Faces of Horror: Seven Portraits of Horror Fandom

A column article, Comics Bulletin Soapbox by: Nick Hanover

Last week, some “torture” variant covers of the extreme horror series Crossed got extra attention thanks to an editorial that called them out while posting several of the most violent covers. Most fans are used to these kinds of stories by now, where a controversial image is reposted as it is called out and sometimes they're done well, sometimes they just serve as link bait. But what made this piece the center of a number of conversations on the site, on Twitter, on Reddit, on Facebook, and so on was the accusation lobbed by its writer, that anyone who consumes this art must be disturbed.

This too is nothing new to horror fans, but it comes at an interesting time for comics, when the specter of Wertham and the hearings that nearly destroyed the comics industry in the '50s has faded. Video games have risen as a new scape goat for society, thanks to the interactive nature of that medium and their “realistic” violence. But there continue to be figures who demonize fans for their interests and argue, despite any evidence whatsoever to support their claims, that reading extreme works like Crossed is indicative of an actual propensity for horrible acts, who argue that responsible adults can't separate fact and fiction even as they argue against the increasing number of book bans targeting comics.

Rather than add another editorial on the subject to the mix, we've decided to speak with seven horror fans, with a variety of interests and backgrounds, in an effort to better put faces to horror fandom. We hope to show that people with vastly different interests from you, interests that you might even find offensive or distasteful, aren't any more or less likely to be mentally disturbed than you are, that they too are just fans like you and their perspective is necessary when speaking about a subject like this. We hope this will start a different conversation about horror, one that concerns its place in our understanding of society at large and why no matter what other genres fall in and out of favor, we return to horror year after year.


Who are you?

Jason Kretten. Husband, father of 2, bookseller in a used bookstore, part time writer for Horrorhound magazine and volunteer for A Voice for the Innocent. I enjoy comics and horror movies. 

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

The first horror movie I remember seeing was Jaws. I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I saw it at an Aunt's house and I was mesmerized and terrified all at the same time. I think what scared me the most, and this is going to sound funny now, is that growing up my parents would take us to Lake Eerie three times a summer. My young mind, of course, thought that the scenario of Jaws could happen in any body of water. My next experience came when I my older sister convinced my parents to rent Child's Play for a movie night. I was scared out of my mind the second the movie started and "watched" most of it with my face buried in my Littlefoot, from The Land Before Time, stuffed animal. As a child I was scared of anything horror related. The first horror movie I watched that absolutely opened the flood gates for me though was Evil Dead. I saw it when I was 13, and by that time I was over my phobia of horror and my cousin brought it over on a copied VHS. After that I went out of my way to see all the movies I missed out on. Night of the Living Dead and Tales From the Crypt were also huge influences in my current obsession of horror films. 

Night of the Living Dead

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

Most of my favorite horror movies are from the '70s and '80s and besides all the classic American films from those eras I am a huge fan of foreign films from Spain, Italy and England. My favorite subjects are honestly pretty basic. Slashers/serial killers, the living dead, occult/possession and Eco-terror/nature attacks. My favorite creators are George Romero, John Carpenter, Lucio Fulci, Mario Bava, Pete Walker and Amando de Ossorio. 

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

It takes a lot for me to flat out avoid any genre or creators. If I hear a good review from a fellow horror fan I will probably check it out. Though the genres I have the least interest in are contemporary vampires and haunted houses. But I can name a ton of vampire and haunted house movies I love and there are always exceptions to the sub-genres I have the least interest in.  

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

The first movie I saw that disgusted me was Dead Alive, I was 12 when I first saw it and asked to take it out about 30 minutes in. The gore was way to much for me at the time. I revisited it probably 3 or 4 years later and liked it more. Now it is one of my favorite movies. Cannibal Holocaust was the first foreign cannibal movie I watched, I figured if I am going to get into them I might as well start with the most famous/infamous. That movie disgusted me, mostly because of the animal scenes (I have no interest in seeing actual deaths) and just like Dead Alive, when I re-watched it became one of my favorites, though even watching the animal cruelty free version I see how intense the movie still is. The movie Nekromantik is a movie that, still to this day, can get to me. I saw it once and that is all I need to see. The same for Irreversible

Irreversible

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you?

