AICN COMICS Q&@: Matt Adler talks about this weekend’s HELLBOY DAY with Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie!
@’s by Scott Allie!!!
MATT ADLER (MA): Scott, I understand this is your 20th year at Dark Horse. As you look back over your career, did you have aspirations of rising to your current role as Editor-in-Chief, or was it just serendipity?
SCOTT ALLIE (SA): A month after I started at Dark Horse Barbara Kesel told me to call Mike Mignola, I'd be editing HELLBOY. That was October 1994. About ten minutes ago, at 10:00 at night early in 2014, Mike and I were emailing back and forth about a script he's in the middle of writing. So tell me, Matt. How far have I risen in twenty years …? I peaked early. But I'm still here. But I do get to ring in the anniversary with a pretty phenomenal look back. We just released a retrospective art book--HELLBOY: THE FIRST 20 YEARS--where Mike and I pored over all his best stuff. He had a tough time picking some of the early work, as he has a hard time feeling too good about the older stuff, but it was kind of enlightening for both of us to look back like this. It was a vivid reminder that for the first seven years, he did almost everything himself, before we started actively bringing others in. And in the book, it's cool to see how around 2001 it all started to expand rapidly, as the other characters took on a life of their own. The best part of the book--for me--is that Mike has grown more willing, since the last art book we did, to show his process, so this is even more of a book FOR artists, even more of a look into what makes his work tick.
MA: What do you think has been the key to your personal success in your career?
SA: Respecting talent and being a sponge. I'm good at soaking things up, and I'm lucky to pal around with guys like Mignola and Joss Whedon, so the stuff I soak up is of a higher proof than what some other people maybe get exposed to.
MA: Perhaps not coincidentally, this is also the 20th anniversary of HELLBOY. Why has your career been so consistently tied to this character?
SA: Well, I was really lucky to get connected to this book so early in my career, and in HELLBOY's own career. Anybody is lucky who gets connected to something of such significance in their chosen field, especially so early on. But I could've got assigned to MONKEY MAN & O’BRIEN or NEXT MEN or SIN CITY, and would have felt just as lucky at the time—but the thing about HELLBOY was that it resonated so deeply with me. Mike and I are into a lot of the same things, and we recognized that right off the bat. When you work with someone for a while, you develop a shorthand for a lot of what you do, what you talk about. Mike and I had that fairly quickly, because we were coming from the same place, and aiming toward the same things. It wasn't just that I was lucky to get on a big book. I was lucky to get on one I was able to understand so well, and that I'd be well suited to for the long run.
MA: March 22nd has been proclaimed HELLBOY DAY by Dark Horse; what do you guys have in store that has you personally most excited?
SA: Well, if I was in LA it'd be the chocolates that Meltdown is making. I love free comics, though, so we're doing a freebie, a Hellboy Sampler. If I had to list my fifteen favorite living cartoonists, four of them are in here—reprints drawn by Mignola and Cameron Stewart, and new stuff drawn by Fabio Moon and R. Sikoryak, all written by Mike except the Sikoryak stuff.
MA: With HELLBOY, BUFFY, and many other comics you've written and edited, you've long been known as one of the industry's top horror editors. What is it about the genre that speaks to you?
SA: I'm a fairly low affect guy, with a lot of simmering anxiety, and fear gets my blood pumping in a way I can process. It's more than cathartic. Freaky stuff, dark stuff, scary stuff—certain types, anyway—it comforts me.
MA: As an aficionado and editor of horror, where do you draw the line in terms of your personal taste?
SA: I try not to have clear lines about it. I want different experiences. I used to be a real snob, didn't like anything I thought to be artless or stupid. Then I became friends with Tim Seeley. [rimshot] In the 1980s I eschewed slasher crap—I was the perfect age, I was a horror geek, and yet I wasn't having any of it. I have still never seen “Nightmare on Elm Street”. But when I started hanging out with Seeley a couple years ago, and really getting into HACK/SLASH, I went back and watched a bunch of stuff, and saw the good and the bad in it. Anyway, I tend to like classic horror, actual gothic stuff, and/or the morally dark stuff—not amoral, cynical, like Rob Zombie, not cynical like that, but more like Chuck Palahniuk's work, “Blue Velvet”, Bob Dylan, some Dan Clowes…earnest, full of heart, but looking at the dark end of the street.
