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One Way to Get Down With "The Sickness"!... An Interview with LONNIE NADLER and JENNA CHA

When you're in the mood for a great horror story, look no further! The Sickness #1 provides everything you need, plus some! With the feel of 80's slasher films, along with the strong touch of Stephen King's psychological thrillers, The Sickness #1 really surrounds you with a great horror story that captivates you in new ways that drive you to keep turning the pages! Comic Book Yeti contributor Ty Whitton interviews Lonnie Nadler and Jenna Cha on their newest comic book called The Sickness, so buckle in for a fun ride!

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: On behalf of the entire Comic Book Yeti crew, welcome, Lonnie and Jenna, to the Yeti Cave for what I’m sure will be a horror-ifically great interview! First, how has 2023 been for you both so far?


JENNA CHA: 2023 has been awesome; the year feels a bit like whiplash after nothing much happening for me work wise since 2020. Suddenly, all the things are happening all at once.


LONNIE NADLER: It’s been a great year so far, thanks for asking. After a few rough ones, it really feels like we’ve been living in a disgusting, dank cave, and only this year are we crawling out from that cesspit to see daylight again.


CBY: Your newest comic is The Sickness and I want to start with your cover, Jenna. The colors used on the cover, the blood splatter leading to a dog, and from the dog to an individual stabbing another on the street, gave me an old school horror vibe, which resonates deep within me. I mean, there’s a whole story on the cover! How did you approach the design for the cover and how did you decide which elements of the story you wanted to highlight?


JC: Thank you for the kind words! I figured it would help to show a snapshot of the murder scene that kicks off the main 1955 storyline, since we don’t see it in the book. That image is kind of a main crux of the intention of the book’s vibe—the marriage between idyllic Americana banality and shocking disruptive imagery which that era tried so hard to suppress. Secondly (I’m glad I get to mention this because I don’t think I ever have), I draw a lot of inspiration from photography—Henri Carier-Bresson, Diane Arbus, Gordon Parks, Cindy Sherman—and in particular I love Gregory Crewdson and Jeff Wall as inspirations for illustrations. The “setting up” of a shot and taking every little detail into consideration is fascinating to me, and like you said, I want to tell a whole winding story in the cover alone.


LN: The cover concept was all Jenna, so I don’t have much to add. I helped with the colors and figuring out the right palette. Every book Uncivilized publishes has to have a very limited color scheme because it’s just part of their company identity, which all their titles follow. At the same time it had to evoke the American Dream veneer of the era, while also still being readable with so much going on in the mise-en-scene. I think we went through three or four fully colored versions before landing on this one.

CBY: The mid 1900s is the setting for the story. Why did you choose to reflect on that specific time within the 20th century?


JC: A lot of my early major influences come from film, TV, music, and generally mainstream culture from the first half of the 20th century, so I grew up having a really intense affinity for “old stuff.” It came to a point in my life where I had to come to terms with the fact that my influences came from a deplorable, nightmarish point in recent time, in which my education barely scraped the surface in letting us know about (and why things are bad now). THE SICKNESS is kind of a way for me to cope and express all my rage for this point in history we’re in, while doubling as a love letter for all that “old stuff” I can’t let go of. Lonnie shares these same sentiments when it comes to cinema and his influences, so this shared sentiment is kind of at the core of the whole book.


LN: Yeah, I’m a film nerd and my favorite era of cinema is the 1960s. We are both really big fans of Hitchcock, and film Noir more broadly. As well, I’m influenced by a lot of literature from this era. However, as Jenna said despite a lot of great, influential art coming out of this period, the politics and history of the mid-century are, by and large, rather deplorable, and it only gets worse the more you begin to look into all the nooks and crannies. It was while we were beginning to work on our last book, Black Stars Above*, that we had this realization that horror and history kind of walk hand in hand, and The Sickness is, at its most reductive, our way to explore this idea by examining several decades. Also, everyone is pretty much just doing 80s nostalgia and, well, we didn’t want to do that.


JC: Even the 80s was fucking awful. Why do you think punk music was so good then?


LN: Right. What often gets left out of nostalgia is the fact that behind the “cool” culture and art, there was a nightmare of societal problems. Too much media, as far as I’m concerned, tends to sweep all that under the rug just so they can look back with fondness at the media that they grew up with. There is no critical lens. It’s pure sentimentality.


CBY: Did naming the character Danny lead to the lyrics of “Danny Boy” or was it the other way around and why choose that song to highlight in this story?


JC: We named Daniel at the inception of the book, and Danny Boy decided to enter our lives thereafter. The song “Danny Boy” is one of those things that drifts into the making of a story and then reveals more and more of itself the more as it develops. There’s been a lot of that with the making of this book.


LN: Yeah, without getting into the details too much in this interview, pretty much everything, every song, every little piece of “set decoration” is in the book for a reason. Hopefully, eventually readers will understand why, if we do our jobs properly. Music plays a big role in people’s lives, in memory, in history, and so it's a recurring element of this book.


CBY: Part of the pitch for this project relates directly to making use of manga-inspired horror. What within manga really influenced you to incorporate that style of horror found in your book?


