Reel Horror: Tinnell talks Images "The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story"

As has been well documented by now, the horror genre is alive and well once again in the comics world. In fact, it's thriving. Whereas ten years ago you might not have been able to name all that many contemporary horror comics, today the stands are filled with a wide variety of quality horror comics for fans to read. Film maker/comic creator Robert Tinnell, who has been playing with horror comics for a couple of years now and hopes to add another to the ever-expanding group of horror offerings.

This August sees the release the 64-page original graphic novel "The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story" from Image Comics, the first of a series of Terry Sharp stories. Writer/creator Robert Tinnell is joined by Adrian Salmon on art while Anthony Schiavinio handles art direction and lettering, with contributions from Neil Vokes and some extras from horror film experts Tom Weaver, Mark Clark and Bryan Senn. We caught up with Tinnell to talk about "The Faceless" and to bring you an exclusive five-page preview of the book.

Tinnell said the simple Hollywood pitch for "The Faceless" would be "The Saint" merged with "Curse of the Demon." "Terry Sharp is a director of classic horror films, working in the UK at Midwich Studios, in 1962," Tinnell told CBR News. "By night, he is a tireless fighter of a cult of Satanists hell-bent on taking over the country. We envision many adventures for Terry - his supernatural battles will on occasion lead him into territory not particularly tied to the conspiracy, but against definite other-worldly characters."

While this is the first solo Terry Sharp graphic novel, the character made his first appearance in the "Even More Fund" CBLDF benefit book, followed by a back-up story in "Frankenstein Mobster" #6.

"In 'The Faceless' you'll meet Terry, of course," continued Tinnell, introducing us to the characters that inhabit the book. "He's definitely pre-PC - hard-living and a real ladies' man (the Terry Sharp stories will not be graphic, but Terry gets around). But he's got his personal demons. At first, he may seem some sort of male power-fantasy, but it's far more complicated than that. We wanted a hero straight out of classic British television. I make no apologies for that.

"Major Harvey Clarke is one of Terry's few allies in the battle. I love the character and Ade's design is perfect.

"Elspeth Sasdy is introduced in this story (though she already appeared in the story in 'Frankenstein Mobster' - which takes place later than 'The Faceless'). Elspeth is a fabulous character. Part Emma Peel, part Marianne Faithful. She hates the Faceless conspirators and is ruthless in her determination to see them exterminated. Plus she's hot.

"Sir Clement Maderas is the owner of Midwich Studios and provides a foil to Terry in his professional life.

"Peter Lingham is an actor and dear friend of Terry's who is appearing in 'The Return of Frankenstein' - the film Terry is directing during the course of the GN.

"Suzanne Morell is an actress in Terry's film. She and Terry do a little acting on the side at one point."

Tinnell said that the inspiration for Terry Sharp is a "distillation" of his and artist Adrian Salmon's interest in British culture in general and, more specifically, the Golden Age of British Horror that is centered around the '50s and '60s Hammer Films, the legendary British film studio that became well known for its horror films like 1957's "The Curse of Frankenstein" and 1958's "Dracula." "Now I've only visited England briefly, so my sensibility is molded via TV and film - but Ade is born and bred there, so in addition to brilliant art he assures a level of authenticity," explained Tinnell. "We had become friends on the Internet - talking about Hammer Films and comics and Eurotrash horror and the like. He did a pin-up for our first graphic novel, 'The Black Forest,' that just knocked me out. So I approached him and told him I wanted us to do a book together. He agreed, provided it was something that appealed to him. Somehow, at that point, Terry popped into my head. Ade went nuts and the rest is history!"

Tinnell and Salmon worked through the spring of 2004 developing the storylines and the character. The early appearances by Terry helped them both work out the visual details of the characters that inhabit this world. Once they were done, Tinnell showed the fruit of their labors to Image's Executive Director Eric Stephenson during Comic-Con International in San Diego and got an immediate thumbs up. "At the same time I had been approached by retailers who were fans of 'The Black Forest' asking if we would consider doing a few 64 page books - they felt they would work," said Tinnell. "So Ade and I opted to try the format for Terry."

