ALEX DE CAMPI INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
You know when you were a little kid and your parents didn't want you reading comics? Grindhouse is the kind of comic that would terrify your mom and dad. After a stellar eight-issue run with Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, Alex de Campi has another four gore-filled tales of sleaze and debauchery coming in Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out. I had the chance to chat with her about the upcoming series and the genre in general at New York Comic Con.
James Ferguson: What story are you most looking forward to in Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out?
Alex de Campi: That's always a very difficult and loaded question because the stories are so different. Working with each artist is a different experience. So far they've all been really fun to write. I haven't started the final story, Nebulina, yet. I'm still plotting it out with Ulysses [Farinas]. We need to have a bit of a chat before I really go into scripting it. There are some pages of Lady Danger that I'm really proud of. I think page fourteen of the second Lady Danger issue just makes my little black heart happy. R.M. Guéra is drawing Slay Ride right now, so that's the one that is also coming to life in front of my eyes and then coming to me for letters.
JF: That's the first story, correct?
AdC: Yes. Issue #1 is wrapped. Issues #2 is starting to come into my inbox. His [Ulysses] work is so beautiful. He's so incredibly conscientious. He's like the nicest person. He's like, "Alex, I wanted to do this thing that I think would make it more dramatic. Would it be OK?" He's so polite! "Is it OK if I change the script?" You are like the greatest artist in Europe! It's OK! I trust you! So change it!
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JF: Such a nice term on a book like this. "Polite" isn't necessarily the word you'd expect from a comic like Grindhouse.
AdC: We all tend to have a really good working relationship. My editor says that this is one of the most fun books he works on...you know...for obvious reasons. It's a really fun, entertaining book to work on. Everyone gets to have their say. If they want to do something, they can do it. I think some of them, especially Chris Peterson – and there's a reason that Chris is coming back aside from the fact that he's a great artist – our email conversations about the book are so much fun. Poor Chris always gets the worst photo references too. The whole exploding bee grubs out of the dude's stomach like old-school Jiffy Pop, I was like, "Look at when my friend got bitten by a spider and her arm's got this pus volcano on it. That's what I want it to look like." And he says, "I can't believe you sent me this photo, Alex." I've got more!
For issue #2 of Blood Lagoon, a meteor lands in an abattoir blood pool and the ticks there become gigantic. They're these giant lone-star ticks and they attack the town because what's more disgusting than sexy bees? Killer ticks! Giant killer ticks! So Chris is Googling ticks to draw them for the cover and he's like "I hate you."
JF: Is there anything you felt was too much in either the first volume or this upcoming one?
JF: Not even a little?
AdC: No regrets. Nope. We're actually weirdly less booby in the first couple issues...Actually now that I'm saying that, there's a really porny page in in Slay Ride. There are fewer boobs and butts in...actually no, there aren't.
JF: Have you counted?
AdC: No...I can only count up to 20 and I've used up all my fingers and toes. There's 1 to 20 and then we have many. We're in many now. Nebulina, the book with Ulysses, I mean, he loves drawing dicks anyway. I'm sure [Dark Horse Publisher] Mike Richardson will never speak to me again after he gets it. It's just...so much sex.
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JF: On that note, was there anyone from Dark Horse that pushed back, saying, "Maybe we shouldn't do this?" Or have you kind of have free reign to do what you want?
AdC: They've been really supportive. When the very first issue of Grindhouse Season 1 came out...I mean, panel three is a girl touching herself in a car through her panties on page one. We kind of laid it all out there pretty quickly. This is porny and horror. We got a lot of push back from senior management at that point because we were an R-rated book. So we said, "OK, show us in what panel we crossed the R rating and we'll be happy to fix it." It's like obeying the letter but not the spirit of the law. They couldn't figure it out. It was the sensibility. It was what was between the panels that was bugging them. That's when I knew I had won.
JF: We're not sure what you did wrong, but you did something.
