Saturday, March 31, 2012

Buffyfest talks Horror and Comics With Scott Allie (Part 1)

Most readers of this site know Scott Allie for his work writing and editing the Buffy comics, but he's been working in funny books for a long time.  One of Scott's biggest passions is the horror genre, so while he's the Editor Guest of Honor at World Horror Convention this weekend, we thought it would be the perfect time to give you a little more insight into not only Scott, but also some of the other great titles we've been reading through Dark Horse.  Look out for part 2 of this interview where we chat about Buffy and the first issue Scott's written this season, the upcoming #8.

Buffyfest: What, to you, defines a great, classic, traditional horror story?

Scott Allie: One of the things I love about horror is how broad a genre is, how many different things it can be. I love a horror story that gets you really caring about the characters, and where mood and atmosphere and pacing and weird, out-of-the-ordinary events keep the reader off-kilter and scared for the characters and even for themselves. This can be so many things.

Buffyfest: Can you remember the first horror story that really and truly scared you? What was it about that story that got to you?

SA: I might say Salem's Lot, by Stephen King. The town he was writing about could have been the town I grew up in in Massachusetts, and I remember many times reading the book over the years being paralyzed with fear. For all the supernatural melodrama, the settings and the characters convinced me that it could really be happening, that the world was really that dangerous. Probably the fifth time I read that book, in college, I was up till four a.m. reading it, terrified, and realized I had to call it a night, and that I had to go the bathroom. I walked out of my girlfriend's dorm room, out into the brightly lit hallway, and stared down the hallway, about a hundred feet to the bathroom door. And I just decided it wasn't worth it, that brightly lit hall was too scary, and I would wait till morning. I'd first read the book when I was about eight years old, and it scared me just as much at twenty. But the earliest memorable scares, for me, were the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, which once caused me to run screaming out of the kitchen where I was watching with my mom on a little black and white television set. She haunted my dreams for years.

Buffyfest: Aww. Well, a lot of people who know you primarily through Buffy might not know your background. How did you get into funny books and how did you get yourself from reader to editor/writer over the years?

SA: The first comics I read were in junior high school, Frank Miller's Wolverine series. That drew me in, but when I discovered horror comics, particularly underground horror comics of the 1970s, that's what really made me fall in love with the artform. I really dedicated myself to it, steered my college education around it, and found that what I loved more than anything was making books, comics in particular. I produced a lot of work in college, which got me a job at a literary magazine, and the job paid well enough that I was able to finance some self-published horror comics, which then got Dark Horse's attention and got me the job there.

Buffyfest: What other comics did you read growing up?

SA: The underground stuff was most exciting—Skull and Slow Death. They were hard to find, and Creepy and Eerie were the next best thing, as well as some Bernie Wrightson and Bruce Jones horror comics that Pacific Comics was reprinting at the time. This was in the early eighties, when Marvel and DC weren't doing much good horror, and Dark Horse wasn't around yet. Pacific was a company I loved a lot during that time. I also read a lot of superhero stuff, but I kept losing interest in it. Frank Miller's work would always rekindle my interest in superheroes, keep me around a little longer, and actually his great Batman stuff indirectly led me to Alan Moore's great Swamp Thing stuff, which were maybe the best horror comics of the 1980s, the books that ultimately got me to dedicate my life to this stuff. Alan's run of Swamp Thing is way better than Watchmen in my opinion.

Buffyfest: We know you’re doing some workshops at World Horror Con, what’s the most common advice you give to writers and artists when they’re struggling to break into the comic industry?

SA: Well, the most easily applied advice is this: Work small, don't commit to your magnum opus before you've really cut your teeth. A lot of people who are just learning how to write or draw comics want to start by doing a 50-issue epic, and they need to scale down their ambition to work that they can tackle, complete, and then, as they improve ... throw that early work away and not feel bound to it forever. The other thing I want to tell people is to know what it is they want to do, know why they're trying to make this happen. If what they really want to do is tell their own stories, have freedom to express themselves, they should not necessarily focus on getting good-paying work from Marvel or DC. They need to know what they want to do, and they need to look at the industry and see where they might be able to do that. And that's hard to do, but I think you might be wasting everyone's time waiting in portfolio review lines if you don't have a good answer to, "What do you want to do"?

