Today, writer Nathan Kitler and artist Jerel Dye are spending time with the Hellbound blog to discuss horror and their story, Necrocomicon.
- What are scarier, thunderstorms, roller coasters, or clowns?Nathan: Thunderstorms used to scare me, but then I learned to tell myself it’s just the angels going bowling. Clowns don’t scare me, unless they are Pennywise from “It” or John Wayne Gacy. Fortunately, those two are, respectively, fictional and dead. I used to avoid roller coasters, but now I love them. They’re scary in the way that they make your hair stand on end and keep your adrenaline pumping the whole time, and at the end you think: that was terrifying…I want to go again! So, to answer the question, roller coasters.
Jerel: Definitely thunderstorms, I'm not actually scared of them, like I need to hide, but they freak me out. The size and the noise and the power are all reminders of how itty bitty I actually am, how fragile my existence really is. There is nothing quite like a huge thunderhead rolling in to humble me.
- What is your favorite type of horror?
Nathan: I prefer non-supernatural horror, and I get into my reasons why later on. My favorite stuff probably doesn’t qualify as “pure” horror: Se7en, the Swamp Thing and Hellblazer comics, Stephen King’s “Misery.” But I do like supernatural stories with well-thought out, cohesive mythologies, like the Cthulhu mythos or the Black Zodiac in Thirteen Ghosts.
Jerel: It's a tie between psychological thriller, and campy self aware splatterfest.
- Nathan, what inspired you to write this story?
It started with the title, a riff on the book from Lovecraft’s stories and the Evil Dead movies. I thought a story about a horrific comic book would be a good fit for a horror comics anthology. After that, I read 1950s E.C. horror comics, and short stories by Lovecraft and Stephen King and Joe Hill. “The Exorcist” and parts of the New Testament helped shape the demonic possession aspect of the story.
- Jerel, what drew you to this story?
I liked the way humor was woven into the Necrocomicon, even just the title brings a smile to my lips, but what was really interesting was the touch of real dread that Nathan managed to evoke.
- What storytelling median do you think serves horror best? Nathan: Most horror I’ve consumed has been in books, movies and comics. They all have their individual strengths, of course, but I’ve tended to enjoy prose stories the most. It’s scarier, to me, to imagine something implied than to actually see it before me. A well-done radio play could be very effective too. I think the immersive and interactive nature of video games makes it perfect for horror, although I haven’t played many. Doom 3 is supposed to be really good.
Jerel: Oh, they all can work for their own reasons, but I suppose some are better for some things rather than others. Generally speaking, prose for suspense, film and comics for humor, TV for dread (because we get more attached to characters) videogames for sheer terror. Of course we can find examples that cross this generalization too.
- What is your favorite horror story and why?
Nathan: How about Dante’s Inferno; the original tour through the ultimate haunted house: Hell? It really captured my imagination when I first read it in college, and I revisit it every so often. I recommend Robert Pinsky’s translation.
- What was your first exposure to horror?
Nathan: My first encounter with typical horror-related images was probably a series of books on the Universal Monsters I found at the library. I liked Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman best, but they didn’t seem particularly scary to me— I just thought their makeup looked cool. However, my present conception of horror was first shaped by listening to “A Night on Bald Mountain” and “Danse Macabre” in elementary school music class around Halloween. Those pieces have a certain foreboding atmosphere and implicitly tell stories. The computer game “Doom” helped introduce me to sci-fi horror too.
Jerel: Cheesy TV shows like, Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, and the Twilight Zone which I used to watch as a kid. When you are eight, they are so unbelievably terrifying, I still have flashback chills when I think of some of those shows.
- What do you like best and least about the horror genre?
Nathan: I love how the best horror stories tap into a primal, hidden side of us, and linger there after the last word is read or when the credits roll. I think the scariest stories focus on human beings and not supernatural powers, because while we can dismiss the supernatural, we cannot escape ourselves. After all, we must never forget the horror in our own history: genocides, plagues, famine. My favorite horror stories comment on individuals and society, sometimes in a twisted, slanted, satirical way. Before I discovered horror, I loved humor, and I think humor and horror share common ground. I like the dark sense of humor of Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson and the Crypt Keeper and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. I dislike horror stories that feature a “scary” thing – a haunted house, a vampire, a horde of zombies…and contain nothing else to frame or support that thing. The monsters and set pieces are rarely scary on their own; they need context, environment, build-up, what have you. The stories that lack a strong supporting structure usually also lack a credibly scary element. Movies are most often the culprits here. At their worst, they’re not even funny for being terrible, just boring and flimsier than soggy tissues.
Jerel: When it's good it's really good, good psychological horror will stay with you for a long time, it can really latch onto some core visceral instincts in our animal psyche, as well as broaden our vision and make us think about our bodies, our minds, and the universe differently. The worst is the fact that 90% of horror out there is complete schlock, and not worth the time watching it. Although I should say that on occasion I can get into schlock with friends, and when I'm feeling particularly witty.
- What’s your horror guilty pleasure?
Nathan: Schlocky fun horror movies with twenty-somethings playing teenagers and a serial killer on the loose: the Scream movies, the output of Troma Studios. Stuff you can tell they had a blast making. Does “True Blood” count?
Sure as long as it’s a guilty pleasure. Jerel?
Jerel: I still love vampires. Anne Rice opened my eyes years ago, and I never shut them. Even though I still groan when I see some of the places people take them.
- Who do you consider a master of horror?
Nathan: Just one? Okay, fine, H.P. Lovecraft, because he’s a cornerstone of 20th century horror. The way he tapped into the fear of the cosmic unknown, brilliant. Although I really must mention Stephen King. He’s the gateway drug to the good stuff; he is to horror what Green Day is to punk. Who doesn’t like at least one thing by Stephen King?
Jerel: David Cronenberg for making me feel like a meat sack, Alan Moore for Swamp Thing and From Hell, and Sam Raimi for making me laugh.
- Is there anything you want the readers to know about your story?
Nathan: The script went through a few revisions. At one point, the titular book was going to be a 24 hour comic, and a deal with the devil was involved. I credit Jesse Lonergan for being an insightful story editor. Also, it was awesome to work with Jerel. This is the first time I’ve collaborated with an artist on a comic story, and it was a great experience. He is supercrazy skilled.
Jerel: There are little stories hidden on page 3, look for them.
- Are clowns ever funny?
Nathan: Sure. Off the top of my head, take Lou Jacobs, Charlie Chaplin, and Steve-O. It’s not all Bozo and Clarabell out there.
Jerel: Yes, I don't personally find them that creepy, I can see how other people do, but yeah I've laughed at a good clown. Of course it takes very little effort to make a clown VERY creepy and a whole hell of a lot of effort to make a clown uncreepy, and actually funny. So don't expect any comical clowns in anything I'm working on in the near future.
Thanks Nathan and Jerel!