Valerie D'Orazio is a former DC editor and comics journalist and current comics writer. D'Orazio has also been an outspoken voice against sexism and sexual harrassment in the comics industry for a number of years and has written a book, Memoirs of an Occasional Superheroine, about her experiences in the industry. D'Orazio was also the editor of MTV's geek-centric blog, MTV Geek, from 2010 to 2013.
Bobby Timony is a Harvey Award nominated illustrator who's worked on a number of mainstream and independent comics. He's currently the artist of Detectobot, a Monkeybrain Comics title.
Earlier this month, D'Orazio and Timony launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund The Horror Lovers, a four issue series that mixes slapstick humor with horror. The pair is seeking $6,500 to fund the publication of the first issue, which will run 32 pages. As of the time of this interview's publication, the Kickstarter campaign had raised $3,525.
I spoke to D'Orazio and Timony via email about their project:
Christian Hoffer: How did the two of you meet up and decide to work on a comic together?
Valerie D'Orazio: Me and Bobby met through the Zuda creators networking base, which my husband was a part of. Bobby and his brother Peter were Zuda instant-winners for their comic The Night Owls. I’ve always been a big fan of Bobby’s work, and thought he’d be perfect to illustrate The Horror Lovers.
Bobby Timony: The whole Zuda experience was really wonderful for me. I met a whole slew of amazing people through Zuda that I still consider close personal friends, Valerie included. We had always chatted about collaborating one day. It feels good to finally make that happen.
Hoffer: What's the basic premise of The Horror Lovers?
D'Orazio: Mild-mannered Terry Aprille, who wanted to write the Great American Novel, finds himself stuck at Bloody Hell Studios—the most low-budget horror movie makers in the world. But when his fiance blackmails him into leaving the studio and working in her father’s advertising agency instead, he gets a change of heart and realizes Bloody Hell isn’t so bad after all. And then the dead bodies start to pile up, and everybody is a suspect—most especially Terry!
Timony: I was sold when Val said it’d be like The Marx brothers meets Ed Wood.
Hoffer: What projects does The Horror Lovers draw inspiration from?
D'Orazio: I grew up reading reprints of the classic MAD magazine and humor comics in general from publishers like Gold Key—I read those even before I started with superhero comic books, when I was barely old enough to read words. And there was something about the frenetic, madcap pace of these stories that really held my attention.
Timony: A screwball comedy script like this suggested to me that I could try something a little different. I pushed my character designs to be a little more rubbery, a little more animated. For inspiration, I drew from some of my favorite cartoonists like Carl Barks, EC Segar, and Jack Cole.
Hoffer: Is The Horror Lovers more of a parody of Ed Wood and Roger Corman's classic b-movies, or is this intended as a more straightforward take on that style of horror story?
D'Orazio: I think The Horror Lovers starts off as a slapstick story about love and friendship—with the B-movie studio as a backdrop—that starts veering off into actual Ed Wood/Roger Corman movie territory as things get weirder. One of my absolute favorite horror movies is Corman’s 1959 Bucket of Blood, which is about a hapless loser turned serial killer who starts turning his victims—who are all pretty awful, except for the kitty cat—into art and becomes the toast of the avant garde world. Corman was very influenced by the art films coming out of Europe at the time, and the movie is way better and more profound than it probably has a “right” to be; he went on later to be on the forefront of bringing many of these foreign films to U.S. domestic distribution.
Timony: It’s not a parody of any specific film, but I guess you could say that it lampoons the low budget horror genre.
Hoffer: I feel like humor comics have long been underrepresented in the modern comics landscape. Why do you think this is and do you feel there's a way to correct that?
D'Orazio: I go back to a phrase you might be familiar with: taking the “smile” out of comics. For the longest time, I think mainstream comics tried to flee from their “funny” roots by being as grim as possible. But you can’t exist by just being on one side of something.
Obviously, comics can be as deep as Watchmen and as funny as The Goon. And I think we, as an industry, are already well on our way to correcting this—witness the bestseller success of Batman ’66 and comics like Adventure Time.
Timony: I can’t really answer why the comics industry is the way it is, but I know there are and have always been fans of humor comics, myself included. I do think they’ve been underserved for a while, but like Val said, that’s changing.
Hoffer: Both of you are longtime comics professionals with plenty of industry experience. How has working on The Horror Lovers differed from working on some of your past projects?
D'Orazio: As a comics professional for almost 20 years, I’ve had the following mantra “beaten” into me: “Is it high-concept enough???” Will it immediately translate into a movie/TV option? What trends is this book riding on the coattails on? And though I am nothing if not highly pragmatic, it isn’t all about that. Sometimes it’s about the magic of finding the right quirky story, with exactly the perfect genius artist to see your grain of an idea into fruition. We forget that a lot of these “BIG IDEAS!!!!” started out truly as actual big ideas, weird ideas, brainstorms, odd and wonderful creatures who emerged serendipitous out of the ether. And so it is exhilarating to take a chance on something like this that I feel so strongly about.
