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Exclusive Interview: Alex de Campi on Horror Comics

Alex DiCampi
Wicked Horror had the chance to speak with Archie vs. Predator‘s Alex de Campi about creating horror comics, being an indie artist, the joy of creating for horror fans and much more. Head inside for the full conversation!

Wicked Horror: Archie vs Predator was the first example of your work that I saw, and I know that is true for many readers. If you could choose, what of your work would you want people to see first?
Alex de Campi: I’d be fine with people seeing AvP first. It’s quite a good gateway to my work, in that like a lot of my other stories it stars teenagers, is quite violent, and laced with humour. From AvP, those who are more into the splatter/horror side would have fun with my Grindhouse books from Dark Horse (the books that got me the AvP gig); those more into the teen drama side would enjoy No Mercy, my current Image series. I also have a ton of exciting stuff coming out in 2016 that hasn’t been announced yet!
WH: You’re very versatile as a creator, which is one thing that readers have noticed and enjoy about your work. (The fact that you’ve done music video direction is just one example, but obviously there are more subtle ones sprinkled throughout your career.) Taking a moment to look back on everything, what would you say was your favorite project?
Alex de Campi: It’s always the next one. Once you’re done with a project, it’s like it’s dead and gone. I never revisit them. I never even open the book once it’s published. They’re not mine any more, in a way… they belong only to the readers. Right now my favourite project is the spy series I’m working on. The first part of it is in production, and I’m sitting down to write the second part in about a month. I’ve also got a few projects in the development stage that look to be favourites (or perhaps are just acting tempting and easy, as opposed to the spy project, which is tempting and tough). And we haven’t even begun to discuss The Goddamn Novel.
WH: What are your goals when you’re working on a comic story line? Are you thinking about the readers, do you focus more on what’s in your head, is it a blend of both or something else entirely?
Alex de Campi: It’s a balancing act. I write mainly to please myself, but I’m extremely conscious of what the consolations of fiction are, and why people enjoy stories, and what sort of stories Western audiences have been trained over the years to think of as satisfying. So there is a basic framework of craft that is always there: a conclusive, exciting ending. Strong, character-driven story. An ability to play fast and unexpected games with tropes yet still respect them. A respect for the power of emotion in story. But then there’s the art bit on top, and that’s just there for me. I get really excited and enthusiastic about my stories, because they’re subjects I care a lot about, and have developed slowly over time. I suppose my goal for 2016 for my stories is working more on emotional resonance. I’ve been reading a lot of fanfic recently, and one thing fandom work is amazing at is relationships and emotional character arcs — frequently far, far better than the mainstream comics or films / TV shows they are working from. I’m a very Hemingwayesque writer — direct, sharp, full of silences and violence — and I’m conscious from my research forays into fandom and of course due to manga, that there is a lot to learn from this often more sensitive, romantic writing.
WH: You’ve said in other interviews that you like creating for horror fans in particular. What can our readers expect to see more of from you?
Alex de Campi: Yes, I love the horror audience. They know their genre inside and out, and actively seek out new things (new thrills!) in the way many other comics genre fans do not.  Also, tons of women horror fans. (Hi! ::HUGS!::) . All my work contains an element of horror (and frequently an element of exploitation)… I have a series in the works I’m co-writing with the SF/F novellist Saladin Ahmed that’s got mainly horror elements, but in a SF way. And I’ve just written the first issue of a lean little four-issue space horror book that doesn’t have a home yet. And soon there will be a Kickstarter for the collection of my mostly-finished Lovecraftian horror/mystery book, SEMIAUTOMAGIC.
Archie vs Predator
WH: Now that you’ve gotten both Archie and Predator out of the way, if you could work on an arc for any existing franchise – what would you want to do?
Alex de Campi: Gosh, I’m not sure. I’m not super-keen on selling my best scenes to corporations for $100 a page, but it sure does help with the rent. There are a bunch of characters I’d probably be willing to do a short run on, but I’d not consider it unless I really got along with the editor in charge of their office and I felt that person really had my back. Getting a good editor on one of the franchises is so, so important. It’s the difference between having a wonderful experience (and book), and a terrible one.
WH: What do you think holds many indie comic artists/creators back?
Alex de Campi: It can be so many things. The first is just that comics are so damn hard to make, and all it takes is one crappy artist flaking out and suddenly you’re in the hole big time. I had to take money out of my daughter’s college fund to pay for a new artist on a book, after the first one turned out to be a super creep. So, comics cost a lot, take forever to make, often involve unprofessional personalities (especially when you’re just starting out, but there are also some big names who are unreliable as hell), and most indie books make no money. You kill yourself to make these damn things and then they don’t earn you a dime. Not for way longer than you expect. And the writer is usually the producer, and so is the last one paid. That holds you back. It holds you back a hell of a lot. And we’re still in this weird feedback loop where a book’s success is perceived to be based on its single issue sales, but customers won’t pre-order or will trade wait. (Which I get! I like trades better too. But the comics distribution system is fundamentally a broken thing.)  My solution is just, damn the torpedos and keep writing. But I’ve had some very dark days. I’ve come through them, but I’ve had them. And I’m sure I’ll have them again.
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Written by Fox Emm
Fox is a writer, editor and blogger whose multi-author horror anthology 'Bad Neighborhood' was released in Dec 2015. She also writes a weekly zombie book and comic review column for HorrorFuel.com , and scrawls less scheduled articles and reviews for GoresTruly.com, as well as writing about her blogging experiences at BloggingOnward.com.
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