By: Nicole D’Andria
Get ghosts, action, and heart when you back HAUNTING #1 on Kickstarter! This week we talk to creator/writer Phil Falco about his supernatural horror comic.
The ongoing series HAUNTING starts with the cantankerous teenager Bram, who’s constantly followed by restless spirits. These ghosts have killed the people around Bram and he hasn’t batted an eye… until he and an innocent bystander by the name of Faith run into a vengeful man from Bram’s past. Will Bram be able to face the consequences of his power? Find out in HAUNTING!
In addition to creator/writer Phil Falco, the creative team includes artist Anna Wieszczyk, who has previously worked on Spera Ascension (Archaia) and the Alterna IF 2016 story “Superpowers.” Colorist Andres Samboni and letterer LetterSquids round out the rest of the crew.
The book has exceeded its $1,500 goal, meaning if you pledge now, you’ll be part of a successful project ending on May 3, 2020, at 9:00 PM EDT. Rewards include digital ($5+) and physical ($10+) copies of HAUNTING #1, a “Faith” variant ($25+), a detailed commentary about the making of the comic ($40), plus a digital bundle of independent comics including Mike Shea’s Miskatonic High #1, Kathryn ‘Comic Uno’ Calamia’s Like Father, Like Daughter #1-2 and Brant Fowler’s The Last Ember #0 ($50). Check out all the reward tiers on their official Kickstarter page.
Let’s talk about the spooky HAUNTING #1 with writer Phil Falco.
Me: What inspired you to create the story of HAUNTING?
Falco: Interestingly enough, HAUNTING did not start out as a supernatural horror comic. It began as my reflection on the concept of guilt and accountability. I think it’s fair to say that your average protagonist – especially in comics – is oftentimes a sin-eater. Heroic characters are so often weighed down by massive amounts of guilt. Guilt at the people they couldn’t save, at the bystanders they’ve hurt, and at the villains they’ve indirectly helped to create. I think the reason we see this so often is because we expect our paragons to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. We expect them to be responsible and accountable.
With this in mind, I wanted to tell the story of a protagonist who undeniably causes pain, and destruction, and death wherever he goes. One whose very presence is guaranteed to lead to innocent people getting hurt. But one who completely refuses to take responsibility for any of it. Sure, he may cause ghosts to appear. And sure, maybe those ghosts kill a few people. But he doesn’t control them. He didn’t ask for them to appear. Therefore (in his mind at least), it’s not his fault. I’m very interested in exploring this character’s journey and the morality surrounding his ability.
Once I had the character and theme nailed down, the story quickly transformed into a supernatural horror comic because of my love for the genre. I mean, who doesn’t love a good ghost story? And what better way to have our lead cause destruction and death than by literally raising the dead?
Me: What supernatural stories does HAUNTING take inspiration from that fans will enjoy?
Falco: Careful, if you let me, I can prattle on about my inspirations forever. To name only a few: Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Drag Me to Hell, The Haunting of Hill House, Poltergeist, and The Exorcist.
I wouldn’t say that HAUNTING is analogous to any one existing supernatural horror story, but rather that I strive to take a little piece of what I love about every supernatural story and make it my own. My favorite thing about the supernatural genre is that, when the story is told right, the human characters and relationships are just as (if not more) interesting than the supernatural entities that anchor the story. The way that the characters interact with the fantastical, the fears and character flaws that are brought to light by their experiences, and the ways that their relationships are challenged – these are my favorite part of any given supernatural story. And this is what I’m most excited to explore in HAUNTING.
Me: As a supernatural story, how will your ongoing series HAUNTING stand out among other stories in the same vein?
Falco: I think in most supernatural stories, the narrative is squarely centered on the supernatural entities. We follow human characters reacting to the paranormal and fighting off supernatural entities. And the story ends when the supernatural entity either wins or is vanquished. Victory doesn’t come as easily in HAUNTING where the ghosts are omnipresent. You can beat one or two ghosts, but there will always be more wherever Bram goes.
Even more than that though, I believe that what sets HAUNTING apart is that the ghosts themselves are not what drives the plot forward. They’re an important part of the story, but at its core, Bram himself and his ability are what propels the story. His presence, his reactions, and the relationships he forms with those around him. Hell, at the start of the first issue, ghosts are so mundane for Bram that he hardly even reacts to them anymore. And while I am definitely excited to see tons of ghosts and action, the thing I’m most excited to do is to explore the effects of Bram’s ability on himself and those around him.
Me: How would you describe the main characters of HAUNTING?
The first issue of HAUNTING has three main characters: Bram, Faith, and Deacon.
Though he is our series lead, I would hesitate to describe Bram as a protagonist. As stated above, the entire series is effectively a character study of Bram’s fatal flaw: his irresponsibility and his lack of empathy. He has spent his entire life turning a blind eye to the destruction he’s left in his wake and to the deaths he’s indirectly caused.