As you can probably tell from both the art and this interview, "The Faceless" doesn't fall into any typical definition of horror comics as there are many different approaches a creator can take. "For example, I'm doing a book with Bo Hampton that is very meticulous in its efforts to scare - long detailed sequences that build to very specific payoffs," explained Tinnell. "With the 'The Facless,' however, there's a broader purpose to the book. There may well be efforts to creep you out, but we're more interested in the characters and their world and the action, I think. Which is not to say we won't try detailed scary sequences at some point - I'm sure we will. But for all the darkness in the world of Terry Sharp, we want the book to be fun. And I think we've succeeded.

"I think the book is going to appeal to a variety of readers. Obviously at its core, if you love all things British you're going to dig this book. It's swingin' London, baby. Cool cars, clothes and cocktails. If you're into Hammer Films and the like, you'll be in heaven. Many of the characters are reminiscent of iconic (and perhaps, not-so-iconic) players from that period. I'm generally not one for 'in-jokes,' but it was hard to resist with the Terry stories. They're not so much jokes, really, as they are subtle references. Take Midwich Studios - it's a thinly-veiled caricature of Hammer when they were at Bray Studios. Astute fans will make the leap easily - and I think they'll smile about it. I'm certain our fan base from 'The Black Forest' and 'The Wicked West' are going to be pleased. There's a thread through those books that tends to observe 'reel' horror versus 'real' horror. I don't think you're going to see that on everything I do, but you are going to see it from time to time. The Terry Sharp Stories - and 'The Faceless' in particular - will absolutely mine that territory."

Tinnell also believes that this book will bring in fans who may not be your typical horror fans, but ones who have an eye for great art. "…Adrian Salmon's work on this is inspired," said Tinnell. "I'm a huge fan of comics and comics' history and comic art and I guess that qualifies me to say, 'I know great comic art.' This is great comic art. He pencils, inks, and colors everything. There's a marvelous graphic quality to the art - He's cartooning, you know? I love cartooning. I love it when guys know how to get the art to contribute to the storytelling beyond the 'nuts-and-bolts' required by the script. He's fully a co-author on this to my mind (of course, I tend to work with artists I feel that way about)."

Since his two previous comics efforts, Tinnell says he's learned a lot about comics scriptwriting. "My primary source of income is screenwriting, so I already knew how to write to the 'visual' as it were," explained Tinnell. "But now I'm trying to improve as a writer of comics for comics. Like pacing things to deliver that kick-ass page turn, you know? I'm just fortunate that I have so many talented artists willing to take a chance on me and also to teach me.

"One thing that became apparent to me is that our readers really appreciated the amount of entertainment we're trying to deliver for the money. Both 'The Black Forest' and 'The Wicked West' were stuffed with extras - and not a 'filler,' but an honest-to-God added value to the books. People really, really went for those things - as well as our ancillary promotional stuff - like the radio show and the trailers. So with 'The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story,' I knew we would be making every effort to make every page count. So we've got some cool stuff. For instance, Neil Vokes drew a five-page story that dramatizes a scene from Terry's movie 'The Return of Frankenstein.' And it's very cool. He worked in a style that complimented Ade's yet is distinctly Neil. In fact, Mike Oeming saw it and thought the first page was one of the best things Neil ever did. It's been really fun, actually, because Neil and Ade are also very close friends. And Neil is simultaneously drawing 'The Black Forest 2' - and he and Ade are constantly sending each other their latest pages - and as a consequence they fire each other up. Which is perfect for me."

There's a long-term plan in place for Terry Sharp stories. "The Faceless: A Terry Sharp Story" is a 64-page one shot, but their intention is to do a series of these that will ultimately form a whole. Tinnell says they've got Terry's life and accompanying mysteries plotted out far in advance and are looking forward to telling his whole life's story. "Next up will be 'Shadowdance: A Terry Sharp Story' and that will appear as a Flash-animated strip online in mid-to-late June," said Tinnell. "It takes place not too awfully long after 'The Faceless' and just prior to the story from 'Frankenstein Mobster.' Our next story - 'The Devouring Secret: A Film by Terry Sharp' - will fit in the Terry mythos but will involve us dramatizing one of Terry's films in glorious gothic black and white. After that, I hope, we'll be sending Terry to the Continent, ostensibly on holiday, but Evil will rear its ugly head."

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