The following is an interview with the comic book writer/artist team of Gerald Rathkolb and Danielle Gransaull, who will be contributing their short story, “The Night Market,” to the upcoming horror-themed anthology Skin Crawling Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Rathkolb and Gransaull about their thoughts on the current state of the horror genre, the use of digital artwork in comics, and their hopes for the future of Skin Crawling Comics and its impact on the comic book industry.
This interview was conducted on May 7, 2013.
Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: You are both currently working on the horror short story “The Night Market,” which will be included in the upcoming horror anthology Skin Crawling Comics. What drew each of you to work on the anthology?
Gerald Rathkolb: I’ve always been intersted in horror, but I’ve been very unhappy where I see it now, which is seemingly dominated by cheap gimmicks involving toturing teenagers and shocking the audience with gore. Rachel (Pandich) wanted to put together a horror anthology that didn’t allow for those sorts of cheap tricks, and I wanted to help and be involved in any way that I could. Rachel let me help her with editing and basically be a second pass for her and let me write a prose piece for it, so I jumped at the chance!
Danielle Gransaull: I love horror and this sounded like an awesome idea, so, of course, I wanted to participate!
BD: How did you come to work together on this project? Was your artist/writer pair for the anthology assigned by the editor, or did you choose to work with one another?
GR: In my case, it was a bit of both. I was aware of Danielle’s work and was a big fan. I didn’t start my project with the intention of her working on it, but Rachel knew Danielle better than I did and offered her to do some of the artwork for it. So, I lucked out and got to work with a fantastic artist whose work I admired greatly.
DG: Originally, I was intended to make a comic, but my schedule wouldn’t allow that type of commitment. Bummed that I wouldn’t be participating, Rachel suggested creating a pin-up. I could certainly make time for that. Luckily, I got an awesome story to work with.
BD: Gerald, as the writer, what inspired you to tell this story, and what can you tell us about the premise?
GR: I’m not a native of Florida, but Florida sort of fascinates me that it’s not the setting for more horror stories. Most of the work that is set in Florida involves someone getting lost in some swamps or a giant aligator. I thought there was a lot more ground to cover. Florida was one of, if not the worst, states hit when it came to the housing bubble, and when you drive around the state, you see entire communities set up with a sign, walls, roads, and maybe one or two houses and the rest empty lots. Other times you have these communities that are completely built but are almost like ghost towns with few, if any, people living in them, and so often they’re in the middle of nowhere with few stores or anything close by. Often times the only thing that’s around is a pizza place and gas station which seem to be the first thing to move in and the last thing to move out. I’m fasinated by urban and suburban ‘junglification’ and abandonment.
It makes me wonder about those people that buy these properties, a big, beautiful house they got cheap, but it’s in the middle of nowhere, not becuase it’s intended to be that way, but because no one else wants to live there. No other neighbors, not many ammenities, no other people around. Florida is basically a jungle that we’ve managed to tame over hundreds of years, and it makes me wonder at what price those people who are living in such isolation are willing to pay.
My short piece, “The Night Market,” is sort of my attempt to try and figure out what it must be like to live out in the middle of nowhere like that, in some partially built, but empty, community.
BD: Given that “The Night Market” is set in Florida, do you have a connection to the state, or did you choose it at random for this story?
GR: I’m not originally from Florida, but when you live in the Virgin Islands, Florida is a popular tourist destination for people who don’t want to travel very far, but also want many of the ammenities that aren’t offered in the VI. It’s also the state that was in the top 5 states when it came to number of foreclosures, and was especially badly hit by the housing bubble. I suppose millions of people’s horrible tragedies ended up serving as my inspiration for the story since the main character is purchasing a recently foreclosed house in one of those near ghost town communities.
BD: Danielle, did you have an idea in mind for the art style when you first read the script, or has the artwork developed as you have worked on the project?
DG: After reading Gerald’s story, I knew immediately what I wanted to draw. I sketched a general rough idea out on my iPad and sent it to Gerald for his opinion. I think we lucked out in that we didn’t have to go through a bunch of trial and error; we were on the same page from the get-go.