Something I have noticed over the years is that the more I become desensitized to horror movies and pop culture the more overly sensitive I have become to real life horrors. Anytime I watch the news and hear a story about someone victimizing another person, in just about any form, my heart sinks. Years ago I bought the box set of the movie series Traces of Death [a notorious shockumentary series that collected violent news and war footage- ed.] and watching them is when I realized that I will never be OK with watching actual real life death and disfigurement.   

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror?

Not really, the majority of my friends are horror fans, and my wife and kids all love them. I have of course encountered the question "How do you watch that crap?" from my mother and other family members. 

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror?

Not so much in horror but more in music. The music I listen to the most is usually metal, death metal and grindcore. So when people hear that I enjoy other types of music like old R&B/Motown like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, older country like Johnny Cash, Patsie Cline and Willie Nelson and music that is usually referred to as the "oldies," they're surprised. My number one hobby is comic books. Superman and Fantastic Four have always been my favorites. As far as non-hobbies go I am a former board member and current volunteer for a non-profit organization called A Voice for the Innocent, dedicated to the victims of rape and sexual abuse.  

I have a blog at http://jasonkretten.wordpress.com/ also I am a poster on http://www.avoicefortheinnocent.org/


 

Janelle Revord Faces of Horror

Who are you?

My name is Janelle Revord, I'm 24 years old, born and raised Austin native, feminist, and pop culture enthusiast.

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

My love for horror began at a young age when my dad started buying me the Goosebumps book series. I actually asked him to confirm this one for me. He said when I was a little girl he was reading some Stephen King book and I liked the cover, so he went out and bought me Stephen King for kids, my first R.L. Stine Goosebumps book. I think the most appealing thing, like most books, was the story; knowing that it's not real, but still getting a chill from the possibility that maybe those scary things could really happen. I think that's still why I like horror today.

 What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

The first thing that comes to mind is being a fan of psychological horror. The mind is so vast and can be an incredibly terrifying place, which is grounds for producing unique concepts and scenarios, films like Funny Games, The Strangers, and You’re Nextfor instance. I'm also a fan of dystopian horror, which I guess would tie in with psychological horror because it's a mass psychological belief in twisted ideals. Body Horror is another genre that I have found myself to enjoy more recently with films like Antiviral, and American Mary. I'm still going off of the basis from when I was a kid, knowing it's a work of fiction but involving enough reality to constantly instill the question of "what if". Finally I would say that I have a big soft spot in my heart for any and all Asian horror. As far as creators are concerned, off the top of my head I would put The Twisted Twins (Jen and Sylvia Soska), David and Brandon Cronenberg, Takashi Miike, Shion Son, and so many more.

 American Mary

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

I find that I'm fairly open and receptive to most genres except for those that lack original creativity or a high enough level of intelligence to keep me interested. Creativity is pretty easy to explain, if it's been done before, I try to look for whatever creative element that was implemented to make the work stand out and I can usually appreciate it for that. As far as level of intelligence, I guess what I mean by that is having a good reason for why things happen. Whether it's something mundane or over the top, back it up with an intelligent reason for why that needed to happen, why the audience needed to see it, and with an eventual pay off of how it benefits to the work overall as a whole. There are individual works that I know of that I've intentionally avoided though. Cannibal Holocaust, for instance, there were 6 live animals killed on-screen. That crosses the line of fiction to reality which is way more than I think I'm capable of handling and have no interest in seeing.

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme? 

It takes a lot to disgust me because I do realize and can separate the difference from fiction and reality. I would probably say the first horror work that truly, completely disgusted me was Irreversible. When I watched it for the first time, I literally had no idea what I was getting myself into. The realistic portrayal of violence as well as the controversial subject matter of a drawn out and violently depicted rape were both overwhelmingly difficult to take in and handle. I've watched Irreversible again since my first time watching it, and my reaction was definitely not as extreme. I'm not saying it still wasn't difficult to get through, but once the initial shock value was taken out of my experience watching this a second time around, I was able to focus on the fact that the film was not misogynistic or promoting rape culture, but depicted a man's journey of acting out due to rage from a disgusting and horrific act of something that sadly happens far too frequently in real life.

