‘Wytches’ writer Scott Snyder’s 13 picks for Halloween horror

Oct. 28, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.
scottsnyder Wytches writer Scott Snyders 13 picks for Halloween horror

Scott Snyder is the Eisner Award-winning, bestselling writer of "American Vampire," "Batman" and now "Wytches." Click through this gallery for a look at his Halloween horror picks and "Wytches," including an early look at Riley Rossmo's variant cover for the second issue. (Jon Snyder)

%name Wytches writer Scott Snyders 13 picks for Halloween horror

"Wytches" No. 1, from Snyder and artist Jock, came out earlier this month. (Image Comics)

americanvampire28cover1 Wytches writer Scott Snyders 13 picks for Halloween horror

Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque's "American Vampire" stars outlaw Skinner Sweet and onetime aspiring actress Pearl Jones. (Vertigo)

Scott Snyder prefers horror where the humans are worse than the monsters.

That idea, rooted in the Eisner Award-winning, bestselling writer’s early exposure to George Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead,” is at play in his new Image Comics series with artist Jock, “Wytches,” which arrived to enthusiastic reviews earlier this month.

In “Wytches,” the titular terrors look more fearsome than “cackling women around the caldron,” as Snyder put it in a phone conversation with Hero Complex about his favorite horror stories. But what he hopes is more frightening than their bestial, skeletal appearance is that “they don’t come and eat anybody unless someone gives that person to them.”

‘Wytches’ preview: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6

The witches’ far-advanced knowledge of natural sciences means they can do things that modern medicine can’t – guarantee you a longer life, make someone fall in love with you.

“But you have to give them somebody” in exchange, he says. “Hopefully we’re approximating the kind of horror that I love, like ‘Pet Sematary’ or ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ where the monsters are scary, but what’s scarier is the human reaction to them…. They’re just an extension of human ugliness.”

‘Wytches’ No. 2 Rossmo variant | No. 1 Cloonan variant | No. 1 Sienkiewicz | No. 1 Francavilla | No. 1 Murphy | No. 1 Chiang

“Wytches” isn’t the first time Snyder, perhaps best known for his three-years-and-counting run on DC’s “Batman,” has reinvented a classic monster: He won his first Eisner for his and artist Rafael Albuquerque’s ongoing Vertigo series “American Vampire,” which introduced a new breed of bloodsucker that walks in daylight and can be felled by gold.

Hero Complex invited the accomplished horror storyteller to detail his favorite tales in the genre. Here are his 13 picks for Halloween howls, organized by medium.

COMICS

“Locke & Key” by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez: A fan of Hill’s novels “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Horns,” Snyder calls this Eisner-winning comic series “one of the seminal horror stories being told in the last five to 10 years…. ‘Locke & Key’ is such a character piece, and it’s so richly imagined – everything from the town itself, the cast of characters, the sense of slow build. You pick it up and you just read volume after volume after volume. It’s Lovecraftian. It’s a ghost story. It’s a family story. It’s just terrific. If you have not read ‘Locke & Key,’ it really is one of the best pieces of graphic literature in the horror genre in the last decade.”

"Through the Woods" by Emily Carroll. (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll. (Margaret K. McElderry Books)

Emily Carroll’s work: This writer-artist posts short horror comics on her website, some collected in the book “Through the Woods.” “I just really fell in love with her style,” Snyder says. Her stories have “a blend of dark fantasy and also childish fairy-tale quality…. She uses a variety of styles and really plays on this sense of almost pared-down spooky storytelling that feels almost like you’re being told a story around a campfire…. But then as things develop, the stories take a turn into horror that feels modern and immediate. It’s so emotionally cruel all of a sudden.” Comparing her to Kelly Link and Shirley Jackson, Snyder adds, “The kind of horror that Emily does starts out with almost a feel of innocence and then turns incredibly dark, and yet the whole time the art is just stunningly beautiful.”

