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VIDEO STORE HORROR: An Interview with JOHN LEES & ADAM CAHOON

Another gem from Emerald City Comic Con, Comic Book Yeti contributor Alex Breen corresponded on the convention floor with John Lees, writer of The Nasty, and Adam Cahoon, its cover and interior artist, to discuss their relationship with horror stories, designing intriguing covers, and shouting out some of their favorite horror films.


Pre-Order Issue 8 of The Nasty HERE.

 

COMIC BOOK YETI: Okay. I'm joined here today by John Lees, and Adam Cahoon. Guys, thank you so much for joining me today. A question I've been asking everyone for the show is, how were you both introduced to comics?



ADAM CAHOON: So in elementary school, I was always the kid that drew in school. And I knew me and two other kids, we were the ones that drew. And then I got to the sixth grade, and there was this boy named Ernie Totten, who drew like an adult. And all his characters had musculature, everything was perfect. I immediately decided I was going to be his friend, because he had something I didn't have. And I went up to him and I said, "How are you able to do this?" he said, "Well, I read comics. I mostly just copy what I see in comics.”  I said, "Okay, what comics do I need to get?" He said, "I like the X-Men, and I like Arthur Adams." At that point I didn't have access, obviously, I'm in the sixth grade, it's me and a bike, and an allowance, and so I would just beg my parents to take me to the comic shop.


The first X-Men comic I think I got was around X-Men: Inferno. And I just did the same thing Ernie did. That was when I started taking drawing very seriously, where every single night I would draw characters from panels, and copy what I saw in comics.  So for me comics were a tool, It wasn't the story, and it wasn't the characters; it was a way to draw better. And then eventually, I fell in love with the medium itself.


JOHN LEES: Yeah. For me, I was very much a young kid loving Batman. Because I was three years old when Batman 1989 came out. So I was the perfect age, just being caught young. Then the animated series and all that, and that translated into me then getting into the comics as I got older. And then from there, I got into all the other stuff like Spider-Man, and yada yada. Then, obviously, in the 2000s, I got into all the indie stuff, and I've never stopped reading, essentially.



CBY: So for yourselves personally, who were some of the most influential creators & most influential stories for your style?



JL: Well for me, I have a few big influences. Grant Morrison is one of my favorite writers. They aren't necessarily somebody who does stories like I do them, but the fact that they could be from Scotland and be one of the biggest creators in the world in comics, is really inspirational. Also, Jason Aaron's work on Scalped was big for me. That was a massive comic for me, when I was first getting into creating comics myself. SINK, the crime series, was very much inspired by the idea of a crime story with a sense of place, and the place being a character, that came very much from Scalped. And also Junji Ito. I read Uzumaki, and it terrified me. (And Adam just flashed a thumbs up, which I feel should be conveyed in this written medium.) So Junji Ito's Uzumaki, I remember reading that and being terrified and thinking, "I think I'll spend the rest of my career chasing that feeling. I want to make people feel as freaked out reading stuff that I've written as I felt like reading Uzumaki."


AC: I already mentioned Arthur Adams. Arthur Adams was my first, was my touchstone guy, and then it was Arthur Adams and Jim Lee. Jim Lee was just coming up in the X-Men. And so for me it was that very kind of traditional artist where all the muscles look correct. All the people look like people. And that's all I wanted, initially. Then as I kind of got into comics more, it was more and more the stylized artists, more Mike Mignola, Jae Lee was a big one for a long time. Sam Keith, The Maxx had just come out. And then I went away from comics for years. When I came back to comics it was all indie creators. Right now, it's Matthew Allison who does a book called Cankor, and Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, I think is just incredible. None of them look like the art that I make, but just, there's something there that kind of gets me fired up every time.


"...a long time ago it was wait for the muse, wait for the inspiration, and then be creative, and now it's just, I treat it like work and obviously it's work that I enjoy, but I get up early, I sit down, and I draw."

CBY: So for both of you guys, how would you describe your respective creative processes as a writer and artist?



JL: Like crying.


AC: Yeah lots of tears.


JL: Vomiting, punching a wall, crying some more, then kind of a strange euphoria that falls upon you, and then you write. (Laughs) No. For me, it seems to be like the writing process is very regimented for me. I like to have the whole system of ... I don't do the whole thing like, "Oh, follow your muse." I have to be very organized and write a plan down, do a scene plan and break that into a page plan. And then have a routine where I want to hit X number of pages by the end of the day or the end of the week. For me it's very scientific, essentially, and breaking it down that way, having a roadmap. And I think it helps a lot when you know the artist you're writing for, because then you can start to think, "I'll write stuff that's tailored to how they're going to do it."


AC: Yeah, I think similar. Very similar. I think a long time ago it was wait for the muse, wait for the inspiration, and then be creative, and now it's just, I treat it like work and obviously it's work that I enjoy, but I get up early, I sit down, and I draw.  I draw first thing, before my kid gets up and before my wife wakes up and I get some hours baked into the day.  I just go to work. And then whenever I can wedge more time into work, I do that. And the only thing I really do systematically is I tend to break up interiors with ... Interiors and logo work is very similar to me, and then covers is very different. And so I try to sprinkle ... I try to spread my covers out.


