Issue One of STEFAN HUTCHINSON's (with art by TIM SEELEY) new comic series, HALLOWEEN NIGHTDANCE is now in comic shops in the USA and will be available everywhere else by this coming weekend. This HALLOWEEN comic (about a young girl named Lisa who discovers that a secret from her past i.e. Myers has come back to haunt her) has been five years in the making but it's finally out. I yapped with Stef about Nightdance and the Halloween universe in general, and here's what he spat back in my dumbfounded face.
STEFAN HUTCHINSON INTERVIEW
How did HALLOWEEN NIGHT DANCE come about in terms of it getting off the ground?
It’s been a really, really long process. Originally when I wrote my first ‘Halloween’ comic, ‘One Good Scare’, the idea was to release that and then shop it around – the book would essentially be a ‘demo’. We had interest from several companies, and a full follow on series-plotted (dealing with the David Loomis character and the repercussions from the events of ‘One Good Scare’). However, for various reasons out of my hands (legal!), we had to stall.
So, years later when the Halloween seas had calmed, Devil’s Due were one of a few companies that approached Malek Akkad, and it seemed like a really good fit, due to their established handling of licenses. ‘Halloween: Autopsis’, the comic book we included in the ’25 Years Of Terror’ DVD also helped to get a lot of interest. So, at this point, to keep it fresh, I wrote a new storyline, and also looked at a bigger picture for the line – how everything would fit together on a larger scale (a Halloween universe, sorta), so that future storylines could fit in with ease and were actually set up in advance.
You seem to be taking a chance with the comic when it comes to setting it outside of Haddonfield, what was the reasoning behind the change of location?
They did it before in ‘H20’, so it won’t be the first time. Having said that, a lot of the autumn (or fall as you guys say) atmosphere was missing and it felt very much like summer in California. The main reason I’m doing it goes back to what I said about building a universe – and opening up the series in some ways to start giving more of a scope to the whole saga. In terms of Russellville, the reason I chose it is because I wanted to return to the original film’s ‘maniac on a loose’ scenario rather than the ‘family ties’ material of the sequel.
Similarly I wanted to try and recapture the feel and innocence of the first film, and you can’t do that in Haddonfield, because after his first rampage, it’s a tainted place – the people are going to expect The Shape on Halloween. Russellville is also a place mentioned a couple of times in the first two films also, so it’s not completely alien to fans of the series. It’s a very similar town to ‘Haddonfield’, but a little quieter and more rural. That’s not to say we have no intention of returning to Haddonfield – we definitely do in the long term. Haddonfield is very much a character, and we want to re-introduce these characters to readers gradually, beginning with The Shape himself (in the sense of how he – it – was originally presented).
Will HALLOWEEN NIGHTDANCE be at all connected to the HALLOWEEN franchise’s storyline (minus the remake) in any way, shape or form?
Yes – we’re taking over from the original series, now that it’s seemingly been replaced by the remake. To be more specific, we’re in the H1 > H2 > H20 and H:R continuity. ‘Halloween Resurrection’ did the dirty job of wiping the slate clean, so there’s really a thousand ways to go from there (and I see really no need whatsoever to directly follow on with the events and characters of that film).
That said, ‘Nightdance’ is actually set in 2000, in between ‘H20’ and ‘Resurrection’. We know that in between ‘Halloween II’ and ‘H20’, as well as in the gap between ‘H20’ and ‘Resurrection’, The Shape was out in the world. ‘Resurrection’ offered us the explanation that he’s been sat under the Myers House for 20 years eating rats, which is more than a bit lame, really, and it leaves this wide canvass to set the stories out on. There are a lot of places he could have been hiding, and a lot of twisted things he could have been doing, so it’s great to play with those concepts. Later, when we bring Sam Loomis back into the fold (assuming that ‘Nightdance’ gathers a large enough audience), things will become even more interesting.
And what did you think of the remake anyways? Yay or nay?
