Andrea Mutti has a very naturalistic approach to comic book storytelling. His work takes human stories and further imbues them with humanity, from characters to locations. When the story calls for horror or sci-fi, the same sensibilities give the more fantastical elements a realistic quality that makes them feel like their existence is actually plausible. It came as no surprise, then, that one of his most recent Aftershock Comics work, Maniac of New York, impresses as much as it does.
Written by Elliott Kalan, illustrated by Mutti, and lettered by Taylor Esposito, Maniac of New York centers on a pair of female detectives that are on the hunt for the titular city’s most prolific and still active serial killers: Maniac Harry. The killer is driven by some supernatural element that hints at some kind of superior evil orchestrating the kills, which transpire by way of a sharp machete-like blade that’s swung with malice.
Mutti resorts to a kind of hazy look for the comic, using watercolors to present the events as dreamlike and easily malleable. This allows the art to quickly transition in a nightmare state when Harry starts killing. There are some Giallo influences here, offering more than just a few winks at the Italian slasher genre.
Harry himself is a Jason-like figure, the iconic slasher from the Friday the 13th franchise. Mutti’s design affords the killer a similar sense of presence as Jason’s, but Harry feels more human. There’s even a hint of sadness and tragedy behind him that could result in key character development moments further down the road.
I sat down with Mutti during New York Comic Con to talk Maniac of New York and how he fashioned his art style for slasher horror. It follows below.
RICARDO SERRANO: One of the first things that immediately struck me upon reading the first few pages of Maniac of New York was the Giallo influence, but not as an exact reproduction of it. Rather, I felt it subverted certain key elements to produce a brighter take on it, lighting-wise. Was this intentional?
ANDREA MUTTI: Well, being from Italy myself I think it was inevitable some of it was going to come out in this comic. I think I did take some things from it both intentionally and accidentally. I always try to bring everything I’ve learned to my work and incorporate it somehow to give it as much life as I can. In this case, watercolors made sense with the story, especially because it’s set in the very bright city of New York.
SERRANO: Maniac of New York is just another example of how adaptable your art style is. I think you’ve covered just about every genre by this point. What went behind the process of aiming it at slasher horror?
MUTTI: When I want to draw something terrifying, I think a lot about blacks and inks, but I also think about having real colors to keep everything balanced. I don’t want it to feel too fantastical. Maybe a way of putting it is I try to give pages a color vibe. Not necessarily go for complete realism. Just enough so people can put together what everything is and how terrifying it can be.
There has to be some logic to it so that it helps with the storytelling. When I do colors I really try to see how I can add storytelling to the storytelling, you know? I need to know when I should go for something more moody or when to let the colors breathe and be softer.
SERRANO: I can see that. It gives your work a very 1970s Thriller vibe, where colors added another layer of story to those films.
MUTTI: Yeah, I’d say my colors are not descriptive colors. They’re emotional colors.
SERRANO: It even carries over into your background work. No stone is left unturned. Buildings and environments are given the same attention as the characters moving around them. It comes off as very naturalistic.
MUTTI: I am obsessed with realism. If I draw a real place I like to go to the actual place and take pictures. I want to give readers something real if the opportunity is there. Something like the Joker stairs from the movie. I like giving the reader a chance to feel as if they’re there, to get as much in as I can to really build the world and make it believable. I want different points of view.
SERRANO: So you would say it’s about knowing what amount of realism and what amount of magic or fantasy helps the story out?
MUTTI: You can say that, but it’s also about not overthinking and not overwhelming the reader. That’s why I prefer creating something emotional. It gives me more space and lets the reader connect differently.
SERRANO: What’s coming up next in the agenda for you?
MUTTI: Maniac of New York season 2 is starting in December, so we’re excited for that. I’m already a few issues in and it’s been a fascinating experience. I really want to everyone to see what we’ve got coming up.
Published by AfterShock Comics, Maniac of New York: The Bronx is Burning #1 is due out in December. Mutti’s other AfterShock Comics series, Bunny Mask, returns for a second series in Spring 2022.