Buffyfest: So the BPRD stuff you’re doing right now is meant to hit that classic horror sweet spot. Talk about the challenges and the benefits of the comic medium when delving into the horror genre.

SA: I think one of the most important aspects of writing in terms of executing a horror story is pacing—and pacing is one of the hardest things to control in comics. In film, the director totally controls the pace; second per second, he decides how the story rolls out. In prose, it's different, but still, the writer controls how the information rolls out. In comics, it's not just easy to skip ahead—it's hard not to. If I want to do a really slow, silent scene, where there's no words, and the reader just lingers over silent images ... there is nothing I can really do to stop the reader from glancing over the panels and skipping to the next word balloon. If I have a very slow-paced thing at the end of which, surprise, the monster jumps out of a cake, the only way I can manage that surprise is to put the cake monster at the top of a left-hand page, so you see it on the page turn. But it's not just about surprises—every aspect of pacing is harder in comics than other media, and pacing is uniquely important in horror.

Buffyfest: In BPRD: The Pickens County Horror, we’re dealing with some Hellboy vampire mythos, how do vampires fit into the Hellboy world? When you and Mike Mignola talked about vampires for this story, what vampire lore influenced you?

SA: Mike loves vampires, but vampires have been relatively scarce in the Hellboy world. There is a reason for that, which we're just starting to unveil. It was hinted at in BPRD: 1946 & 1947. It was hinted at in Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead. But Pickens County finally reveals what the vampires have been doing. Mike's reference points for vampire lore are very classic, Dracula and earlier, but we talked a lot, with Pickens County, about Near Dark. Also, of course, Lovecraft plays into it a bit.

Buffyfest: I read Ragemoor #1 a week ago and LOVED it. I know you’re editing that book, so I was hoping you could give us a little background on it. How did the project come about and what attracted you to it?

SA: THANK YOU. Corben and Strnad are the guys that were blowing my mind when I was a kid looking for REAL horror comics, in the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft and Weird Tales. I love working with Corben—it's an incredible honor. The way Ragemoor came about, as I understood it, is that Richard approached Jan to do a Poe adaptation. Corben just wanted to do Poe. Jan felt they'd done that, and wanted to do something original, but with overtones of homage. What they've done is FAR more interesting to me than any adaptation could have been. I haven't read a comic like this in years. Working with these two has been spectacular for me. At the same time, Corben wanted to get some Poe out of his system, so he's adapting some less well known Poe stories in DHP. So everyone wins.

Buffyfest: What other horror comics do you have cooking right now?

SA: Well, on April 2, our YouTube program beings on Felicia Day's Geek and Sundry channel, and we're kicking it off with a week long serialization of the horror comic The Secret, turned into a motion-comics/animated feature. It's Mike Richardson, my boss, doing a modern, teen-slasher-type horror story, but with a more classic approach. The art, by Jason Shawn Alexander, is awesome. Also, we're announcing a new horror series this weekend at Emerald City Comic Con, Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra's Colder. A real dark psychological thing. We've got some more cool horror comics to announce at Chicago's C2E2 next month, along with some Buffy announcements that we should talk about in advance ...

Buffyfest: Can't wait to hear all about it. Thanks as always, Scott!

In addition to BPRD: Picken's County Horror and Ragemoor (both very much worth your time), Dark Horse has a number of other titles out now I'm enjoying, including Conan the Barbarian (with art by the sensational Becky Cloonan), Dark Matter (think Alien meets Firefly), the delightfully disturbing adaptation of The Strain, and (my personal favorite) Lobster Johnson.

World Horror Con is at the downtown Raddison Hotel in Salt Lake Ciy this weekend through Sunday April 1st.

1 comment:

anca said...

Nice interview guys, nice Allie curly hair.

Oh, common, come up with Part 2 already.