So I do interior work for several weeks at a time, and then I get to do a cover and just kind of relax and breathe. I do that, just to kind keep my legs fresh, keep my energy up so I'm not just doing one thing all the way through. I do try and organize my weeks by the type of work that I'm doing, but yeah, I wake up and treat it like it's work and I'm much more productive in that way than I ever was previously.



CBY: It's kind of like building a muscle.



AC: Yeah, and that's the thing is even if I don't have a particular project or a deadline, I still get up and draw. You have to draw every day, every day.


JL: That's the same with writing. Even if I've not got something that I'm actively working on with a publisher and it's got a deadline, I'll write ahead on stuff. And I'll spec write stuff just because that whole process of writing a script within a two week window, let's say, just gets you kind of active and focused.


AC: Yeah.



CBY: Thank you. So, John, what was it that initially inspired The Nasty?



JL: The Nasty is probably my most personal comic that I've written. It was very much inspired by my own childhood, how I was a little horror-loving freak growing up and wanted that to get conveyed in a comics form. And for me, I grew up in the '90s. I was born 1986, so the early nineties was when I was first getting into movies. And we had this video shop on my street called… Video World, I want to say. And it was very much like ... video shops were small businesses. So depending on who the owner was, that would be what the stock was curated towards. And the owners of this place just loved horror, where it was always the horror standees in the front windows and stuff. So from like five years old, I was allowed to just walk down the street to go to the video shop and I could choose whatever I wanted. And these owners were very permissive. So I would come home with Peter Pan and Child's Play 2.


So my love of movies and that whole formative era is tied into a just love of horror. And for me, horror is the magic of storytelling and imagination. So I thought it'd be fun to create a story which conveys that love of horror and the idea of horror not being something scary, but horror as a source of community, a source of creativity and inspiration. And so that's why I tried to tell this kind of story, which is very much tied into that feeling and very much tied into some of my local history and the whole stuff with the video nasties, which was happening in the UK. I remember that was still going on when I was a kid. And trying to tie that to my moment in time and make it feel like something that everyone can hopefully relate to, but also feels very personal to me.



CBY: Was that something you guys were also trying to capture with the covers, going for that old school video cassette tape style?



AC: I mean, I tried to make the covers vary enough as if they were their own movie, but yeah, there was definitely a consideration of the old movie format, the old video cases in the video store for sure.



CBY: Yeah because personally, well, I never had to really deal with video nasties as a kid, since I was in the States. I definitely was watching horror movies at way too young of an age -10, 11, 12, just... I went from being horrified by it and I can't believe I'm watching this to just-




AC: Just craving it, yeah.


CBY: Yeah, exactly.



JL: Yeah.



CBY: I think I had a summer of watching Terminator, Alien and Nightmare Elm Street all within the span of a month, and that just wrecked me.



JL: Yeah, I remember one of my earliest ever movies was RoboCop. Again, I went to my local video shop, I would've been about four years old at the time, and I got it because it was a robot and the cover was red. And I thought like, "Oh, he is red. This is my favorite color, and he's a robot. I love robots." And it blew my mind.



CBY: Okay. So this is a little bit of a long-winded question, Adam, but definitely I'm curious about this from an artist perspective. So I think from when we were communicating and from the review copies you provide, you mentioned that I believe you took over interiors around issue three, correct?



AC: Yeah. Yeah.



CBY: So as an artist, what's your thought process when you're taking over art duties from a previous artist on an ongoing series? Are you trying to find your own version of that art style? What are some of your considerations for that?



AC: No, obviously with George Kambadais ... he drew the first two. I don't draw like George, but I wanted to get something that was sort of in between the way I draw and the way George draws and Vault was very good about it and John was very good about it, very much supported me making it my own and not trying to adhere to George's sort of aesthetic rules. So I definitely didn't draw it ... If I were to just cut free and draw my own comic, that's not necessarily how I would draw a comic, but I needed it to sort of look enough like George's world to where a reader could go from issue two to issue three and know the world they were still in and know the characters enough to where they could still follow the story. But there was a lot of consideration of how does my style become a little bit more like George's.



CBY: Thank you. And so I think it came up in conversation or I also overheard it, but issue eight is the last issue of this story, correct?



AC: Yeah, yeah. That's coming out the end of March



CBY: Perfect. So is there anything you can tease for us with that eighth issue?