AdC: Yeah, because of the sexuality being so up front. It was sexuality that didn't have male involvement. It wasn't the typical comic book sexuality, which is almost like the porn industry where there's a very dominant male gaze with a woman making poses, but they're not necessarily complacent poses. She's posed in this way, but she's not like, "Hey, hey boy, come and get me." She's not seducing the viewer. She's posed in a way that she's not aware of anyone watching her, which is the usual gaze in comics. I'm having the girls know they're being watched, or they're just like, "I don't care if you're watching." So that was a very big change for the people looking at the book. If they're not used to that, of course they're going to be like, "This makes me have feels in the underneaths." And I made them have feels in the underneaths.
JF: Did you encounter any push back from protest groups or anything like that?
AdC: We were surprisingly not banned. I think the marketing was pretty much on point. If you live in a really conservative Christian community, you probably shouldn't buy this book.
JF: Don't read it outside at least.
AdC: Yeah, don't carry it around in your school bag. I think there was a lot of signaling from the marketing division that this was a book that if you are easily offended you should probably avoid.
JF: Is there anything that you want to do in Grindhouse that you haven't done in either volume?
AdC: We're basically dropping the mic after the second volume. I'd rather have two really strong seasons and have everyone be like, "Gee, I wish she'd written a third season," then do a third season and have them say, "Gee, the third season wasn't really as good." So I think I've covered it. I picked my favorite genres. That level of violence and surprise will always be something in my work, so it'll find outlets in other ways. I did a more westerny book with Slay Ride. It almost feels like a cross between a western and a Giallo. I did my blaxpoiltation. I'm going to do my zany sex-in-space book. And Blood Lagoon, you have to have the giant-monsters-attacking-the-town book.
With Archie Meets Predator, I'll get to scratch my teen slasher itch again because that's just so much fun. There's just so much to do with it. Teenagers are just so dramatic by nature and then you add in these bad decisions through hormones and death from above basically.
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JF: That sort of answers my next question, which was were there any plans to develop some of the trailers that were seen in the previous volume, those pin-ups of stories.
AdC: I wanted to do some of them. A couple of the artists were busy, unfortunately. We are doing the Garcia sequel, which Chris drew as a poster, Blood Lagoon. That's it, but I would still like to do some of the other stories at some point. I think I might occasionally bring Grindhouse back as a double-sized issue or a backup in something else, or in Dark Horse Presents. I just want to end this one really strongly. Also, they may not speak to me again after the sex issue.
JF: So you want to try to get everything in while you can?
AdC: Yeah. There's so much horror in comics, but there's very little explicit sexuality.
JF: Or none that do it very well.
AdC: Like you look at it and think, "Have you ever actually had sex?" That's not sexy!
JF: If you had to recommend a starter Grindhouse film to someone that is totally new to the genre, what would you point them towards?
AdC: That's a tough one. It really depends on the person. I love Lucio Fulci's The Beyond because it's really beautiful. Maybe Susperia. Argento...ballerinas in peril. Nothing like killing off ballerinas. The reason I'm hesitating is that Grindhouse is an incredibly broad genre. For some people the only Grindhouse films are the Giallos. I've gotten a little pushback from fans when the book first came out who said it wasn't as twisted psychological thing like Argento or Mario Bava. Meanwhile, other fans thought this was totally different from what I remember and I love it. For some people, Barbarella would be an amazing starting point because it's batshit insane and it's full of sex and it has Jane Fonda in crazy, crazy clothes. There's an angel in there for seemingly no reason. A really hot angel, which is slightly disturbing. For another person, it might be the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film. For a certain kind of teenage boy, they'd probably love Driller Killer. He's got a drill. He kills people, mostly his neighbors. It very much depends on whether someone's a horror fan or if they like totally batshit insane stuff or they're in that angry, dark teenage phase where they want the most twisted thing they can possibly watch. At which point I'd probably recommend Necromantic. Don't let your parents see that one! And if you just like really gross stuff, try Cannibal Holocaust. Why mess with a classic?
HorrorTalk would like to thank Alex de Campi for taking the time to speak with us at New York Comic Con this year. The first issue of Grindhouse: Drive In, Bleed Out is now available.
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