ “Legion of Superheroes”, my favorite Legion story of all time.Page Seven
At this point, Ash is justified in being skeptical of anything the Necronomicon Ex Mortis says to him. It’s not as if the book has ever done him any favors. I even have Ash call back to a particular adventure he went on when I was writing the main series. But having Delilah share the vision is where we establish that this appears to be a credible threat and not something the Necronomicon is making up to send Ash into a trap.Page Eight
We then introduce the political element of the story and the potential “agent” of the Great Darkness, who we learn is one of the candidates running for President of the United States. This makes things a bit more complicated considering the solution the Necronomicon has for dealing with the agent, which makes Ash really uncomfortable!Page Nine
The “solution” also made the Dynamite Entertainment legal department uncomfortable as well since publishing a comic about a character out to kill a presidential candidate is problematic — to say the least — especially in the current political climate.
It was important to emphasize that Ash wasn’t all too keen on his mission, and that there could be some hidden agenda that he hadn’t discovered yet. Still, having Delilah along lends some credence to the threat and let’s face it, Ash isn’t all that bright, so he needs a smarter head around to point him in the right direction.Page Ten
Now we see the state of the presidential election in the AoD universe, where the candidates are very similar to the ones from our world but with some noted differences. For legal reasons we couldn’t use the actual presidential candidates, so I created amalgams and mixed up the traits a bit. Senator Brock Anders is the Democratic candidate, who in the script I described as a “college professor-looking type” to account for his appeal to younger voters. And also account for Ash’s eventual disdain for him.Page Eleven
We then switch over to the Valerie Sexton rally where I dropped some in-jokes that political wonks (like me) will enjoy. The original name of Senator Sexton went through a change because “Chilton” sounded it bit too much like a certain former Secretary of State and New York Senator. Yet another thing that legal got a little nervous over.Page Twelve
Now, if I get hate mail over this book, I’m guessing it’ll be for this part of the story. Nobody likes it when you poke fun at third party candidates, but in the AoD universe, everyone is fair game! Introducing the 3rd party made perfect sense here, though, and opened up some interesting possibilities.Page Thirteen
As I was hashing out the plot, I wasn’t quite sure how Ash fit into the story as a potential “candidate”, or if at all. Going through plot ideas, at one point I thought that instead of being a candidate, Ash could be on the fringes of the campaign. He’d be like one of those conspiracy theorists who believes that 9/11 was an inside job, or that Obama was a secret Muslim who was born in Kenya. You know, a nutjob, but a nutjob we liked because we knew him.And again, I found that I was needlessly cluttering the story with overly clever plot points when the most straightforward solution worked best. I also realized that not having Ash in the midst of the race would be a disappointment to many of his fans. The book is often referred to as Ash for President, and I didn’t want readers to feel misled. (For example, I still get grief for not having Ash and President Obama actually meet in the “Ash Saves Obama” miniseries I wrote years ago.)
So here we have Norman Treadwell of the “Patriot Party” using catchphrases and rhetoric that sounds oddly…familiar.Page Fourteen
Also note that the Necronomicon is an active player in this whole scenario. That was another element of the story that just made it more interesting for me as a writer.
And here is where Ash finds himself going from observer of this whole political process…Page Fifteen
…to getting thrown into it, quite literally!
Because you can’t have an AoD story without some Deadite mayhem, this seemed like a good time to cut the chatter and throw some action in to move things along.
Again, Diego does a nice job of laying it out and going from comical to brutal, just like in the Evil Dead movies.Page Sixteen
And here is where people on social media are going to allege that I’m a right-wing gun nut, which I’m really not. You’ve gotta admit, though, the line works.
This sequence is meant to show how the cult of personality often takes hold in the election process. It’s not who you are or what you can do that matters, but how people perceive you.Page Seventeen
Yet again, the Necronomicon gets involved, and this is where Ash’s role is solidified in the story. How do you get a store clerk to run for president? Same way you get the nation to talk about Joe the Plumber. Give him 15 minutes of fame and fan the flames a bit. I say that this is Shakespeare’s “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” in play.Page Eighteen & Nineteen
These pages take me back to my discussions with Joe Rybandt and how the story would play out. After some back-and-forth, I said “Ash runs for president and has the Necronomicon as his campaign manager.” Not that great a stretch when you consider that George W. Bush had Karl Rove as his campaign manager.