“Spirals” (Uzumaki) by Junji Ito: The manga series is set in a Japanese town beset by a curse involving spirals. “People keep seeing them everywhere and they inspire these horrible things to happen to them. There’s almost a supernatural quality that drives people mad…. [W]hat it does I think that really demonstrates how graphic literature can convey horror is that the lines themselves, the way things are drawn on the page, the compositions … the shapes of spirals hidden in places, the kind of paranoia you feel … the distant shots of the town, the narration over the page — the way that it gives this ominous drumbeat feel that something terrible is coming. And then the silence in some places. There’s a complete sense of intimacy with the book where it’s different than a movie … you’re reading it and poring over it looking for clues and moving to the next page and being surprised. It’s just very well-designed as a graphic experience of horror.”

“Attack on Titan” by Hajime Isayama: “It’s a really spooky series. It’s really worth checking out.”

NOVELS

"Pet Sematary" by Stephen King. (Doubleday)

“Pet Sematary” by Stephen King. (Doubleday)

“Pet Sematary” by Stephen King: Snyder knows King, who scripted the undead outlaw Skinner Sweet’s back story in the first several issues of “American Vampire” and earlier wrote a blurb for Snyder’s short story collection “Voodoo Heart.” “That was the book that scared me to death,” Snyder says of “Pet Sematary.” “I still think that’s the scariest book of all time. The thing I love about that book is you can feel how intensely personal it is to Stephen King…. He’ll tell you that that book really made him sort of stop. It’s one of the few books he put down because it was too difficult to write because it was so scary — because he had a son who was the same age as [the character] Gage at the time. You realize when a book is that personal, it’s what makes it terrifying. Because you’re putting your own fears out there as the thing fueling the monster. You worry about things like, ‘Am I a good enough father? Was I meant to be a father?’ And then suddenly you’re writing a story about a father who might not be watching his child the right way. And I’m talking about ‘Wytches’ also. That, to me, is exactly where that story comes from. It’s meant to be almost humiliatingly personal in the way it’s about the terror you have as a parent when your child is out there in the world….”

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin (2010): The novel is set both in the present, as a vampire virus spreads, and in the future, with the remnants of society living behind walls in fear of the creatures that come at night. “The vampires are very terrifying and have a totally different set of powers than you’re used to,” Snyder says. “It’s a really wonderful book, just epic in scope and completely heart-wrenching and fully, fully imagined.”

FILM

“Night of the Living Dead,” directed by George Romero: What Snyder calls his all-time favorite horror movie started out as a letdown when he rented it at about age 12. “I was so incredibly disappointed to see it was in black and white,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘This is going to be boring’…. It completely captured my imagination. It creeped me out … and then I realized the next day that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It actually gave me a lot of anxiety…. It caused me real panic. I couldn’t figure out why. It gave me bad dreams, which I’d never had before. Really, in the end, what I realized was it was the first time I’d ever seen a movie where the horror was so engendered essentially by the dark parts of human nature in the characters.” Speaking of how the film ends, he says, “That sense of hopelessness, the bleakness of that, was incredibly, deeply, deeply troubling, and probably too much for me at that age – I was 11 or 12. But the example it set, in terms of what great horror is, has stayed with me.”

Bill Paxton in "Near Dark." (Los Angeles Times archive)

Bill Paxton in “Near Dark.” (Los Angeles Times archive)

“Near Dark,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow: “It’s one of the best interpretations of vampires you’ll ever see. It’s got a good love story, but ultimately it’s about this kind of new interpretation of vampires that are wandering American outlaws. It’s got this incredible indigenous feel, where a lot of what we try to do in ‘American Vampire’ certainly has some of that movie’s DNA…. [I]t’s such an interestingly bleak, wild, rebellious, violent portrait of vampires, and so original and so whole.” He adds that Bill Paxton’s crazy character’s creative use of spurs is “one of the all-time best vampire murders.”

