The following is an interview with Thom Burgess on the special edition release of his new graphic novella, Malevolents – Click Click. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Burgess about the inspiration behind the story, his creative process, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of the special edition of your graphic novella, Malevolents – Click Click! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Thom Burgess: Thanks! That’s really appreciated. Malevolents Click Click follows the story of a group of young kids who are dared to stay the night in the most haunted house in London. As they do so they recount the story of the last boy who tried to do so and what became of him. I’ve always been inspired by the classic ghost stories and accounts of hauntings, and I really wanted to attempt to create that same chilling atmosphere within the medium of a comic. On top of which I’ve always been fascinated by 50 Berkeley Square which carries this almost mythological reputation now for ghost stories. But also a friend of mine shared a fantastic ghost story about a place he worked at in Canterbury (where I live) being haunted, and I knew I wanted to include a similar scene within a comic as it was just so horrifically scary.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TB: Usually with writing a ghost story, it’s finding something unsettling which perhaps has been overlooked in the past. Whether that’s a setting, an event or a a time of year but often than not it starts with a character who’s unnerving. It’s that angle of finding something uniquely uncanny about the villain of the story which is so essential to setting them apart from all the other ghosts and demons out there. Also I love obscure forgotten history which I think is key to any ghost story. It’s quite often a means of tying together that history with your main antagonist which helps give the story a believable depth and makes it all the more eerie.
From there I’ll quite often rough out a ‘flow’ to the story, listing key events. Then I’ll crudely storyboard the whole thing. At which point it’s just a case of working out the ‘beats’ and the jump scare reveals on page turns. Like anything it’s a case of trial and error but I think after the three books I’ve just about finally managed to get this into a workable process now.
In terms of inspiration I’ve always been inspired by classic ghost story writers such as M R James, E F Benson, Robert Aickman, and Charles Dickens. Though the stories have been told over and over they still remain as unsettling as when you first read them. Within comics I love the work of Emily Carroll, Becky Cloonan, Alan Moore, John Reppion, and Leah Moore who have a way of evoking such incredible atmospheres and believable characters within their stories.
BD: What do you hope that readers will take away from your work?
TB: If anything I always hope the reader takes away a sense of feeling unsettled in some respect. Whether it’s an image they find haunting, or a sense of a place which leaves them disquieted. That might sound morbid but for me I think that’s the neverending appeal of the ghost story. Not only does it teach us about what we find unsettling but as M R James would say, it’s the “pleasing terror,” as well. It’s the sense of being safe, whilst reading something sinister. It amplifies the fact we’re reading these abnormal stories in a safe setting safe in the knowledge we can close the book any time. There’s a real comfort in that, and it’s clear to see why our ancestors would have gathered at Winter to tell ‘winter tales’ and later ghost stories at Christmas.
BD: What do you feel makes this special edition unique?
TB: The original Malevolents Click Click was my debut and hence was relatively short in paperback form. This version has a host of additions including original artwork by Joe Becci, some background on 50 Berkeley Square and extra background on how Malevolents came to be and the story of “Maggs” himself.
Also I was privileged to have horror Manga artist/writer Junji Ito offer a brief intro to Malevolents. I’ve long admired his work from Uzumaki to GYO, so it was an honor to have his commendation on the book.
What really sets this edition apart is the fact that it’s available as part of a special edition pack including a tote bag, limited edition badge, stickers, prints, and all three of my books discounted as part of my “BagOHorror” pack. These are extremely limited and most of my October was spent packing envelopes but it’s great to see people really enjoying them!
BD: If given the opportunity to expand your story into other entertainment mediums, in what format do you hope to see it adapted?
TB: That’s such a great question. I’m very much a visual person and had long envisioned Malevolents Click Click would make for a great film or TV series. But to be honest Malevolents is actually a prequel to a larger graphic novel project which is due out next year called Ghoster. I’ve been working with filmmaker Toby Meakins for several years on the project and we’ve long said it would make for a range of fantastic formats such as video games, TV, film, board games, it really is limitless. To give you a brief insight it follows the story of five families who have been trained since Elizabethan times to protect the United Kingdom from Malevolents. It’s a big passion project of mine and we’ve an amazing plot and history dating back centuries with a rich and detailed lore.
I can’t reveal too much at this stage, but it’s a ghost story that’s been years in the making and one that you most certainly will not want to miss. There’s a short proof of concept teaser at www.theghosterproject.co.uk.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
TB: As well as Ghoster, I’m currently working with illustrator Mike O’Brien on a series of early ghost stories which inspired some of our greatest horror literature. It’s in its very early stages at present, but I’m really excited to see how it’s coming together. It’s also fascinating to find out about early folklore which has crossed continents and helped contribute to some of our most staple horror creations. I’m also expanding my range of one shot haunted photos #photoghasts on Twitter which has been really enjoyable to experiment with.
Alongside these, I’m actually working with artist David Romero on a series of ghost stories graphic novellas. The plan is something really unsettling and really pushing the boat within the medium, and I can promise some horrifically unsettling panels.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Malevolents – Click Click?
TB: You can visit my official site at www.manoghosts.com or you can find me on Twitter or instagram (@manoghosts). I’m usually sharing some ghostly stuff on the social networks. It should be said as I get asked regularly about the BagsOHorror and if people are quick, there’s still some left after the Halloween rush, but they’re being reserved quick for Christmas – they’re available on my shop at www.manoghosts.bigcartel.com.