The following is an interview with the comic book writer/artist team of Bryant Dillon and Chris Thorne, who will be contributing their short story, “Buried,” to the upcoming horror-themed anthology Skin Crawling Comics. In this interview, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor Barbra Dillon chats with Dillon and Thorne about their introduction to the horror anthology, what inspired their short story, and where you can find more of their work.
This interview was conducted on August 15, 2013.
Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: You are both currently working on the horror short story “Buried,” which will be included in the upcoming horror anthology Skin Crawling Comics. What drew each of you to work on the anthology?
Chris Thorne: I have been doing pin-ups and cover work up before I heard about the project. But, I have been wanting and looking for an opportunity to get into sequentials. Even to the point I was writing a short story with a friend, looking to have some samples for my portfolio. I thought this was a great opportunity for me to have a project that was going to happen and that motivated me to get to work and produce.
Bryant Dillon: Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the horror genre and really thought that the creator of the project, Rachel Pandich, had a great concept here with a focus on story over shock value and the decision to go with the anthology form. Given that awesome and talented creators involved, I like to think that Skin Crawling Comics will be seen by horror fans as the Creepshow or Tales from the Darkside of horror comics.
BJD: How did you come to work together on this project?
CT: Well, I was approached by Bryant at LBCC last October. I knew Bryant through the work I did on The Thirty-Six, and I had read Something Animal that he had written. I was really glad that he approached me about the project and asked if I had any interest, because if I was going to jump into sequentials (I have been doing pin-ups and covers up to that point), I had the feeling that Bryant was going to be a good guy to do that with. And, he said it was a horror project so I was sold, we agreed to work together that day.
BD: I had known Chris and his work for a year or two and had been hoping to work with him on something when Skin Crawling Comics just fell into my lap. Chris is a skilled artist, and I knew he’d be a great partner to work with, so I jumped at the chance to have him on the project.
BJD: Was your artist/writer pair for the anthology assigned by the editor, or did you choose to work with one another?
CT: Bryant approached me and then we had to get some samples of my artwork to Rachel and even though I didn’t have sequentials to show, she showed faith in my ability and told Bryant that having me on board was a go. That was real exciting for me. Validating really, it was a good feeling.
BD: Yeah, one thing that was nice about Skin Crawling Comics from a creative perspective was the fact that we could, for the most part, choose our own creative team, but still have help to fill in roles that still need assigned. I chose Chris as my artist, but it was Rachel and our other editor Gerald Rathkolb who put us in touch with our awesome letterer Adam Wollet and brilliant colorist Jay Campbell.
BJD: Bryant, as the writer, what inspired you to tell this story, and what can you tell us about the premise?
BD: Well, this story is one I had been mulling over for some time. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but it really boils down to a tale about a mother who must check for monsters under the bed (and other locations) to appease her young son and what happens one night when she actually finds one! The story really comes from my own, over-active imagination. I’ve always been unable to stop imagining what was hiding under the bed or in the dark basement, and it was pretty much always something terrifying.
BJD: Chris, 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?
CT: I had a very vague idea. I am not a cartoonist, so I knew it would have more of a “real feel” to the art. This is where I am still feeling my way and finding out what is working for me and coming up with my own comic book style. Bryant’s script was awesome in that he knew what he wanted; I didn’t have to come up with the shots or anything, I just needed to draw his vision. The main thing that was not known was the creature. Bryant had an idea of what he wanted, and so I sketched up some things, and we drilled down to what we thought it should be and then went with that. That was my little contribution to the story.
BJD: Do you prefer working with a specific artistic medium (i.e.: pencils and ink, paint, charcoal, etc.), and what can you tell us about your artistic process for this project?
CT: I am much more comfortable with pencils and pen and ink. I am not a great painter. I am fairly good at charcoal when I used it, but I haven’t used charcoal in ages. I have found a Pentel ink brush that I love, but I need to work with a crow quill pen and get used to using that. I see the results of using that well and I want to be able to do that. I am using the technical pens, but the crow quill gives you a much more organic line. I did thumbnails of the pages on copy paper and got Bryant’s input and after we had decided on the layout, I started doing the boxes. After that pencils and again, checking in with Bryant, after the pencils were where we thought, we sent them to Rachel and Gerald. Then, after their input and making any adjustments I needed to, I inked them up. That was the most stressful time for me. Once you ink it, it is permanent. I just needed to get some good lines down and get some confidence. Bryant was a great help in that department, real supportive.