BD: Do you prefer working with a specific artistic medium (ie: pencils and ink, paint, charcoal, etc.), and what can you tell us about your artistic process for this project?
DG: I enjoy all mediums, and I love experimenting. This keeps anything from feeling tedious and helps me grow as an artist in general. I will admit that often for professional projects, I’m more attracted to doing digital work, as I did for “The Night Market.” I don’t have to worry about anything damaging the artwork, I can easily fix or adjust anything that needs to be, and sending the file is a snap. No worries about scanning or color adjusting. For this project, I sketched it out digitally, sent the file to Gerald and Rachel for approval, and then I went in and digitally painted it using Photoshop.
BD: Will “The Night Market” be appropriate for readers of all ages, and would you recommend the story for both casual and hard-core horror fans?
GR: I’m rather selfish when I’m writing, since I typically try to write things I would enjoy and hope that it translates to others enjoying it, too. As per Rachel’s guidelines, the story must be age appropriate, but, thankfully, while I didn’t plan for that specifically, it ended up being perfectly appropriate. I don’t know many people who would consider themselves hard-core horror fans, but, if they’re the type that are really enjoying the horror movies that are coming out now, then “The Night Marke”t would probably not appeal to them too much. I’m not a terribly big fan of gore, and certainly not in favor of using it as a substitute for real tension. That may not be giving horror fans a lot of credit since I know plenty who are quite unhappy with the current state of things; hopefully, it will appeal to them more than the gore fanatics.
BD: What are your feelings on the horror genre as a whole, and what do you hope that this story will bring to the genre?
GR: Horror is such a mixed bag for me, I really love horror that is good at building up tension and suspense. I’m very much NOT a fan of the movies that basically take a bunch of kids whose worst crime might be doing drugs or having sex and throwing them in to a cabin and torturing them for the audience’s enjoyment. Movies that have come out that horror fans tout as such a change to the genre like The Cabin in the Woods and such really are the same movies with maybe a different backdrop or slightly different plot device. Horror works for me when there’s some attachment to reality, not necessarily serial killer-type stories or stories that don’t contain anything supernatural, but stories that make me fearful in my own house. I just hope that my story is tough on a few settings and concepts that I don’t see in the genre too much.
BD: Are there any specific horror genre creators or projects (movies, books, comics, etc.) that have inspired your work?
GR: I’ve always admired the work of writers and filmmakers who will spend the time on building up their stories. Hitchcock’s work would be very hard to make today and would probably be considered boring by today’s standards, but his work has such a great, slow burn to them. Henry James’ Turn of the Screw is another one that served as an inspiration, although, as much as I love that book and as many times as I’ve read it, the end still confuses me! Junji Ito is another inspiration, although Ito really likes to work with the uncanny and a bit of body horror, his work is just so weird that I can’t help but be fascinated by it when reading.
BD: Skin Crawling Comics is an independently produced project that features creators of all experience levels. As readers await the finished anthology, are there any other projects on which you have previously worked that you would recommend to our readers?
GR: I haven’t got any other published work that is easily accessible, so if readers happen to be interested in what I do in my OTHER second of spare time, they can check out www.animeworldorder.com and see the podcast that I’m a part of. Anime is my other passion.
DG: Yes! I create a slice of life webcomic every week at www.LifeWithDeath.com about the Grim Reaper’s daughter, Kim Reaper.
BD: What impact do you hope that Skin Crawling Comics will have on today’s comic book industry and its readers?
GR: Well, it would be great to think that Skin Crawling could have any impact at all, but in my world where every person who likes comics could read it, I’d like to think that it gives everyone a different perspective on horror, and maybe make the writers try a bit harder to not resort to gore or attempted rape as a plot element.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for readers to find out more about your work?
GR: You can find me on Twitter at @Gerald_AWO where you’ll find me most of the time. Also, if you have any interest in anime or manga, check out my podcast at www.animeworldorder.com to see my other side!
DG: See more of my work at www.dangrans.com where I also have links to all my social media!