 Irreversible Scene

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you?

I'm going to try to stick with real life with this one, because reality is a pretty horrific and disgusting thing. The fact that Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning) is going to be serving 35 years in prison for telling the truth and exposing crimes against humanity, AND the fact that people still are refusing to call her Chelsea Manning. The fact that George Zimmerman walked away free in the murder of Trayvon Martin and was spotted recently out shopping for guns. The fact that in Wisconsin people are getting arrested for singing at their state capitol even though it's within their first amendment rights. The fact that police tasered a 19 year old teenager in Florida resulting in his death. The fact that prisoners in California are on hunger strikes in protest of the inhumane standards of long-term solitary confinement and instead of listening to them, a judge ruled that it's OK to force feed them. The fact I watched with my own two eyes, in person, every day for half a month, old, ignorant, disgusting republicans, men and women, both destroy the democratic process set into law legislation that will shut down all but 5 reproductive healthcare clinics in the entire state of Texas. The fact that ANOTHER student of color at UT Austin was attacked with a bleach bomb. The fact that more people seem to give a bigger shit about Ben Affleck being Batman instead of any of these issues. That and so much more disgusts me on a daily basis.

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror?

Surprisingly, no. The worst I've ever heard is someone not being able to understand how I enjoy horror, and that is coming from a personal level of non-comprehension. They don't like it so they can't comprehend how anyone could, but disapproval, never. If anything it's been met with wide enthusiasm and encouragement.

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror? 

Probably the fact that my pop culture idols include Lady Gaga, Leslie Knope, and Liz Lemon. I also know the movie Romy and Michele's High School Reunion nearly word for word.

I am on Twitter @itsjustjanelle.


Adam Protextor P-tek

Who are you?

Adam Protextor, indie hip-hop artist, indie horror film director, and occasional film writer.

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

R.L. Stine, hands down. I was the #1 Goosebumps fan, at least according to the materials the fan club sent me. I would ask bookstores for their leftover cardboard standees and basically turned my room into a giant shrine. After that came Fear Street, Bruce Coville books, and pretty much every rip-off or incarnation of that kind of series. They didn't really scare me per se though, I just thought that the stories, imagery, and ideas they were getting away with were infinitely more fun than the other stories I'd encountered.

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

After plowing through the 80's gems in high school I'd have to say the type of horror I'm into most is in film form. I think that the popular horror movie is a sort of cultural barometer for the standards and values of its society, and it's absolutely fascinating to compare how that changes over time and circumstance. The big ones for me are silent horror, 50's formalism, 70's Italian giallo, and 80's American slasher. When it comes to creators there're obviously the bigs -- Murnau, Argento, Raimi, Romero. I'm also a huuuge fan of Larry Cohen.

The Stuff Larry Cohen

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

I will say that I completely 100% hated A Serbian Film and thought it was absolute trash. That's a good example of the kind of horror I hate -- base shock without any intelligence behind it. On the flipside, something like Hostel has taken an extreme amount of flak for using shock in a very intelligent way. So it's hard to say I avoid anything because you can't know until afterwards. That being said I don't think I'll ever need to see The Human Centipede.

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

When I was in high school, my friend Soheil and I would basically seek out the films everyone had told us were the "most shocking", the most messed up. It was an endurance test. That was pre-"torture porn," so it led to viewings of things like Funny Games, Salo, and Irreversible -- smart movies with horrific elements. So really, I was disgusted and shocked before I was offended.  It's all in the context and why you're showing the audience what you are -- I'm only offended when I'm disgusted for no reason.

Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you? 

The thing that disgusts me bar none more than anything else is human cruelty. People causing pain for the sake of pleasure gives me a sick knot in my stomach. It's the same with film -- the monsters never scared me because they were supposed to be evil. But the bad guy in The Phantom blinding his colleague with a rigged microscope made me cry for 10 minutes.

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror? 

