Welcome to GAME CHANGERS, an interview series at Comicosity looking at female protagonists in comic books from the last decade or two (or more!) — and the original creators who brought them to life.
Today, we chat with writer Tim Seeley about one of his creator-owned series Revival from Image Comics, and its central character — although one could argue just one of many central female characters featured in that title — deputy, daughter, sister, and mother, Dana Cypress.
Who is Dana Cypress?
First Appearance: Revival #1 (2012)
Created by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton
Published by Image Comics
Dana Cypress was just a small town deputy dealing with the usual stuff small town deputies do: bar fights, runaways, cow tipping — that is until one day when the dead came back to life. Now, Wausau, Wisconsin, has been cordoned off by the federal government, and Dana is tasked with tracking down religious zealots, juggling the media, and investigating murders that now aren’t exactly permanent in some cases. And no murder is more important for Dana to solve than that of her little sister Em, who, as a Reviver, has no memory of the moment of her death.
Family is central to Dana’s every day life, acting as single mother to her son. His father is an often-unemployed (but pretty fun) artist — Dana’s high school sweetheart, in fact. Her own father is sheriff, which makes for a very complicated situation, as he does not know that Em is a Reviver. Dana’s ability to keep her sister’s secret amid government intervention and Em’s increasingly dubious behavior has been severely tasked.
And then you have the ghosts that visit Dana’s son and seem to linger anytime there’s a Reviver around. Dana clearly has her hands full. With mysteries piled on top of mysteries, Dana Cypress is a quintessential noir detective, wrapped up in horror-esque rural setting that makes the mystery behind the Revival all the more unique and compelling.
A few words from her creator
Matt Santori: As I was thinking about the series, it struck me that there are so many interesting women at the center of Revival, even beyond just Dana. How did that come about in your mind in developing the book?
Tim Seeley: One of the things Mike Norton and I talked about wanting in the book is different people’s reactions to a very dramatic event. When faced with the fact that people are coming back from the dead, how would different types of people handle that? And then for me, I’ve always been more interested in writing women characters. I don’t know exactly sure why that is. But I knew that I wanted to leads in Revival to be women.
Interestingly enough, when Mike and I originally talked about doing the series, the main character’s name was Dane and he was a big gay guy. We originally wanted to deal with a little bit of that small town homophobia. The longer we went on with it, though, we realized that we were more interested in this relationship between sisters. And that really took over the book. At the time, so much of the book felt like it was going to be about science versus faith, so that adding the extra layer of small town homophobia felt like it was even more this. We ended up transferring some of that over to the character of Brent, Dana’s partner.
In developing the characters, some of them took on a life of their own. Em sort of worked her way to the top of the heap, and May Tao became a star without us even intending for her to. Ultimately, though, one of the things I think is understudied in horror fiction and super-hero comics in general is the relationship between sisters, and women in general.
MSG: Which leads us right to how Dana’s relationship with her sister has developed to date. One of the factors impacting their relationship significantly is the early loss of their mother. What was the thinking behind that, in particular?
TS: When I was a kid, there was a neighbor girl of mine whose mom got killed in a very terrible car accident. We were coming home one night, and we happened to pass that car accident. It was such a horrible thing in my mind, that this little girl was left without a mother, and it sort of got burned into my brain. It’s one of the earliest horrors I can remember, to have your mother taken from you.
For a long time, I thought about what that would leave your family with. My family is still relatively healthy and happy and get along really well. My mom and dad are still married. So, it really haunted me, both as a little kid and while I was growing up, what that would mean to a family, to remove that figure. In my family, my mom is that glue. She keeps everyone together. And the notion of removing that glue — and in my family, leaving behind three boys and a dad — seems like it would make it impossible to keep things together without that mother figure.
That Dana would feel the need to take up the reins and be that for her family was really interesting to me. And that when she became a teenager, she’d have to rebel against that. The expectation that she keeps the family together is what she ends up resenting as she got older. It leads to her being promiscuous, going out and doing drugs or hanging out with her bad boyfriend. She would be like, I’m too young to be this figure in the family. That really defines Dana for me.
MSG: Given the most recent arc where Dana leaves home for a week or so to investigate in New York City, one of the questions that pops up is why did she stay in Wausau as an adult at all?
TS: To me, it’s all sort of based on myself. As much as you want to rebel, it’s also important that you have a structure to rebel against. She’s always been really interested in showing her own independence. She could go off and do her own thing, but she really loved her family, the people around her, and that town. Once she got over her rebellious stage, that relationship she had with the town was even more important to her. Becoming a cop and staying there, that kind of protective figure for the entire town, became her adulthood.
MSG: Do you imagine, in the history before the start of the series, that Dana’s gender was a factor in the way she was treated as a cop by the town and her peers?
TS: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Dana was well-liked in high school. She was the party girl. The cool girl. The one who would say, “Screw the system.” So, now, she’s not only a woman becoming a cop in a small town, but she was the party girl who bucked the system. Now she is the system.
Dana has been a police officer for two to three years already at the start of the series. I think she would have been in quite a few situations where she would have to prove herself, if only because she would be doubted, compared to her father, expected to be the fun girl and not the authority figure. She was also a woman in this small town that still has a certain amount of backwoods ignorance.
MSG: Getting back to Dana’s relationship with Em, there is a strong age difference between them that would lend itself to that mothering role. How would you characterize their relationship now as adults, particularly in light of the investigation?
TS: Dana has both reveled in and reviled her role as a mother figure to Em. To some degree, she’ll never get over the fact that she feels responsible for Martha, to be an example for her. She also hates that she lost her childhood to taking care of this person who needed her so much. These are definitely complications that are in their relationship.
And in stepping up as her father asked her to do, Dana had to take care of her little sister. “She’s not like you. She’s not outgoing. She’s quiet. She’s frail.” Therefore, Dana is always going to feel extremely protective of Em. She knows that no matter how hard she tries hard not to be, she’s going to be someone Em looks up to — a combination of mother figure and rock star. She was the cool one.
All these things combine make for a complicated relationship, and means that while Dana missed out on the event of her sister dying, she’s loving the opportunity to fix that with this investigation.
MSG: Looking at the overall themes of Revival, one question pops to mind: is Dana a believer? Does she believe in the supernatural in the way other people in the town may or may not?
TS: I don’t think she does. I think Dana’s inherent belief is, after her mother’s death, life is terrible and there is no God. She became this salty Goth chick and wanted to believe that everything is horrible and leads to this inevitable death. But there’s also always been this part of her that loved this romantic notion that her mother was somewhere better, that she could see her and talk to her.
I think she tries hard not to believe, but I think she has a spiritual quality to her. It’s there, and she knows it’s there. It’s not fact and it’s not science and it’s not practical, but it’s there. And it always drives her forward to prove or disprove that. If it could be settled, I get the sense that she would accept it, whichever one it was, but she just wishes that it would be one of them.
“Seeley has created a fully fleshed out world and every possible question about what could potentially happen in a situation as unique as the one here has been answered… Tim Seeley and Mike Norton are really doing something special with Revival.”
– Max Majernik, Comicosity
Where can I read more?
- Revival #1-current (2012)
- Chew/Revival #1 (2014)
For a full list of Comicosity’s Game Changers, please visit our index.