Alex de Campi Wants to Kill Boring Horror Comics [Interview]

By | October 15th, 2014
Posted in Interviews | 3 Comments

Alex de Campi’s terrifyingly fun new title “Archie Meets Predator” (artwork by Fernando Ruiz) from Dark Horse comics is coming to the stands in Spring 2015. To celebrate Alex de Campi, the lady that writes “Grindhouse” a two-issue arc sleaze-fest trashy-gore horror anthology for Dark Horse, “Valentine,” “Ashes/Smoke,” now killing off the teens of Riverdale, I sat down with Alex de Campi at NYCC14 to talk horror. Read on as we reveal Alex de Campi’s rules for writing horror, and her opinion on how mainstream comics are just getting exploitation horror wrong.

Why decide to write “Grindhouse”? What does this anthology give horror readers?

Alex de Campi: Trashy went away for a while, and I’m bringing it back. I am.

One reason “Grindhouse” came to be was because I got tried of how violent exploitation horror was used in mainstream comics. On DC’s Free Comic Book Day, within their interior, they had Black Canary’s face cut off and stapled to another character’s chest for no reason whatsoever. I’m just like, “The way you do this guys, is boring. It’s so sad, and boring. And there’s no fun, and there’s no love of it.” When you watch those trashy movies when you’re 13, like me, you knew your ass was getting whooped if you were caught watching it…films like Suspiria and Black Sunday.

The thing about watching those films is that you’re really excited because you’re not supposed to be watching them. You go with your friends, and maybe you actually have a beer, or you vomit peach schnapps everywhere in your friend’s car (I might be over-sharing). But when you see all this misery-porn in Marvel and DC it’s no fun. It’s usually like there’s a major readership who’s the punchline of that misery porn. It’s the female character. It’s the Black character. It’s the kid. They’re the ones that get killed so that the white-male character be all, “Nooo,” and avenge them. And then there’s a misunderstanding with some other superhero, and then they get over it, and then they team up! And there you have every superhero plot in the past ten years. I wanted a short, dirty, sexy (but not weird porn sex where characters aren’t aware that they are in that pose) comics. In my comics my characters are aware that they’re in that pose. They know what they are doing. I started writing these two-issue stories because they’re like an exploitation film. They’re fast. They’re short. They’re messy. Each arc has it own artist. It’s an easy in to the story.

The second season of “Grindhouse” is starting in November. It’s Christmas-themed because nothing says Christmas like disemboweling your relatives. If you love Argento, or twisted Italian psychological horror, you’ll love this. It’s really disturbing.

What are the top two things you’re “tired of seeing” in comics you read?

AC: The women, the kid, the gay character, or the black character being the first one to die. Or where it’s like violence towards a group other than the dominant character, the white male character, being used as a catalyst for the white male hero to seek vengeance. That’s boring. Also, I don’t like being the punchline of the joke, or the punching bag.

Stories that are nothing but darkness and violence. It’s a really juvenile way to approach comics. Life is pretty hard as it is so when your comic is nothing but superheroes being miserable and having violent horrible things happen to them, I want to say, “Laugh. Embrace some fun!”

What are some ways horror writers can have more fun writing horror in terms of plot?

AC: I think you can shake up the patterns in your writing and find it fresh. Once you get your characters all set, flip a coin for which one dies. Or, take the one that you think will be the final hero and kill them first to see what happens next. Or, flip all your genders. Or, flip all the races and sexual identities within your characters. Try to break the patterns within your own writing, so it’s also more exciting for you as a writer.

What are some ways horror writers can have more fun with writing violence?

AC: Try to have a really good scare that’s not gore. I mean, I love gore. Gore is so much fun. Ways of spilling someone’s insides across the screen are fabulous, but there are also things that are incredibly unsettling that aren’t involving just blood. After a while too much gore in comics looks like spagehtti-o’s on the page, and you start staring at it and think, “Wow. That’s kinda a fucked up small intestine, man.”

Continued below

One of the scary things we did in the first issue of “Grindhouse” was that we had bees flying into someone’s every orifice…which is really disturbing for me! I have a thing about bees. Other people have a thing about bees apparently too. Think of at least one scare per issue that is not about violent penetration of the body, and bleeding, and you’ll have something interesting.

Who is your favorite horror villain, whether in comics or in movies?

AC: Gosh. I love unknowable villains. I hate it when they go back and make back-stories for the villains, like, “Oh they were spanked as a kid.”

Oh, like, Friday the 13th?

AC: Yeah, ugh, yeah. Yanno it’s scarier when we don’t know why it’s happening. I think my favorite horror villain is Alien.

Despite who will win in “Archie Meets Predator” (though this lady hopes the teens have some surprises up their sleeves), you can be sure if it’s written by Alex de Campi that the thrills and chills won’t be what you expect.

For the record, Alex de Campi also said that when asked how she could possibly write “My Little Pony” and “Grindhouse,” her response was, “Because I’m not fucking boring. I’m a varied human being with varying interests.” If you can see her diversity as a writer, you can be assured she will slash teens with passion and novelty.

Cassandra Clarke

Cassandra Clarke is currently an MFA student at Emerson College, studying Fiction. You can find her in the dusty corner of used book stores, running at daybreak, or breaking boards at her dojang.