I’m not the audience for it, to be honest. It’s “for da kidz”, and they seem to really love it – it just made a shitload of money. It all depends on what you want from a ‘Halloween’ film – for me, I like The Shape, and not Michael Myers as much (which in this film, he definitely was). I’m also of the opinion that less is more in terms of this non-character, and that’s something I struggled with in the sequels too. I just don’t find a villain – especially a ‘slasher’ – particularly scary when he’s the lead.
Having said that, we’re in the age of DVD special features and message boards – the endless discussion and deconstruction has led us into an age where everybody wants to know WHY! It’s the same reason that ‘Halloween 6’ has a cult following – because it’s an explanation. I just find the explanations are always gonna be lacking so I stay away. However, the age we’re in seems to demand it, so from a business perspective at least, giving the remake’s Michael Myers a specific back story was a very shrewd move.
Still, for better or worse, at least the new ‘Halloween’ has an identity of sorts – it’s very much a Rob Zombie film (I’d say it’s more that than a ‘Halloween’ film and many of the fans of the remake are probably Rob Zombie fans rather than ‘Halloween’ fans), and there haven’t been any other remakes that have worn the clothes of their creator so blatantly (most tend to be by-the-numbers).
It’s an impossible situation – you bring something new to the table, some are gonna hate it, and if you rehash, others are gonna hate it too. The original ‘Halloween’ is one of the genre’s sacred cows in the vast majority of eyes. If I have any specific criticism it’s that I wish in the second half, Rob had gone completely in his own direction, rather than recalling the original (keeping the radical approach that was in the first half of the film). I’m far more interested in what they’ll do with a sequel, because I really have no idea what direction they can go in from this one’s ending.
How gory and smutty will the comic be? Please give me some good news man! I need it!
Umm… not that gory and not that smutty, alas! Again, this goes back to the original film, which was minimal, relatively blood-free and classy rather than smutty. Having said that, we are 30 years on from 1978, so things are bloody to some extent, but for me, ‘Halloween’ is about the moments leading to the kill, rather than the kill itself. However, one thing I will say is that ‘Nightdance’ is dark – extremely dark, in fact. Maybe not the first issue, because that’s the process of introducing characters, setting up the scenario and so on, but certainly from the second issue onwards, things are extremely oppressive and scary. And, is I’ve done my job as a writer, you’ll actually care about these characters and the hell that they are going to go through.
What would say are the main differences between NIGHTDANCE and what you did with Halloween One Good Scare and Autopsis?
I try and approach each story differently. When I wrote ‘One Good Scare’, it was just after I’d sat through ‘Resurrection’. I wanted to do nothing more than make The Shape scary and intimidating again, and also succeed in the ways which for me, ‘Resurrection’ failed – I wanted to show that is was possible to have a story without The Shape pursuing a family member could work, and get away from the glossy, test-screened style that we were left with. It was about atmosphere just as much as storytelling and Peter Fielding’s wonderful artwork really brought that out. I think his cover to that book may well be my favorite series image since the posters for the first two films.
With ‘Autopsis’, I knew in advance that Marcus Smith would be illustrating, and he has a much more colorful style than Pete, so a different approach was needed – and as you’ll notice if you’ve read it, practically the whole book is set in daylight. It’s also very much a layered book, with several relatively abstract themes running through it that hold the characters together, just as much as actual plot elements – it’s about the fetishistic way that corpses are displayed in these films, and the difference between understanding and being – that empty feeling of grasping at everything that has slipped away from you and the endless desire to experience it again.
You can see how these themes are present to varying extents in the lives of the characters. I know it’s not particularly intellectual by any means – it was just fun to play with these things in the ‘Halloween’ environment (also, as the book was given away, it allowed me to be more experimental), while still delivering the ‘scares’ that people expect from a story. This was built around a traditional ‘BOO!’ scare which came right at the end. It was cool to write a story where The Shape only appears directly in one panel, and it was good to revisit Loomis, showing how the effects of 1978 and ‘The Night HE Came Home’ still lingered on.