“The Birds,directed by Alfred Hitchcock: “Not to seem pretentious,” Snyder notes when mentioning this film. “Part of the thing that’s scary is you don’t have any bird attacks beyond the mildest things for 30 or 40 minutes almost – just forever, it feels like – and the story is so focused on the characters. There are only these little ominous hints – like the birds on the wire, a bird hitting a window, a bird pecking somebody, just one singular bird…. And it’s a very interesting premise for now. I think right now the vogue, rightly so, is for a sense of horror that’s end-of-the-world horror – zombies being really popular, pandemics, total breakdown of resources and communication – that sense of not just being locked in a farmhouse, but the world being the farmhouse that’s really popular. That movie has that sense of this kind of dread of some unexplained, completely horrifying event that’s everywhere, coming all at once with no warning whatsoever.”

“Let the Right One In,” directed by Tomas Alfredson: Snyder calls it “the best horror movie of the last decade …. If you’re reading this and you have not seen ‘Let the Right One In,’ you must go see it tonight. I would pay for you to rent it. That’s my feeling: It’s that good. It’s the perfect vampire interpretation, where you fall in love with the girl who’s the vampire…. There’s a scene in it, a bullying scene, that’s so horrifying that it’s what you walk away from the movie remembering. It makes the monster seem honorable.”

TELEVISION

“Les Revenants,” created by Fabrice Gobert (based on Robin Campillo’s film): The French series, aired in the U.S. as “The Returned” on Sundance Channel, is about a small town where the dead begin returning – not as zombies, but as they were just before death. “It’s an incredibly rich and heart-wrenching tapestry of stories…. It really caught me off guard as something that has this incredibly high-concept premise that you think they’re going to milk for all the big scares, but it’s actually much more focused on the characters – and to me that leads to a much deeper sort of scare as the story goes forward.”

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter in "Hannibal." (NBC)

Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal.” (NBC)

“Hannibal”: Snyder jokes that this NBC show is on the “other end of the spectrum in terms of subtletly” from “Les Revenants.” “It’s off-the-chain fun” with great visual artistry and a vivid soundtrack, Snyder says. “The performances by Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen are just terrific…. Mikkelsen plays Hannibal so low-key, whereas Anthony Hopkins plays him with a sense of pageantry and scenery-chewing relish, which is great. Mikkelsen plays him cold as a snake and inscrutable and entirely subdued…. You almost wouldn’t recognize him as Hannibal Lecter, and yet he’s scary in the way you want Hannibal Lecter to be.”

“My favorite horror sits somewhere between ‘Les Revenants’ and ‘Hannibal,’” Snyder says. “It has a kind of propulsive, hook-driven, high-concept big new scary thing … and yet it speaks to you with respect as a viewer or reader and gives you characters that are rich enough and compelling enough and engaging enough that you know the true horror of the story is going to come when they get their hearts broken and when they’re in pain, and the monster either reflects or engenders some very ugly part of themselves…. There’s a freak spot between ‘Hannibal’ and ‘Les Revenants’ out there for a show that I’m dying to see, that I know will be great the way that ‘Breaking Bad’ was perfection in terms of that freak spot for drama.”

MUSIC

“Robert Johnson: The Complete Recordings”: A love of Elvis led Snyder to explore older country and blues. “I looked into a lot of that music [for writing] ‘American Vampire,’ and there’s nothing more haunted than Robert Johnson … I love the songs themselves, but also just the feel, the stories around him about the possibility that he sold his soul at the crossroads to get his musical ability…. This music has almost this beautiful quality to it, and it’s exuberant sometimes because it’s newly American and different, and yet at the same time it’s very dark…. It also has a sense of foreboding about things that I really appreciate.”

Blake Hennon | Google+ | @LATHeroComplex

RECENT AND RELATED:

Scott Snyder calls ‘Batman: Zero Year’ finale personal and over the top

Scott Snyder discusses his and Jock’s ‘bestial and primal’ ‘Wytches’

Comic-Con: ‘American Vampire,’ ‘Fables,’ more at Vertigo panel

‘American Vampire’: Rafael Albuquerque talks monstrous ‘Second Cycle’

Scott Snyder talks Stephen King, ‘American Vampire’

Comments


One Response to ‘Wytches’ writer Scott Snyder’s 13 picks for Halloween horror

  1. Olorinstaff says:

    Who? And he wrote what?

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