In most horror stories involving possession, the evil comes from the outside - but in AfterShock's Blood Blister, the evil comes festering, bubbling up from the person's own soul.
That person is Brandon Hull, an entrepreneurial lawyer who specializes in getting the worst criminals out from under any jail time or even slaps on the wrists. He has no compunction about his job, but when a small growth on his body begins to present itself into something bigger - it changes.
Created by Phil Hester and Tony Harris, this is the latest creator-owned title from the upstart publisher AfterShock Comics - and one of the first the company ever greenlit, according to Hester. With Blood Blister #1 scheduled to debut January 25, Newsarama spoke with Hester about this complex body horror title, the roots of it all, and what having an expressive artist like Harris does for the book.
Newsarama: Phil, 'Blood Blister' communicates a shocking visual with its name alone. Is that the intention? What does it stand for in terms of the book?
Phil Hester: Certainly. I don't want any doubt in the reader's mind that this is a horror book, and a pretty visceral one at that. I hope some deeper themes and commentary come through, of course, but this is a satisfying book on a pure horror level.
Nrama: So what is Blood Blister about, and who is Brandon Hull?
Hester: Brand Hull is an outwardly successful corporate lawyer/fixer who specializes in getting his clients out of paying for the damage they have done to the environment. That includes swindling, denying, and otherwise bamboozling victims of corporate malfeasance out of their just rewards. He is physically perfect, but utterly amoral, at least until a small wound on his body begins to fester and spread, mirroring the rot in his soul.
Nrama: Is there an adversary in all of this, or is it Hull simply fighting against recompense for his actions?
Hester: Blood Blister plays out like a traditional possession story, but unlike most tales of this kind, Hull is no innocent. He deserves every inch of the punishment coming to him. I wanted to play with the idea that maybe demonic forces don't come from an external hell, but are conceived and gestated within us by our own wickedness. I mean, they still have this autonomous power and intelligence, but they grow from the inside. We birth the devil. Brand Hull's nemesis is his own evil. What he does about it, how he fights it to reclaim his family is where all the drama comes from.
Nrama: This delves into some deep body horror mythos, and for you back to your horror days of The Coffin. How'd the idea for this come together?
Hester: Well, I love horror stories, especially where they intersect with family drama, as you can see in both The Coffin and Deep Sleeper. This book definitely belongs to that same genre, only Hull is a far more despicable protagonist than we had in the previously mentioned books. I had a pretty serious, life-threatening illness almost two years ago. I'm fine now, but I had a long period where I felt my body was just betraying me, like it was my adversary. So I guess the germ of a story in which a man is fighting an evil force born from his own flesh must have sprung from that experience. I mean, all our bodies are betraying us on some level sooner or later. Blood Blister just takes that to the ultimate extreme.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Tony Harris - I don't believe you've ever worked together, but I know you've shared space in anthologies like Negative Burn and perhaps a few conventions. How'd you two connect to do this series?
Hester: Joe Pruett put us together. Blood Blister was actually one of the first books AfterShock approved, but we've been waiting until the right artist came along to tell this story, and Tony came available at just the right time. Tony has this crazy skill for depicting the real world in an illustrative, but utterly convincing style, then dropping a fantastical element right into the middle of it seamlessly, the way Dave Gibbons dropped the giant squid on Manhattan in Watchmen. He makes the seemingly absurd completely plausible, yet no less unsettling.
Nrama: Like you said, Tony has a unique style. How has having him onboard changed your vision for the book?
Hester: It's made me look for more ornate, elaborate grotesqueries to unleash on your poor eyeballs. Tony loves to get in and play with these visuals, so he's helped me get away from that conventional horror thinking of "how will this look in a movie" and more into "this is a comic and we can do whatever the hell we want so let's go absolutely bananas."
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with Blood Blister?
Hester: To scare you into being good again, god damn it.