I wouldn't necessarily call it "disapproval," but I've definitely run into people who've thought they were better than it, which is a crazy thought to me because horror stories have existed forever. Horror more than any other genre needs laurels to get an audience beyond the typical fanboys that haunt any niche. So I've definitely met people on both sides -- the narrow-minded horror fans reveling in the most straightforward elements of the genre and the insecure film buff who's only seen the horror movies that the AV Club put on their Halloween list (no disrespect to the AV Club). The latter are the ones who sneer but it's so silly because they aren't above the visceral thrills of a fright flick, they're just into the visceral thrills of a fright flick that makes them look smart to be into.

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror? 

Film musicals from the 30's!

My movie is here: http://tinyurl.com/buydroppingevil

My music is here: http://ptekmusic.com


 

Pontypool

Who are you?

I'm Lily, a 22 years old college student, musician, and visual artist.

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

The first I liked was Suicide Club (aka Suicide Circle). A friend recommended it, so I watched it with my friends. We were in 9th grade. The characters were our age, and at the time self-mutilation and being “emo” was cool, which made the story relatable. The mass suicide scenes were spectacular. Fifty people doing one thing in unison would make anything seem phenomenal, not to mention the kawaii schoolgirls in uniforms and fake blood everywhere. It was visually stimulating and definitely left an impression.
 

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

My favorite is gore film. Painters in the classical period created realistic portraits, which were considered great art. Filmmakers created realistic horror scenarios with prosthetic and fake blood, which I think are great art as well. Gore films incorporate modern knowledge of anatomy and our inborn fear for death, pain and deformity, it sheds light upon the human condition like no other work can. My favorite gore film is Flower and Flesh and Blood because it was aesthetically pleasing.

I also like torture themed pornography, because of, other than obvious reasons, the intimacy displayed by the actors/actresses, and the strange beauty of bodies distorted and in pain.

I’m also into shojo manga that features a lot of torn off limbs and cut open tummies, like X/1999 and Angel Sanctuary.

A lot of the music I like is considered scary according to common onlookers, like music by Haus Arafna and The Residents.

The Residents

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

I usually don’t watch horror films in theatres because I don’t like to waste money on something I possibly won’t enjoy since I know a lot of them have mediocre plots and watered-down props. I find them boring. I avoid Japanese psychological horror films like Ringu or Ju-on: The Grudge. Those films scare me when I’m off guard, which makes me paranoid afterwards. I also avoid gore blogs online since I don’t know if those are real or staged, and I don’t like how those blogs exploit people’s physical trauma.

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

As a kid, I never found scary stuff agreeable. If the keyword is “completely,” then the first work that “completely disgusted” me is the Alien franchise. It was so disgusting and scary that I couldn’t sleep after watching it, but I somehow managed to watch most of them (probably because my parents watched them and they always invited me to watch with them). I don’t remember anything that happened (other than some android split into two, revealing yellow slime and wiring), so I went to see the trailer. The trailer does not seem scary now that I’m so used to 80s industrial music and gore films.

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you? 

The things that disgust me the most are rape culture (along with many other by-products of patriarchy), racism, and racial stereotypes. News media making a story out of exaggeration and bias is disgusting. Politicians using grandiose excuses such as peace or human rights to further their own agenda are disgusting. Experiments performed on any uninformed or non-consenting living organisms are also disgusting.

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror? 

I'm self-conscious about my interests in gore. I never told my friends specifically about gore. They know that I like morbid things, and they are okay with it. I posted some gore and torture themed porn on my tumblr a few times (I often delete them soon afterwards because I’m so self-conscious about them). I lost some followers and gained others, although no one left any nasty messages.

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror? 

I like poetry, illustration, and collage-making.

You can listen to my band Pontypool here.


Danny Djeljosevic

Who are you?

Danny Djeljosevic -- comic book writer and failed critic.

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

Horror was something I grew into. I really wasn't the kind of little kid who actively sought out the macabre -- I liked superheroes and robots and dinosaurs and the combination thereof. My biggest exposure to horror were the Monster in My Pocket trading cards. I don't know where they came from, but I had a huge chunk of that set and I poured over that shit for hours, reading the info on the backs of the cards -- it had mythological stuff like Spring-Heeled Jack, literary figures like Frankenstein's Monster and the Phantom of the Opera and deep-ass cuts like Roc and Catoblepas. I think they included the Tyrannosaurs Rex in there, too? The illustrations on those cards are BURNED into my brain.

