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Marc Bernardin details the horror and bureaucracy in 'Census'

Comic Books

Marc Bernardin details the horror and bureaucracy in ‘Census’

The new ComiXology Original debuts today (September 13).

Across his diverse career, Marc Bernardin has written comics on just about everything. That includes superheroes (Batman: Caped Crusader); gritty crime drama (The Highwaymen); and even some YA fantasy (Adora and the Distance). And none of that’s even touching on Bernardin’s extended work as a TV producer, journalist, and podcaster. For his latest project, Bernardin will reference all of those skills/experience and more for a brand-new horror comedy, Census.

In the new ComiXology Original, Bernardin is joined by artist Sebastián Piriz and letter Bernardo Brice as well as frequent collaborator Adam Freeman (as a co-writer). The story itself follows a young man hired on a for a position as a census taker in New York City. The catch? He’s interviewing and tabulating the Big Apple’s ghouls, monsters, and other supernatural residents. It feels a little like Ugly Americans, albeit with a slightly darker vibe and some more subtle pratfalls.

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With issue #1 of the five-part Census debuting today, Bernardin was kind enough to answer a few of our questions via email. That includes how he delves into the mundane, their version of NYC, working with Freeman, and much more.

Marc Bernardin details the horror and bureaucracy in 'Census'

Courtesy of ComiXology.

AIPT: What’s the elevator pitch for Census?

Marc Bernardin: Liam Malone is an aimless slacker living in NYC who answers a job posting ad that seems to require little of him. Knock on doors, ask a few questions, move on. But what he discovers is that the doors of New York City are hiding lots of things. Dangerous things. Supernatural things. How will Liam both keep his life and a stellar performance review?

AIPT: Why does this kind of formula — something deeply bureaucratic smashed headlong into the weird and wild — always seem so deeply interesting?

MB: I think we, as pop-culture omnivores, like a little chocolate in our peanut butter. And the idea that something as wide-ranging and metal as an Otherworld residing in the hidden warrens of New York that also is as subject to the whims and horrors of bureaucracy is kind of fun.

AIPT: Perhaps as a kind of flipside: What does “normalizing” all of these weird and twisted stories do for us as readers? Does it make the unknown easier to swallow somehow?

MB: It humanizes the inhuman. It does bring beings that exist on a higher plane of existence down to our level. I mean, what if you could have tea with an Elder God? What would they talk about? How would they serve their tea?

Marc Bernardin details the horror and bureaucracy in 'Census'

Courtesy of ComiXology.

AIPT: What’s it like to reunite with Adam Freeman? What does your partnership add to the comics writing process?

MB: Adam and I have known each other forever – since 5th grade – and it’s always fun to get back in the comic book trenches with him. And for as horrific as the book can be, we also hope it’s funny, and when doing comedy, it’s always helpful to have someone else there to bounce jokes off of.

AIPT: Tell me about the artwork of Sebastián Píriz — what does his distinct style and the feel of the art do for the story and the shape of this universe in general?

MB: He was able to do walk that line of conjuring horrific monsters so that the scary parts are scary and getting across the “acting” of all the characters so that the funny parts are funny. And because he colored his own work, he was able to conceptualize it all from beginning to end, which gave everything a kind of artisanal feel.


Courtesy of ComiXology.

AIPT:  You tackled fantasy in Adora and The Distance. Did that book inspire or help facilitate this book at all?

MB: Adora and Census are playing in very different fantasy modes – like, a classical guitar and a Fender Stratocaster are both still guitars but offer completely different experiences. But the lessons of genre always apply. Decide what the rules are in your world, because the reader wants to understand how magic works or doesn’t work. What’s possible and what isn’t? And then place characters in that world who can bend those rules to get what they want.

AIPT: How does any of your other work — podcasting, TV writing/production, journalism, etc. — shape or impact your work in the comics medium?

MB: Everything does inform everything else and many of the lessons from one medium can apply to the others. The speed of journalism and the character focus of television and the improvisation of podcasting and the relentless economy of comics all feed each other. While in any given season I do more of one or less than the other, I do feel like it’s writer cross-training in my head.


Courtesy of ComiXology.

AIPT: I love the character of Liam already — he seems like he’s got a good head on his shoulders (for now, at least). Why does this specific character work so well in this story? Is it a kind of storytelling torture of sorts?

MB: So glad to hear it. We wanted Liam to be our “everyman,” our person simply doing his best in surreal circumstances. He’s Jack Burton with a very expensive and totally useless college degree – just shocked and amazed by every new thing he encounters.

AIPT: What other kinds of supernatural hijinks can we expect? Are you pulling from any cultural lineages/traditions in particular?

MB: New York City is such an amazing collision of histories and cultures that it was a veritable smorgasbord of options to choose from. But we definitely wanted to be sure to honor those cultures while, occasionally, examining those histories in a modern context.

AIPT: Why should anyone grab issue #1

MB: Because [Census is] 20 pages of Good Time Comix, set in the city where both Adam and I were born, starring a dude who’d much rather be playing Fortnite but, instead, is trying to get out of a succubus den with his dignity, his life, and his underwear intact. How is that an issue you don’t want to read?

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