Today we’re discussing horror and the Hellbound 2 story, The Plague, with writer Patrick Flaherty and artist E.J. Barnes.
- What are scarier, thunderstorms, roller coasters, or clowns?
E.J.: At my age, nursing homes are far scarier than any of those things.
Patrick: I find thunderstorms the scariest.
- What is your favorite type of horror?
E.J.: I tend to feel sorry for the monster in monster movies, so psychological thrillers tend to be more my cup of tea. But quirky ones that play on my sense of socio-political paranoia. Videodrome comes immediately to mind. Stories that blur the distinction of what is 'real' also appeal to me; I adored Donnie Darko, even though I wouldn't call it a "horror" story per se. I found Ken Russell's The Devils profoundly disturbing. All of which goes to tell you that I'm really not a fan of "horror" in the conventional sub-genres, but I appreciate a story that leaves me going, "Whoa" at the end.
Patrick: I like my horror laced with comedy, like Bride of Frankenstein.
- Patrick, what inspired you to write this story?My sister's dog killed a grackle soon after the family moved into a new home. The other grackles then tried to drive out this predator by swooping down to within inches of his head for days on end.
- E.J., pardon the pun, what drew you to this story?Sometime last December, even before the Hellbound 2 call went out, Patrick mentioned that he'd had an idea for a possible Hellbound story based on a real incident that happened to his sister's dog. He (the dog) killed a grackle in Patrick's sister's back yard, and the rest of the flock spent the next several days harassing him. I wrote Patrick shortly afterward to say I'd love to draw it, as I love to draw birds -- as evidenced by my animated film Leatherwing Bat and my watercolor comic Birds of the Baltic. I also immediately knew that the correct medium for this story was scratchboard.
- What storytelling medium do you think serves horror best?
E.J.: It depends entirely on what you're trying to do. Prose has its strengths, as it can play on the reader's imagination to fill in the blanks. Just say "unspeakably horrible" and, pouf, whatever the reader thinks is unspeakably horrible will enter his or her head.
Patrick: Black and white film. It can work both like a newsreel (Night of the Living Dead) and like a dream (The Mummy)
- What is your favorite horror story and why?
E.J.: I've read a lot of H. P. Lovecraft over the years, and my favorite story of his is Pickman's Model. I think it displays a rare sense of humor on Lovecraft's part. Then again, the fact that I think it's funny rather than scary probably demonstrates that I'm a sicko.
Patrick: Stephen King's The Shining. I dreaded turning each page before long, but felt compelled to do so.
- What was your first exposure to horror?
E.J.: Hard to say, if you're talking about the conventional sub-genres. But I remember being about 4 and hiding behind the sofa when a TV documentary on space travel excerpted the moon-with-the-bullet-in-its-eye scene from Méliès's Le Voyage dans la Lune. The intention was humor, not horror, but the injury-to-the-eye motif completely freaked me out. Only a few years later, the original Addams Family series was on TV and I immediately picked up on it. At last, a family sitcom (in the 1960s, no less) about a family that wasn't boring and vanilla. Perhaps this is what got me started on my macabre and surreal sense of humor.
Patrick: A scary campfire story during a weekend getaway to a state park near Plymouth when I was in the 4th grade. I think the teacher telling the story tossed something into the fire to make it flare up for dramatic effect at the end.
- What do you like best and least about the horror genre?
E.J.: I guess when you come right down to it; I only go for horror that steps outside the box. I got tired of vampires literally years before everyone else over the age of 14 did.
Patrick: I like how horror exposes our thin veneer of civilization once things start to go awry (like the Cooper family in Night of the Living Dead). I dislike how female characters so rarely get to act as a positive force for good. I also don't care for so many horror plots that require idiocy by law enforcement, scientists, parents, students or all of the above.
- What’s your horror guilty pleasure?
E.J.: My not-so-guilty pleasure is having a "bad movie night" with some of my old cronies. Not all the films we've screened have been from the horror genre, but plenty of them have been. Otherwise I would never have seen It Conquered The World, an otherwise surprisingly compelling allegory for Cold War paranoia befouled by the most wretched special effects. Frank Zappa is right in his intro patter to Cheepnis: The monster is little more than an inverted ice cream cone being pushed out of its cave with a two-by-four.
Patrick: Guilty pleasure? Wolfman Mac's Chiller Drive-In on retro TV on WFMP.
- Who do you consider a master of horror?
E.J.: I'd say H. P. Lovecraft, though I appreciate his work more for the fantasy and science fiction elements than for his ability to horrify. I feel sorry for Wilbur Whately, and I personally think it would be awesome to switch bodies with an alien librarian. The most horrifying thing about Lovecraft's work is his prose style.
Patrick: Mary Shelley made it all possible.
- Is there anything you want the readers to know about your story?
E.J.: Patrick and I want to dedicate The Plague to the memory of Scout the Dog, who died shortly after the story was submitted to Hellbound.
Patrick: There isn't balance in nature so much as a daily struggle to survive, even in our own backyards.
- Are clowns ever funny?
E.J.: Depends on what you mean by "clowns."
Patrick: You have a thing about clowns, don't you?