Monster in my Pocket

But when I started approaching my teens I started growing into it. Frankenstein the book became a really foundational text for me -- it's such an amazing mix of science fiction, body horror, moodiness and philosophy. I dug The Sixth Sense when it came out like 700% of Americans. Those anime adaptations of Rumiko Takahashi's Mermaid Saga comics made for a deliciously nasty start.

I think the first cinematic work of horror that really resonated with me was Evil Dead when I was 15 or 16 -- just some horror nerds who went out into the woods and made the most energetic thing they could make. It's the perfect movie to watch at that age when you've never seen anything like that before. From there I just kept going deeper.

I had the Nintendo 64 version of Resident Evil 2 and I've never been so goddamn scared in my life.

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

I can't really say I've got much of a preference in terms of subgenre. I love Cronenberg's body horror, especially when you see that background pop up in his non-horror flicks. John Carpenter managed to rock most of the genres he dipped his toes in. Sam Raimi's splatter movies are unbridled fun. I'm stoked whenever guys like James Gunn and Eli Roth manage to put something out. Dario Argento is the master of operatic kills but he also did a giallo remake of Blow-Up WITH David Hemmings, which I always found completely insane. Romero, Del Toro, duh. Anybody with a clear authorial voice I'm into. Love cute shit like Cabin in the WoodsDetention changed my life.

In comics, that whole genre is a harder sell. The kind of stuff that works in the movies doesn't work in the comics. For my money, the most effective horror guys are Josh Simmons and Charles Burns. Go read The Furry Trap, Josh Simmons makes gross comics that make you feel fucking terrible. It's great. And Burns has the body horror thing down, and Black Hole's lack of color really adds to the discomfort. I think you could lump Beto's Human Diastrophism into the horror genre to some extent. I really loved that section of the Palomar saga.

Human Diastrophism

Everybody interested in horror should check out Junji Ito -- his style's amazing and his stories go into legitimately creepy territory. A series of drawings of a vampire could never beat that. The black and white art helps, too. Going into the more extreme guro end of manga, I think Shintaro Kago is the most #based horror guy in comics. Shit's downright LURID, and the moment a remotely major publisher starts releasing his stuff in the US the CBLDF is going to go out of business.

THIS is one of the best horror comics I've read lately.

In the mainstream, I dunno. Mignola's nice. Not a Steve Niles guy, but I dug what Matt Fraction did with his 30 Days of Night story. Swamp Thing and early Sandman are enjoyable. Garth Ennis' Hellblazer was good fun and his Crossed bits always stood out above the creators that followed him. Delano and guys like that make some bonkers shlock but Ennis has the supremely biting sense of humor that makes those stories stick.

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

Anything with a CW-tier cast is probably not going to be for me. Especially if it's in the "polished remake of nasty classic" genre. Nightmare on Elm Street was the most recent offender I found myself sitting through. I can't remember a Platinum Dunes horror movie I've liked... oh wait, they did The Unborn? The David Goyer flick? That one was really interesting.

The Unborn

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

I had a really bad reaction to Saw 2. It struck me as a really joyless experience. Some cute premises for "torture yourself to get out of the trap" situations but it wasn't any fun to actually witness.

Otherwise, I'm ALL ABOUT relishing audience reaction, especially if something gets a reaction from me. I remember being pretty disturbed by the ending of Grace, which was incredible. Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) is maybe my favorite feel-bad movie of the past ten years.

One of my favorite movie experiences was watching the first Hostel in a South Florida mall theatre and hearing every teenaged girl in the audience shriek when the dude has to cut off the Japanese chick's dangling eyeball after she's been disfigured by the blowtorch. DOPE. The other day I was at a movie theatre where saw a dad and his teenage son walk out of the Evil Dead remake because it was too much for the lad. THE DOPEST.

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you? 

