Gary Scott Beatty is someone whose work I’ve been following with real interest for the past few years. Not that I ignored him before that. Rather, it’s his recent activities, especially as a small press publisher with a singular vision that makes total sense in today’s fluid market, that’s proven to be particularly interesting.
What really captured my attention was his introduction of two graphic anthologies. Crammed full of short sequential stories crafted by the best and brightest, the well-established and not-yet-discovered talent drawn from the rich reserves of creators who surround, supplement and support the comics industry, those two Indie Comics anthologies continue to deliver on their promise issue after issue. In fact, they’ve thrived, despite all the dire predictions from those wags that were quick to quote the generally accepted “knowledge” that states anthologies don’t sell, and never will, in the current comics marketplace.
So, my interest was already piqued, and I’d already decided to introduce him to you, the good readers of TMR, when the perfect opportunity presented itself with his announcement of the arrival of yet another anthology. Even better, he sent along linkage to the complete first issue. Intrigued, I checked it out
Well, let’s just say that Tales of Fear #1 made a real impression on me. And I strongly suspect that it will have the same effect on you, too.
Why Tales of Fear, and why now? Is there a hunger, or even need, for this kind of anthology in the comics market?
Bill, when I was young I heard Stan Lee say he became successful when he wrote stories that interested him. I guess the need is mine. I began Tales of Fear #1 writing a single eight-page, done-in-one story for Indie Comics Horror #2, one of our Indie Comics line of anthology books. The ideas just kept coming, so I kept writing, and ended up with more than enough for a 48-page comic book.
I then realized I needed to develop a more realistic illustration style to present the gore in the over-the-top way I envisioned. The whole book has been a process, one development leading to another.
In a number of ways, the book is very reminiscent of horror books from the past, and the EC Comics line, in particular. What general aspects of those books—including the horrific narrator—make it such a sturdy and durable format?
Whenever anyone publishes a short story horror anthology, they are immediately compared to Bill Gaines and his EC creators, because Gaines set the bar very high. EC books were extraordinarily popular, and they were extremely well written. Thank you for the comparison!
I don't want to leave anyone with the impression Tales of Fear #1 features men in hats, typing on typewriters and buying dime cups of coffee. My foremost goal was to be topical and modern. The narrator is more than some random creep introducing stories. His narrative is also wrapped up in this number one issue. I doubt if he will show up in Tales of Fear #2.
It's amusing to me that, by presenting short stories, I'm in a minority in the comic book world! Everyone seems to be printing mega-epics today. Personally, I'm bored with a 12-issue mega-story that could easily be shortened to a single book. Maybe that's the EC comparison you see: six tight, done-in-one stories with a beginning, middle and end, in one comic book.
Did you have any qualms about being too derivative of those justly-revered titles?
I don't mind comparisons with Tales of Fear #1 and any quality work.
Well, aside from its contemporary setting, what about your particular take on the genre and format sets Tales of Fear apart from similar anthologies of the past and more recent vintage?
Bill, it seems to me anyone who publishes a horror anthology tries to be a Tales from the Crypt, Creepy, or House of Mystery clone. Maybe they think that's where the money is, or maybe people simply publish what they're used to.
I think the illustrations in Tales of Fear #1 set the book apart, with no brushstroke in sight and no India ink blacks. I'm going for a “video game in watercolor” look. Readers can decide if they like it or not. I think it adds some gravity to the gore.
Tales of Fear #1 has monsters, a haunted house, and zombies, but they're as far from Gothic as I could write them, with no Victorian, medieval or romantic pretenses. The art style enhances that contemporary feeling. This is the world down your street, shuffling your way!
Now, a few of the tales in this first volume seem to be teetering on the edge of, for lack of a better term, good taste. Which left me wondering how difficult it was for you to come up with truly horrific concepts and stories, especially given all of the various real-world horrors reported in the news each and every day?
