Wailing And Woe From A Winnebago Graveyard
Apr 21, 2017
by Vince Brusio
Horror movies are a rite of passage. Accept it. We all go through seeing a movie that makes us run for the covers, and insist that the closet door stay closed. Some of us, though, don’t write off such experiences, and don’t vow to ignore tales of terror. Some of us get hooked. And then there are those who are moved to the point where they want to craft their own stories about things that go bump in the night, or sink in a lake, or rust in the tall grass without you noticing until it’s too late. If you’re one of the creeps who crave those crawly things that make people run and scream and beg for mercy, you’ll want to check out Winnebago Graveyard from Alison Sampson and Steve Niles. It’s a new book from Image Comics, and we got to speak to both creators about what kind of cobwebs will be growing in this new title of torment.
Vince Brusio: Probably one of the strangest titles for a book we’ve ever seen! Love it! But why not “Tombstones In An Abandoned Car Lot”? What’s behind this title? There has to be more going on than just junked RVs left to die in tall grass because gas prices were too high. How about pulling back the curtain a bit?
Alison Sampson: The title is all Steve's. I won't drop spoilers except to say that it works. Also, Tombstones etc. would be far too long.
Steve Niles: Glad you like the title. I think it says a lot already, people out on vacation where everything might go wrong… but just how wrong, we don’t know yet.
Vince Brusio: Who is the audience for this book? People who typically read Vertigo titles? Fans of Lucio Fulci’s The House By The Cemetery? Give us a heads-up on the ambiance. The tone. The expiration on the meat pack that’s going rotten.
Alison Sampson: The rating for this book is T+, but my answer would be 'all of the above and more'. We'd like to reach people who may not have picked up a horror book before, and people who have, as well as Steve's core fans (because this is a very Steve book). When you make a thing like this, perhaps the way to approach it is to make it for just one person. In this case, that person is my 11 year old nephew Alastair, who is mad on horror films (so yes, Lucio Fulci, although he probably wasn't supposed to watch it) and knows seemingly everything about them, and discusses them at length with his friends at school to creep each other out. There comes a point where a child reads their first adult horror book (I read James Herbert books when I was at a similar age), perhaps this is that book. Moving up to adult horror is a rite of passage to growing up. A chance to explore emotions and boundaries in a safe space. Because this audience has budget challenges, we've also added in some non-fiction essays to the singles, to enrich readers experience on some specific horror films and real world Satanism.
Steve Niles: I think it will ring true for people my age but also fans of nostalgia horror, and I think that’s kids and adults alike. I meet young adults who are really into horror from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.This is kind of my tribute to that.
Vince Brusio: So what’s the inspiration for this story? Insomnia? Old movies? A noxious cocktail of Red Bull and cough syrup? What’s behind the weaving of this weird tale that makes us wish all the more for the second season of Stranger Things?
Steve Niles: I loved Stranger Things. It was set in the 80’s, so it brings back a lot of sentimental feelings for that era. Winnebago Graveyard is a callback to the 70’s in a way, back to the era of satanic cult movies where people have to fight for survival against something evil and unknown. But I decided to put WG in modern times, even though they are stuck without help or Internet because of unforeseen circumstances. So it may seem like a past era, but I wanted to just add to the terror with that element of current technology. What do modern people (who are dependent on things like cell phones) do when they have to fight for their survival and depend only on the moment and their own gut instincts?
Alison Sampson: A while back I'd have said True Blood was the closest TV analogue — a mix of 70% Americana and 30% gore — but Stranger Things (a 1970s ensemble mystery drama with kids) is probably closer. But being in bad campsites in a RV? Well, I love trips in our campervan, but the worst place we went to I think we stayed about 15 minutes because it was just too creepy. There were derelict caravans and a strange naked very fat man who just stood and stared at us. Also, everything was sticky and or decaying. We seemed to be the only visitors. We bolted. So, yeah. Inspiration. Well, there’s also the landscape of the American south west, happy family holidays, 70s holiday style, roadside attractions. Basically my childhood holiday fantasy, but gone really, really wrong in the way that 1970s horror films do. There's a lot of gore. It is sunny good times and then very quickly, the flipside.
Vince Brusio: Who are the people that we’ll meet in this book? What winds them up? What tears them down? Are they still living?
Steve Niles: They’re us. They’re tired, exhausted from their own lives and relationships, trying to get just one second of happy silence. They want to go on vacation and not fight. They’re a family made up from different families: a husband and wife, but the son is from an earlier marriage, so there’s friction already.
Alison Sampson: I’ll leave Steve to describe the characters, but they are essentially people from a northern city on holiday, a mixed race patchwork family in their holiday clothes. They could be us, and they are motivated by all the same things: maintaining relationships, having an adventure, sticking together. I won't answer the 'are they living' question. You need to read the series to find out. Some people don't last very long at all and then ... stuff happens to them. It's a grey area.
Vince Brusio: How did you two work together on this book? Who pushed and pulled? Who was the moderator? Were there several drafts and sketches before someone pointed at a page and said, “Do that!”
Steve Niles: Alison is a brilliant artist. She’s not afraid to show every little horrifying detail, and I admire that. She’s taken the story and brought it to another level. I sent her details on the towns, and she came out and took photos as well, so she could immerse herself in the desert and the abandoned buildings, and the overall horror all the more. She’s taken it and run with it, and I’m amazed at the finished work.
Alison Sampson: Essentially, Steve sent me an outline, and I responded with some drawings of the characters and settings, some events, some places. I made a couple of requests. That turned into the script, and I drew/ am drawing it. I've also put the team together, and have designed, drawn and produced the book. So where Steve leads on the script, I've turned that into a comic. Stephane Paitreau, the experienced French BD artist is coloring, and expressive lettering comes from Aditya Bidikar (who also did Motor Crush) and we have a few more people involved, for example a cover from Mingjue Helen Chen (Gotham Academy, Disney) and art from Jen Bartel (Jem) and Donya Todd (Death & the Girls) in the first issue. Plus, there’s essays from Sarah Horrocks and Casey Gilly. To specifically answer your question: Happily, we did, nobody, no. There isn't really that kind of one-sided situation where someone takes an upper hand. I think at the end of the work, we can all say 'we made this'.
Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.