Fanboys. Yogurt. People who get mad about jokes in The Onion instead of the thing they're satirizing. The way so many otherwise alright dudes act out of a sexism they seem completely unaware of. Lots of political junk. The culture of picking apart celebrities will always be more disgusting than any variation on Tokyo Gore Police.

Tokyo Gore Police

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror? 

Not really. At age 16 I forced my parents to watch Evil Dead with me (tree rape scene and all) and my mom was like "what kind of person would make this movie! Who is this 'Sam Raimi' person!" but they seemed to enjoy the sequel. Everything I've ever liked would get me a judgmental look from somebody.

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror?

I've been playing through the games on the Kirby's Dream Collection on my Wii and that shit is super cute. I really like They Might Be Giants...? I've seen the movie Xanadu more times than I've seen Casablanca.

I'm launching a comics publishing venture called Loser City, and I'm on Twitter @djeljosevic.


Rachel Autumn Deering
Who are you?

My name is Rachel Deering. I'm a freelance writer, editor, and letterer. I've worked for Blizzard Entertainment, Dark Horse, IDW, Valiant, and tons of indies. 

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

As far as I can recall, it all happened when I was about 8 years old. That year, I saw The Howling for the first time and read my first issue of CREEPY. In both instances, I was drawn to the creatures. The fangs, the claws, the drooling, blood-thirsty monsters! In later years, I came to appreciate the fact that neither were particularly gory. They were more about building tension. That's what gets me. 

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

I'm a fan of the 70s style creature features. Stuff like Warren and Skywald magazines and Hammer horror films. I like the dramatic, character-driven stuff. This is going to be all over the place, but I'm a fan of Bruce Jones, Bernie Wrightson, Algernon Blackwood, J. Sheridan LeFanu, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Rick Baker, Guillermo Del Toro, etc etc. 

Bernie Wrightson
What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

I'm not particularly keen on mindless gore. Not to say that it is without its merits, but it does nothing for me, personally. I also don't like the softer edge of horror, either. The romantic monsters in relationships with humans who talk about their feelings and all that. Romance can work in horror, but it should usually be really awful for everyone involved. You should question whether or not it's worth it. Just my opinion, of course.

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

I can't recall ever being truly disgusted by a work of horror. I don't tend to let things get to me like that. I know that horror is fiction, and it can't hurt me. If I find that something is unappealing to me, I ignore it. Simple as that. I wouldn't go back and revisit anything that didn't strike me as awesome from the start.

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you?

Sexism. Rape. Homophobia. Organized religion. Politics. Pop music. Remakes. CGI. Fashion. Las Vegas. Sour cream. American beer.  

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror?

Nope. I'm a fairly reclusive person. I'm selective when it comes to the company I keep. I'd never let someone so judgmental get close enough to express their opinions. Don't open yourself to be affected by shitty people, and you'll find yourself leading a much happier life. In other words, avoid MOST of the internet. 

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror?

Adorable animals. Especially puppies. Especially chihuahua puppies. Fuck. So cute.

I write the horror series Anathema, which you can now read on comiXology Submit.


Paul Brian McCoy

Who are you?

Paul Brian McCoy

 

Do you remember the first horror work you enjoyed? How did you come across it? What did you like about it?

That would be around 1977 or 78, when I was staying up past midnight to watch Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolf Man on Chiller Theater and around the same time became horrified by Old Yeller going rabid. There was also the shocking birth of the baby killer whale onto the deck of the whaling ship in Orca. That one actually gave me nightmares. It was around that same time that Howard the Duck was trapped in an insane asylum and Kiss appeared out of someone's head (Howard the Duck #13) and I found Astonishing Tales #35 and discovered the zombie cyborg Deathlok doing psychic battle with a living god, but really just wanting to die.

All of those were just kind of stumbled across, with The Wolf Man being the only one that was actually framed as a horror show experience. In that context it was a controlled, highly structured experience and not really very scary at all. Old Yeller and Orca, though, were much more effective as horror because they just appeared out of the blue (the actual cat and mouse game between Richard Harris and Orca wasn't really scary) in the midst of the "real life" of the characters. Howard the Duck and Deathlok actually invoked a more existential experience of horror that was the most satisfying and that I still crave to this day.

