Repo!'s Terrance Zdunich "The Molting"
The mastermind behind the cult classic Repo! The Genetic Opera – Terrance Zdunich – takes us on a deep, raw, complex emotional journey with a stunning comic book series known as The Molting. The Crowgrrl is hooked, and highly recommends this series!
We are given a unique and oftentimes violent look inside a dysfunctional (OK, not only Dysfunctional, but also Dat-Functional, Dose-Functional, and even DemOther-Functionals) Californian family – a glimpse so rare that no outsiders other than maybe resident cockroaches hiding in the shadows are privy to. Set in Anaheim circa the early ‘90’s, it explores the Pryzkind family’s roots, secrets, and unconventional but gripping bonds – mainly through the experiences of teenage Joseph. But the story is told in such a way that the reader actually CARES for this kid, and become concerned for his future. This is an extremely well-told tale!
Besides the aforementioned Repo! The Genetic Opera, writer/illustrator Terrance sits on other such laurels as having done the storyboards for such films as Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles, Into the Wild, and What We Do Is Secret (biopic about punkers The Germs). He also has a series of online vignettes called The Tutor – a disturbing series of art lessons with a murderous bent.
Joining him on this labor of love (which Terrance is self-publishing and promoting) are colorist Brian Johnson - an artist for film, tv, animation studios in Los Angeles who has worked with Warner Brothers, Sony, HBO, Fox, and others – and designer/letterer Oceano Ransford – who is an entertainment industry graphic designer who has worked on Fight Club, Black Dahlia, Monk, Medium, Bones, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and also did opening credits and t-shirt logo for Repo!
Although the story is scheduled to be told in 12 chapters, only the first four have been released so far – leaving us lusting impatiently for more!
Chapter 1 is “Guilty Susie”, where we’re introduced to the Pryzkind family matriarch – Susie Devereaux - when she was orphaned at the tender age of 12, along with her 14 year old brother Tony. The siblings are sent to live with their abusive relatives, Melinda & Henry Thompson, that only care about the children’s inheritance, not a whit for the kids themselves. Tony – whom Susie hero-worships – tries his best to shelter and protect his sister from as much of the abuse as he’s able to. However, the Thompson’s greed ultimately leads to more death and destruction, leaving a soul-scarred Susie as the sole survivor.
We fast forward to the future in Chapter 2 – “The Happiest Place on Earth” - which basically serves as an introduction to the family. Susie’s grown, married to Abe Pryzkind. The pair have two sons: Joseph & his older brother Trevor. Trevor is Joseph’s hero in the vein of Robin Hood or Jesse James. Our story starts with Joseph and Trevor running from sirens and barking dogs. The inexplicable crime – Trevor just tells Joe to run without telling him Why – results in Joe is late for school since brother nor mother would give him a ride. With his parents always fighting and Trevor always disappearing on clandestine errands, Joe feels alone, isolated, and self-dependent.
In Chapter 3 – Ootheca (name of cockroach egg case) - Trevor’s girlfriend Sandra is obsessed with the secrets Susie’s hiding in the attic, and vows to find out what they are. But after a night of Sandra & Trevor’s intense lovemaking, Trevor wakes Joe up to take him and Sandra to grab a bite to eat at a late night diner. and they witness a Latino gang attacking a man. Trevor confronts them and stops the attack just because it was “the right thing to do”, making a major impression on his younger brother. We also get into Susie’s mind and some of her memories of her brother, her hero. It’s also interesting to note that when Abe is sitting on the front porch playing his guitar, that he has a pendant with a Saturnian sigil on it.
Chapter 4 is “Lethal Raids”, where Joe is learning a vital History lesson; the brutality of murderous tribes of early Man. He learns how not much has changed when a member of a Latino gang tries to attack him in the halls. The teacher comes to Joe’s rescue, and reaches out to befriend the troubled youth. She then shows him the inspirational side of humanity throughout history dating back to the Neolithic caves that comes from Art. She encourages Joe to express himself with drawings, and gives him info on an art contest. But while he’s taking her advice and engrossed in drawing in a sketch book at home, police raid the house looking for Trevor. (Hell of a place to leave it – I can’t wait for the next edition!)
These gripping works of art would also make a great basis for a movie, as so many other stand-out comics have done! In just 4 editions, The Molting has become one of my personal favorites, right up there with my other two comic addictions, Thor and of course The Crow!