WonderCon 2012: Making Comics Scary - Mignola, Snyder, More
Is HELLBOY Going
Waid kicked things off by asking panelists what about comics as a medium lends itself to horror. After all, it’s more visual than a Stephen King book. That can work in its favor though. Snyder said that comics have a lot of opportunity to be scary; his favorite comics were ones where the heroes were challenged by “something that really terrifies them about him/herself.” Hill felt it was important to note that in the Golden Age of comics, superheroes weren’t so important. The EC Comics family of titles moved a million and a half copies a month. “There was tremendous excitement and energy behind horror and crime comics, I think because the comics allowed them to explore lurid and outrageous ideas.”
After taking notes on Isaacs’ tip, Waid asked Hill what he thinks makes a good horror story when he’s sitting down at the keyboard. Hill agreed with Isaacs that all of the scariest things he’s ever seen were in Star Wars movies. He said, “A lot of people feel that horror doesn’t work in comics because in a movie you have a soundtrack – sounds are scary. Books are collaborative; the movie is running your head. But in comic books, the characters are a little stylized and there’s no music; a lot of people feel that you can’t scare someone with a comic book… If you tell a story where the characters feel real and have some layers – horror fails when it’s like an 80s slasher films when the characters are just pins to be knocked down – if you can persuade the readers that the people are real and the things they care about real, horror can be very effective.” He also recommended just putting the terrible thing on the page and not even trying to surprise readers.
Mignola said it’s a conscious effort. The way he does his artwork lends itself to horror because “there’s so much stuff that’s black, you don’t know what’s in there.” He thinks some of the element of scare is lost when you reveal what’s up your sleeve. “Some of the weakness in comics and horror is as soon as you see the whole monster, you think it’s stupid.” He said horror is more effective when the monster is hidden; it’s always spookier if you can’t see it. He joked that his characters must have terrifying legs since he never shows them. Mignola also mentioned that Gene Colan drew disturbing and scary images; there are a couple of images of Colan’s that have stuck with him and influenced him.
Important takeaways from this panel: Star Wars is scary, atmosphere is important, write characters people care about, and when all else fails, add more guys punching stuff.