The following is an interview with Tim Bach, writer of the comic book series, The Family Graves, from Source Point Press. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Bach about the inspiration behind the series, his creative process in working with artist Brian Atkins, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of your collected trade paperback for your comic book series, The Family Graves, Volume 1: Fiercely Family! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Tim Bach: Thank you. The quick pitch is: The Family Graves is the Fantastic Four meets The Munsters. It’s a mixed-up family of monsters trying to save the world AND their family from a powerful vampire bent on destroying both. After discovering a set of magical mirrors and the dark power they hold, the family races across dimensions to capture the mirrors and prevent the vampire from devouring the space-time continuum and destroying reality. But can the werewolf dad, medusa mom, teen siren, fish-boy, and adorable baby zombie stick together long enough to keep reality from falling apart?
I’m a huge fan of monsters, and I always wanted to do a team book. And I began to think of a world where monsters and humans co-exist relatively peacefully and how you could spot the real monsters in a world like that. Subconsciously, I think being a new dad and working through being a parent had a lot to do with where the story went.
When you have kids, you see the world an entirely different way. Everything becomes more wonderful and scary in all kinds of different ways. And you begin to really process your own childhood and your own parents’ strengths and weaknesses versus your own. In a way, this is me working through all that. At its core, this is a family story—primarily about fathers and sons—dressed up in the teeth and claws of a marvelous monster story.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in working with artist Brian Atkins to bring this story to life, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TB: Brian and I have worked together on a few projects, so we have a real trusting, collaborative relationship. I tend to outline the story ideas and the characters and then bounce them off Brian. We’ll talk things over, and then I’ll incorporate his feedback into the scripts. After we talk about the script and finalize that, he works out character designs and page layouts. And sometimes we discover we need an extra panel here or maybe we take one out to make the story work better.
Brian is an extraordinary artist with a wide range, and he puts some much awesome on the page in every panel. Whether it’s a big action scene or some small moment—they’re all equally powerful somehow. I want to write things that play to his strengths, and I think we kind of push each other to be better.
My creative influences include the many, many monster movies I watched as a kid, and lots of comics too. From a comics storytelling standpoint, I’m influenced by a lot of sixties and seventies Marvel comics—which is interesting, because those were way before my time. But I got into them after diving into the back-issue bins in the early aughts when I was kind of burned out with what was going on in current comics.
I devoured runs by Archie Goodwin, David Michelenie, Gene Colan, Mike Ploog, Iron Man and Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night—all the Marvel monster books, really. The art was incredible. And from a narrative standpoint, I really loved how much story and character work actually happened in every issue. A lot of my work is probably a reaction to the decompressed storylines that were popular at the time and still dominate in the “write for the trade” mentality.
I think every issue of a comic should be packed to the max with character development and plot. You’ll find some real strong character work in my stories, but it’s always done with an eye toward moving forward. We get right to the action and show you who the character is. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to have some narration or self-reflection, but then it’s going to be followed very quickly by some crazy werewolf action! You will not have to wait six issues to see one of my heroes—or villains—get moving. Stan and Jack or Byrne or Waid—the real legendary storytellers packed more information into one issue than most modern comics have in a trade, and I really think that’s one of the reasons their work endures. At the end of the day, it’s just so entertaining and rich. And I hope my work follows suit.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work, and do you feel that there is a recommended age group(s) for the series?
TB: I want people to be entertained first and foremost. I want them to be amazed and maybe cry and smile, and just be satisfied and happy. The world can be so negative—and we all need some place to escape to and recharge. I also want people to see that we all have a hero inside us. It’s important to have strong aspirational characters who, while they certainly aren’t perfect, try to do the right thing. I think strong families for all their human faults are the bedrock of a civil society, and I wanted to show one working through conflict as a model for how we treat one another inside our homes and out. But I don’t take myself too seriously. The whole book is also sprinkled with an adorable baby zombie with an unquenchable thirst for brains, because comics should be fun.
And so the book is for fans of big, fun comics. If you love the classic incarnations of Marvel or DC heroes or just scary monsters like werewolves or zombies, and you want to have big adventures, you’ll love this book.
We’ve had great reviews from horror and monster sites for the thrills and chills in The Family Graves and the fun, fresh take it is on the monster genre. And then I started hearing from readers who were parents who struggle to find comics they can share with their teens or even middle schoolers. The parent had picked up Family Graves because it interested them, and then they shared it with their kids because it works on a lot of levels. Someone said the book is all ages, but not in a “just for kids” way. Much like Star Wars isn’t technically a kids’ movie, but is something people of all ages can enjoy, we strive to do the same with The Family Graves.
BD: What makes Source Point Press the perfect home for The Family Graves series?
TB: Source Point is one of the most exciting publishers out there. And they are fast becoming the home of the best in original ideas and creator-owned content: Ogre, Achilles, Wretched Things, Norah, Monstrous, and Dead End Kids. The team at the company and the creators have been so great to Brian and me, and so supportive. There’s real camaraderie with everyone rooting for one another and selling one another’s books at cons—everyone is working so hard to get great books in the hands of readers. And our little monster family is the perfect fit with Source Point’s lineup. The Family Graves is sort of equal parts horror, heroics, humor, and heart—and we’ve been able to start with the strong horror audience Source Point is known for but also grow our audience as the company grows and becomes known for sci-fi, fantasy, crime, and even humor books.
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your series into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
TB: Well, The Family Graves is available for the next big live-action summer film franchise. Hollywood, call us.
But, really, I think the material lends itself more to an animated TV series done in much the same way as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—with different animated styles for the different dimensions they visit or to accentuate different monster powers and personalities. And like Spider-Verse, I see us being able to handle mature themes and family issues, all while packing in as much werewolf fury as possible!
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
TB: Brian and I are working on a one-shot to tide fans over, as well as another four-issue mini-series. Hopefully, these will debut in 2020. In the meantime, readers can check out our other book, Gargoyle By Moonlight, by visiting moonrisecomics.com or pick it up on ComiXology. Brian is working Final Street from Devil’s Due, as well as inking a run on GI JOE. I have a couple of other things in process, but can’t say anything about them yet.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about The Family Graves and to pre-order the collected trade paperback?
TB: To find out more, visit my site, moonrisecomics.com, where you can read a preview of the book, learn about the characters, see art, and more. And follow me on Twitter (@TDRBach)! You can ask your comic shop to order The Family Graves, Volume 1: Fiercely Family with Diamond code AUG192208. It’ll be released on October 23 everywhere comics and books are sold. Order now, so you have it for Halloween!