Stiched Author Mariah McCourt and Artist Aaron Alexovich: The Horror News Network Interview

Graphic novel sales continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, and one of the fastest growing sub-groups is young female readers. Traditionally, teen girls were an important demographic for Manga sales, but in recent years the likes of  Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Sisters) and Noelle Stevenson (Nimona, LumberJanes) have expanded the medium beyond traditional super hero fare and Japanese imports.  Papercutz (one of the leading publishers of graphic novels for younger audiences) has just launched a new imprint focusing on this quickly expanding demographic called Charmz. One of their first offerings, entitled Stitched, is sure to make young horror fans happy.  Horror News Network  had the chance to speak to both the writer (Mariah McCourt) and artist (Aaron Alexovich) of the new title, and they were able to answer questions about their story, the changing face of graphic novel readership, and, of course, horror.

Horror News Network: What was your inspiration for Stitched?

Aaron Alexovich: I think I’ll let Mariah take that one, because it all started with her. MY inspiration was to finally work with her after all this time!

Mariah McCourt: My first thought for Stitched was “Girl Frankenstein monster”.  I really wanted to tell a story about a girl made of different dead people, who was kind and curious, but had to figure out a new sense of self. After that, the world of Assumption just kind of unfolded and the other characters came from that.

HNN: Was it difficult to “soften” some of the horror elements for a younger audience?

McCourt: You know, it wasn’t. I think kids can handle a lot of complexity, so the differences are more about avoiding gore or that kind of obvious horror. We focused on “spooky” horror, comparable to Coraline and the Lemony Snicket books. And there’s a lot of humor and a lot of fun in the story, along with the deeper questions about life and death.

Alexovich: I’ve been doing the “spooky cute” thing for so long now it’s pretty much second nature to me. I didn’t have to adjust my style to fit the story or anything. Mashing horrible and adorable things together is kind of what I do, and I would have approached this the same way even if the content was more extreme/adult/whatever. In a way, I feel like Stitched could be taking place in a cozier, less intense corner of my usual stompin’ grounds.

HNN: How would you describe the main character Crimson?  Who was your favorite character to write/draw/design (not including Crimson)?

McCourt: Crimson is a really enthusiastic, inquisitive, fearless character. She’s very caring but she’s also a bit self-involved. She’s a hero, though, and she does the right thing even if it’s tough. With everything being new to her, I wanted to make sure she still had a solid personality that comes through.

I am also extremely fond of Wisteria, our shy werewolf. I just love that juxtaposition of sweetness with fierceness. But I love the whole cast. Parameter, Simon, Quinton…even our mad ghost is a lot of fun.

Alexovich: Fearless! That’s what I’d call Crimson. She’s the kind of person who would dive into any situation head-first, even if she shouldn’t. I kind of admire that, because it’s not really me at all. She seems very un-self-conscious, and I tried to reflect that in her design. Her hair is this massive, crazy mess of a thing that would embarass a lot of people, but it doesn’t seem to bother her at all. In fact, she seems almost proud of it! Wish I could be a smidge more like Crimson.

Other than Crimson, I’d say my favorite character to draw is Wisteria. Have to throw a little love toward my fellow introvert.
HNN: How was the collaborative process for both of you?

McCourt: I’ve known Aaron for years and I wrote Stitched with him and his art style in mind. I really wanted Stitched to be fun to draw for him and I knew he’d do amazing things with the characters and storytelling. So basically it’s been the best. I love the collaborative process of comics and I trust Aaron completely. He made this world come alive, along with the colorist Drew Rausch.

Alexovich: Collaborating with Mariah was wonderful! We’ve known each other for a million years, so it was neat to finally get a chance to work with one of her scripts. I think we have a similar way of looking at horror and the fantastic, and Stitched is a perfect expression of that. The whole feel of the book is sort of “Nightmare Before Christmas filtered through Sandman.” We’re playing with a lot of big, fun, silly horror tropes here, but there’s also this more subtle, mysterious, almost mythic feel bubbling under the surface.

HNN: Stitched seems to have a lot of references to classic gothic literature as well as modern authors.  What would you say are the biggest influences on the story?

