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Strange Words — How The Exorcist Possessed Me to Write Horror


I understood from an early age that words held power. As in the Word of God. Or witchcraft.

I grew up in a very religious household. Around the age of 8 or 9, we were shown The Exorcist, purely for educational purposes.

“This is what happens to you if you don’t go to church.” I obediently went to church for many years after that. (Now an atheist and it’s my favorite film. Oops. Sorry, Mom! Love ya!)

There was another caveat:

“Don’t repeat any of the strange words you hear.”

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Not long after that viewing, I found myself reading a book, “11 Great Horror Stories,” innocently purchased for a dime by a grandmother who knew I loved to read. The opening tale was H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror.

The story felt…satanic; evil. I continued to read with mounting dread. But when I got to the huddled crowd chanting strange words:


Well, those were words that could have come straight from that possessed girl’s mouth, and I was having none of it.

That put me off reading horror for well over a decade.

When I finally decided that I wanted to be a writer, I wasn’t sure what kind. I had written some well-received material in college, but I lacked direction. Then my roommate handed me Clive Barker’s The Inhuman Condition. Barker showed me the beauty and eloquence that could exist in horror. He reintroduced me to that dread feeling I had experienced from The Exorcist and the unfinished Dunwich Horror.

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But this time around, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t Satan’s fingers clutching at my soul, after all. It was the unique adrenaline rush of Fear, of terror. And I wanted to make other people feel what I felt. I wanted to write horror.

I gorged myself on dark fiction, and I met an old friend who expanded my universe even further — Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I finally got to finish The Dunwich Horror. I’ve been pals with the Old Ones ever since.

Fast forward through the years of life’s diversions and straying from the writer’s path, I found myself in Hollywood in an attempt to do the screenplay thing. I placed in a couple of horror screenplay competitions, and was determined to keep trying.

Then one day someone asked me a fateful question: “Want to write a story for Creepy comics?” After a lifetime of comics, reading them had dwindled to only occasionally. I had gone from comics, to prose, to screenplays, and then back to comics, again.

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It was liberating. No worries about budget restrictions, finding an agent, or how studios would completely rewrite anything you sold, or dealing with a system that seemed mired in mediocrity. Actually, it was more than liberating. It was a reunion with a long lost friend; one I hadn’t realized I missed so much until I saw its face again. I embraced that friend with every fiber of my being and promised to never leave again.

The story in Creepy #6, “Commedia dell’Morte” got a lot of great reviews. I’m proud of that story. I published again in Eerie #1, and Hellraiser: Bestiary #2. I’ve written a ton of spec material and met a lot of people, especially some fantastic artists. The editor rejections are just part of the process. If you let them stop you, then you were never meant to do this anyway. But at some point, yeah, you do begin to question things. Not the why you do this, but the how.

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An artist friend I had previously collaborated with, Eric York, asked me if I’d like to adapt one of Jeffrey Thomas’ Punktown stories.  Before I answered, I read all of the Punktown short stories. I was floored. It was the discovery of a new world — a new universe — where science fiction, horror, cyberpunk, noir, and more, all collided against a vivid, patchwork of alien cultures in one treacherous city. There was even Lovecraft Mythos!

I wanted to share Punktown with others. And the way to do that was through comics, and to do it myself. Sure, I could take it to publishers, deal with editorial interference, battle over decisions like artists and format and whatnot. But why do that when Kickstarter has been such a haven for self-publishing, and anthologies in particular. Let the inmates run the asylum, I say. The crazier, the better.

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I had a vision – Visions from Punktown.

I contacted artists I wanted to work with and in whose work I had already glimpsed some of Punktown. These were guys who were more interested in telling good stories than a fat paycheck. Be that as it may, they still have bills to pay, and many of them have higher paying jobs. With the help of Kickstarter, I am able to offer these guys a modest rate to work on Visions from Punktown. Many of them have already started without any promise of payment. Because they believe in this project. A big thank you to Sinclair Klugarsh, Rafa Garres, Steven Russell Black, Dug Nation, Frank Walls, Stéphane De Caneva, Hüseyin Özkan, and Eric York.

We are working hard on this book. We are taking great pains to adapt this work in a way that is faithful to Jeffrey’s originals, but also offers something different for both new and existing fans.

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This is the start of many more projects to come, much of them involving Jeffrey and Punktown. All of us are individuals who love horror, and plan to make it the focus of our output.

We create whether or not money is involved. We create because we have stories to tell. We create because we need you to read those stories. We have no choice. The compulsion cannot be denied.

We want to terrify you, excite you, thrill you, make you think. And we can do all of this because of the power of words, and the images those words conjure.

This is what awaits you in the city of Punktown. Let us be your guide. But we can’t promise you will leave unscathed.

Or at all.

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About The Author
Spez Bio 2
Lord of the Funny Books
James has a 2nd grade reading level and, as a result, only reads books with pictures. Horror is his 5th favorite genre right after romantic comedy and just before silent films. No one knows why he's here, but he won't leave.
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