Also, I wanted to refer to the National Association for the Right To Bear Arms as NARBA, but it sounded too much like NAMBLA and well…hate mail.Page Twenty
And now the cable news networks – with their 24-hour news cycles desperate for new content – get involved. Global News Network and CONservative News will play a major part in this election, just like their “real world” counterparts do in ours. Shout out to Diego for the Bill O’Reilly-looking CON News pundit. That was a nice touch.Page Twenty-One
For those who aren’t familiar, here’s the quote that Ash mangles in his stump speech:
“It is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.” – Douglas AdamsHe did say he wasn’t very good with words, right?Page Twenty-Two
If you can’t tell, Sexton and Anders’ campaign rhetoric is inspired by almost a year of listening to Clinton and Sanders going back and forth, and how the media has been disseminating their messages to the public. If you ask me, television and social media have played a greater role in this presidential election than in any before. Especially when you consider that the most controversial candidate of the 2016 election got almost all of his exposure for free via the television news networks. We all agree that Trump is a deadite, yes?Page Twenty-Three
Here’s is where we get to the “deal with the devil” part of the story. And it’s inspired by a scene from “The West Wing” when Josiah Bartlett admits to a group of farmers that he screwed them on a tax bill. His matter-of-fact speaking is what gets Josh to work for him. Well, Ash is no Josiah Bartlett, but he is a decent guy, so he believes in the inherent good of people. On the other hand, the Necronomicon only knows people for the bad that they can be. And he’s telling Ash that if he wants people to listen to him, he needs to appeal to that darker side of human nature. So when Ash starts off mimicking the rhetoric he’s heard and seeing that it’s not getting him anywhere…Page Twenty-Four
…he decides to go with the Necronomicon’s advice and lies to the group of veterans. It’s a lie of omission, yes, and in his own head he can rationalize it to himself because while he may not be a veteran of a human war, he has been fighting against the armies of darkness for decades. So using his own amputation as evidence that he is a fellow veteran is rather deceitful, but has it’s own logic.From here on out Ash is using the Necronomicon’s brand of “truth”, which is mostly lies mixed with a bit of truth. He’s finally become a politician.Twenty-Five
Back to the 24-hour news cycle and suddenly our man Ash is very popular! The “I shot a guy” line was inspired by Donald Trump saying that he could shoot a guy in the street and still see his poll numbers rise. Which they did. When I wrote this page I thought that I was going a bit too “out there” as far as the stuff Ash could get away with saying. Since then Trump has shown that I was too reserved.And at this point readers should realize that Ash in the Donald Trump of the AoD universe.Page Twenty-Six
As this chapter draws to a close, and we see how the Necronomicon’s influence has affected the campaign, Ash has his “Howard Dean moment.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Howard Dean Yeah” and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s hilarious.Page Twenty-Seven
Okay, maybe it seems a bit far-fetched that a third party candidate would get on the debate stage on the eve of a hotly-contested election, but we are talking about a comic where a store clerk fights demons and zombies, right?Page Twenty-Eight
It tickles me that the debate takes place in Atlanta Georgia. This sets up a very subtle jab at “The Walking Dead” to come in a few pages.Page Twenty-Nine
The jacket that Ash wears was a creation of Diego Galindo and cover artist Elliot Fernandez. The backstory being that Patriot Party headquarters sent him the jacket to wear during the debate, and that Ash initially resisted but then relented. Well, as I’m writing this I realize that I’m getting bogged down in details again and slowing down the story. So I included the line where Delilah says “get your jacket” and the reader can just assume that Ash has horrible fashion sense. Which he does.
The words that Ash writes on his hand are actually Sumerian and is an incantation of truth and revelation.Page Thirty – Thirty-Two
Gonna make a confession here: as I was writing these pages, I still hadn’t really decided who was going to be revealed as the “agent of the Great Darkness.” I had scenarios planned out for whether it was Sexton (whose name should have been a dead giveaway) or Anders. And each scenario had their strengths and drawbacks.Also, I made myself laugh when I write the “Professor Santa Claus” line. I may be the only person in the world who thinks it was funny, but that’ enough for me.Page Thirty-Three & Thirty-Four
Oh yeah…if you #StandWithHer you just might be writing some hate mail about this, but remember, it’s just a comic book! I also expect some MRAs to high five each other over this.Guys?Don’t….Page Thirty-Five
…because I went ahead and made them both demons anyway! This would lead into the very subtle jab that I take at The Walking Dead on the next page. Which is if you put Ash in Atlanta, facing a bunch of zombies…Page Thirty-Six
…he just needs one page to kill them all!Thirty-Seven
Remember how I said I don’t think I got crazy enough with the story? I still hold to that, even with this ending. Because with the stuff that Donald Trump has been saying, Ash seems downright reasonable.Thirty-Eight
And so we close with our hero in the White House and asking the same question that so many have been asking during this election season. (Delilah echoing the end of “Ash Saves Obama” because I just love that line.) And we discover that the Necronomicon has been playing us all along?
Thanks for coming along for the ride everyone! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!