The Arrow interviews Stefan Hutchinson
Tagged with artist Peter Fielding, writer Stefan Hutchinson just put out his own worthy contribution to the Halloween mythos via the solid comic book entitled "One Good Scare". Arrow had the chance to talk shop with the man behind the new Shape in color adventure and here's what he stabbed my way...
ARROW: What’s your favorite horror movie and why?
SH: As cliché as it sounds, it’s ‘Halloween’, and it’s actually my favorite film of all – not just as a horror. It’s a straight-up masterpiece of filmmaking. I like the simplicity and purity of it, and I guess I saw it at the right time for it to have an effect on me. The look, the music, The Shape…Other than ‘Halloween’, I tend to like a lot of 80s horror – you know, primal stuff like ‘Friday The 13th – The Final Chapter’. I think others that stand out specifically are ‘Society’, even though it’s not scary, and ‘Street Trash’, which hardly anyone seems to have seen. ‘Street Trash’ has this real hyper-depravity going on, and it views like a checklist of sick and funny atrocities. These two have that ‘mondo’ feel, but also have some pretty interesting subtexts and deal with the whole issue of class, and you really wouldn’t expect that...Out of the more recent films, I’ve fallen in love with ‘The Audition’ and ‘The Piano Teacher’ – a lot of people wouldn’t class the latter as a horror movie, because it’s a very cold euro-drama, but I felt completely bitch-slapped and genuinely horrified after watching it.
ARROW: You are the scribe behind the Halloween comic “One Good Scare”. What did you inject in your Halloween story that you thought the Halloween sequels were lacking?
SH: Darkness – lots of it. I wanted to return to the idea of The Shape as a shadowy presence, as this twisted force of nature that is lurking around every corner. I also wanted to play up the fact that he’s a stalker who gets a real sadistic kick out of terrifying people. There’s a real malevolence under that mask, and I think the sequels turned him into a lumbering Jason-clone for the most part. I’ve tried to go back to the themes and atmosphere of the first film and then build from there – I mean, no-one wants a straight-up rehash, because that defeats the point. Similarly, I wanted characters that had depth and feeling, so we can get some sense of what it’s really like to be in these hellish situations – characters we can actually give a shit about.
ARROW: “Halloween” is a copyrighted franchise. How arduous was the process to get the rights to write and sell your own Halloween comic?
SH: What started the ball rolling was that we got pissed-off of saying “Hey, we’d do this better” so we decided to get off our asses and do something, rather than just shoot off at the mouth. The process of making it happen wasn’t too bad, but a little long winded. The thing with the ‘Halloween’ series, and I’m sure that this holds true for all franchises, that with all the different sequels, there’s lots of people who have some sort of ownership share, so you have to figure out exactly WHO to go to. Then you’ve got to convince these people that you’re not full of shit and can actually deliver. Luckily, I had Anthony Masi (the webmaster for the official ‘Halloween’ site and H25 Convention Organizer) backing the project, as he really liked the script. With his support people listened a bit more and he pointed me in the right direction. After that, things basically slotted into place. Joe and Karen Wolf have been very supportive, trusting me with the storyline and the project development.
ARROW: Are there any familiar characters from the films who we can expect to see in the comic? Please tell me Busta Rhymes doesn’t show up!
SH: Fuck that! Freddie (Rhymes) won’t be anywhere near anything I write – I only use characters that I like, not camera muggers who shouldn’t be in the series. As for other characters – there’ll be subtle cameos and references throughout. I’m careful there, because too much of that can really distract. For the most part, a lot of characters have tiny appearances, but the only major character in there is Lindsey Wallace, the little girl from the original film, now grown-up and messed-up. One of the things I’m interested in is the secondary effect of The Shape’s evil – how it affects the supporting characters and the town of Haddonfield itself, the whole legacy thing. Also, Haddonfield itself is a character to me, all that supposedly innocent suburbia is threatening in itself - I see The Shape as part of the fabric and reality there. I just imagine it being a place where the radio only plays fifties songs and it’s in a time warp of complete social repression, a twisted Rockwell painting. There’s a lot of evil in the falling leaves alone.
ARROW: What was it about Peter Fielding that made him the right artist for the job?
SH: He kicks ass. He’s a great guy to work with, and ultimately he understood what I wanted in terms of mood and light. I didn’t ever feel that I had to tell him how to do anything because he was already ten steps ahead. I learnt a lot from him during the course of this. He’s also done something that the films themselves haven’t been able to do – he’s got the mask right, and I think that’s really important. The specifics and all of the little details, you know? He also visualized that sense of creeping and oppressive evil moving in – it’s on the edge of the panels, in the backgrounds – there’s something horribly wrong there, which is exactly what I wanted.
