I recently did an interview with my friend Jessica on Kevin Spacey’s trigg.la “ComiCast” podcast. In it Jessica mentioned that she had heard it was harder to get horror comics out there than regular comics and wondered why I speculated that might be.
What I offered in return was simple, that we horror creators need to be our own voice in the industry. As such when I was handed a copy of Something Animal, written by Sam Rhodes and Bryant Dillon and arted by Robert Burrows, to review I was beyond happy to do so.
The first thing you notice about any comic is the art, want to know if society will love your indie horror comic? Take a good honest look at your art and then proceed from there. Something Animal has brilliant art. The original story is by Ben Rhodes and this month I sat down with the script writers Sam and Bryant over email to let you guys know a bit more about the tale in their own words.
N- Hello gentlemen, thanks for meeting with me to discuss your awesome comic, let’s kick this off with an easy one, how did you guys team up?
B- Well, Sam and I originally met in college. We were selected as roommates based on a questionnaire that our college had us fill out. We both graduated with acting degrees and eventually moved to Los Angeles. We’ve worked together on a number of different projects, from graphic novels to audio dramas, but Something Animal was one of the first big ones. It originally started out as a short story written by Sam’s older brother, Ben Rhodes, then became a short film directed by myself, written by and starring Sam, and produced by Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon. After the film was shot, we decided to pursue the graphic novel medium for the story and the task of adaptation fell to Sam and me.
S- Bryant likes to tell that story about how we met in college…blah, blah, blah, but actually we were both international spies and playboys working for opposite sides during the Cold War. I was a Cuban pop star turned CRAF agent (that’s Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces, for those unhip people out there) collecting information while touring the United States, and Bryant was a CIA agent and a master of disguise who once impersonated Castro AND his wife for an entire 3-hour dinner party. Attempting to gather intelligence, I joined a tennis club in Washington, D.C. with Nancy Reagan as my doubles partner. When she hurt her ankle and Bryant stepped in, we went on to win a string of victories, became fast friends, and decided to start a comics publishing company!
N- As a fellow horror writer I’ve been asked if I think it’s more difficult for horror comics to break out, how do you guys feel about that?
B- I do think that there’s a certain section of the public that is just immediately outside your possible reach when you choose the horror genre. There’s only a certain amount of the general public who consider themselves “comic book readers,” and only a certain percentage of those “comic book readers” will be interested in horror comics. Also, the superhero genre sort of rules the industry, so it can be hard for a book from the horror genre to find distribution. That being said, I think that we’re currently in an age where independent creators have more ability to self-promote and self-market than ever before, and that’s nothing but good for all genres of comics, including the horror genre. Between social media, web comics, and digital comics, there are unprecedented opportunities for creators these days.
S- It seems to me like there are a lot of horror stories out there that are doing really well: The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, etc. I think there’s definitely room for more, and, as we’ve seen at conventions, there’s also the appetite for a unique, new horror story. My mom hates the book, though. So, that sucks.
N- What sort of horror comics do you guys find yourselves drawn to as readers?
B- I am a HUGE vampire fanatic, so I’ll try almost any series featuring a pair of fangs. Currently, I’m reading Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 and Angel & Faith. I also think American Vampire has done some cool stuff. I’ve been a huge Aliens fan since I was a kid, so I really dig some of the series that Dark Horse did in the ‘90s. There’s something so creepy about the xenomorph that just translates really well to sequential art.
S- Funny enough, I’m not a huge horror fan. With comics I find myself following certain writers more than anything else. Brian K. Vaughan, Garth Ennis, Neil Gaiman, Robert Kirkman – and most of these guys use horror elements. I am a big Stephen King fan, though, so I’ve been wanting to read Locke & Key for a while but haven’t gotten to it yet. Is it even horror? I don’t know; I just assumed it was.
N- Are there any creators in the horror industry you feel an awe or kinship to? Or in any other comics genre?
B- I’m really blown away by the work of H.R. Giger and what he’s brought to the horror and sci-fi genres. I mean, the Prometheus trailers look terrifying and they’re basically just a diluted version of his art work. His vision is one that just causes instinctual terror when the human eye views it. It taps into something primordial. I also really loved Rodriguez and Tarantino’s approach to Grindhouse and Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.
When it comes to comics, Garth Ennis always delivers. If your looking for the most perverse, twisted, demented, and intelligent stuff out there, Ennis is your man.
S- I already mentioned Stephen King. I’m absolutely in awe of him as a writer. As an actor, not so much. I have loved everything I’ve seen by George Romero. Yes, that includes Knightriders. Both Romero and King tend to enjoy focusing on the characters and letting that drive the story more than plot. I love that.
N- Alright then, final question, as fellow horror fans why would you recommend Something Animal to horror lovers everywhere?
B- Well, our vampires don’t sparkle! Ha! Honestly, I’d say that I think horror fans will enjoy Something Animal, because it’s something new for the vampire genre. Almost every vampire tale features creatures who benefit from their vampire state. Even if they’re monstrous in appearance, vampires tend to gain strength or powers when they’re turned. This isn’t the case in Something Animal. Our story is one where the vampire condition is akin to a terminal disease or drug addiction. There are no supernatural benefits, no fangs, no burning up in the sunlight…there’s only the reality that you can’t keep solid food down, the hallucinations of violence and blood are getting worse, and you are getting physically weaker every day. Depending on your interpretation, maybe our main character isn’t even experiencing anything supernatural at all. Perhaps, the more terrifying alternative is that he’s simply lost his mind. Cheery story, huh?
S- Also, the art by Robert Burrows is MESMERIZING! Seriously! He did a fantastic job capturing the tone of the story and then took it even further, adding all of these cool, little details that add an extra layer of creepiness to the story. It’s a book that you can read over and over again, and there’s always something new.