Jason. Freddy Krueger. Leatherface. Three names every horror fan is intimately familiar with. They're the lead characters in some of horrors most memorable films and they're coming to comics.
As our own Rich Johnston reported back in February, those classic horror films from New Line Cinema, "Friday the 13th," "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," are all making their way to comics via Avatar Press this May. All three books are written by Brian Pulido ("Lady Death") who is joined by artists Juan Jose Ryp on "Nightmare on Elm Street," Mike Wolfer on "Friday the 13th" and Jacen Burrows on "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." We sat down for a quick chat with all four creators, plus Avatar Editor-In-Chief William Christensen stops by to tell us how this all came about and what their plans are for the books.
"William Christensen could have picked anyone for the job. I'm honored for the privilege," writer Brian Pulido told CBR News.
As the writer of each book, he's got a big task ahead of him, but that's made much easier due to fact he's a fan of the films, particularly those that launched each series. "I want to keep to the spirit of them and then up the on-screen violence considerably," said Pulido. "I'm pleased that my publisher and New Line encouraged me to be as depraved as I wanted to be.
"These stories are blood-soaked love letters to the die-hard fans. I admire and respect these murderers as much as they do. I've murdered five or six billion people while writing the top slasher comic of the 90's, so these books feel just like home."
Pulido noted he's got some big plans for the star of "Friday the 13th." "Except for his battle with Freddy, Jason has never faced off against worthy foes, so I decided to send a covert military team up against him.
"Both 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' movies (the original and the remake) are steeped in depravity and torture. Who am I to change the plan? This book is some of the sickest stuff I've written."
But how did all these very well known licenses come to land at Avatar? Christensen was happy to address that question. "The licensing came together while I was looking at other properties to bring into comics," Christensen told CBR News. "I tend to be very picky, several properties that have been, or are about to be, released are things we passed on. I want to make sure that the products we release make sense at Avatar, that we are fans of the material, and that we can producing compelling material that will excite comic readers yet also bridge the gap with the mainstream movie watchers. So when I thought of these books, I got in contact with New Line and started talking. It turns out they were already Avatar fans! We were a dream publisher for them, they know many of our creators and love the artists we put on the books, and it has been very smooth sailing."
Considering Avatar's history of publishing books in the horror genre, including Pulido's "Lady Death" series, the fit was perfect for the company. "We love horror on the bleeding edge and these movies all deliver lots of great gore with true modern classic movie monsters," said Christensen. "If you look at the range of material we have published over the years, it's clear that they are a very good fit at Avatar. And these are three titles that helped define modern horror fiction. Everybody knows these movies. They are part of popular culture. These titles are a great way to reach a new audience for comics."
While all three films are well known to pretty much all audiences, the reality is that licensed books are sometimes a hard sell in comics. But, with horror fans often crossing over in to the comics genre, sales on these books are expected to be pretty healthy. "As with everything we do, we go in with very reasonable expectations," said Christensen. "That is part of why Avatar has been around, and growing, for the past 7 years. It is very hard for an indy publisher to get big numbers these days, but we think that with Brian Pulido writing the books and the A+ artistic talent we have drawing them, sales should be pretty darn good."
Artist Mike Wolfer is excited about working on "Friday the 13th." "It's a fanboy's dream come true, isn't it?
"In a darkened theater in 1980, I witnessed the beginning of the 'Friday the 13th' franchise," revealed Wolfer. "Now, twenty-five years later, it's overwhelming and an incredible honor for me to actually be able to 'touch' Jason! He's an incredible (and durable) horror icon, both repugnant and strangely sympathetic."
This is Wolfer's first time working with Pulido. While he's done several Lady Death pinups for him over the years, he's never worked directly with the writer which is surprising consider both creators work primarily in horror comics. "This is also my first full color work in almost ten years. Most Avatar readers are familiar with my gray-toned art in Warren Ellis' 'Strange Killings,' where we rely on black and white to enforce the disturbing quality of that series. If you thought my work was unsettling before, wait until you see it in color... Particularly the color red."
