Back in July when Mark Waid announced that Thrillbent — his digital comics portal — would be ramping up to phase two (as detailed in CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley’s recent Waid interview), I hoped writer Tom Peyer would be part of the mix. Soon enough, I discovered that indeed Peyer was writing Clown Tales, a horror story set to launch this fall. The story should be interesting on many levels, given that this marks Peyer’s first foray into writing horror — and that clowns bored him as a child (as I learned in this interview). While I had Peyer’s attention I also asked him about getting to recently write for TV (on DC Nation/Cartoon Network’s Doom Patrol interstitials) and working for Stephen Colbert back in 2007. Added bonus, at one point Peyer taunts clowns in our discussion.
Tim O’Shea: Was Clown Tales already in the work before you signed onto Thrillbent, or was it developed just for the site?
Tom Peyer: A few years ago I wrote some short horror stories, mainly to see if I would enjoy it. A publisher was planning a clown horror anthology that didn’t end up happening, but I put clowns in some of them just in case. I’d written humor and superheroes, but I’d never gone near horror before. I had a great time and I liked how they came out. It felt like taking a new route to the humor and pathos I always try to write toward anyway. But it felt more direct, maybe because I hadn’t taken that route before.
Who is handling art on Clown Tales?
Since this represents your first foray into horror, do you think you would like to write more of it?
Sure. It’s fun, it’s a change. And I’m really attracted to stories that anyone without a Ph.D in super-heroes can pick up and enjoy. Not that I’m putting down the Ph.D in super-heroes; I framed mine.
Do you write differently for the digital platform (as opposed to writing for print)?
Sure. Go to Thrillbent.com and take a look at how Waid and Peter Krause approach it on Insufferable. They’re finding a lot of new opportunities for dramatic transitions, held moments and other matters relative to pacing. You can even pull off a rack focus; that’s the static movie shot where they direct our attention by changing what’s in focus. It’s been said, correctly, that the basic unit of comics is not the panel but the page. And, of course, the screen is shaped differently from the comics page we’re used to, and the page turns behave differently. You can turn part of a page and leave the rest intact. So you’re thinking about the pacing and page-building processes in new ways. And pacing and page-building are comics’ very DNA.
What is it about Thrillbent that interested you in joining the group?
That chance to participate in figuring things out almost from the ground up. The way Waid and his collaborators and other webcomic artists have been rooting out what works and what doesn’t, like a bunch of Orson Welleses and Will Eisners and wheel-inventing cavemen. I want to participate, and I want it to take a long time to explore new possibilities. It’s a good reason to get up in the morning.
Did clowns amuse you as a kid or creep you out?
They bored me. I couldn’t have known clowns were a remnant of a showbiz that existed before mass media; but somehow, I instinctively knew that they weren’t for me or for anyone born after 1910. And now I’ve pissed off clowns. What are you going to do to me, clowns? Spray me with seltzer?
Are you editing yourself on Clown Tales?
Mark Waid will be editing me. I know this because I saw him at the office supply store buying an eyeshade, sleeve garters and cigars. I expect to get yelled at a lot.
What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing Doom Patrol for Cartoon Network’s DC Nation?
I’d never written anything for TV before, so that was pretty exciting. Ben Jones, the director, showed a lot of patience and humor in helping me along. But the writing itself was the best part, because I love the Doom Patrol to such an outlandish, irrational degree.
Odd question a few years too late: How much interaction did you have with Colbert when writing 2007’s Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen?
We had one conference call. He was every bit as smart, nice and funny as you want to believe he is.
Of the other Thrillbent projects announced along with yours, which are you most interested in reading?
I’m very interested to to see what Gail Simone does with this form. And Lori Matsumoto and Benjamin Dewey’s Working For Monday is based on a very cool idea I won’t spoil here.
Back to Clown Tales, any chance we get to see a clown car horror scene?
Now there’s an idea.