ARROW: How was your experience at the H25 Convention? Did your comic get lots of attention?
SH: It was a blast. I got to meet a lot of really cool people and get completely shit-faced, which is something I hardly ever get a chance to do anymore. You had all the guys from the Halloween films there and lots of other genre people. I got to meet David Hess and babble drunkenly about ‘Blackpool’ (a staple part of growing up in northern, working-class England), which was really surreal – I take all the writing seriously, but in person I no doubt come across as a complete retard…The comic itself seemed to go down well. Everyone who picked it up seemed to be really impressed. That’s very important to me, because I think the shittiest thing I could do would be to let a reader down. We got our first review yesterday, and it was really positive. So far, no complaints and a lot of compliments – I think we’ve given people what they are looking for from ‘Halloween’.
ARROW: What was the highlight of the convention for you?
SH: Tough one. We filmed a lot of stuff for a documentary we’re working on, so we got to take Charles Cyphers (‘Sheriff Brackett’) around the original filming locations of ‘Halloween’ – that was definitely something. One of my friends got deported which definitely wasn’t a highlight! I think for me the best moment was when I had to host a panel discussion for Dean Cundey. I was sat on the stage with him, talking into the mike, shitting bricks. I was in complete awe – the man’s a straight-up visual genius, and when you meet someone who’s got such great work behind him, it’s an honor. And he was a great guy too. The fanboy in me totally came out – “I love your work! I love The Thing! I love The Fog!”
ARROW: What’s the master plan in terms of your comic book? Can we expect a full-fledged series or is this a one shot deal?
SH: Well, the title ‘One Good Scare’ pertains to this individual issue, and this will hopefully be the first volume of seven. This was written so that it stands as an individual story also, so as to avoid that whole ‘first issue syndrome’ that plagues a lot of new series, and just to let it be an entity in itself. The other six are, however, plotted out and ready to go – we’re not going to be making it up as we go along, as there’s a very fixed ending to the whole story arc. Hopefully, we’ll find a distributor who has faith in the project and we’ll have the full series out on a monthly basis next summer. We’re hoping to attack a few other horror titles as well, and then get to work on filming plans we’ve been nurturing for far too long now.
ARROW: Where can we purchase the comic?
SH: At the moment, there’s only the limited edition story, and that’s an exclusive at www.h25shop.com - which is basically the convention shop. There’s a cool poster version of the cover too, because Pete did a really good job of that. The page is a little bit slow to load up because it’s graphics heavy, but it’s there. Just scroll down a bit. There are no advertisements in there either, which to me is much better. For the series – that’s still something we’re working on. We want to get that into comic shops, so we’re going to be talking to people now that we have something to show. We’re building a website at www.halloweencomics.com and that will give the lowdown on the further storyline and our progress in terms of getting it into the shops.
ARROW: If you were to be assigned the task of writing Halloween 9, what kind of direction would you take with the script?
SH: Well, this whole comic series came out of a treatment I had originally penned to be submitted for the ninth installment. However, as the plot developed, it became unwieldy to do it as a film. The comic medium allowed me to do stuff I wouldn’t be able to do with the film – for example, to go back to 1978, to be able to use Sam Loomis for a scene and so on. I’d stick with the same tone, that’s for sure, and try to capture the feel that was present in the first two films. Also, I’d avoid any revisionist history and stay well away from anything that tries to explain why The Shape is still alive – I don’t want to know that, I want to deal with the here and now and what he’s doing. I’d use a different storyline to the one in the comic, however. I’d be concerned with setting up something that wasn’t an evolutionary dead-end. There are lots of possibilities for the ‘Halloween’ series if they stay away from gimmick driven plots. If you go the ‘Samhain’ way of thinking, that it’s the end of the summer, then it’s the end of innocence, and Haddonfield’s white fences and houses don’t look so pure anymore – it’s childhood fears tearing into the real world. Thematically, there’s a million interesting ways to go. I spoke to Malek Akkad briefly, and he has good ideas about the direction he wants for the film. He seems well attuned to what the series need, so myself, I’m quite excited to see what the writers will come up with. I don’t think we need to worry.
I'd like to thank Stefan for his time and for the trick or treat that was the "One Good Scare" comic. Let's see what else the man has up his sleeve! Bring it bro!