Joshua Williamson Interview
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
Writer Joshua Williamson knows a thing or two about horror. With titles like Ghosted and Nailbiter in his roster, as well as the dark fantasy Birthright, he's been scaring readers for years. I had a chance to catch up with him literally within the Image Comics booth at New York Comic Con to chat about what's next for his books as well as all things scary.
James Ferguson: My theory for Nailbiter is that we have met the new Buckaroo Butcher already. He's a character we've seen before. Is that right?
Joshua Williamson: ...Yes. You have met him. Yes.
JF: Do you have an idea of when that might be revealed?
JW: I know when it will happen. That's too much of a spoiler [to say when].
JF: I had to ask! Has the mystery of Buckaroo, being the home to so many serial killers, evolved as the book has been written? Or has it remained the same from the beginning?
JW: There are aspects of it that have changed, but really the bigger beats have not. The identity of the Butcher and the Master have pretty much been the same throughout. It's been tough. There were times where I kind of wanted to change things, but I felt it would be a copout.
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JF: You have a talent for cliffhanger endings. Do you ever write them and just think “I got 'em. I can't wait to see what the reaction will be to this.”
JW: Yeah, all the time. I love cliffhangers in comics. I think they're really important, so I try to make them solid and strong. I feel like cliffhangers can be less scary, but there should always be danger. There should really be a build up towards the end of each issue. When we get to issue #15, I love that cliffhanger. Carol waking up in the bed has been planned from the beginning. We were seeding, seeding, seeding. So when it finally happened, we were super pumped. People really dug it and went, “Holy crap!” There are some other big ones coming up that I'm really curious as to what people will think.
If you follow the book, you'll see that there's one every issue, but every five issues is where we get one that's kind of crazy as it's the end of the arc. If people thought the end of #15 was crazy, they'll think the end of #20 is even better. They're going to be mad. “What the fuck? I have to wait another month for this?” It's going to be interesting.
JF: I'm going to bounce to Birthright for a bit. Something I've noticed about the book is that the creatures coming out of Terrenos are just insane. Do you and artist Andrei Bresson work together on? Or do you just throw out a rough idea and he comes back with something insane?
JW: I go with a really loose idea. I can visualize it, but I don't want to give him that. That's what I love about it. He's going to do something absolutely insane. I can come up with something kind of crazy, but he's going to just push it as far as he can. He pushes me and inspires me and it makes me want to push him and sort of egg each other on. I think when you get to issue #11, you're going to see some crazy stuff. That issue is a lot about me really trying to do something insane with Andrei. I'm really looking forward to this next arc. It starts with this epic issue that Andrei just knocked out of the park. I just knew he could do it, coming out with these crazy monsters and scenes that are just epic. I hate to use the word “epic” but that's what he does. He makes this big epic stuff and I'm able to do that with him. I just give him a little bit and he runs with it.
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JF: It sounds like with that collaboration you're both challenging each other to be better. Is that right?
JW: Yeah. We get along really well. I know what he likes, so I try to find places for it. We were just talking about this earlier, that he didn't know there were certain things I liked that he did and we started having this conversation about how I really like the big scenic shots, like the sweeping one in the first issue. Issue #5 has Mikey standing on that cliff and looking out over Terrenos for the first time by himself. I love that scene and Andrei did a really good job on it. He gave me that page and I couldn't believe it. He does it so well, so I make sure to go back and add that kind of stuff in. I know he likes monster fights and big monsters, so I'm like, “Alright, Cool. Big monsters. IN.”
JF: For both Nailbiter and Birthright, anything you'd like to tease going into the next issues?
JW: Nailbiter's next arc is nicknamed “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and it's about a new serial killer in Atlanta. The FBI and the locals have reason to believe it's someone from Buckaroo. Certain cast members go there to try to figure out what's happening. I'm really excited about it. It's really dark. There's some screwed up stuff. There are going to be some really cool twists coming.
On Birthright, we're starting year two in November. Issue #11 is a flashback issue set in Terrenos, with Mikey rebelling for the first time. He grew up there and he's now a spoiled teenager and he doesn't fit. You start to see the ideas of what happened and why he did what he did. The seeds of doubt are going to be planted in that storyline. In the present day stuff, Mikey and Brennan are together, but they're starting to get more antagonistic. There's the brother mentality, but they're also suspicious of each other. We play with that a little more. We introduce a new mage that's super badass and there are some great fight scenes coming up. It's going to be awesome.
JF: Last year, I asked you if the three main characters from your creator owned books – Ghosted, Nailbiter, and Birthright – were in a room together, who would come out alive. You answered Jackson from Ghosted for reasons that were revealed later. With Ghosted finished and Jackson's story complete, if Warren and Mikey were going at it, who would win the fight?
JW: It's tough. I want to say Warren, but Mikey could rip him to pieces. He's just such an amazing warrior that he would just rip him apart. I went with Jackson last time because he was protected by Death. That's why it wasn't going to happen. That would actually have been worse for them if he had died. It's kind of a spoiler, but Warren is not supernatural. He's a trickster. Mikey would just rip his arms off. He's such a dark thing. If he ever really released the power of the Nevermind, it would be over.
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JF: What's an underrated book that you think more people should be reading right now...that you're not writing?
JW: Oh, that I'm not writing. I was going to say, “My books!” I want to say Manifest Destiny, but I think that book does well. It's just not talked about a lot. Five Ghosts.
JF: What's something that scared you as a kid that still scares you today?
JW: There are little things here and there but not really anything in particular. I was never really afraid of the dark. People that walked funny freaked me out.
JF: So Monty Python freaked you out?
JW: Yeah. I'm a worst case scenario person, so I'm always imagining the worst possible thing that could happen. I'll walk through a door and think, “This door's going to break” I understand and know fear as an adult that I never knew as a kid. When I was a kid, I was kind of a dummy. At some point in time, I learned the reality of fear differently. It's kind of weird to say that I'm much more afraid of life as an adult than when I was a kid. I think you, as a parent, understand fear very differently. My wife and I always talk about if we have kids you basically are living in fear for the rest of your life.
JF: Oh yeah. The thing about kids is that it's simultaneously the most terrifying thing in the world and the most amazing thing.
JW: That's the best parts of fear and of horror. Guillermo del Toro was talking about that. You can find beauty in beauty but the best beauty might be in horror or in the dark. That is something I understand now that I didn't understand as a kid. It's weird. You'd think as you grow older that you'd be less afraid. There's the saying about how people are afraid of what they don't understand. That is true, but I think understanding things can also lead to a lot of scary shit.
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