In Comics, No One Can Hear You SCREAM! An Interview with Tim West
With Halloween drawing ever nearer, we horror fans can’t help but salivate over the carved pumpkins grinning at us from porch steps and the monster movie marathons that constantly play on the boob tube. If you’re looking for something a little different though, why not dig into a free comic book, packed to the caskets with four-color beasties and psychos to please your morbid desire?
If that’s your type of poison, than Tim West is your man. Not only does Tim put together a fearsome annual anthology called Hallowscream for rabid fans, but he’s also the creator of the site Back from the Depths (along with the snazzy spin-off blog on paneled horrors The Theatre of Terror), a loving tribute to the short-lived British horror comic series SCREAM!, itself a goliath of a publication that contained such sights as lumbering monsters, murderous computers, and short’n'punchy ghoulish tales. Tim sat down with us today to discuss his SCREAM-worthy passion, his projects, and all manners of spooky gobbledy-gook. Breathe deep the pumpkin fumes and listen in…
How did you gain a taste for terror and the weird?
I’ve always been interested in horror starting from an early age. This I put down to my parents, both lovers of horror films too, sending me to bed early while they watched a film, or covering my eyes during a particularly gruesome scene. That type of denial forced on a kid only makes you want more. Another big influence is a comic I used to read back in the 80’s called Scream! This gave me my first taste of horror at the age of seven.
What type of spooky tale tickles your graveyard bones?
Imagination is a powerful tool when it comes to scares. Luckily I have quite an active one so it’s easy to visualize scenes from a horror novel. However, I do love to see what’s lurking in other people’s disturbed imaginations. I’m drawn towards terrifying imagery and pictures, horrid visual scenes that burn themselves in to the back of your skull, freakish monsters and scenes of terror that shock you till you shiver.
Drop some knowledge on us. What is this SCREAM magazine you rave about?
2000AD and Eagle were rockin’ the scene in the UK back when I was a kid. The early eighties were a good time to be into comics. IPC then brought out a new kids horror comic called Scream! It only lasted 15 issues before the comics industry imploded and the comic was cancelled but by then the damage to my young psyche was complete.
What makes this petrifying periodical particularly special in your heart?
Most comics were boys adventure and sci-fi. Scream! gave me access to horror. It felt grown up to be reading this kind of thing and I loved it. This was good quality horror as well. A mix of short one-off spooky stories and ongoing adventures.
What brought about the creation of the Back from the Depths website that celebrates the comic?
I’d completely forgotten that the comic existed until 2001 when my Mum discovered all 15 issues tucked away in the back of a drawer. It was a real delight to see the comics; there’s nothing like a good rush of nostalgia, and I eagerly read the stories all over again.
I wanted to find out more about the comic so looked online for information and found absolutely nothing referring to Scream! I couldn’t believe that this short-lived comic had just been completely forgotten.
It just so happened that at that time I needed a topic for an independent study module at university. I thought it would be a fantastic idea to create a fan site for the comic. It was a perfect fit for the project and I would be doing the world a service while learning at the same time. Back from the Depths was born and I went on to become a professional web designer all thanks to Scream!
I don’t really care for superhero comics. I much prefer darker adult fiction. Big faves are the Preacher series, The Last Man and The Walking Dead. There’s tons of great horror manga that is worth reading as well.
What common elements do you think are essential for a quality horror comic book?
Well you have to have something scary to qualify as horror but I think there are other characteristics that make quality, such as an interesting storyline, plenty of adversity and a decent splash of humour.
Have any cool plans for this upcoming Halloween?
I’ve moved in to a new house over the summer. It’s number 13, has bats, huge spiders and a wicked basement level I’ve christened ‘The Dungeon’ that would be perfect for a large Halloween party. There’s also the matter of another comic project called Hallowscream.
Is the holiday celebrated differently in your neck of the woods compared to the States?
It’s not half as exciting in the UK as it is in America. That’s why I think a good party would go down a treat.
You started a tribute comic called Hallowscream that you premiere each All Hallow’s Eve as a special free treat for fans. How did that come about?
I’ve met plenty of really cool people online thanks to Back from the Depths. The site once included an active forum full of horror comic fans. One day we decided that we should make a tribute comic that continued the legacy of Scream! So, Hallowscream crawled into existence, a community based horror anthology where we take spooky comic script contributions from writers around the world and give them to horror artists who want to be part of the comic. It’s a fantastic arrangement that works really well.
This year’s comic is extra special because we are running an IndieGoGo crowd funding campaign (found HERE) in the hope of getting the comic printed. Hallowscream is made up of contributions from writers and artists. As a way of saying thanks to these kind folk I want to raise enough cash to supply each person with a printed copy. If anyone reading this could pledge just $10 to the cause, they will get their own printed copy of Hallowscream 2011 as well as their name on the credits page.
Do you guys try to consciously make the issues reminiscent of the SCREAM rags or is Hallowscream more of a hodgepodge of horror?
We’ve tried to keep a few similarities in layout and additional content. The stories are very different though. There’s a huge mix of skills and abilities which makes the comic very diverse and interesting.
Are you looking to expand upon the Hallowscream project?
Most definitely, I love being part of a creative group that makes something new and unique. We only do it once a year though, so maybe expansion will be in that area. I think a Christmas based horror comic would be a smash hit.
Quick, before we blow out the jack o’ lantern—why don’t you tell us what the strangest thing you did as a kid was?
So much to choose from… Myself and some friends once found a horned skull of a ram which we imaginatively named ‘Ramskull.’ We nailed it to a tree and worshipped it for fun. That’s pretty strange.