McCourt: Well, the Frankenstein monster is probably the most obvious with Crimson being made of different dead girls. There’s also a lot of Buffy, some Penny Dreadful, and a fair amount of Half Magic in there. Terry Pratchett and Stephen King are big influences, too.

Alexovich: That’s more of a Mariah question, but I know I definitely picked up on a lot of Mary Shelley in Stitched. And not just the obvious “Crimson is stitched together like Frankenstein’s monster” thing. Both stories are basically about confused children trying to make sense of their new world and understand why their parents aren’t around. Frankenstein cruelly abandoned his creation and wants nothing to do with it, but Crimson’s mom seems to be leaving clues scattered around… It’s like “What if instead of a selfish deadbeat dad, Frankenstein’s monster had a mysterious supernatural mom?”

HNN: You deal with a lot of monsters in the story.  Are both of you fans of Universal Monsters?  For parents who are fans, is your graphic novel a way to introduce young readers to these classic monster-types?

McCourt: Definitely a big fan of those archetypes and films. Who doesn’t love Boris Karloff? Or that amazing hair on the Bride of Frankenstein? Although my favorite use of them is probably in Monster Squad.

We’re very deliberately playing with those already established types in the story, so that there’s a familiarity for parents to have fun with along with their kids. We absolutely wanted Stitched to be a way to introduce horror/spookiness in a fun, relevant, thoughtful, way.

Alexovich: LOVE the classic Universal monsters! Bride of Frankenstein is one of my favorite movies. ANYTHING with Boris Karloff in it is gold, really. And the Creature from the Black Lagoon, that’s an all-time great monster design. But I think Universal’s 1930’s stuff is their best. The mood is just so strange and atmospheric, almost dreamy, like anything can happen. I’d like to think if Universal was making full-color monster movies for kids in the 1930’s, it’d be something like Stitched. These old monster tropes will never go anywhere, but if Mariah and I can be part of putting a new spin on them, that’s awesome!

HNN: Do you think the tween girl population is under-served when it comes to graphic novels?

McCourt: They definitely have been, although it’s been improving a lot over the past few years. These days there are a lot more titles for girls from a lot of different publishers. But I don’t think you can ever go wrong writing for tweens/teens. They’re voracious, smart, readers. And very enthusiastic about stories and characters they love. So they’re really awesome to create for and meet and talk to.

Alexovich: I’m honestly not sure… 10 years ago, when Mariah and I were working on the Minx line (published by DC Comics), there was basically nothing on comic shop shelves that would obviously be appealing to tween girls. I mean, sure, there were 12-year-old girls getting deeply involved in Hellboy and Fables and Love & Rockets and so on (age appropriate or not), but none of those things were designed specifically with them in mind. Tween girl comic readers have a lot more options now, mostly because manga and YA publishers carved out a space for them in bookstores, but I know there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m just glad publishers like Papercutz are out there helping to wreck all those stereotypes about who comics are “for.”

HNN: Are there any current or future projects that either of you are working on?

McCourt: Yes! There will be two more Stitched books from Aaron and I, plus the whole Charmz line that I’m editing. I have another horror comic that’s more adult oriented called Breaker out, a surfer werewolf mystery. It’s published by Stela and you can get it for your mobile phone via their app. My latest Emily and the Strangers OGN from Dark Horse is also out now, another tween book with lots of horror elements. And yet another werewolf story will be in an upcoming anthology called Pet My Werewolf.

Alexovich: Always working on something! Right now I’m back in my old day job doing character designs for the Invader ZIM TV revival, but I also have a big, monstery children’s book in the works. It’s really hard digging out time for that, especially since I’m trying to teach myself to paint digitally as I go, but it’s been super-fun! Hopefully I’ll have it out sometime next year. I’m also still involved with the Invader ZIM comics off and on, and did some artwork for a Little Nightmares tie-in comic, so yeah… Always busy!

HNN: Thank you both for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to more Stitched installments in the future!

 

 

 

 

 

William Friedkin’s Documentary, The Devil and Father Amorth, Acquired by LD Entertainment

William Friedkin, the legendary director of 1973’s The Exorcist is about to return to the subject matter which first shocked moviegoers nearly 45 years ago! Variety reports that LD Entertainment has acquired worldwide rights to Friedkin’s new real-life documentary entitled The Devil and Father Amorth. The documentary will follow the exorcism practices of Father Gabriele Amorth (May 1st, 1925 – September 16th, 2016), an Italian Roman Catholic priest and exorcist of the Diocese of Rome. 

