Professor Spectral Pulls the Strings of Horror - An Interview with CHRIS ANDERSON & DAVID ACCAMPO
Pete Collins, one of the newest Comic Book Yeti contributors, welcomes Chris Anderson and David Accampo into the Yeti Cave to discuss their current Kickstarter SPECTRAL: A Showcase of Fear. And not a moment too soon, because as of the time this article is being edited the afternoon of July 4th, there are only 69 hours left!
COMIC BOOK YETI: I read the preview file for Spectral: A Showcase of Fear. This book looks amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish you all the best with your crowdfunding! (Full disclosure: I backed it myself this morning.)
For those that may not be familiar with this project or your past work, who are you and what would you like people to know about you?
CHRIS ANDERSON: I’m Chris Anderson, co-creator of Spectral and Lost Angels with David as well as Chaotic Neutral with Mark Sable. I worked on CREEPSHOW (the comic and the tv show) and am the Writer/Artist of Something Seems Off, which is being serialized in Heavy Metal over the next year. I also do storyboards for tv, film and other media.
DAVID ACCAMPO: I’m David Accampo, and in addition to the aforementioned Lost Angels, I’m the co-creator on a fantasy graphic novel, THE MARGINS (Fanbase Press), as well as an old audio drama podcast called Wormwood: A Serialized Mystery, which spawned my first comics work, Sparrow & Crowe (Hermes Press). I was a part of the 2016 DC Talent Development Workshop with Scott Snyder, and I’ve written for a few other licensed properties, a stint writing for video games.
CBY: Spectral: A Showcase of Fear is currently in its final days on Kickstarter. Can you tell us what your book is about?
CA & DA: A mysterious puppeteer called Professor Spectral wanders the land with his traveling puppet wagon, performing shows for children. But his stories are twisted cautionary tales featuring wolves, witches, devils and ghosts – each spotlighting a different fear.
The puppet show itself forms a framing sequence that has allowed me and Chris to tell these short spooky tales that feel a bit like old Tales from the Crypt stories.
CBY: Having read a preview of the book, this has a special feel to it. The idea of an anthology-like book with individual stories by the same creative team throughout is great. How did that idea come about?
CA: We were in between issues of Lost Angels, a few years back. We needed something to sell at our con tables that wouldn’t take a ton of time as I was drawing and coloring which took quite a bit of my attention. David had just come off of the high-stakes story workshop of the DC Talent Showcase and wanted to pare it down as well. So we did spot color on "DevilSkin", our first story, and we published it ourselves. It was such a success that we decided to work our way through the spectrum, slowly, over time. Five years later, we have what has become Spectral. The ability to take our time allowed us to experiment with the writing and the art styles that the usual story couldn’t afford. We shook it up just for the sake of shaking it up and I think it only played to the strength of what an anthology is.
CBY: How did your collaboration start? Is this a first time collaboration for you both or have you teamed up previously?
CA: Oh no, David and I work together all the time. Lost Angels was our first published work together.
DA: Yeah, Chris was actually introduced to me as the “downstairs neighbor” of a mutual friend, “who also draws comics.” I remember it clearly because it was a birthday party for our son’s friend, and Chris had drawn this amazing monkey in a space suit as the wrapping paper on the gift. We started collaborating after that, and Lost Angels was the first project that we published, as Chris said.
CBY: The story reads at times like a classic Tales from the Crypt book. What type of inspirations helped fuel the creative process for Spectral?
DA: Chris previously mentioned me coming out of the DC Workshop. As I was still processing all of that insanely useful information, I needed to write something short and small; something where I could just write from the gut and not really think about it. Our first story in the volume, “DevilSkin,” was that story.
Tales from the Crypt is definitely an influence. I also think the limit of a 12-page short story in comics really lent itself to the genre. You’ve got to really build around ONE big emotional moment or reveal when you have that limited space.
And, also? I didn’t realize this until I started talking about these stories all together, but I want to say that Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman – specifically the first volume of short stories, “Dream Country” – is a massive influence.
CBY: The art in this book is very engaging. The bold lines and refined grit really do make for some specific visuals. The book is primarily balck and white with some added occasional colors. How did that idea come about?
CA: Initially it was a time saving device. But that sparked the idea to work our way through the spectrum, which in turn sparked the title as well as influencing the type of story or creature the next idea would be about. It became a living organism.
CBY: What's the future look like for Spectral after crowdfunding?
CA: Well I think we would really like to get this book in as many hands as possible, however that may take form, even after the crowdfunding campaign.
DA: Yeah, and I’ll add that bringing this book to Kickstarter was a bit of an experiment in terms of bringing original content directly to readers. We still have a couple days left (as I write this), but assuming we succeed, I will say that I already have ideas for a second volume, one that would give more of a story to Professor Spectral, while continuing with our little short stories.
CBY: Can we talk about the puppets for a second? I saw some pictures and they're really great. Whose idea was that and how did they get made?
CA: I’ve been friends with Andy Jensen of Son of Jen Puppets since we were in high school. We drifted and reconnected a few years ago. I don’t remember if he offered to make some puppets based off of the shorts or if I asked. But, either way, we knew from the start that when we were able to collect these stories, the puppets had to be part of the campaign. They in turn influenced the creation of Professor Spectral, our puppeteer horror host that guides us along from tale to tale.
DA: Exactly. We had six stories, and I wanted to make the Kickstarter volume something special, so I was searching for a framing sequence to bring all the stories together. Chris showed me Andy’s puppet designs, and it just clicked. One of those lightbulb moments: “Oh, the puppets are the framing sequence! But who controls them…?” And off we went.
CBY: Last but not least… Where can folks follow you to keep up with Spectral and future projects?
CA: You can find me on Instagram @chrisandersoncomics, Twitter @chrisacomics, Patreon http://www.Patreon.com/chrisandersoncomics and my website http://www.chrisandersoncomics.com I also have a newsletter where I send out occasional updates on what I have coming out http://eepurl.com/hLJgTb
DA: You can find me on both Instagram and Twitter at @daccampo.
CBY: Thank you both so much for taking the time to do this!