With Vertigo's Imaginary Fiends, Tim Seeley is back in the realm of horror, this time telling a story of hungry spectral aliens who stalk the minds of the young — unleashing a tale of "crazy, imaginary stuff" and "weird, colorful worlds."
The miniseries, which launches in November with art by Stephen Molnar, centers on a young girl named Melba whose imaginary friend Polly Peachpit told her to murder her friend. After the attempted murder, Melba was locked up for good, but when she turned 18, the FBI came to her cell to ask for her help, as similar incidents with "imaginary fiends" have been discovered.
As the series continues, Melba — and her fiend Polly — unite with FBI agent Virgil to combat the unknown, uncovering another world that exists beyond our own, where terrifying spectral aliens have leeched on to the imaginations of humanity.
Newsarama talked to Seeley about why he wanted to return to horror at Vertigo and how the story of Imaginary Fiends gives him the chance to explore the fear of not knowing what to believe.
Newsarama: Tim, man, you're everywhere.
Tim Seeley: Yeah, it's killing me! [Laughs.] I'm a little stressed out by it.
Nrama: Yet you're not limited to one genre at all. When I say you're everywhere, I also mean you're able to go a lot of difference places with your writing — I think it's one of your strengths. With Imaginary Fiends, do you feel like you're being stretched in a new direction, or does this echo some of the themes and styles you've explored before in your other horror work?
Seeley: I think it's true that one of my — well, probably one of my biggest weaknesses, actually, is that I like so much different stuff, that I'm interested in so much different stuff. And that maybe translates to having not a really firm style.
But something like Imaginary Fiends is closer to what my real style is, I think. People who read Revival or Hack/Slash might recognize it. It's a little bit closer to that work than something like Nightwing or Green Lanterns.
Every job I take on, I try to put everything that I have into it, and try to find what interests me about it. So I hope that always comes across.
I think Imaginary Fiends is like a distillation of things that, you know, that I'll be eternally fascinated with — the horrors and fears of childhood, and just crazy imaginary stuff, weird, colorful worlds and that kind of thing all put into one book.
Nrama: Can you introduce the basic concept behind Imaginary Fiends? You've got horror and voices and even alien, extra-dimentsional monsters involved in this thing, right?
Seeley: Yeah, yeah! The really simple explanation that I use is "X-Files meets It."
It's a girl who's tasked with investigating monsters alongside her imaginary friend. That's my movie-Hollywood pitch.
And then I think the larger concept is, you know, it's a story about people living in a world where they're not sure what's real anymore and trying to figure that out, and the fear that goes along with that.
Nrama: Can you talk about the main character, Melba, and the challenges she faces in the story?
Seeley: Yeah, Melba starts off as a normal teenager who lives in a small town and in that way lives in her imagination, which is something I can personally relate to.
But her life goes in a different direction as she becomes the focus of this major crime where she attacked and almost murdered her best friend. She blamed the attack on her imaginary friend.
So we catch up with her six years later. She's in a juvenile detention center and she's trying to live down this worst moment of her life and move on. But it keeps coming back up.
And she's offered a job by the FBI to help them.
Nrama: The art contributes to the overall feel of this comic. Can you talk about the tone it sets?
Seeley: Yeah, the artist is a guy named Stephen Molnar. He's my co-creator on the book. He's the guy I talked to pretty early on when I came up with the idea of this.
And I thought what Steve would really bring to it is, he draws this really realistic, really clean style, and I wanted to see what would happen if we could use that as the base of our stuff and then throw in crazy stuff — for instance, giant monstrous spider-women and their firefly monster boyfriend. You know, what would that look like?
And he really rose up and did that combination so perfectly.
Nrama: You're writing this for Vertigo — did you imagine it as a comic book specifically for that imprint?
Seeley: Yeah, when I first signed my exclusive at DC, one of the things I really wanted to do was take another crack at a Vertigo book. I did the book Effigy there. And I really am happy with the book. But it was me going outside my normal boundaries doing a sort of conspiracy, crime comic.
I thought I could do something which was a distilled, platonic ideal of a Vertigo comic, which to me is … creepy, really original, and contains this vast world, and can also be beautiful and disturbing at the same time.
So there you go — hopefully I nailed it.
Nrama: OK, so you've introduced the concept. Can you talk about what's coming down the road, after Melba begins helping the FBI?
Seeley: Well, the story is about their first case. Melba and Virgil and Polly end up in a small town in Kentucky where they're investigating the disappearance of a kid, and the wider implication is that this has something to do with an "imaginary fiend." But it ends up being a lot more than that.
We get a lot of cool stuff as we look at the characters and their relationship, and we flesh out this world where kids can imagine something and have it made real by these bizarre extra-dimensional alien monsters.
Nrama: Anything else you want to tell potential readers about Imaginary Fiends?
Seeley: I mean, I think it's a perfect book for people who liked my Hack/Slash stuff and liked Revival and who think of me as a horror writer. This is a book to come back on and check out. It's a little bit of the funny and gross of Hack/Slash with a lot of the sort of serious and beautiful of Revival, so I think it tickles all those toes. And I hope people like it.