Variety reports that the documentary will follow Amorth’s work with an Italian woman whose “behavioral changes cannot be helped by psychiatry.” In the film, Friedkin will also compare Amorth’s contemporary exorcism practices with the process Friedkin originally presented in The Exorcist.

Friedkin had this to say about the announcement:

“I’ve never stopped being fascinated by the nature of good and evil, and the possibility of demonic possession. The opportunity for me to witness and film an actual exorcism came about, more than four decades after I made The Exorcist, completely by accident.”

LD’s Mickey Liddell followed up with additional comments:

“I am thrilled to be working again with Billy Friedkin, who is one of the greatest and most prolific filmmakers of our time. This documentary shook me to my core and made me wonder — Could demonic possession really exist?”

A release date for The Devil and Father Amorth has yet to be confirmed. Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on this exciting new documentary as they break!

 

Three Young Stars Added to The Strangers 2

Just when you thought it was safe to answer the door, it just got less safe.  Deadline is reporting that Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks along with Bailee Madison (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark) and Lewis Pullman (Aftermath) have just been cast in the upcoming horror sequel The Strangers 2.  In addition to these cast announcements, executive producer Trevor Macy will also be a part of the project (having previously produced The Strangers and other horror films such as The Bye Bye Man, Ouija: Origin of Evil and Oculus).  The movie is scheduled to begin principal photography in Los Angeles on May 30th.

The Strangers 2, which will be directed by Johannes Roberts from a screenplay by the returning Bryan Bertino, will take the whole home invasion concept from the original but done slightly different.  In the sequel, a family on a road trip takes refuge in a mobile trailer park only to be stalked and terrorized by the three masked killers from the first film.  Fyzz Facility Pictures will produce in association with Relativity Media, and Aviron Pictures will distribute The Strangers 2 theatrically in the North American market.  Though not yet confirmed, rumors are swirling that the roles of the original characters scheduled to return in the sequel will be recast with new actors.

The formal announcement of the three young stars for the project is a big step in the right direction, and one that fans of the original film have been waiting to hear since 2009 (when the sequel was originally announced.)  The Strangers 2 does not yet have a release date, but be sure to stay tuned to HNN for all of the details as they are released!

Fox’s The Exorcist Renewed for Season Two

With Fox’s 2017 Upfronts just days away, the uncertain futures of a trio of horror television shows have been the source of speculation and uncertainty. On May 9th, Fox cancelled Sleepy Hollow after four seasons. The future of Scream Queens is still unknown. But today came arguably the most important confirmation for the 2017 season: The Exorcist has been renewed for Season Two!

While the show’s ratings have never been fantastic, it gained a strong following of dedicated viewers who found it to be one of the smartest horror shows on television. Fans and horror sites alike (including this one) mobilized fan campaigns to beg Fox for a renewal, but the network remained quiet about the future of the series for nearly five months.

Jeremy Slater, the show’s talented creator, had this to say to fans on Twitter about the show’s renewal:

In the past, Slater has said he would like to leave the Rance family with some peace and follow our favorite demon battling priests as they help other victims of the supernatural. At this time,  it is unknown if this is the same pitch that ultimately won Fox over for the show’s renewal. Deadline reports that “there is talk about bringing in a showrunner for Season 2.” I’m all for it if that helped get the show renewed, but Slater has done an excellent job leading the show on his own so far.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more information on Fox’s 2017 Upfronts and The Exorcist Season Two as it breaks!

 

Actor Michael Parks Dead at 77

Michael Parks, who experienced a career renaissance in recent years, died Tuesday at the age of 77.

Parks, a well known character actor with over 100 television and movie credits to his name, caught the attention of some of the best directors of the 1990’s in the form of Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, and Robert Rodriguez.  Each director continued to use Parks in their films, in particular Kevin Smith.  Smith gave Parks two starring roles in 2011’s Red State and 2014’s Tusk.

Smith praised Parks (through an Instagram post) stating that, “Michael was, and will likely forever remain, the best actor I’ve ever known” and that “He was, hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform.”