People are so fearful in America, you would think horror would be unpopular, but it looks to me like horror is keeping the movie industry alive right now. If readers are like me, they like to squirm. Tales of Fear #1's tag line is, "Six horror tales pushing the boundaries of good taste!" Yes, this was a conscious decision on my part; it's simply where my muse took me.
Once I ditched Gothic, I was left with my own nightmares, and that's where the concepts came from for Tales of Fear #1. If horror taught me anything, it's there is little defense against some guy who wants to walk up and randomly kill you. The fact that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still open scares me more than a dick with a gun.
Are you at all concerned about going too far with your work on this book? And how would you know if that was the case?
It might be interesting to see what "too far" is. No one has complained about the video preview yet.
How did you devise these tales? Did you start by brainstorming for ideas, and then create full scripts for each story before creating the art, or was it all a bit looser than that?
In the '60s, DC Editor Julius Schwartz built interior stories around covers. I worked similar to that for Tales of Fear #1. Half of the stories were titles first, the other half were concepts.
I scripted with thumbnail sketches and wrote copy in as I went—a good way to write tight, eight-page stories. I re-wrote when I lettered the pages. The thumbnail sketches are incomprehensible to anyone but me, but since I'm also the artist and letterer, it worked.
Is that your typical approach to creating comics?
No! My previous books, Seductions, Adam Among the Gods, and Xeric grant winner Jazz: Cool Birth, were full books—written full script, deeply layered with subtext. I like to say I wrote Tales of Fear #1 with a bludgeon.
Aside from the obvious—strong and ideally increasing sales—what do you hope to accomplish with Tales of Fear?
It won't take much sales to lead to a Tales of Fear #2. That's one thing you can say about the indie comics community, we're driven by everything but good sense. I just read Somerset Maugham's The Moon and Sixpence, and it's crazy how much I related to the Gauguin character. I simply have to do this. I'm lucky to color and letter for the comic book industry, and produce publications, so I don't have to hop a trawler for Tahiti.
What do you hope readers get from Tales of Fear? Is it all about chills and shocks and entertainment, or is there something else in there for those who seek it?
I know people who don't comprehend horror will never understand, but Tales of Fear #1 is simply for fun.
How about your work, in general?
There are layers of meaning in my three books on Amazon. My upcoming book with Adventures of Aaron artist Aaron Warner, titled Number One, will amuse, inform, and enlighten, if we can ever complete it.
What do you get from making this kind of book, as opposed to your other efforts in the field?
Tales of Fear #1 is like the pottery class you take between Postwar German Film, and Contemporary Approaches to Literary and Cultural Theory—you just want to go in and throw clay around for a while.
How about making comics in general? What does that do for you?
Most of what I do these days is publish Indie Comics Magazine and Indie Comics Horror, the best story and art from independent comic creators. I help creators with their stories in these anthologies, produce slick products through Aazurn Publishing, and present the creators to a wider audience through Diamond Comic Distributors. I guess I'm an inspiration and mentor of sorts.
I'm the guy who, at a comic book convention, heads to the back right away to talk with the struggling creators and buy their work. Much of it is very crude, but there is true brilliance in "Artist's Alley" if you're willing to look for it. Discovering raw talent makes me smile.
Is this something you need to do? Would you be making comics even if you weren’t able to share them with others?
The first alternative comic I produced—they were called "underground" then—was on my high school's ditto machine, after hours, without permission. Just last year I launched a local, monthly magazine online. I've worked in publishing nearly 40 years, now, handling marketing, website design, publication production, writing, illustration, you name it. I can't imagine not working there.
Anything else you’d like to add before I let you get back to work?
Yes, please order Tales of Fear #1 from your local or online comic book shop, from February 2013's Previews comic book catalog. Tales of Fear #1 is a Previews exclusive, and ordering it could be the only way you will be able to own it.Please search for Gary Scott Beatty on Amazon and consider buying my three books there.
Look for Indie Comics Horror #2 and Indie Comics Magazine #7 later this year. You can keep track of Aazurn Publishing books by signing up for the email list. Support independent voices in the comic book market! That's where the fearless creativity is.