"I saw the original when I was a kid by sneaking it past a lazy video store clerk and it had a profound effect on me," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" artist Jacen Burrows told CBR News. "I had heard the stories about it being a true story and I believed every word. I was this terrified child at home alone after just seeing proof that there are people out there who will relentlessly chase you down wearing the skin of another human being with the intent to torture and murder you and I suddenly felt really alive, of all things. Sure, the world was a much scarier place now, but it was also more bizarre and fascinating. That was the power of this kind of visceral, intense horror grounded in a tangible reality. There was no magical curse or monster mythology. Real people could go that insane anywhere in the world. The horror was real. Now flash forward 20 years and I'm getting to apply that love of horror to the character that taught it to me. Circle complete."
After the film remake in 2003, Burrows feels there's a new cast of characters that scream for more exploration. "The entire Hewitt family is an interesting picture of sociopathic madness and the film hinted at a long history of killing. Hopefully our book will fill out a bit of that history and hopefully give people a real feel for their twisted little world.
"Everyone involved with this book is determined to do this right from Brian and myself all the way up to New Line. This isn't action-adventure dressed up as horror like we see a lot these days. This will be the real thing with the characters, continuity and zeal of the remake and the macabre spirit of the original."
Burrows believes he was meant to do this book. "I doubt you could find another artist in the industry better versed in the films with a greater passion for the genre," said Burrows. "I think I have a profound understanding of what the fans of 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' expect and I won't let them down.
"It may sound weird to people who aren't fans of horror but I have a lot of reverence for this series of films and I think it is vital to do it justice. I know Brian feels the same way."
Last, but certainly not least, we spoke with Jose Juan Ryp who's handling the artistic duties on "Nightmare on Elm Street Special" #1. "I like the character Freddy Kruger more than the movies themselves," Ryp told CBR News. "I think that the original idea, the idea that is captured in the first movie, speaks of a thing that terrifies all people. We all have horrible nightmares. The character of Freddy comes alive, with his sadistic irony, combining his cold and comedic vision at the same time of these horrific and depraved things. It is really exciting to draw!
"When I received word that I would have the responsibility of working with the saga of Nightmare on Elm Street, I thought that it was a good opportunity to reflect that world. A world that joins the beauty of the adolescents, with the ugliness and wickedness of Kruger. Both things, I think, they fit together in a strange way in the stories 'Nightmare on Elm Street.'"
In addition to working with Pulido on "Nightmare on Elm Street," Ryp will also be working on a future "Lady Death" story with the writer and says the duo have a great understanding of one another. "Brian Pulido has been very considerate with me. He's made some very detailed descriptions in its texts, and he contributed many pictures and references to make my work easier. He also grants me a lot of space for my inspiration. He's expressed the whole universe of Freddy very well in his writings. Brian's also given the story a modern touch that has been very refreshing, but he has been very faithful to the movies, I believe that the fans of the movies won't be disappointed. I have fallen in love with the main female character in the story, but it's hard to draw when Kruger catches up with her!"
Finishing things off back with Christensen, he tells us that New Line's been very open to Avatar's ideas and they've given these comic creators a great deal of freedom while working on these books. "[New Line] are all for maximizing the gore and violence we can stuff in the books, the freedom has been terrific," said Christensen. "They really wanted a publisher that would be true to the movies, not water down the material, and of course we are just about the only publisher around who can deliver on that."
In addition to these three titles, Avatar also holds the comics publishing licenses for "Stargate SG-1" and "Robocop." Christensen says that while licensing is an important part of Avatar, they won't be abandoning creator-owned properties any time soon. "If we can do great licensed books as well as make creators like Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, and Alan Moore (to name just a few) happy, then I am quite pleased," said Christensen. "We will continue with licensed material, but we aren't going to get in the game some publishers are playing right now of trying to buy every single thing they can think of. We will continue with slow and responsible growth, as we always have."