Parks also appeared in From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, Grindhouse: Planet Terror and Death Proof, and Django Unchained.

Parks will certainly be missed by fans and creators alike.  Parks is survived by his wife, Oriana, and his son James.

 

Universal Releases Featurette on Tom Cruise’s Stunts in The Mummy

Universal has released a new featurette to Syfy Wire, which outlines all of the key ingredients Universal Monsters fans are looking for in the upcoming reboot of The Mummy: explosions, rocket launchers, ambulance crashes, and extended underwater breath holding sequences!

Oh, were you expecting me to say, “gothic atmosphere, unforgettable humanistic creatures, and a strong emphasis on character”? It’s not that kinda movie!

You can watch the entire clip below:

Don’t get me wrong: Tom Cruise is an amazing movie star. The fact that he does as many of his own stunts as humanly possible always make his films a treat to behold. It is simply amazing that he still puts so much blood, sweat, and tears into his movies while many of his contemporaries are simply calling it in and cashing a check. But all of these stunts would be much better suited for the next Mission: Impossible movie! As a Universal Monsters purist, I wish he would have saved these sequences for M:I 6, and brought a more subtle approach to The Mummy (as he did in Vanilla SkyA Few Good Men, and Magnolia).

A wise man recently said that Universal Monsters fans deserve their very own La La Land. So far, it doesn’t seem this will be the case with The Mummy. All will be revealed on June 9th, 2017 when it releases to theaters.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on The Mummy and the rest of the Universal Monsters reboots as they break!

Doug Liman Cites ’70s Horror Classics as Inspiration for Upcoming Justice League Movie

Producer/Director Doug Liman (Swingers, The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) has good news for comic book fans who are getting a little sick of the constant stream of paint by numbers, derivative superhero movies with cheesy jokes that have been flooding the multiplex over the past several years. He recently sat down with Cinema Blend to discuss his vision for the upcoming Justice League Dark film, and it’s all good news for comic book fans and horror fans alike! Turns out, character development will be on display front row, center this time around, and Liman is looking to capture elements of the horror classics of the 1970s that he loves when making this movie. Here’s what he had to say:

“I think people will be surprised how character driven and how intimate Justice League Dark is — in kind of a field of bloated comic book movies. We’ve found a way to do something that’s actually really personal and small, and that’s my goal.

The Wall is about character. The scenario allows me to dive into what I think is… I just love people! I love putting people in crazy situations. For John Constantine, we have an amazing set-up for him for Justice League Dark that’s really human.”

An intimate, character driven film starring John Constantine in the midst of a field of bloated comic book movies? Sounds like the superhero movie the multiplex needs right now, but not the one it deserves!

“It’s going to have real horror elements, for sure. I love early horror films, be it The Exorcist, or Carrie, The Omen. In the same way that Bourne Identity, I went back to ’70s paranoia.

There’s stuff to be mined from the people who have come before me that I’m planning to bring to Justice League Dark. And also the arena, my good friend Simon Kinberg, with Deadpool really pushed the arena.

I’m never going to do something that’s straightforward, but I’m not going to do something campy either. I have a take on it that isn’t like anything else out there. At the end of the day, I make character driven movies.”

It sounds like he has a solid plan for the film and some of the finest horror movies of the 1970s for inspiration… all he has to do now is make a good movie! Liman has an excellent track record in the industry, but only time will tell if Justice League Dark can avoid the major pitfalls that all of the Warner Bros. superhero films have suffered. Here’s to hoping that we can some day call Justice League Dark (and Wonder Woman) one of the good ones!

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on Justice League Dark as they break!

Hellboy Reboot Planned with Director Neil Marshall and Stranger Things Star David Harbour

Earlier this year, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola stated on twitter that Hellboy 3 was not going to move forward with original series director Guillermo del Toro.  At that time, it was assumed that this meant an end to the lovable red devil on the silver screen, but today Hellboy fans have a reason to celebrate.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Millennium is in negotiations with producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin for a new installment that would reboot and relaunch the property. Mike Richardson of Dark Horse Entertainment is also producing.”

