Last year, BOOM! Studios released its first horror-comedy mini-series Scream Queen. Written by Brendan Hay with art by Nate Watson, Scream Queen answers the age-old question, "What happens if you mash up The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Pretty in Pink?"
Recently, the entire mini-series was collected and released as a trade paperback. To mark the occasion, writer Hay sat down for an in-depth interview with one of the brains behind television's greatest source of fake investigative journalism: Elliott Kalan, writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In addition to being a comedy writer (who worked with Hay for several years), Kalan is also a lifelong comic book fan - no joke, he once explained adamantium to Jon Stewart on the air.
What follows is his brutally honest discussion with Hay, covering everything from holiday shopping to Skrulls.
Elliott Kalan: So, Scream Queen. I assume from the title that this is an exploration of the tragic life of Johanne Sophie Munch, sister of the artist Edvard Munch, best known for his painting "The Scream." Or it's about Lita Ford. Please provide a quick summary of the story if I am incorrect.
Brendan Hay: You're partially correct. It's about Wrighty, the lonely psychopath who lives in the mall's crawl space, who falls head over heels for Molly, the sweet, wannabe-popular-girl who works at the food court, and begins killing people in hopes of becoming her boyfriend. Will Molly uncover her secret admirer before he murders every guy who so much as looks at her? And if she breaks his heart, will he stab hers?
So, like you guessed, clearly this is an allegory for Lita Ford's experience recording the 1988 monster ballad "Close My Eyes Forever" with Ozzy Osborne.
EK: Now, I'm a comic book fan, and as such I'm ready to hate whatever is put in front of me. What would I like about Scream Queen?
BH: For starters, it contains panels of art which, when read in sequence, add up to a story. By definition, that makes it a comic book. Also, you won't need to buy any ancillary mini-series to understand our story. Heck, you won't even have to think too hard. Scream Queen is just a fun, campy, slasher-meets-girl story full of bloody deaths.
EK: Now what would I hate about Scream Queen?
BH: You'll hate Scream Queen for only being just a fun, campy, slasher-meets-girl story full of bloody deaths. Also, it lacks nudity, which considering its genre origins - slasher flicks and teen comedies - is disappointing.
EK: Like you said, this comic is an homage to the slasher films of the 1980s. Why did you spend so much time renting crap from the video store as a teen when you could have been playing football and dating girls?
BH: Ahem, "renting crap from the video store?" People in glass Flophouses shouldn't throw stones, ElliottŠ
But yes, and Scream Queen is my gooofy thank you card to slasher cinema. No matter how poorly written or badly acted or super low-budget the movie, I love how the genre almost always delivers fun, cheap thrills. In fact, usually the trashier the movie, the better the thrills! As for why I spent my middle school years with slashers instead of other kids, let's face it: being a teen in a horror movie is way more exciting than being a teen in real life.
Oh, also: like Wrighty, I was raised in crawl space, only in my case it was inside a low-rent video store. I did mention this comic was semi-autobiographical, right?
EK: This is a reprinting of the Scream Queen series in one volume. What extra features are provided to make it worth our while to buy this at full cover price, rather than merely finding the back issues in a 25-cent bin and then stealing them?
BH: First of all, good luck finding our book in 25-cent bins. To end up into those bins, retailers would have first ordered a surplus of the comic, which, yeah, wasn't a problem.
The real reason to buy this new trade? The alternate ending. While the comic's current ending is the one editor Mark Waid and I originally planned, I thought of this other option when writing the final issue. I pitched it to Mark and while it made him laugh, he felt the original ending was a more satisfying conclusion. He's absolutely correct, but as a bonus, readers can now see this alternate finale, which is more in line with the cheesy, sequel-grubbing, "gotcha!" endings tacked on to most horror movies.
EK: Who would win in a fight, Wrighty or Michael Meyers from Halloween? Keep in mind that the winner of the fight goes on to appear in Freddy Vs. Jason 2, so he may want to lose this one.
BH: I hate to say it, but Wrighty would lose. That's what makes Wrighty different: he's a lover who happens to kill, while Myers is a killer who happens to love killing.
EK: Would Scream Queen make a good present? Because I forgot to get my Mom something and she loves horror/comedy comic books with strong female protagonists.
H: Wow, your Mom is our target readership. Not other people's mothers or women of her age and background, but specifically your Mom.
And yes, Scream Queen is the perfect gift for certain occasions. It's the perfect gift for horror fans with a sense of humor, humor fans with a sense of horror, Buffy fans, fans of Josh Schwartz's TV shows, fans of stories set almost entirely in a mall, lonely teen boys who don't know how to tell that girl they like like her, and anyone who ever wanted to see the cast of a John Hughes slaughtered in entertaining ways.
EK: How many Skrulls can readers of Scream Queen expect to find? Now the same question, but replace "Skrulls" with "OMACs."
BH: Wrighty's plan to woo Molly is ultimately about as effective as the plot of Secret Invasion, so he's probably part Skrull. And - SPOILER ALERT - every character who dies in Scream Queen was actually an OMAC.
EK: Most of your other work has been in television. How is writing for TV different than writing for comics? And which is easier, because I want to get rich fast.
BH: If you want to get rich quick, definitely dive into comics. Especially indie comics. That's where you can find overnight wealth.
I love writing for both mediums, but the big difference for me is that in comics - or at least at BOOM! - the writer can find greater creative satisfaction. Since it's mainly just you, the artist and the editor, there are less cooks in the kitchen and the final work more or less exactly what you want it to be. Versus in television, where your script passes through so many hands that sometimes, in the end, it only bares a slight resemblance to what you originally intended.
Also, in TV, no network exec would ever let my main character make out with a rat.
EK: What are you working on now? Scream Queen 2: Even Screamier?
BH: I commend you for not going for the more common Scream Queen 2: Electric Boogaloo fake sequel title joke. I love saying Electric Boogaloo as much as the next guy, but it's become a cliché.
I'm keeping busy work-wise. From BOOM!, my next project is co-writing the first arc of Eureka Season 1.5 with series co-creator Andrew Cosby. I am having a blast playing in the world of Eureka, especially in that we get to follow up on certain characters that the TV show hasn't been able to. Hopefully I'll get to work on the series again after this arc.
Past that, I'll be co-writing the comedic sci-fi series Intergalactic with artist extraordinaire Matt Olson for Bloodfire Studios (due later in '09) and I'm starting work on an original graphic novel for Oni (due hopefully in early '10). On TV, you can see my episode of The Simpsons, "Coming to Homerica," hit the air sometime in February. And I'm currently writing for Nickelodeon's hysterical cartoon The Mighty B! If you're a comic book fan who hasn't seen The Mighty B!, check it out. Co-created and voiced by Amy Poehler, it's about an overzealous girl scout who dreams of growing up to be a superhero and is very much in the Ren & Stimpy and Spongebob vein.
And then, after all of that, I'll be pitching Scream Queen 2: Still Screaming!
EK: Fair enough. That concludes our time. You're welcome for this interview.
BH: You're right. I am.
Elliot Kalan is also part of The Flophouse, a podcast offering hilarious reviews of hilariously awful movies. The Flophouse podcast is available through iTunes and also at http://www.theflophousepodcast.blogspot.com.Check back tomorrow for a look inside the Scream Queen Trade