MA: As Editor-in-Chief of Dark Horse, how do you communicate to people what sets Dark Horse apart from other publishers?
SA: Well, how I communicate it is in how we work with Marketing to present our work to the world, and how I present Mike's vision and the vision of the company when talking to creators, and in training the junior staff to deliver that vision. Dark Horse is more diverse than any other comics publisher, and that's a blessing and a curse, because it makes it harder to boil us down to one sentence, one pitch or slogan. But in all of what we do, we aim high for the art and story—we're attracted to some time-honored traditions of storytelling, in terms of how we tackle characters. We love books, as objects. We believe in supporting creative visions that we can get behind, whether that's Stan Sakai or Eric Powell or Joss Whedon or George Lucas, and executing that work to the best of our ability, with creative integrity. We believe that people who like to read like to read lots of different things, so we don't have to limit ourselves to one genre, or one classification of work.
MA: Is there a particular project you are most proud to have edited?
SA: If I could only pick one it'd be HELLBOY, but there are a lot of projects I've done over the years that have gotten pretty deep down under my skin. BUFFY helps me understand the world, and if people think they understand me based on my work on BUFFY, I'd be very happy. I'm about to do a book that will sort of redefine things for me, and twenty years into this I feel lucky to still be able to get this excited.
MA: As a writer, is there a particular work of your own that you feel the strongest attachment to or investment in?
SA: I'm lucky to be writing Abe. I've done some creator owned stuff and some work for hire stuff, and a few of the work for hire gigs have been every bit as rewarding as the creator owned stuff. A few were not…but with ABE SAPIEN, I'm working with artists that blow my mind every time they turn in work. I couldn't be happier. I'm able to be this happy because this character and this world that Mike's created…like I was saying, it's been perfect for me. I'm very comfortable there, because it's everything I love in comics. In Abe, it's even more perfectly suited to what I want to do than, say, HELLBOY or BPRD. ABE SAPIEN is what I would have made up if I were as talented as Mike.
MA: If you were trapped on a desert island with only the comics work of three writers and three artists to keep you entertained, who would they be?
SA: Is that really fair? I gotta work with these people. Alan Moore, Richard Corben, Greg Irons, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby…count Harvey twice.
MA: What do you see as the ideal relationship between comics and other media?
SA: It has everything to do with your understanding of the word "adapt." Different media do different things, and when adapting from one to another, you create something totally new. To make a SEX CRIMINALS TV show you'd have to largely reinvent it, because everything they're doing there is so perfectly suited to comics. You would change it by bringing it into TV or films, which is great, if you go in accepting that. And if you were lucky enough enough to get writers, directors, and actors who are as good at what they do as Matt and Chip are at what they do, then maybe you'd get a show as good as the comic. But just sticking a great comic up on the screen doesn't make something great, nor is the comic somehow validated. But it'll probably sell some copies, and I'm all for that.
MA: Do you see yourself working in comics till you drop, or are there other challenges you'd like to explore?
SA: Comics, baby. I've been devoted to this art form since I was pretty young. I'd be lost without it.
MA: Any other upcoming projects you'd like to mention?
SA: Lots going on right now for us outside of the Mignola titles—BUFFY SEASON 10 launches this week. Eric Powell's THE GOON is about to return to the shelves. We just relaunched CONAN with Fred van Lente as writer, and that's one I don't work on, and so I get to be excited to read it every month. There's a massive ALIENS/PREDATOR/PROMETHEUS/AVP thing coming with a complex story and great new characters—I can't wait to get that out there, but what I really can't wait for is to see where some of these characters we've created for it are in a few years.
MA: Thanks, Scott! I know HELLBOY: THE FIRST 20 YEARS goes on sale in comic book stores today and in bookstores on April 1. I'll be keeping an eye out for those projects, as well as the Hellboy festivities this weekend!
Matt Adler is a writer/journalist, currently writing for AICN among other outlets. He’s been reading comics for nigh on 25 years, writing about them for more than 10, and spends way, way, too much time thinking about them, which means he really has no choice but to figure out how to make a living out of them. He welcomes all feedback.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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