Comic Book Yeti Contributor Alex Breen recently corresponded with writer Anthony Cleveland & artist Andrea Mutti about issue #1 of their horror comic, Charred Remains, to discuss their approach to creating horror scenes, writing horror stories in a monthly comics format, along with shouting out some of their favorite horror stories.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Anthony, Andrea, thank you for joining me today. Anthony, can you first tell us the premise of Charred Remains and your inspirations behind the story?
ANTHONY CLEVELAND: Charred Remains is about a firefighter and the survivor of an apartment fire struggling a decade later to uncover what happened at the blaze that claimed the lives of the survivor’s parents. The survivor believes an entity made of fire and ash killed them & she is determined to find it again.
I was a coroner deputy for four years and fire fatality cases really got to me. So
that fear & those experiences were what I used in this story.
CBY: Andrea, can you share with us some of your visual inspirations behind the story?
ANDREA MUTTI: Well, the best inspiration is always reality. Reading up on films like Backdraft was easy, but I tried to have a realistic and human approach...I think the use of sharp shadows and textures helped a lot, and the density of the color makes everything more corporeal, as if you could touch it.
"...My first objective is clarity, the storytelling must be impeccable... the reader must not have time to wonder what is happening, he must experience it immediately... if I don't get this I'm doing something wrong."
CBY: Can both of you describe your approach to creating horror scenes? Is there a specific mood or feeling you're both trying to convey with this story? Were there any challenges you faced in bringing that mood/feeling to the page?
AC: I thought back to the fire fatality cases I was on and I tried to put in the emotions I had back then when I was on the scene. That helped with writing some really terrifying pages. This and thinking about what would look great with Andrea’s unique style helped make the book what it is.
AM: My first objective is clarity, the storytelling must be impeccable... the reader must not have time to wonder what is happening, he must experience it immediately... if I don't get this I'm doing something wrong... narration is always the first thing, we are storytellers, we are not people who draw or write. We tell stories, we create worlds and stimulate fantasy. This is our task, our mission...it is not a stage to demonstrate what we know how to do...we must involve the readers, always! The reader at the end has to say, "what a wonderful story!" This is the best award for artists, both writers and illustrators.
CBY: Anthony, can you tell us your approach to writing a serialized horror story? Do you have any tips for aspiring writers when creating serialized narratives?
AC: I used to be driven by writing short horror and I could never think of long form horror ideas. Somewhere along the line it switched. I feel like having a general story idea, a few great scare scenes, and characters that I share a lot of heart with helps me out the most. Everything else
will fall into place when outlining if those three are strong. If you are struggling with any of those three, dig deep into your own fears and experiences and include them. The mileage you get will surprise you.
CBY: Anthony, how did you meet and decide to work on Charred Remains?
AC: We’ve been trying to work together for probably three years. Mad Cave had this project for me and Andrea was mentioned. My next email reply was me begging for them to lock him in on this book.
CBY: Andrea, can you describe for us your approach to designing a cover? Does it vary from your approach to a sequential page? If so, what ways does it differ?
AM: It's totally different... for me the cover must arouse curiosity... it must force the reader to open the book... it must be something that seduces you, like the mermaids for Ulysses... it must inspire and give you the incentive to read... it's much more complicated than the sequential page... but that's the beauty of it!
CBY: Without including any spoilers, is there anything both of you can tease for us with future issues?
AC: It’s the creepiest stuff I’ve written & I really want to see the reader's reactions. We have a big ending for this one too.
AM: Oh..there is a really nice reminder about history. A real touch of class! It's a trip...a journey! Fear is like a flame...it burns strong and leaves its mark!
CBY: Across comics and all other media, what are some of your favorite horror stories?
AC: I like anything that doesn’t explain away what’s going on. Ambiguity makes great horror stories endure. The Elementals by Michael McDowell is the last book I read that nails this.
AM: Ohhh! not enough room to reply! I like the twist of the horror stories, when the imagination is stronger than the clearly visible part...what lies beyond the darkness
CBY: After readers check out Charred Remains, what are some other comics from your body of work that you'd recommend they check out?
AC: Stargazer. It’s more thriller/sci-fi (but my heart was set on horror when I wrote it). There are similarities between this and Charred Remains.
AM: Hey, no kidding! ALL my books are a must! HAHA!...you cannot miss A Legacy of Violence, Parasomnia, Bunny Mask, Maniac of New York, Long Haul, Civilians, Boba Fett, British Paranormal Society, Haunt You to the End, Port of Earth, The PANIC....oh boy, too many!!
CBY: Where can people find both of you on social media?
CBY: Anthony & Andrea. Thank you so much for your time!
AC: And thank you for having us!
AM: THANK YOU!