By Ty Drago, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: May 3, 2011
Sooner or later, every writer is asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Most of us shrug our shoulders; that’s probably the most honest response. A few of us come up with snappy canned answers like, “I belong to the Novel Idea of the Month Club!” or “Oh, I have an idea garden in my backyard!”
But in the case of the Undertakers and their first adventure, I can actually answer that question. The idea was inspired, as so many good ideas are, from my childhood.
When I was a kid I wrote comic books – a lot of comic books. Most were hasty and poorly drawn on cheap, lined notebook paper. I’m no artist, but I did my best to tell the stories at least well enough for the friends I shared them with.
For the most part these comic books all centered around a collection of child superheroes I invented called “The Kid Kadets” (I wish I could say that, even in those days, I was in love with alliteration. But the sad truth is that, at ten years old, I didn’t know how to spell “cadet”.)
These kids had all kinds of superpowers, everything from telekinesis to turning into rockets. Over the years, a few of my neighborhood friends donated their own ideas to the mix, giving us kids who could control the weather or fire Iron Man-like blasts of energy from their palms.
The Kid Kadets had their HQ in Antarctica, in a secret underground base that, on a whim, could be raised from beneath the ice to allow our heroes to easily sally forth into the world (by means that included everything from personal flight to invisible space ships) to right all wrongs.
And their leaders, from the get-go, were a brother and sister team named Tom and Sharon Jefferson.
Well, the mighty Kid Kadets were strong enough to defeat every foe – except growing up, which I inevitably did. And, when that happened, Tom and Sharon and rest disappeared into the corridors of my memory. Shelved, but never truly forgotten.
Then, decades later, along came the Undertakers. In THE UNDERTAKERS, RISE OF THE CORPSES [Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Ages: 9+], twelve-year-old Will Ritter steps out of his house one morning to discover that his next door neighbor, his math teacher and his assistant principal have all become the walking dead. But these aren’t the shambling, vaguely goofy zombies of George Romero fame. No, these “Corpses” are smart, organized, and bent on world conquest. They radiate an illusion of normalcy that only a few rare kids can penetrate, and when then Corpses find such a “Seer”, they make sure the unlucky boy or girl doesn’t talk.
So Will must run for his life. Abandoning his home and life, he travels to Philadelphia, where he falls in with a rag-tag children’s army calling themselves the Undertakers. They’re all Seers, kids who miss their families and are fighting to defend them and our planet from an invasion that only they know about. The oldest of them are barely seventeen, a street-wise brother-and-sister team named—you guessed it—Tom and Sharyn Jefferson (I updated the spelling of Sharyn’s name).
These aren’t the Kid Kadets, of course, though I was just self-indulgent enough to playfully mention that name in the story! They don’t have superpowers, can’t fly worth a darn, and their HQ is a warehouse in Philly, not a cool, high-tech subterranean complex at the South Pole.
But the same courage is there, the same passion for justice. The Undertakers are, in many respects, the Kid Kadets “grown up”, fighting the good fight against villains who are more terrifying than any of the comic book bad dudes their predecessors ever faced. I really hope that, as my readers are introduced to these kids and their adventures, that a little bit of my own childhood peeks through.
Because it’s there. It’s totally there.
Ty Drago is an author, husband, father, and a born Quaker who has lived in New Jersey almost his entire life. He is the editor/publisher of Allegory, an online magazine of science fiction, fantasy and horror. He has also had short fiction published in Space and Time Magazine and Fortress Publishing’s YESTERDAY I WILL anthology. Many years ago, Ty attended a book signing by Isaac Asimov. When Dr. Asimov learned that Drago was a struggling young SF writer, he penned the following: “To Ty: Please keep trying. Isaac Asimov.” And he did.