Timony: I often get these jobs where the client says “Can you draw like this?” or there’s a style guide that I have to follow religiously to stay on model. While I like getting jobs like that, and there’s a certain satisfaction I feel when I’m able to successfully recreate the look and feel of an art style, there’s something really appealing about being able to come up with that on your own. Val gave me free reign to design the characters however I wanted to, and that was a lot of fun.
Hoffer: What's the collaborative process between the two of you like?
D'Orazio: Bobby and I grew up with a lot of the the same influences, humor-wise, comic-wise…so it was relatively easy to trust him with the script and go to town. Half the process—at the very least—is Bobby’s intuitive grasp of character design and animating their actions. So if he comes across a part of the script that he thinks a great character or gag might really work in—he has carte blanche to do that.
Timony: Val has really been an incredible collaborator. She has a great way of making me feel like I’m part of a creative team, as opposed to an art-monkey tasked with realizing her singular vision.
Hoffer: Why did you decide to use Kickstarter instead of pitching The Horror Lovers to a comics publisher?
D'Orazio: I acknowledge that in a comics world still full of “traditional” superhero genre and “darker” comics, putting out something like Horror Lovers, to some extent, comes out of “left field.” That’s what makes Kickstarter so cool: it is a built-in marketing research gauge. If there’s a lot of buzz about Horror Lovers and we get funded…if this becomes “a thing”…then I think we’ve earned a second and perhaps even third look by publishers.
Timony: Kickstarting the book was Val’s idea. I’d never run a Kickstarter, but I knew it’d be a valuable learning experience. I’m planning on running a Kickstarter campaign in October to fund a deck of illustrated Monster Pin Up Girl playing cards and an art book, so I’m taking notes. When its time to launch my campaign, I’ll hopefully have a few tricks up my sleeve.
Hoffer: Do you feel that Kickstarter will continue to grow and become a driving force behind comics publishing, or do you think it's largely intended for smaller and local comics projects?
D'Orazio: I think the Kickstarter model will end up being used by by many comic publishers big and small. Maybe not all of them will use Kickstarter, per se, but utilize some form of crowdsourced funding for their projects. That’s why I’m really excited to be in Kickstarter for my own project at the moment, and learn as much as I can.
Hoffer: Valerie, as a (former?) comics journalist, do you think that Kickstarters are being covered as well as they should by today's comics media?
D'Orazio: I think comics media—and especially the Outhouse—is doing a pretty good job so far covering Kickstarters, though I acknowledge the difficulties involved…when you have such a sheer number of projects that want to be funded, so many press releases, and so on. But again: I think this type of publishing model is more and more going to become the future of comics.
Hoffer: What sort of rewards are you offering to those who support your Kickstarter campaign?
D'Orazio: We are offering everything from a special-edition Kickstarter variant cover from Kevin Colden (The Crow, Fishtown) to sketch covers of Horror Lovers #1 from Bobby Timony, to antiqued tin-signs of the cover and original stories written by me made-to-order. I am also offering critiques/advice on other people’s comic pitches/proposals/scripts on several different levels. And we will be having pinups in the first issue from people like Paul Gulacy, Fred Hembeck and Dennis Calero.
Hoffer: Do you plan on making The Horror Lovers available for sale after its been successfully funded and completed?
D'Orazio: Yes, though the success of the Kickstarter will determine how available we will make it, and through what venues.
Hoffer: Do either of you have any other comics projects in the works?
D'Orazio: I just released two issues of a series I created for Bluewater, Beyond, There is another creator-owned project that I am working on with Manny Mederos called Breeder that I am very excited about—featuring a female protagonist that turns into a dinosaur. And other top-secret stuff I can’t announce at the moment.
Timony: I just finished the second issue of Detectobot for Monkeybrain, I’ll soon be drawing a comic for Thrillbent, and I’m working on another short Goblin Hood story on Comixology. When you include the Horror Lovers, I’ve got a pretty full plate.
Hoffer: Are there any final words you'd like to impart on our readership to convince them to support your Kickstarter?
D'Orazio: I really would like to stress how much I believe in Bobby Timony’s work—it literally keeps reaching newer and newer levels of awesome every time he goes back to the drawing board. If you would like to say you helped a future mega-talent get to the next crucial level his career, help this Kickstarter.
Timony: (Thanks Val!) I would just point to the preview pages. Have a look, and if you like what you see, and if you like supporting independent comics creators who are trying something different, then maybe you can kick in a couple bucks and help us out.
If you're interested in learning more about Ed Wood, whose films were cited as an inspiration for The Horror Lovers, I recommend starting with the 1994 biopic film starring Johnny Depp directed by Tim Burton and then moving on to the Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora documentary made the same year. The website of Roger Corman, another inspiration for The Horror Lovers, can be found here.