Writer/Director John Carpenter made his name with cult movie clashes between good and evil with horror and humor, and now he’s turning his attention to comics. Working alongside his producer wife Sandy King Carpenter, comics writer Bruce Jones and artist Leonardo Manco, Carpenter has launched the comic series Asylum. With seven issues out and a collection due out by Halloween, Asylum delves into familiar territory for fans of Carpenter’s work such as Prince of Darkness and follows a priest named Daniel Beckett who’s more familiar with hell than heaven but is nevertheless called in by Catholic leaders to investigate a flood of demonic possessions in Los Angeles. From the storytelling to the artwork, Asylum feels like 1980s horror movies that Carpenter made his name with.
Newsarama talked with both John and his wife/partner Sandy, who serves as editor of the series, and discussed the story of Asylum, how they found their way to comics, and also the rise of several licensed adaptations of his films such as Big Trouble In Little China and Escape from New York.
Newsarama: What made the two of you turn to comics to tell your latest story, Asylum?
John Carpenter: We developed a story that seemed perfect for a comic book. It had a classic confrontation between good and evil, God and the Devil, and a complex compelling and complex duo of main characters. It felt sustainable.
Nrama: Seven issues are out now – what will the first collection look like?
Sandy Carpenter: The collection will be out in time for Halloween. It will include the first six issue arc and a bonus prologue plus a lot of extras like sketch pages and character pages from Leonardo Manco and some screen shots from our animated trailer. It will be a 200 page book. The hardcover edition with special collectible sketch cards will be out for the holidays and a limited signed art book edition of 500 will be available only from us and at conventions.
Nrama: Sandy, in doing research for this interview I discovered you worked as an inker for animation – very close to what’s done by an inker in comics. Can you talk about working as an artist back then and what you see being done now with comics and the production process?
Sandy: The production process in comics does feel very familiar to me from the old animation cartooning days of inking and painting cels. The layering process is very similar and the teamwork feels the same. It's probably why I'm having so much fun with it and feel more at home in comics than I might otherwise coming across mediums from film production. I think finding a groove with a creative team is important no matter what medium of story-telling you're working in. Comics and movies have that in common. You have to hit a rhythm and be in sync with each other.
Nrama: So you two have got your first comic under your belt with Asylum, asking as the story creators and editors. Could you see yourself doing more comics in the future?
Sandy: Absolutely. We'd like to see Storm King have a bigger footprint in the comics market as long as we can keep the quality up and have good stories to tell. There is already one more close to coming to the front. It would be a shame to have this learning curve go to waste!
Nrama: John, back to you. In the past few months a number of films you’ve done have jumped to comics to tell new stories – both Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York. are getting ongoing comic series. What do you think about that?
John: I think it’s great. I’m flattered that these old movies of mine are generating enough narrative to deserve comic treatment.
Nrama: Could you see yourself guest-writing an issue or arc of either of those series and returning to these characters you created so long ago?
John: Sure, although not during the upcoming NBA season. I already work with Eric Powell on the overall story arcs and set-ups for the issues of Big Trouble In Little China though.
Nrama: John – you’re not new to comics, I remember you saying 1980’s The Fog was inspired by comics like Tales From The Crypt and EC Comics. That being said, when did it strike you to want to create comics of your own?
John: It was my wife Sandy’s idea at first. I just tag along for the ride. I've been asked to put my name on other comics in the past which just didn't measure up in terms of story or production quality. Doing one ourselves allows us to control the story-telling and the quality of the art and the book itself.
Nrama: Last question -- what are your big plans going forward, with Asylum and elsewhere?
John: I want Asylum to grow, the story lines to complicate. This is a vision of a titanic struggle between good and evil. It can be a story that never ends, and that would be fine with me.