Watching Katrina ravage New Orleans from his new home in Los Angeles, Louisiana-born screenwriter Mark Landry felt helpless.
And the rise of corporate money in American politics — what Landry saw as a slide into a plutocracy, a nation ruled by the wealthy — left him angry.
He channeled those emotions into a five-part comic book series called “Bloodthirsty.” The series focuses on a former Coast Guard rescue diver who seeks revenge against a brood of wealthy, blood-drinking villains taking over New Orleans.
“As a writer, that was the nugget of it, that I was upset about it,” said Landry, 36. “Then you take that thread and run it through this theme and what it means for people on the ground.”
Published by the London-based imprint Titan Comics, “Bloodthirsty” has garnered glowing reviews in the comics world. The first issue, released last month, has sold out.
Landry will appear from noon to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Louisiana’s Double Play comics store, 2834 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Baton Rouge, to sign copies of the second issue of the series. His friend, chef Jeremy Coco, will prepare a free meal for fans.
Although issue No. 1 was officially sold out, the staff at Double Play said they were able to get a few extra issues for the signing party.
Born and raised in Lake Charles, Landry always wanted to tell stories. Growing up as “an indoor kid,” he took refuge from the heat and humidity of the Gulf Coast in books, comics and movies.
After graduating from LSU, he earned a master’s degree at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts and began creating dozens of scripts trying to break into the screenwriting world.
In California, he realized how important his family’s tradition of storytelling — “sitting around and telling stories and trying to make everybody laugh” — was molded into his creativity.
“Until I moved out of south Louisiana, I didn’t know how important and unique it was to Louisiana,” he said. “People out in California aren’t that way.”
For years, he and a writing partner created story pitches and wrote scripts. They created a hit when the Disney Channel bought their script for “Teen Beach Movie,” about two teen surfers who travel into a 1960s-style beach movie. Released in 2013, the movie became one of the Disney Channel’s highest-rated original films.
But Landry’s Disney success did not help him segue into “Bloodthirsty,” which has become his passion project. The adolescent fans of “Teen Beach Movie” are not the target audience of the gritty, violent comic series.
“Bloodthirsty” begins as New Orleans-born Coast Guard veteran Virgil LaFleur is diving into floodwaters during Katrina. LaFleur’s parents die in the hurricane’s aftermath. Later, while investigating the murder of his younger brother, Virgil uncovers a dark underworld of the Crescent City.
“He kind of lives for his brother,” Landry said. “When that is taken away from him, he has nothing else to live for.”
Virgil seeks revenge against the wealthy hemovores — people who drink the blood of humans — who buy up most of New Orleans post-Katrina and live off the blood of the less fortunate, an extreme version of those who profit off disasters.
These vampire-like villains are not supernatural. A genetic mutation that necessitates their diet of blood leads them to live long lives and accumulate massive wealth.
“They always look young and healthy, and they don’t get diseases,” Landry said. “But if you hit them with a Mack truck, they’re going to die. And they don’t fly, and they don’t sparkle.”
Although “Bloodthirsty” has been successful, Landry said the comic’s future remains unclear.
Landry funded much of the series himself — hiring an artist to illustrate the books — and an online Kickstarter campaign raised money for half the issues. The series will be collected into one volume published by Random House after it ends.
But “Bloodthirsty” must be successful enough to pay for another series, a difficult step in the comics world.
“I would love to live in this world,” Landry said. “I think there is a lot for Virgil to do.”