Although fans are certainly upset to see del Toro exit the Hellboy film universe, the announcement of director Neil Marshall’s involvement is certainly a good sign. Marshall is best known for the Descent (one of the best horror movies in the last 20 years) and has recently directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of Westworld among others.   As of now, the film “…has a working title of Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen and has a script by Andrew Cosby, Christopher Golden and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.”

David Harbour, one of the adult stars of Stranger Things, is in talks to play the lead character. It is also rumored to be an R-rated film, following in the recent “R-rated super hero” footsteps of Deadpool and Logan.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more information about Hellboy’s film prospects and his continued adventures in his original comic form.

Cullen Bunn Talks “The Unsound”

Cullen Bunn is one of the busiest comic writers in the world today. His work has been seen literally everywhere including huge titles like X-Men, Captain America and Star Wars. Working on those high profile comics haven’t stopped him from doing what he truly loves though, horror.

We caught up with writer, Cullen Bunn to talk about his new series from BOOM! Studios, The Unsound.

Horror News Network: Can you talk a bit about how you came up with the concept for The Unsound?

Cullen Bunn: I think it is fairly obvious if you read a lot of my work that sanity (or the loss of sanity) is something that I’ve always been fascinated and terrified by. I live in mortal terror of losing my own mental faculties. When I first started brainstorming this book, I wanted to explore the idea of a deepening madness under the auspices of a haunted house story. Over time, the “house” became a mental hospital.

 

Horror News Network: What can you tell us about the protagonist of the series, Ashli?

Cullen Bunn: Ashli is a young nurse embarking on her first job. She just has the bad luck of taking that job at Saint Cascia, an asylum with a dark history. The thing is, Ashli has some secrets of her own, some that she doesn’t even know about herself. The revelation of these secrets will be a key element to this series.

 

Horror News Network: Can you give us a little more information on the Saint Cascia Psychiatric Hospital?

Cullen Bunn: Saint Cascia is overpopulated and understaffed. It was open decades ago, but was closed down in the 80s due to lack of funding. The rumor is that all the patients who were in the asylum at that time were just released into the world. As with Ashli, there is a hidden part of Saint Cascia, something (literally) beneath the surface. The exploration of this dark side of the asylum will illuminate Ashli’s own secrets.

 

Horror News Network: What does Jack T. Cole’s artwork bring to the series?

Cullen Bunn: The Unsound is a slow burn. It relies on mood and a slowly-building creepiness to lure the readers into the mounting horror. Jack really sells the real world qualities of the story, right along with the increasingly surreal elements.

 

Horror News Network: Is The Unsound set to be an ongoing or limited series?

Cullen Bunn: Well, that depends on reader response I guess! In all seriousness, every series is limited unless it is supported by readers. But, yes, I have a bigger story planned. The first arc is only scratching the surface.

 

Horror News Network: The last few years we have seen you expand to write different genres other than horror. Do you feel spreading your wings has helped you become a better horror writer?

Cullen Bunn: I don’t know that I ever thought about it in those ways, but yes. Exploring other genres and toying with other storytelling techniques reveals new avenues for building terror in a story. It might be that a technique from another genre might help to put the reader at ease or take them off guard. It might be that thinking about another story frees the mind a bit so that solutions and ideas for a horror tale just pop into my mind. But–just as I would encourage a writer to read genres outside their preferred playground–I would encourage writers to write different kinds of stories. It helps to keep the ideas fresh.

 

Horror News Network: In closing, what would you like to tell our readers about The Unsound?

Cullen Bunn: The Unsound is one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever written. Saint Cascia is a dreadful place and we’ve gone to great lengths to make this book as surreal and unsettling as possible.

Horror News Network: Thanks for your time, Cullen! Best of luck with the series.

 

New Clip Unveiled for UFO Documentary, Unacknowledged

IMDb took to Twitter today to share a clip from the upcoming UFO documentary entitled Unacknowledged. Opening with the teaser line, “Roswell was not the beginning,” the clip gives viewers a brief look at what the film will be about. You can watch the entire clip below:

Unacknowledged is narrated by Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame. The tagline for the film is “We’re not alone. We never were.” The film premiered in Los Angeles on April 24th, and it will be available to stream on digital formats starting May 9th, 2017.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network… your one stop shop for UFO news as soon as it breaks!