JL: Well, have you guys read issue seven? So I'm going to say "spoiler alert" for issue seven. But yeah, so for issue seven, that kind of wraps things up in terms of the supernatural threat and the horror elements. They all get tied up neatly in issue seven and in issue eight it's kind of like, let's have fun, let's put on a show. So the real climax of the series isn't necessarily the supernatural threat. The climax of the show is the big festival screening. Do they get to show the movie? Is it a success? What goes on? So it was a whole lot of fun just getting to do this climax, which was just essentially a big caper. All these characters having fun, getting to see what they've been making, celebrating their art. And there's a whole bunch of local flavor in there. Lots of landmarks in there for anyone out there from my old stomping grounds, where you'll see lots of locations there that I've been putting in. And yeah, it's a lot of fun.


AC: I think if nothing else, issue eight is for me, the most fun, it was the most relief. Everyone kind of just gets to breathe and just be themselves and just have a good time. There's a couple of dramatic moments still that take place, but it's kind of the joy at the end of the series.



CBY: Awesome. So last, a couple of questions. I have to ask, given the nature of the story, what are some of your all-time favorite horror movies? I have to put you on the spot for that.



JL: That's just like, how long have you got?



AC: So I'll do mine first. None. I don't like horror. I do like horror ... that's not true. I like horror where there's a sense of humor in it, very much. So Peter Jackson's, the Zombie film where-


JL:  Braindead, Dead Alive, yeah, or Bad Taste.


AC: Yeah! Pretty much all of Freddy Kruger after the third one when he starts to kind of get witty and starts to tell jokes. That was always my entrance into horror. Shaun of the Dead is fantastic. For a long time, especially when I was a kid, I couldn't get into horror if it didn't have some sense of humor because if it took itself too seriously, it would affect me too much. I wouldn't sleep for weeks. But if there were jokes, I feel like, oh, they're just having fun, then I could watch it. Now I'm an adult, I can watch horror movies and I don't have AS many nightmares, so I'm doing better.


JL: Obviously, I have the mainstream super popular answers like Halloween, which I watch every year on Halloween, going back to when I had it on VHS, or The Shining or Scream. Jaws is my number one all-time favorite movie. I'm not sure if that counts as horror, but I'm going to say it kind of does. But even though those are my favorites, I always love to think about off-the-beaten track movies that folk might not have seen because that's a compulsion of mine. I have to recommend horror movies to people. So Dead and Buried, I love. I'm kind of obsessed with that movie. It was the movie that the screenwriters of Alien wrote after that. It's a video nasty. It was banned in the UK. And it's this kind of weird kind of like ... it's kind of like a pre-Romero zombie, but adapted to the 1980s and this kind of weird, creepy, small-town coastal vibe. It's great. Messiah of Evil is another proper, overlooked classic, properly terrifying, really good. And a fun one for you, Dr. Giggles. Genuinely, it's never going to win any Oscars, but I genuinely love this movie. Larry Drake plays this demented physician who goes around killing people while he gives medical puns. For example, he brings out the weapon and someone screams and he goes, "You think that's scary? You should see my bill." And he's like stitching up his own wounds and stuff, like performing surgery on himself, and he looks right at the camera and goes, "Physician, heal thyself." It's that kind of movie. I keep on telling people-


AC: (Laughs) That sounds terrible.


JL: It's amazing. I do a Halloween party every year. I'm like the Halloween guy amongst all my friends. I have a costume party, and I always have a movie night. So it's like three films that I announce ahead of time. And then once it's past midnight, some folk have gone home, I do a midnight mystery movie and last year the midnight mystery movie was Dr. Giggles. I had to follow Braindead. So I treated everyone and they loved it. So seek out Dr. Giggles, horror fans, and let me know what you think.



CBY: Awesome. And if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring creatives, what would you give them?


JL: Give up, so there's less competition for me. (Laughs)


AC: (Laughs) Just what I said earlier, you got to just work every day. You got to work and think that maybe no one's ever going to see it. You just have to do it for yourself and you have to do it every day. You have to keep that muscle. Just exercise constantly.


JL: (Laughs) Yeah, my serious advice would be don't get discouraged. As a creator, part of the process is dealing with disappointment. Maybe your first book, you've made this thing and it's a passion project for you, and maybe the world doesn't care as much about it as you might care about it. So maybe you'll think, "Oh, I'm just going to give up making comics because this didn't go the way I wanted it to." But no, that's all fertile ground. That's a grounding for the next project to be a bit bigger, the next project to be a bit better. And folk will always go back and rediscover that old stuff as well. So there's always a chance. So I'd say keep on pushing at it. Don't allow yourself to let your voice be silenced, because you have something to say and there are people out there somewhere who need to hear it.



CBY: Okay, and where can people find you guys on social media?



JL:  I am on Bluesky @JohnLees, at Twitter still ... I'm still calling it Twitter because that’s what it is... Twitter @JohnLees927, Instagram @JohnLees927, plus I have a newsletter, which you can find at Deep-Ender.JohnLeesComics.com. It's been going out every week since 2017. I've never missed one. You get lots of content in that. Plus I'm on Patreon.


AC: I’m @adamccahoon on most of the socials and at adamcahoon.com



CBY: John, Adam, thank you so much for your time!




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