Between his successful Kickstarter initiatives and the upcoming 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking Nocturnals comic franchise, writer/artist Dan Brereton is one busy guy. His appearance at Terrificon 2019- his first convention ever in the state of Connecticut- delighted fans, who showed up in droves to shake hands, seek autographs, and support the Hero Initiative (a program designed to provide financial support and emergency medical aid for comic creators in need) with cash donations. We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Brereton on the first day of Terrificon to discuss the world of horror which has greatly influenced his work, and his own artistic process.
Horror News Network: What was your experience like with the horror genre when you were growing up?
Dan Brereton: When I was a kid I didn’t like horror movies. I grew up scared of the dark. It was scary when the lights went off in my house, the result of an overactive imagination. I remember when Trilogy of Terror aired on the television, I took a really long bath to avoid having to see any of it! I remember one Halloween I was dressed up in a little devil costume and I recall being in a neighbor’s driveway that was set up with witches cauldrons and dry ice smoke in the air. They had on witch masks and outfits and they cackled at me in high pitched voices, saying they were going to put me in the pot. I started crying, but then they spoke to me through the masks in their regular voices, saying everything was okay and it was just pretend. That was when I started to realize that horror could be a safe, fun way of dealing with scary things.
Horror News Network: What were the ways in which you began to embrace your fears and fall in love with horror?
Dan Brereton: Drawing monsters was a way out of being afraid. The monsters I would draw were mine and they wouldn’t hurt me. Even in high school, I wasn’t a big fan of the slasher movies like some of my peers were, I liked comics and books such as Man-Thing, where the monsters weren’t out to hurt people. Daimon Hellstrom of Son of Satan looked scary, but he was a good guy.
Reading the works of Stephen King, Mary Shelley, Clive Barker, and H.P. Lovecraft was a big turnaround point for me. Bernie Wrightson’s illustrations for Frankenstein just blew me away. He created the definitive artwork for that novel. Eventually my love of books spilled into movies. Alien was the first scary movie I ever saw. I remember reading the novelization first so I could know what was coming. Everything about it was so captivating, but I closed my eyes for the chestburster scene! Once I got into horror movies, I was sucked in by the adrenaline rush. One time in high school, my friends and I bought a ticket for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and we turned it into a triple feature and stuck around for The Road Warrior and The Thing! Everything about The Thing was incredible. The special effects were mind-blowing, and the story and the characters pull you in.
Horror News Network: Are you interested in any contemporary horror films, or do you mainly focus on the classics?
Dan Brereton: I love Midsommar and Hereditary. Any of the current films which are revisiting some of the classic themes that made the old movies so good in the first place are great. Mandy and Revenge are also incredible. These kinds of movies aren’t just repackaging the classics like some of the inferior material that’s out there right now, they’re digging deeper with their storytelling.
Horror News Network: What influenced you to write and draw comic books, rather than enter the world of novels and films that you also love?
Dan Brereton: Comic writing comes to me the most naturally. Comics are a direct conduit from my imagination. You can do whatever you want in the format. When I begin to draw a character, I go through my scrap file of photos and still. I try to design the figure, the costume, the hair in a way that hasn’t been done before.
I also love being able to experiment visually with the way stories are told. When I was younger I used to be caught up in the artwork and let the story carry me along. But now when I write comics, I take lots of notes. Then I begin to create a thumbnail outline, and the story takes me in many different places.
Nocturnals sprung from all of these influences and desires. I wanted to create monsters that weren’t out there hurting or scaring people. My monsters were fighting battles at night so we could all sleep peacefully.
Horror News Network: Watching you interact with your fans at your table, it’s clear you want to make sure everybody has a wonderful experience. When you drew a Batgirl sketch for the kid with the sketchbook, his eyes lit up as the drawing began to take shape. What’s your philosophy on fan interactions?
Dan Brereton: When someone hands over a sketchbook to you and it’s full over other artists’ work, you see what everyone did before you and you ask yourself, “Can I do this? Am I this good?” Ego is such a pain in the ass! I want people to walk away happy. People coming up to you and being nice to you, that’s not something I grew up with. I want to show my appreciation for it.