The third Image panel of the C2E2 weekend, Image Comics Presents: Creators Own Horror, focused on getting to the bottom of what horror really means. Is the the scare, or is it the anticipation of the scare that is truly horrifying? Moderated by Image staffer David Brothers, the discussion included the talents of Jock, Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder, Paul Azaceta, Brian Buccellato, Jason Howard, and Kyle Strahm.
Brothers began by asking each of the creators to talk a little about their books, specifically the type of horror they fall under and what makes them so frightening.
Howard went first, saying of his book Trees, "Well it's the opposite of Super Dinosaur. It's the quiet aftermath of an alien invasion I guess. It looks at the aftermath of that invasion in more political ways. It's more of a creepy character drama."
"With my book Intersect, it's like a straight from the back of the brain body horror story," said Fawkes. "People are uncontrollably changing shape for some reason. Some people are changing into other people, some change into animals and inanimate objects. I'm super into body horror stories and the films of like Cronenberg and Lynch so I wanted to do a comic that spoke to that. I tried to evoke a nightmarish, surreal landscape as a kind of experiment."
"Outcast is about a guy who's been plagued by possession and demonic stuff all his life," Azaceta said. "So he's secluded, but it keeps finding him, so he's trying to figure out why he's targeted in a way, and if it's bigger than him. It's a twist on the classic exorcism, haunting tale."
Spread was next, with Strahm saying, "It's about a huge organism that's taken over a large part of the Earth, and scientists discover a baby whose DNA can stop it. I'm really into that over the top gross stuff like Sam Raimi, so that's what I'm going for."
Snyder spoke for he and Jock's Wytches, explaining, "It's about these ancient, bestial, cannibalistic creatures that live deep under the earth, and they have a natural science that's all their own. They can cure anything, make people fall in love, etc. But the only way to get these cures is to give someone to them to eat, and it's called pledging."
"I've always loved horror where the monsters are really scary," he added. "But the thing that's scarier is the human capacity of evil in the face of those monsters."
Jock: "It's funny because what i like is the human aspect of it, and really i feel like the witches should represent a slightly out of shot evil. That primordial, bestial creatures. So i kind of prefer not to draw them, but when they do come they'll be nasty, violent looking things."
Buccellato rounded out the summaries with his new book, Sons of the Devil.
"It's a psychological horror about cults told over the course of 30 years," he said. "Travis is the main character and he's grown up in foster care, and he finds out one day that his dad is like Charles Manson and that he's coming for him. The first issue is out May 27th, and the cut-off for orders is May 4th."
Brothers guided the panel towards the real meaning of horror. What do the creators think is at the root of the most disturbing kinds of horror?
"For me, a huge fear is helplessness in the face of something unavoidable and terrible," Fawkes began. "This slow, creeping realization that we are small in the face of certain things. It's a very true thought and certainly something I've felt in my life."
Snyder added, "I feel like one of the things that scares me is when things that we take as totems of safety in our lives becomes the murderous thing that comes after you in some way. That sense of relying on something and then having that thing turn on you."
"All the books on this panel deal with family in some way," Brothers said. "What's so scary about families?"
"I think it's because they're the people we depend on," replied Fawkes. "To see that you might not be able to help them - or that they might not be able to help you, is one of the scariest things."
"I find things that are unsettling far more horrific than a knife in the head," said Jock. "The family relationship is key, so when things happen to them it's unsettling."
The discussion turned over to the Q&A portion of the afternoon.
A fan asked for an explanation on the extra pages put into the end of Intersect.
"Those pages are about the world of Intersects," Fawkes said. "They were conceived as a place for the creatures of the book to speak directly to the readers."
The creators were asked what inspires them to want to work in the horror genre, and mention any favorite creators of horror.
"I've always gravitated towards horror, even as a kid," said Snyder. "I had a lot of anxiety growing up - I still deal with that. But that controlled sense of dealing with something terrifying and coming out of the other side, it's a confirmation that somehow there is another side, and it gives you ways of processing it."
"Yeah, it's a safe way to experience something," added Fawkes. "Horror lets me say to the world, 'If anyone else feels like this, I'm with you.' My favorite horror creator is Junji Ito. Uzumaki and Gyo are incredible."
"When I was a kid my favorite horror movie was Gremlins 2," said Strahm. "I've been told a lot that it isn't a horror movie, but I just like to laugh. I try to do a lot of that in Spread. I liked a lot of those 80's over the top things."
The next question was about pacing in horror comics. How do the creators find the right beats and guide the action to successful moments?
"I thought Wytches was going to be very hard because the reader can stop at any time," replied Jock. "And a lot of the horror is helplessness? You can't do that in a comic. So on a level it's panel layouts, and it's just really hard."
"My artist is really amazing," said Buccellato. "I'm amazed at what he does with angles and the choices he makes. The opening sequence of issue one has a hammer attack, and he didn't show the action, details and outcome. It was so much better for it."
A fan asked why the creators, who wear many hats, decided that their stories were best suited to the comics medium.
"Well, your imagination is so much scarier than what we can provide you with," said Snyder. "Ultimately I think the audience can have that intimate connection with characters because you're filling in the blanks for yourself, which makes comics richer than movies. We try deeply to get you attached to characters and then feel uncertain about what will happen to them going forward."
"I just deeply love comics," Fawkes said. "And I also find that they have a unique syntax that no other art form has. I can still experiment and surprise people - I don't see that opportunity in a lot of other art forms. In comics you can make a book with two or three people, so there's no one to say 'Let's not take this risk.'"
The final question of the talk was whether or not the creators always know the ending to their horror stories when they begin to write them.
"Well, if the sales don't support your book, you might have to cut it short," said Buccellato. "So I have an outpoint to finish, and then have a sequel ready if I can go on."
"I never start to write a story unless I know the end," finished Fawkes.