Williamson & Henderson’s “Nailbiter Returns” with an Eye for Horror

By | May 15th, 2020
Posted in Interviews | % Comments

Three years ago, the final issue of “Nailbiter” hit the stands, wrapping up the story of the Buckaroo Butchers. But as any horror fan knows, you can’t keep a good slasher down and the town of Buckaroo calls us once again. In preparation for the June 3rd launch, we had a chat with the masters of the macabre themselves, Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson, about all things “Nailbiter Returns,” especially about the large volume of eyes on the cover.

It’s been three years since we left the world of “Nailbiter” and y’all went your separate ways, with Mike sticking around Marvel and Joshua sticking around DC for a “few” issues of “The Flash.” When’d you say that now, now is the time to get the band back together?

Mike Henderson: We always knew we would, it only ever a question of timing. Having both spent a few years working with separately on capes and tights, we started seriously discussing a sequel when I was in the last few issues of Dead Man Logan.

Joshua Williamson: The day that the last issue of the original series ended Mike and I had lunch. There we talked about the bits of the story we left on the table on purpose. How we’d bring it back. Then like Mike said, it was a matter of timing. We would talk every now and then about the story and the rollout of the next chapter. Once the universe all lined up, we got to work. Also for me, I missed working with the team and writing these characters.

You ended the series on an ambiguous note, really throwing back to its slasher/classic horror movie roots of baiting for a sequel when there was no intention of coming back. Was that the case with “Nailbiter?” Did you have firm plans to return or was a little less clear cut, in that you wanted the door open for a sequel but in case it never happened, it worked as an ending?

MH: It was a deliberate decision to leave that door cracked, knowing that whether we did or didn’t come back to Buckaroo, that ending would hold up. As the months ticked by and we worked on other things though, people never stopped asking for more Warren and it was harder and harder not to oblige.

JW: I love horror movies that give you one last good jump scare, so that’s why we ended there. But we also knew what was coming next and how to play off the ending with a new story. We always want to give the readers a bunch of “what the fuck?!” moments. But yeah, I think we knew there was always a chance we’d come back so why not have some fun with the ending.

I’m going to avoid spoilers for the new issue but it picks up, and I had to go back to issue #30 to confirm, the very same night as the finale, but with a (sorta) new focal character. Why there and without a time-skip, as is often horror tradition?

JW: Because that was where the story took us.I thought about doing another time jump, but we actually did a few during #30, so I felt like we could totally have some fun and dive into the same night but from a different angle. And then get rolling from there.

Cover by Mike Henderson

A first issue cover is often a sort of mission statement for a series. This was true of “Nailbiter” #1 and that seems to be the case here as well. What is it about eyes that are just so damn freaky?

MH: Nail stuff gives Josh the creeps, and eye stuff does the same for me. It seemed only fair!

JW: I actually don’t have issues with nails. Oh I guess I do, if they are really long and gross. I’ve chewed my nails my whole life, which is where a lot of this stuff started. And yeah, eye horror is fun!

If eyes are the windows to the soul, does that mean we’ll be exploring that aspect of the Buckaroo mythos this time around?

JW: 100% YES. Lots of fun stuff with what we see and don’t see in life and in horror. The eyes can deceive you.

Continued below

Horror film’s prominence ebbs and flows, and right now it feels like we’re in a particularly good period. Will “Nailbiter Returns” be responding to this new crop of films or is it firmly playing with much older conventions?

JW: It’s still the stuff I love about horror. And that includes the new. I won’t lie and say a lot of the horror films didn’t influence my thoughts on the new series. But a major influence on the series is the idea that a lot of the best horror franchises added ACTION to the mix in the sequels. Like Aliens and T2.

I gotta say, it’s nice to see Mike getting to dig back into the real gory stuff. How do you work to strike that balance between the violence of the genre-conventions, with its intent to make you squirm, and the almost serene beauty of pages 16-17?

MH: The strength of horror so often relies on that balance between beauty, humor and the stuff that makes you go “ick” and “Nailbiter’s” is a unique one I think comes from the blend of Josh’s horror sensibilities and mine. They all serve to accentuate whatever terrible thing is about to come next and I tend to default to drawing whatever I know is going to get me a “EW” text from Josh when it hits his inbox.

On that, I gotta ask about Adam Guzowski’s colors. How much do you know about/tell him beforehand and how much is him just going to town?

MH: He gets the basic information, and sometimes I want his help in setting a scene in a certain way or getting a certain effect, but I believe in having the right people for the job and then getting out of their way. Adam has been coloring my stuff for so long now that there’s every bit as much shorthand as there is between me and Josh.

Finally, is this a limited affair or are we back for the long haul? And what can you tease from the sequel? Evil clones? Warren goes to space? A Season of the Witch-style anthology arc?

MH: Space Clones?

JW: We have a lot of plans for the “Nailbiter” characters and series. This is just a new chapter in those plans. How long it is will depend on a lot of factors, but the priority is the story. You’ll see a lot of resurrected killers that we didn’t get to play with as much the first time around. Maybe some Killer Cosplayers from Outer Space?!

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.