BJD: Will “Buried” be appropriate for readers of all ages, and would you recommend the story for both casual and hard-core horror fans?
CT: I think it will be okay for all ages. And, I think Bryant’s story is more of a thinking and thrilling story and less of a gore one. The horror is in the reader’s mind, not on the page.
BD: There isn’t a ton of gore, but the story is very creepy, and Chris and Jay have really brought it to life visually. I don’t think it is inappropriate for children, but they may find the monster Chris and Jay created a tad terrifying. When it comes to causal horror fans vs. hard-core horror fans, I believe both kinds will enjoy “Buried.” It’s an easy story to connect to, but still has a solid horror bend to it. It’s like a good scary campfire story – everyone should be able to enjoy it.
BJD: What are your feelings on the horror genre as a whole, and what do you hope that this story will bring to the genre?
CT: I love horror stories. I hope this adds to the idea that you don’t have to have tons of gore to make a good horror comic. I think Bryant told a great story, and I hope that my art helps convey that.
BD: There’s still a lot of original, exciting things going on in the horror genre (especially in the indie fields), but it does feel like we lost something as we went through the “torture porn” movement. I’m not really even knocking “torture porn,” every form of art has its fans, but it seemed to convince many that coming up with sadistic and graphic ways for people to suffer and die could fill in for plot, character development, and originality. While I don’t think Skin Crawling Comics or “Buried” is necessarily going to change the genre, I do hope that it reminds horror fans of that gory, “torture porn” horror is just one of the many types of horror out there. Maybe we’ll even inspire some future horror creators ourselves!
BJD: Are there any specific horror genre creators or projects (movies, books, comics, etc.) that have inspired your work?
CT: Hitchcock, Stephen King, I really love Tom Mandrake’s work. I did refer to older horror comics, and this project gave me a renewed appreciation for them. I will be picking up more and more TPBs and omnibuses of the old horror comics.
BD: When it comes to horror inspirations, I draw a lot from films like Alien, The Descent, or John Carpenter’s The Thing. I actually gave a lot of photos and concept sketches from The Thing and some H.R. Giger artwork to Chris as specific inspiration for the monster in “Buried.” It needed to be something that the reader would never mistake as an animal. It really needed to appear instantly otherworldly. I think Chris nailed it. The finally horror inspiration I would mention is Joss Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods. I think it set a new bar for the genre.
BJD: 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?
CT: As I mentioned before, I worked on a comic series called The Thirty-Six by Kristopher White. I did pin-ups and the cover for issue #4 and that was great to work on also. Kris is a great storyteller, and I really recommend that people read that series; it is good stuff. I also recently did a page for a graphic novel called SOLESTAR. It is a jam-style book where each page is done by a different artist, and the book set a Guinness World Record for most artists on a graphic novel or something like that. That book is being sold to benefit Brain Aneurysm survivors. You can find more about it at www.kickstarter.com/projects/thenaiveproject/solestar.
BD: I’ve written two horror graphic novels published by Fanboy Comics. Identity Thief is the tale of a young couple who discovers a mysterious hatch in their new apartment and the terror that follows. Something Animal is a gritty, psychological thriller that shakes the sparkles off the vampire genre and brings it back into the bloody darkness. Both books have free previews and are available for purchase at www.fanboycomics.net. I also work on a fan-created audio drama called The Katniss Chronicles, so if there are any Hunger Games fans in the house, they should stop by www.thekatnisschronicles.com.
BJD: What impact do you hope that Skin Crawling Comics will have on today’s comic book industry and its readers?
CT: I just hope it finds some people that want to read it. It is an independent anthology, and books like that need to be talked about; word of mouth is going to be huge. If people like it they will tell people about it and then it will develop a following. I hope its readers find a writer or artist that really connects with them and gives them a good time reading. That is all we can really ask, and that someone that reads it feels that they didn’t waste their time reading it.
BD: Honestly, I hope it is a success and that the impact comes from the creators involved finding more work within the comic book industry. For a lot of us, this is a resume builder, so hopefully Skin Crawling Comics will serve as a showcase for some of the talented individuals involved.
BJD: Lastly, what is the best way for readers to find out more about your work?
CT: My work can be found on my website and Tumblr, and if you want to connect me, you can do that via Facebook and Twitter.
BD: You can follow my work over at www.fanboycomics.net or follow me on Twitter (@ComicBookSlayer).