Rachel, we’re going to be talking HORROR comics in this week’s TRENCHES, so right off the bat, tell me…what are YOU afraid of?
Without a doubt, the scariest thing in the world to me is tax season! Seriously, though, monsters don’t really scare me now that I’m older. For most of my childhood, I was absolutely terrified of werewolves and Freddy Krueger. It never failed that if either of the two were on the screen, I was biting my nails.
Ahh, for me it was always sharks. Hate sharks, hate shark week, I can’t even watch Finding Nemo. So, werewolves scared you as a kid, but here you are working on a book that prominently features them. What is it about the werewolf that makes you howl?
Aside from the fact that they just look completely insane and fierce, when done correctly, I like that they have to undergo this incredibly painful transformation, during which anyone with half a brain could put some distance between them and the creature. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter how fast you run. A werewolf will always be faster, and they WILL track you down. Just everything about the werewolf is grotesque, painful, full of suffering, rage, bloodthirst, torment, insanity. No other monster is so primed to kill.
You may have a point there. When it comes to horror books, you often hear people say things like “Zombies/Vampires/[you name the monster] are played out.” And it’s true, that walking the artists alley of any mid-sized convention, you won’t have trouble finding monster books. What do you think? Are some genres “played out” and should be avoided, or are these genres timeless for good reason?
If any monster is played out, I’d say it’s the zombie, honestly. There’s just not a lot you can do with zombies to make them fresh (hehe, get it?) Some people made them run, and that was cool for a minute, some people made them semi-intelligent, and that was kinda unique, but when it comes down to it, they still just eat brains and flesh, and there’s lots of them. Werewolves and vampires are much more versatile, and they provide a lot of room for a storyteller to cast them in a new light, and spin new angles. Of course my answer isn’t absolute fact, so I don’t want anyone sending me angry emails. It’s just my opinion.
I’ve read some SERIOUSLY scary comics recently. Fialkov’s Echoes and Snyder’s Severed are still giving me nightmares. What are some of your favorite horror comics, and what is it that those creators get right?
I thought both Echoes and Severed were excellent books, but they didn’t scare me at all. My favorite horror comics are the Warren and Skywald magazines from the 60s and 70s. Bernie’s Wrightson’s Jenifer, and his version of Poe’s The Black Cat are my absolute favorite comics of all time. I think the success behind those stories is the fact that the object of fear, the bad guy some may call them, is completely silent. You never know what they’re thinking or feeling, and you’re totally clueless as to what they’ll do next, or where they’ll turn up. Without a chatterbox of a villain, you really have to rely on building tension through atmosphere, and I think that’s absolutely key to a great horror story.
There are some so called “scary” movies that, if you remove the creepy music and sound effects, wouldn’t be scary at all. The medium of comics doesn’t have an audio crutch, which I think makes it more difficult to scare your readers. Got any tricks or advice for us?
As mentioned previously, mounting tension and gritty atmosphere are two essential ingredients in horror. In order to pull these off in a comic, it’s important to have the reader develop an attachment to one or more key characters, and then take something from them, or put them in a dangerous situation. If you ask me, I’ll always tell you to incorporate a monster or supernatural creature in some way. I think we have enough “psycho killer” horror comics and movies going around.
Stepping into the world of creator owned comics can have its fair share of horrors as well. Were there any you faced in bringing your new series Anathema to light? Any lessons learned in the process?
The cost of making a nice looking book is pretty horrific, honestly. I knew I didn’t want second rate art, so I had to shell out a pretty sizable chunk of change. I was ripped off $1,200 by one artist, and had to let another go because he couldn’t meet the production schedule he had promised. In the end, I found myself $2,000 short in my budget, which put a real strain on the printing and shipping of Anathema. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to ALWAYS draw up a contract, no matter how “friendly” you are with the artist. Cover your ass, or you’ll end up burned and broke.