‘Nightdance’ is different in that it only has The Shape as the returning character, and is much closer to the structure of the original film than the previous stories. The four parts let me create a movie in comic book form because there’s more room to move, and more time to spend on building characters. I feel that to make The Shape really scary again, we need to care more about the people he’s going for – the more you relate to them, or care about them, then the nastier he seems.
We’ve also gone to the original film’s intent – a fixation, rather than a blood relationship. He’s fixed on this young girl, Lisa (aged fifteen in my draft, but it looks like we’ll have to make her eighteen to avoid censorship and moral panic in the incestuous states), who is scared of the dark. The darkness always gives her the impression that something is lurking out there, and this time, she’s right.
How do you feel about Tim Seeley's art on Nightdance? And how different is it from the mood and tone of your previous The Shape comics?
Tim’s the first ‘name artist’ that I’ve worked with – previously, I’ve worked with people as unknown as myself, and had a very different relationship with them. Here I essentially communicate through an editor and am disembodied somewhat, rather than being completely ‘hands-on’ like I was previously. So the relationship is a much more professional one, but it’s involved me stepping back, which is always very difficult to do! Fortunately, Tim is a massive ‘Halloween’ fan and needed no introduction to the series.
Tim’s style is very much influenced by the grid, more so than the previous artists I’ve worked with. At least that way it’s impossible to get lost and the story is always clear to follow – even without words on the panels. There’s also a fantastic amount of detail in his work, which is really great to see (particularly in a fairground scene which occurs in the second issue) as it brings out the autumn environment, which is a key aspect of the first film. In terms of tone and mood, I’d say it falls in-between the extremes of ‘One Good Scare’ and ‘Autopsis’, getting darker as the story progresses.
How do you keep these HALLOWEEN comics fresh story wise? I mean there’s just so much you can do with a dude in a mask with a babysitter fetish. Where do you get your inspiration? Is my buddy Jack Daniels involved?
Nah, Jack is never around. Nor are the trees these days – I’m dying much faster than I’d like to, alas. The way I approach each story is by starting with the characters of the story. What’s going on with them? What are their insecurities? What are they looking for in life? Are there any themes that hang around them? Does The Shape fit naturally into these themes? It’s really easy coming up with storylines that work if you think outside the box. The limits of the character (and inevitable restrictions that come from working with a character who you did not create and nor do you own) really force you to find different ways of looking at the material while not disregarding the reasons that make the better films in the series work.
What’s going on with your ode to Loomis comic “SAM”; any distribution news? When will we get to read it?
‘Sam’ is actually a short-story, and the first draft was finished way, way back in 2005. We were about to release it as a free download via www.halloweenmovies.com back then, but a few disagreements prevented that, so we decided to keep it until we began work on www.halloweencomics.com – which took longer than expected. It will show up on that site probably around June this year, when ‘Nightdance’ is finished. We’ve used the time to revise it, and Marcus Smith has done a completely fresh set of illustrations, which really enhance it. We’ll also being doing promotion for it on the MySpace site when the time comes – www.myspace.com/halloween_comics
What’s next for you comics wise, anything interesting on your plate?
Well, it would be weird to hype ‘Deaden’ too much on this site, for obvious reasons, but as soon as it finds a home, then that one is up next. I’m also been asked to pitch several creator-owned horror titles, so it will be great to get my own monsters out into the world.
Are you planning any other Myers related projects? Maybe another documentary? ; )
Well, the website for Halloween Comics – www.halloweencomics.com – is a project in itself. There are a couple of new writers and artists working on that and turning in some great material – it’s going to be an archive of original stuff for people to go through.
As for another documentary – I can’t see that right now. I was never happy with what happened on ’25 Years of Terror’ and almost two years later I sure don’t feel any better about it.
If you had the choice between watching the original HALLOWEEN while getting a head job or watching Zombie’s remake while getting the full “sex plan” – which would you choose?
I’d watch the original while being ass-raped by a gang of sweating, buck-toothed inbred asexual beasts. It’s no contest. The original film is the one I grew up with, and there’s really no way to compete with 25 years of nostalgia.