From the author of Sprouting and Other Tales of the Curious and Tails of Mystery, Asa Wheatley has a new horror anthology crowd-funding on Kickstarter. Campfire Stories is a 24-page anthology written by Asa Wheatley, drawn by Kevin Keane, Raquel Kusiak, Garry Mac and Sammy Ward, and lettered by Zakk Saam. We caught up with Asa Wheatley to learn more about how this horror-inspired anthology came to be.
A Place to Hang Your Cape: Campfire Stories is using the “tales around the campfire” set-up to bring four tales of horror to life. What horror movies, shows, comics, books, etc. inspired the anthology?
Asa Wheatley: There’s so much of the horror genre that inspires me. Trick ‘r Treat, while not in the campsite setting, had a big influence on the writing of this anthology. The way it weaves its stories so naturally into each other, giving the stories a narrative link in more ways than it initially seems; I wanted to emulate that. Having the set up being that these are stories told by characters also meant that they could be unreliable narrators sometimes.
The connective tissue story, “Sitting by the Fire”, presents itself as a more traditional affair. I wanted each of the stories within that story to show off a different style of horror so that it holds influences from all over the genre. The slow burn of “Hungry for More” takes from the likes of John Carpenter, Ti West and the fantastic Nailbiter series, while “The Starving Spectre” is more akin to something like the Blair Witch or The Ritual and the final story “A Ritual of Sacrifice and Power” holds young witches as its focus as if The Craft was set in the ‘60s.
While these are more direct influences the comic Hack/Slash has always been a big influence on my comic writing since I first read it. It was something I had never seen before in the medium and showed me that these stories could be told in comics.
AP2HYC: Why kind of themes can we expect to see throughout the four tales?
Wheatley: There’s a consistent theme that is in the background of each of the stories: trust. It’s not necessarily screaming it in the text of all of them but its hiding in the background, in the trees of the oppressive forest that surrounds the characters, so to speak. The nagging thought in the back of their minds is always, ‘can I or should I trust the person opposite me? Are they leading me down the right path?’ And this is whether they know them or not. It wasn’t something I set out to do initially but it grew as each of the stories did.
AP2HYC: What’s your favourite kind of horror story? And what is your least favourite?
Wheatley: Anything that has great building tension I’m on board with. My favourite film of all time is John Carpenter’s The Thing. The way he builds the tension and collapses the trust between the characters is phenomenal. I also have a soft spot for a good (or bad) slasher film, something that’s fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously but can still get a good jump out of you.
I’ve never really been into the more torture–oriented part of the genre. I’m all for inventive kills but the dragged–out torture-fests are not for me. It feels lazy to me.
AP2HYC: Considering this is an anthology of only 24-pages divided amongst four tales, how did you and the artists strive to find balance between the artwork and narration to make sure the story was effectively scary?
Wheatley: I think in comics the key to keeping things scary is the atmosphere and the page turn. With only a few pages for each story it was very important that the artist use the space they had to create this sort of creeping feeling as their story was told. It all starts with the fantastic cover by Natasha Alterici. The focal point is the fire, front and centre, but behind it lurking in the dark are these eyes looking out at you, making you uneasy about what lies ahead and on the pages within.
Kevin Keane, who illustrated the connecting story, “Sitting by the Fire”, used the backgrounds of the pages to recreate the light of the sun setting. A fantastic way for the reader to be subconsciously drawn into the darkness of the night while the story unfolds around them. And as the setting gets darker, so does the story itself.
Throughout the anthology I kept the narration minimal as each story begins with it but shortly after it is gone. I wanted to give the reader the feeling that they were there, listening to the story. So engrossed in the tale that they no longer hear the words but instead have a beautifully realised visual in front of them. Its the benefit of the comics medium.
Alongside this, I meticulously planned out page turns. Within a horror comic, the page turn is the equivalent of a jump scare. It catches the reader off-guard while at the same time being built up by the pages preceding it.
AP2HYC: Other than your previous anthology Sprouting and Other Tales of the Curious, what other works do you have in progress that we can look forward to seeing?
Wheatley: I’ve just put the finishing touches to the third issue of the comic mini-series I’m currently writing, Tails of Mystery. It’s the noir story of a private detective who gets trapped in the body of a black cat. Once that’s done, I’ll be working on the script for issue four as well as a variety of comic scripts I want to push towards the art stage next year.