Astonishing Tales 35 Deathlok

What kind of horror would you say you're into most? Who are some horror creators that you're especially fond of?

What I'm into most varies from week to week. I like exploring different types of horror in film, comics, fiction, and music. Lately I've been exploring low-budget schlock films and reveling in the passion and fun that those film makers captured on the screen. They're entertaining mainly for the experience of seeing creative people overcome difficulties to complete their projects. Japanese splatter films are also great for this.

When it comes to horror films proper, I prefer horror with a strong psychological approach combined with a willingness to transgress societal norms. I like seeing buttons pushed in ways that are artistic and unafraid. A Serbian Film, Martyrs, and Stoker are probably my favorite horror films of the past five years. They're brutal and honest, addressing the social support structures of horror and violence from religious and psychological perspectives or as commodities. They're the spiritual successors to the best Cronenberg films of the 70s and 80s.

And then there's the zombie genre. My love of zombie stories goes back to Romero's original trilogy, Fulci's variations, and the writings of Camus and Sartre. That existential sandbox of death relentlessly coming for you provides fantastic opportunities to explore what makes human beings function as a community while also exploring power relationships and using the breakdown of societal norms to question traditional social roles. When it works, The Walking Dead touches on some of these things fairly well (in both the comics and the TV show), and Garth Ennis' work in Crossed, while not technically zombies, functions in the same way, searching for meaning and hope in the bleakest and most violent of worlds.

This is what I love the most about horror in general. The best works are about stripping away the veneer of culture and exposing the ugly truths behind the power structures that prop up our societies. Whether the artists go farther and actually critique those truths or if they just expose them for our disgust - making explicit the grotesque things we accept when prettied up - it's all valuable whether we want to look at it or not.

Crossed

What are some horror genres, works or creators you typically avoid?

I typically avoid slasher films, but not because of the violent content. The slasher genre is a difficult one to make interesting beyond being a showcase for gore effects specialists. It's rare that your typical slasher film can offer anything special with regards to character or plot. Plus, many slasher films are more interested in establishing a franchise than in telling a good story. There are exceptions, of course, but I generally don't give slasher films much attention unless there's a vocal fandom or critical attention.

When it comes to other mediums, I'm not really interested in romanticized vampires in any form, but I am not the target audience in any sense of the word. In comics, Steve Niles is very popular, but nothing I've ready by him has ever really clicked with me. I'm not sure why.

Do you remember the first horror work that completely disgusted you? If you ever went back to that work, was your reaction still as extreme?

They don't qualify as your standard horror texts, but the first time I read William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch I couldn't finish it. I got as far as the "Hassan's Rumpus Room" chapter and had to quit. Hubert Selby Jr.'s novel The Room got to me in the same way.

I was young, though, when I tried reading both of those the first time. I eventually went back to Naked Lunch and had no problem with it at all. It's a masterpiece. I still haven't gone back to re-read The Room, but that has just been a matter of not finding the time to devote to it. I anxiously look forward to re-reading it someday, especially after reading and loving Last Exit to Brooklyn.

What are some non-horror things, in pop culture or in real life, that disgust you?

The lack of social responsibility in those with money and power. Late night infomercials. The glorification of stupidity and shallow self-obsession that is propagated by many "Reality" Shows. Hypocrisy in religion and politics. Poverty and sickness spreading unchecked. Institutionalized Racism and Sexism defended by conservatives and politicians. Nightmarish deep sea creatures.

Goblin Shark

Have you ever been met with disapproval because of your interest in horror?

Oh yeah. Not quite as bad as because of my interest in comics, but yeah.

What's something you're into that you feel is the polar opposite of your interest in horror?

I'm not sure there's anything that's really a polar opposite. I enjoy some J-Pop, cartoons, my girlfriend and my cats, Doctor Who, Ninja Warrior, Nina Hagen, Tom Waits, and fantasy football. I guess there are some horrific aspects to all of those, too, if we dig.


 


Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter egos at Fitness and Pontypool.

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