The Intangible Limits Of Outer Darkness
Sep 14, 2018
by Vince Brusio
How far is too far? Even if you have a safety net that lets you say, “hey, it’s only comics,” are you still nevertheless on dangerous ground if you drive over the highway medium? It’s not advisable. Some will say that your behavior is foreign. The latter descriptive puts the right label on what John Layman does in Outer Darkness for Image Comics. His foreign influences in horror helped make him write a book that is a new flavor of tainted meat for American comics readers. If you’d like to know more about this spoiled stew of psychosis, check out what John has to say about his new book in this PREVIEWSworld interview.
Vince Brusio: In Leviathan, you’re already doing a sort of “horror” book, but the flavor of those chills is more tongue-in-cheek. Outer Darkness appears to much more serious, yes?
John Layman: It’s not dead serious — I can never be TOO serious — but Outer Darkness is not as silly as Leviathan is, or CHEW was. I pitched it as “Star Trek meets Event Horizon,” but very early on I determined I’m just not a straight horror guy, so instead of sci-fi/horror I have to call it WEIRD sci-fi/horror.
Vince Brusio: What sort of sci-fi did you grow up on that planted the seed in your brain for this series?
John Layman: I think most of the influence came from more recent stuff I’m into, not what I grew up with, which I think is kinda commonplace sci-fi for the era I grew up in. Star Wars, Brazil, Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica. By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation came on I was already in college, so Star Trek is really part of my early adult life, but not really my formative years. I like sci-fi horror, but it seems like it’s a bit of a neglected genre… part of the reason for Outer Darkness. I’m also a big fan of Asian cinema, Japanese and Korean horror in particular, which I find much more weird and unsettling than most splatter and jump/scare-oriented American horror. I think there will be some carry-over of that into Outer Darkness.
Vince Brusio: Can you tell us about the characters in this book? Did they fail their multiple choice tests and not graduate Starfleet Academy so instead they ended up on Charon? Are they doing jobs most Starfleet cadets won’t do?
John Layman: The Charon is the premiere vessel in the Galactic Service for retrieving souls of people important to the war effort. In Outer Darkness, many, many hundreds of years in the future we’ve figured out there is no heaven, no hell. Your soul just gets cast out into infinity… forever, where it’s dark and horrible and filled with things that have been around forever, and that are malignant and evil and awful. Sure, they have the technology to bring back your soul and inset it into a lab grown body — but you have to be pretty damn important for the Service to deem you worthy of retrieval. The crew of The Charon are not the Galactic Service rejects, they the ones strong and brave enough to handle the horrors of space.
Vince Brusio: Why is Afu Chan picked for this project?
John Layman: We got very, very, VERY lucky with Afu Chan. He’s a genius storyteller, genius character designer, genius colorist. It took us a while to find him, and I’m not precisely sure how it happened (I credit Kirkman, whose finger is still on the pulse of comics) for finding Afu and bringing him to the attention of me and the editors. I could go on for a thousand more words, and STILL not say enough about how much I love Afu. His stuff is like nothing else out there, and it’s unbelievable beautiful, even when he’s drawing terrible, terrible stuff.
Vince Brusio: What kind of balance are you looking to strike in this “sci-fi horror,” particularly in how you portray things like hauntings and demonic possession? Those concepts are fairly rooted in today’s popular movies like The Conjuring or Paranormal Activity. Are you trying to tap into that kind of dread, but have it involve creatures that we have yet to contemplate?
John Layman: Possessions play a big role in Outer Darkness. Possibly because those are the movies that actually scare me, where monsters and slasher type movies are hard for me to take seriously. Maybe has something to do with a Catholic upbringing. Devil stuff and possession scares me!
In Outer Darkness, the universe is crawling with ghost and demons and angry spirits. A good exorcist is an important to have on a ship’s crew as an engineer. The Outer Darkness is equal parts traditional starship crew and weird occultists. There are exorcists and shamans, priests and quantum math wizards. When guns and blasters fail, it’s good to have a good counter-spell or magical talisman to keep away the things that go bump in the night— and it’s always night in space!
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.