October 12, 2015

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Halloween Horror: Interview with Chris Welsh: Co-Creator and Writer of Wart

Pictures of ghosts and goblins and horrors so menacing only comics could contain them will haunt you all month long with our annual Halloween Horror feature. Join us as we try to scare you with posts relating to our favorite comics designed to put a chill up your spine or scratch that itch you get whenever someone mentions Boris Karloff! We'll be at this all month with a variety of posts. You can find them all--along with entries from past years--at this link. But don't blame us if you can't sleep after reading them....
Wart is a webcomic that has, thanks to the kind folks at Kickstarter, graduated into a fully fledged series of trade paperback collections. It's found its roots in classic Lovecraftian storytelling but manages to not take itself too seriously. The entire series can be read for free over on their website, but if you're in the mood to treat yourself go and pick up a copy of the collection. I sat down with co-creator and writer Chris Welsh to ask the important questions about where he finds his roots and, most importantly, find out who would win in a fight between a vampire wearing a carved pumpkin and a werewolf with tentacles instead of limbs.

Mark Dickson: Do you remember what the first horror film/book/TV show you watched was?
Chris: My first memorable experience of horror was Goosebumps. I loved those books a lot and tried to collect them all. I don’t know if I ever managed it, and my collection is long gone, but I've been thinking about hunting them down on Amazon again. I'd say they stuck with me because, even though they were 'for kids', it felt like I shouldn't have been reading them. I always expected my mum to take them off me when she found out they were actually scary. There was a fun edge to them.
As for film, it was probably Jurassic Park. Not exactly a horror, but to a 9 year old kid it did the job. I attempted to read the book not long after first seeing the film and gave myself major dinosaur nightmares.
What makes a piece of entertainment frightening to you?
Chris: I don't quite know how to put it into words, but I think it’s the 'unknown' of it all. You watch a horror film, see something skulking around in the background of a shot and you wonder what the hell it is. It gets your heart going and then there's the anticipation, waiting for something to happen. The best horror media, in my opinion, tries to keep as much of itself secret as possible.
Do you enjoy being scared by films/books/TV shows/games?
Chris: I do, though it doesn't happen much anymore. Now, I tend to watch horror films with an analytical eye and try to figure out the intentions of the writers/directors. It takes a really well-made and interesting horror film to make me forget that I'm watching a film now. Horror games tend to get me a lot more - that demo they made for the new, ill-fated Silent Hill game gave me chills it was so good.

What creators and pieces of work inspired you to pursue a career in horror genre?
Chris: Horror stuff has always interested me. I've mentioned Goosebumps already, but they inspired me to read Fear Street and the X-Files novelisations in high school. On top of that, I loved the Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. I always tended to find the most interesting books in the Horror section of the library and so, when I started writing, I naturally leant towards that genre. It feels very natural to try and spook people with my work.
You have Book 3 of your hit web series Wart successfully funded via Kickstarter and coming out soon. What's coming in Book 3 that’s the most terrifying?
Chris: Well, you find out more about who/what the Doctor really is and we hope that’s a terrifying moment. With Book Three we decided to go pretty crazy and throw all sorts of ideas at it, in the hope of subverting a few things and giving readers something they didn't ever expect. The story is already nuts, with the alternate dimensions and mad cults, but we wanted readers to be flicking through the pages with an 'Oh shit!' look on their faces.
Thinking ahead to the furthest reach of your plan for the series, what event lies in Wart's future is going to scare him the most?
Chris: Without wanting to be spoiler-y, probably the moment when he finds out what his real role is in the whole thing. That could crush him.

What is your most irrational fear?
Chris: When I was a kid I genuinely worried about pulling t-shirts/jumpers over my head, in case the neckhole was somehow a portal to somewhere else. I had a whole system of bunching up the shirt and looking directly through the hole before pulling it on.
I also didn't like to hang any limb over the edge of my bed for fear of a big guillotine falling from the ceiling and lopping it off. There were no guillotines hanging above my bed, obviously, I was just a weird kid. But I still think of those irrational fears every few days.
Oh, and also moths. Fuck moths.
Do you believe in ghosts/supernatural beings? If so, have you ever had a supernatural experience?
Chris: I don't believe in them, but I believe that I would really like to believe in them. The closest I've ever come to a supernatural experience is being in a creepy place and imagining creepy things happening. My brain will wait until I'm in a dark room to go 'Wouldn't it be cool if…' in an attempt to freak me out.
Beyond the Lovecraftian creatures seen in Wart, what is your favourite classic supernatural creature?
Chris: Possibly not classic, or supernatural, but I'm a big fan of UNKNOWN THINGS from THE DEEP, or some other such watery abyss: Creature from the Black Lagoon, sea monsters and that sort of thing. I'm a little obsessed with sea monsters - maybe once a year I'll fall down a Wikipedia rabbit-hole reading about mythical water creatures, unexplained underwater radar blips, and giant squids.

When were you the most scared?
Chris: A few months ago, I was in the car with Tom Ward (writer/creator of Merrick: The Sensational Elephant Man) on our way to a comic convention. It was super early in the morning and the rain was hammering down. Tom was driving us along a motorway and passed a large truck just as it hit a puddle in the road. Water sprayed up over our car and, mixed with the falling rain, it was completely impossible to see ANYTHING for about ten seconds. We were travelling about 70 MPH, beside a huge truck, and couldn't see a damned thing.
The water cleared fine, but it felt like we'd come really, horribly close to a high-speed death.
Who would win in a fight between a vampire wearing a carved pumpkin and a werewolf with tentacles instead of limbs?
Chris: This is a difficult question. You may need to be more specific.
Where is the vampire wearing the carved pumpkin? If it's on his head, then his fangs will be blocked and he'll be unable to bite. If it's a giant pumpkin and he’s wearing it as some sort of suit, then he’ll look funny and everyone will laugh at him. He'll end up turning into a bat and flying off home in a sulk. Also, what's the pumpkin carved as? If it's carved into the shape of a cross, that vampire is fucked from the start.
Now the werewolf; is he in water? If he's on land the tentacles may dry up and be of very little use. Also, how long has he had these tentacle limbs? If he's always had them, then are we certain this isn't a wereoctopus? If they're a brand new addition (say, a witch's curse just gave him them) then obviously he'll be at a huge disadvantage because he won't know how to adequately use them to attack or defend.
What's the fight about? Are they drunk? Maybe one of them doesn’t really want to fight but the other is pushing it. Anything could happen in the heat of the moment.
But for the sake of argument, let’s say the vampire wearing a carved pumpkin.