By Gabriel Neeb
Moderated by Image Brand Manager Sean Edgar, the Pornsak Pichetshote, Jose Villarrubia, Aaron Campbell (of Infidel), John Layman (Leviathan), editor Will Dennis and writer Jeff Lemire (Gideon Falls) met in the panel We Believe in Horror to discuss their respective works at the San Diego Comic Convention.
Edgar started the panel by asking the creators how they came up with their ideas. For Jeff Lemire and Gideon Falls, he prefers character driven horror like THE SHINING, where what Jack Torrance is undone by is his own drinking. Lemire is not a gore fan, especially since the impact of it is muted on a comic page.
Gideon Falls’ genesis can be traced back 20 years to Lemire’s first short film made as a film school student in Toronto about the series’ main character, Norton (it has been developed more since then). Its emergence and newest issue #6, has greatly benefited from the presence of artist Andrea Sorrentino as it has allowed Lemire to have written his shortest script ever because Sorrentino is able to artistically elaborate on what has been written down.
When discussing Infidel, writer Pornsak Pichetshote explained that the ideas behind the series evolved around a ‘text chain’ he belonged to which concentrated on nerdy interests and little by little moved into a news and politics focus. Given the current times and society’s inability to discuss recent events surrounding racial issues and immigration, Pichetshote found creative fuel for putting these things into a haunted house story (of which we’re all familiar to one degree or another).
Horror served as a great vehicle for dealing with a world on fire (ours). Edgar then asked the artists Jose Villarrubia and Aaron Campbell how they depict a racist demon ghost. Villarrubia said that he found horror comics entertaining but not scary. This led Villarrubia to then experiment with different art techniques. Being informed by the Vertigo artists of the 1990s (Dave McKean and John J. Muth specifically), he would often meld pencil drawings, digitally created images, and bleach to create scenes. This melding and violation of traditional borders, he felt, seemed to emphasis the thematic violation of the borders between the ghost and real worlds.
Villarrubia and Campbell found Infidel to be intensely collaborative. One of the biggest challenges the Infidel team had was how to create horror without putting the main character into a victimized position. Pichetshote said that there was enough of that story and many long discussions among the three resulted.
John Layman was next with his latest comic, Leviathan, which he described as a demon dinosaur summoned from Hell. The idea was inspired by Godzilla, but where that and so many other kaiju / giant monsters were created by atomic radiation, the beast of Leviathan had a supernatural origin. Layman describes it as more of an action-comedy story than a horror story. He is especially impressed by the art of Nick Pitarra who can take a simple panel description and turn that panel into a four panel page.
Editor Will Dennis started by saying that he had too much “moonshine” last night, a sly reference to the series Moonshine by Brian Azzarello and Edward Risso (the same writer artist team of the legendary 100 Bullets) about werewolf bootleggers. That description by Azzarello somehow got the story to flow.
Dennis’ main thrust was about the upcoming Wytches: Bad Egg by Scott Snyder and Jock which will serve as the bridge between the first and second volumes of Wytches. Bad Egg came about as so many ideas from the upcoming second volume were dropped, that a book which would use them seemed like a natural idea. It is, naturally, scheduled for release on Halloween Day 2018. Wytches Volume 2 should be solicited in November.
Dennis also chose to laud the coloring of Wytches, as a horror comic does not have the tools that a horror movie has to convey fear. Dennis, sharing the distaste for gore that Lemire has, also prefers the psychological and character based horror of something like IT FOLLOWS.
Edgar then asked the panelists about the things that scared them as children, and what scares them now.
Pichetshote was scared of everything. Now, the movies he has rewatched are not as scary as then. His adult fears are derived from true crime stories like THE THIN BLUE LINE and CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS. Villarrubia wasn’t scared as a child… until he saw the original PSYCHO. Campbell spoke of the childhood memories of the chestbursting scene of ALIEN he saw at age four, and then the chainsaw scene of 1983’s SCARFACE. He also spoke of childhood trauma caused by family chaos. This would lead him into the horror of the unknowable as practiced by H.P. Lovecraft. Campbell sees this as applicable to the real world horror of people confining themselves into near-tribes in today’s political climate.
Layman fears nothing! Well, no he got the crap scared out of him by JAWS. Dennis agreed with this and found it resonated a bit since he has in-laws in Cape Cod, a setting not dissimilar to Amity Island of JAWS.
And Jeff Lemire is afraid of spiders. As a 12 year old, he was impacted by the original TWIN PEAKS, especially the last episode where Bob takes control of Agent Dale Cooper. Lemire and Layman agreed that TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN is the greatest thing ever.
There was time for only one question, and it was a good one: How do you come up with a good ending?
Jeff Lemire says that you should never end your story and he is aware that the third act of many horror stories is often the weakest. Pichetshote was especially aware of this as the last issue of Infidel was about to come out.
Will Denise tries to start from the end, and craft the story backwards. He says that fan expectations are always subject to hype and creators are unfortunate in having to work against it.
Aaron Campbell felt that expectations should be subverted and cited the real world case unfolding in New Mexico of Victoria Martens where a mother was believed guilty of murdering her child… until police announced the search for another suspect.
Pichetshote ended the panel by stressing the need the write with a good intent, and hopefully, an audience can forgive you.