It has been a minute since we last posted an interview here at PanelBound, and if I’m being honest, I have no one to blame but myself. But hey, that’s all in the past. We’ve got some really great interviews lined up here for the future, and we are starting with none other than the marvelously talented Paul Tobin.
Paul may have creeped you out recently. You just didn’t know it. The cover for the first issue of his brand new comic Colder was brutal to say the least.
Like I said, brutal.
Paul has been working in comics for years as a writer for houses like Marvel, DC and now the home of Colder, Dark Horse. As an industry veteran, this writer had an incredible amount of knowledge to pass along regarding working in comics and creating truly terrifying horror.
You have had a very successful career as a comic writer, how did you first get started in comics?
A couple of chance meetings, really. I went to college with Phil Hester, and he’d been doing comics, which was honestly the first time that I realized it was POSSIBLE to just… make comics. I thought creators needed special badges or something, I guess. We started to do work together, and I had fun, but can’t say how serious I was about it. I stepped out of the industry for a long time, basically until my wife, Colleen Coover wanted to make comics. I taught her how to do things, and then momentum kept me going. Then Jeff Parker asked if he should send in my name to Marvel Comics. I said, “Sure.” He did. Then, Marvel said, “Write for us.” I did. Lately I’ve been more focused on creator-owned material, but I still love Marvel / DC, and so many of the characters out there.
You’ve worked on hero comics, indie comics and adventure comics. Your latest book Colder is a horror book, why horror now?
I kind of roll with my desires, really. I wrote so many All Ages books that I was starting to become known as an All Ages writer. Always a danger to be typecast. So I began to purposefully spread out, work in some of the other genres that interest me. I’ve always had a strong interest in horror, so when Scott Allie at Dark Horse asked if I’d like to do some horror comics, I was all over it. I love writing creeping, unrelenting unease.
The first cover for Colder was brutal and really chilling, how did you and artist Juan Ferreyra decide on that design?
That one’s ALL on Juan. When the horror line was getting underway at Dark Horse, theme was “Dark Horse horror… it gets under your skin.” So Juan thought about that can came back with a really chilling raw version of what ended up as the cover. He sent it to Scott first, and his wife couldn’t even be in the same room with the image. I thought that was funny until I found out that Colleen wouldn’t be in the same room with it, either. So, we knew we had a winner, and also I made it my screen saver for a few months just to be mean to Colleen.
As a comic writer, what have you found is the hardest part about breaking in and staying in the comic industry?
The unrelenting pace. There’s never a good time to rest. You aren’t always writing or setting up new writing. There’s no “or” to it. You will ALWAYS be writing AND setting up the next project. And you’ll be cleaning up the old ones. Just because a writer finishes a script doesn’t mean she’s done with it; she’ll have to herd it through rewrites, layouts, pencils, lettering, coloring, etc. Meanwhile, it’s writing new material, setting up new jobs, doing promotion, etc. It’s a hectic pace. Burn out is a real problem. That’s one of the main reasons I like to work in several different genres, because it keeps me fresh.
What is the key to writing a great horror comic like Colder?
I’m a huge fan of letting the audience help with the tension, building the horror in tandem. I grew up on “scare tactic” horror movies… axes to the head and killers leaping from closets, that sort of thing. But that’s cheap. It’s easy. And it doesn’t last. It wasn’t until I started watching Japanese and Korean horror films (Ichi the Killer, Audition, etc) that I really began to understand how I felt about horror. I like the slow tapping… the torture of having no control, of the world shifting beneath the character’s feet in slooooooow fashion. The moment the killer jumps through the window, the tension is broken. I don’t like the tension to be broken. NOW the characters can fight back. I like tension to build… and build… and build… and leave everyone helpless.
Declan is such an interesting and manic character. Where did the idea for Colder originate from?
The title came before anything else. I like the blunt aspect. And it comes with a question… WHAT is colder? Colder than WHAT? So it was effective that way. Afterwards… hmm… there wasn’t much process. Sometimes there are just things in my head and I don’t know where they came from. I hope that they come from a good place, but if not, well… I still love them.
Any advice for aspiring comic creators?
Just don’t quit. And don’t stop growing. When people say you aren’t good enough, don’t believe them, but get better anyway. Why not?
If someone isn’t reading Colder, why should they be?
Even if you don’t like horror, I think Juan Ferreyra’s imagery sells the book on its own. He’s led us into some really dark areas by creating some really wonderful art. And if you DO love horror, well… then you can share that love with a couple of creators who love it just as much as you do, and that love shows through by how many people have asked us, “Are you guys… really and honestly crazy?”