As a kid, nothing scared me more than the horror aisle at my local Blockbuster Video.
I would walk through it, head straight up, refusing to look from side to side. In the corners of my eyes I would catch strange demons staring at me, monsters that had been haunting my dreams since the last time I’d been forced through that particular gauntlet. But as hard as I tried not to look, they already had me. They’d crawled into the stronghold of my brain and they refused to come out. For years they festered and changed, manipulated by imagination into such unspeakable horrors that I’d yell at my friends for even just suggesting we pop in a scary movie.
It’s still funny to me that years later, when I finally embraced the horror genre, that almost none of those terrifying VHS covers lived up to what I’d imagined. I’d already written a horror movie in my head for each and every piece of box-art, and for the most part, my brain proved to be a much darker and twisted place than the horror aisle. I started looking back at those moments walking through the Blockbuster, trying to steer my way around the section, a little more fondly. Because the truth was, I could have avoided seeing any of those covers. The truth was I wanted the pulse-pounding experience of seeing vague, unspeakable horrors out of the corner of my eye. I wanted the nightmares. I never left the store without walking the horror aisle.
Now I walk it a little more deliberately.
Horror simply fascinates me, as both a consumer and a creator. It’s an entire genre designed to explore and exploit the darkest corners of our mind and dig out some deep, primal fear. Some of it is more successful than the rest, but that simply makes the challenge of making horror all the more enticing. Fear is such a deeply personal, subjective thing, the only way to really approach true horror is to dig into yourself and find the things that you fear the most. Then the challenge is to exploit that fear in a way you’ve never really seen before.
I’d only recently broken into the comics scene when I saw the potential of the Thrillbent format in action for the first time. The dynamism of the layering techniques, and the ability to change elements from swipe to swipe… It got my mind racing. I knew I wanted to write original horror comics. That had been the dream long before I wrote my first back-up story in Batman. In Thrillbent I saw the perfect opportunity to tell horror stories in a strange, new way. I didn’t know Mark Waid all that well at that point, we’d met at a convention earlier in the year, but I needed to tell him the potential I saw to do something frightening. My original pitch document for The Eighth Seal had the following section embedded in the first page:
A QUICK NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN
Thrillbent seems tailor-made for horror in a way that traditional comics never have been. In a medium where the reader usually has the ultimate power to skim over a page, and see a frightening beat before he or she gets to it, this new potential for real jump-out-and-scare-you moments in a comic book format is tremendous. The tension of the reading experience is raised significantly… If you’re reading a horror comic on Thrillbent, you never know what that next swipe might bring. By establishing scares early in the story, each week a reader will be on the edge of their seat, not sure if they’re ready to hit that right arrow.
More than just the potential for cheap scares, though, is the chance to show reality breaking down like never before. The layering style you’ve established, where the art stays the same for multiple “pages” with a tweak that redefines it by shifting the focus, or showcasing motion, allows for a whole new method of storytelling previously reserved for film and animation… Imagine a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror, and when you swipe the page her face has changed into something inhuman… Something monstrous. And in the next swipe it changes back. That’s a moment that can be handled more effectively in a Thrillbent comic than it ever could on paper.
With THE EIGHTH SEAL I want to explore these new possibilities. I want to push the new set of tools you’re showcasing in these stories to their absolute limit.
And most of all… I want to scare people.
I still do.
Today, we launch the fifth chapter of THE EIGHTH SEAL. Once you read it you’ll see that this chapter ratchets the series forward precariously. We have been destroying First Lady Amelia Greene’s life piece by piece, and this is the shattering point. Or at least the first of a few key shattering points in the months to come. This chapter has some of my favorite art in this series to date. All of you who have been reading our series month-to-month know that Jeremy Rock is absolutely incredible, but this chapter… Wait until you see what he’s whipped up for you. I remember when I showed Mark the breakdowns on my phone at San Diego this year. It’s my favorite moment in the series. At least until the next chapter.
This is a deeply personal story to me, as strange as that might seem. There’s nothing more frightening to me than losing control of your mind, and seeing that lack of control manifest as a creature far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. And there’s no better format I could be telling this story in than in the Thrillbent format. I couldn’t be happier to see the response it’s gotten. It’s made me want, more than anything, to launch further series in the Thrillbent format to explore more of my deepest and darkest fears.
So, that’s the other thing I got on my soapbox to tell you crazy kids about today.
THE HOUSE IN THE WALL is an unconventional ghost story that we will be launching early in the next year here on Thrillbent.com. The series will be co-written by myself and Noah J. Yuenkel (a newcomer to the comics field, whose work I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about in the months and years to come), with art by the incredible Eryk Donovan. I can’t say much about the series just yet, but we’re designing it to push the Thrillbent format to the limit in a very cool and different way than we do with The Eighth Seal. I see the two stories as companion pieces of a sort, and can’t wait to see them running side-by-side on this website.
More than any kind of fiction, the stories I’ve always been drawn to tell are horror stories. I want to create horrific images that make you scroll by at top speed, trying not to catch another glimpse of the demonic creature staring right back at you on the page. And then you come back and scroll by again. And again. You try not to think about the creature, but you see it at night when you close your eyes and try to sleep. You go back to the website, thinking if you scroll by again, just a little bit slower, you might be able to let it go. You don’t want to go back there, but you have to. You need to get the monsters out of your mind.
But if you’re already afraid, they’ve found their new home.
-James Tynion IV