Unfortunately for Bram, his neglect is about to catch up with him in the form of Deacon, our antagonist.
A mysterious and vengeful man from Bram’s past, Deacon has dedicated his life to hunting down our series lead. Single-minded and ruthless, he does not care how many people he has to kill to accomplish his goal and find his prize.
Faith, our protagonist, is a small-town girl who gets caught up in the middle of the conflict between Bram and Deacon. She is empathetic, patient, and kind. Like our other two leads, she has experienced great loss and tragedy in her life. But unlike them, she does not use her own misfortunes as an excuse to cause pain to those around her. In many ways, Faith is the guiding light of the series and I expect will be the character a lot of readers latch on to.
Me: How did you go about finding your creative team and why did you decide each of them would be a perfect part of the HAUNTING ongoing series?
Falco: I connected with the entirety of our creative team online. Once the story was outlined and I completed the first script, it was all about the research. I spent weeks familiarizing myself with every step of the process that goes into making comics and talking to other creators about their experiences starting out. There was a lot that I already knew as a comic book fan, but it’s an entirely different perspective thinking about comics as a creator rather than as a reader.
Once I was comfortable with my knowledge base, I spent the next few weeks scouring Reddit, Instagram, and Behance for artists and posting ads on every forum I could find. In the end, I reviewed dozens of different artists, colorists, and letterers before finding my team. I’m very fortunate to have met such talented collaborators, and it was a no-brainer partnering with each of them once I saw their talent and their passion.
I immediately connected with Anna Wieszczyk, our artist, as a fellow horror fan. In addition to being a talented horror artist, Anna is a skilled character designer. HAUNTING is very character-driven, and thus it was important to me that I find an artist who was up to the challenge of creating visually unique and striking characters with me. Anna has everything I was looking for and more!
With Andres Samboni, our colorist, I was wowed by his use of shadow. Lighting is an essential part of any story but it is especially important in horror. Andres strikes a perfect balance of setting the tone with his colors while always ensuring that the characters pop against their backgrounds.
I happened across rave reviews for LetterSquids while I was searching for our colorist. He won me over with just one sample page. His work on the ghost dialogue is some of my favorite lettering I’ve ever seen!
Me: Some of your rewards put a spotlight on other people’s books, including Mike Shea’s Miskatonic High #1, Kathryn ‘Comic Uno’ Calamia’s Like Father, Like Daughter #1-2, and Brant Fowler’s The Last Ember #0. Can you talk about your connection with these books?
Falco: The first and primary reason I chose these titles is simply because I’m a big fan of each of these books and their incredibly talented creators.
But even more than that, I wanted to offer some variety with this reward. One of the greatest things about comics is that they’re such a flexible medium. The number of stories that can be told through comics is limitless. And I really love the idea of one pledge reward giving you a supernatural horror comic, a Lovecraftian monster comic, a superhero comic, and a magical fantasy comic. It feels like a real bang-for-your-buck to get such a wide assortment of stories, I think!
One thing I love about all of these books is that, even with their incredible diversity, all of them are coming-of-age stories. All of them center around young protagonists being thrust into a world they don’t understand. I find this to be such a relatable and engaging premise, and one that I also think complements the arcs of both of the HAUNTING’s protagonists.
Me: Have you run into any unexpected issues while running your Kickstarter during the pandemic? Do you have any advice for creators looking to run a crowdfunding campaign during these chaotic times?
Falco: We certainly did not expect to launch our first issue in the midst of a global pandemic. One thing that we have learned from the experience is that we need to be nimble and roll with the punches. Ever since the Diamond shutdown, many comic book fans have been hurting for entertainment. We’re proud to play a small part in filling that role and giving people a new comic to look forward to. A friend of mine has always said that there’s never a “good” time to launch a Kickstarter. And while I agree with her, I think that this experience has taught me that there is never a “bad” time to do so either. If you have a product you believe in and you work hard to get it in front of people, you will find your audience.
Me: What’s the number one reason why people should pledge money to your Kickstarter?
Falco: I think one thing that these difficult and uncertain times have made clear to everyone is the importance of entertainment. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we foster creativity and welcome new voices in entertainment.
…and more selfishly, you should support this project because I’m very passionate about it and want to keep making more HAUNTING! I honestly believe that the series has something for everyone and I encourage you to check out the six-page preview on our Kickstarter page
Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?
Falco: Very simply: you can do it. If you have passion, dedication, and an interesting idea, you can make a comic. All of the resources you need are out there at your fingertips. Just take it one step at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed. Everything starts on the page. So don’t wait, just WRITE!
And let me add that the indie comics community is one of the most welcoming and supportive groups of creators around. I am shocked time and again by how welcoming this community is of new creators.
Me: Thanks for your time, Phil, and I hope you continue to create spooky stories for us to enjoy during these dark times! If you’re an interested reader ready for a supernatural experience, check out the HAUNTING #1 Kickstarter here.
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