JC: I appreciate the meticulous and often slow or drawn out sequencing manga chooses to make, not just in horror but in storytelling. I recently read Blood On The Tracks, which I highly recommend, and there are single scenes that take up like 80% of an entire volume. If you think “slow-burn” is a term used as a caveat, that’s your problem.


LN: It’s partly just a way for us to market the book. I hate to admit that. But saying “manga-inspired body horror” means that people who generally enjoy that kind of thing will be willing to give this a chance. It’s an easy draw. Of course, we are actually inspired by a lot of manga, and the way manga uses the medium to augment the narrative, and specifically how they evoke horror and atmosphere. But, yeah, I don’t know, marketing comics is hard and coming up with these kinds of statements, for better or worse, helps to sell the concept of the book quickly. It allows shop owners to glean the concept quickly and understand which of their regulars might be into the book.

CBY: Whenever the character called “The Man” was mentioned throughout the book, it was fun for me to notice that slight feeling of dread rise from within me. In creating this character, did you happen to draw from any specific sources to use as reference material?


JC: Yes, but if I told you, I’d have to kill you.


LN: And I’d be an accomplice.


CBY: Are you able to share any details regarding what’s to come after The Sickness #1 debuts in comic book stores on June 14th, 2023?


LN: The book releases on a bimonthly schedule, which is uncommon, but we hope readers will still keep with us. We chose to do this for a few reasons, namely because the issues are all quite a bit longer than a traditional comic, and so they take longer to make. And rather than have us ramming our heads against our desks to make deadlines to meet the standards of an industry that, ironically, hasn’t really changed its business practices since the 1940s, we wanted to give ourselves a schedule that also allowed us to still live a life and work on other projects. So, issue #2 is due out in the Fall, and it really just continues the story directly from this first issue, and we see a little bit more of the historical elements of the book come into play, and begin to hint at how they are intertwined with the sickness itself. It’s probably the most meaty, dense issue the two of us have ever made, so we really hope people will embrace that since it probably takes about 15 to 20 minutes to read. Each issue sees the world of The Sickness growing larger and larger. When we say it’s “sprawling,” we mean it. The idiom says one should favor quality over quantity, but, well, we’re maximalists at heart, for better or worse.


CBY: In honoring the theme of horror within your book, fans would love to know what your favorite scary movie happens to be?


JC: My favorite horror movies are The Night of the Hunter, The Birds, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Freaks, uhhh…I’ll just keep going, like most people I can’t ever pick just one. Does Vertigo count? There’s this movie called The Night Walker from 1964 that is embedded in my brain because it was on AMC when I was like six years old. In terms of what movie genuinely scared me the most, it’s Noroi: The Curse. I can’t say I’m even a connoisseur of found-footage horror or anything, that movie just really got to me more than anything else in a really unique way. I’ve seen it once, and I don’t even want to ever watch it again; I had the same reaction when I first read a Junji Ito story. Also, I’ve been thinking about it, and you know what, I’ll say it—Hereditary scared the fucking shit out of me.


LN: My number one will probably always be The Exorcist. It captures different modes of horror through every individual character, really demonstrating how the fear is both universal and unique to each person. Not many horror films accomplish that with such grace. And because I’m never comfortable just saying I have one favorite, a few other movies I think about constantly are Mulholland Drive, Repulsion, Eyes Without A Face, The Innocents (1960), The Shining, Don’t Look Now, Videodrome, and Herzog’s Nosferatu.


CBY: Regarding your future outside of this project, can you tell us what other projects we can look forward to?


JC: In a very similar vein to The Sickness, I contributed a short mid-century body horror story in Katie Skelly’s anthology VISCERE that is aiming for an October release date. The whole lineup of artists in the anthology are absolutely incredible, and a really exciting glimpse into the kind of work currently active in the cartoonist world.


LN: I’m writing for a video game right now called Nightingale, which is taking up a lot of my time these days. Otherwise I have a graphic novel that’s a gothic ghost story I’ve been working on for a long time with Anwita Citriya, which is going to be a beautiful-looking book if nothing else. I’ve also got a hard science fiction comic in the works with Maxi Dallo. And I’ve got a couple other exciting announcements coming this Fall, which I unfortunately can’t say much about just yet.


CBY: Where best can readers find you on the internet and/or social media?


JC: My twitter is @kale_satan and my instagram is @jangling.jack, and you can see my other work at my website www.thejennachashow.com


LN: Unfortunately I’m still on Twitter. Instagram too. My handle on both is the same, @lonnienadler. You can also subscribe to my horribly inconsistent newsletter through my website, lonnienadler.com


CBY: I am very grateful and thankful that I’ve been able to interview you about The Sickness. I’ve heard many great rumblings from the horror and comic book fandoms about The Sickness, so I cannot wait to get my hands on this book! This first issue was beyond fantastic and I cannot wait to see what happens! The Sickness #1 from Uncivilized Books can be pre-ordered HERE on the Uncivilized Books website as well as with your local comic book store in-store or on PREVIEWSWORLD HERE. Go grab this book, as this is one story you won’t want to miss out on!


*Editor's note - Black Stars Above is one of my favorite Vault titles and you should read it. - Jimmy

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