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Joshua Williamson discusses new Nailbiter series from Image
Image Comics’ new horror book, Nailbiter, is certainly one for the display of violence, guts and gore. And yet, in the eyes of its writer, Joshua Williamson, it is much more.
And though there is a serial killer in our midst here – several, in fact -- Nailbiter digs deep into what serial killing does to the families and neighbors of the people who commit those crimes as much as it does the killers themselves.
Dynamic Forces did some digging deep itself, and what we found out is filed in the following interview with Williamson.
Dynamic Forces: Josh, the cover to Nailbiter #1, which came out in May, is certainly full of blood and gore as this series promises. But the book itself is much more, it seems. Tell us how Nailbiter as a project came to fruition.
Joshua Williamson: For a few years I had been developing the idea of a book about serial killers. Since about 2011. I knew I wanted to create a comic that had small town elements mixed with horror but didn’t want to do Eureka with serial killers, y’know?
After being with a few publishers, we finally settled on Image. Mike Henderson and I had a strong vision for the comic and for what we wanted to do with it. We’re both a bit of control freaks and felt like Image was the only place that would leave us alone and let us do what we wanted.
DF: Tell us about this world, the town of Buckaroo, Oregon, and why it is so unique.
Joshua Williamson: Buckaroo, Oregon, is a small town some ways outside of Portland. People are familiar with the show Portlandia and how quirky Portland can be, but what they don’t know is that is a very small part of Portland. And if you go outside the city a bit it’s like you’re in a different state all together. It’s very interesting.
In Nailbiter, Buckaroo is a rural small town that just happens to have been the birth place of some sixteen of the worst serial killers the world has ever seen. That plus economic difficulties have created a unique dynamic within the town.
DF: And what inspired this kind of book for you?
Joshua Williamson: It had been on my mind for years. It draws from my own interests. Three of my top favorite films are Psycho, Silence of the Lambs and The Shining. Also Jaws, which we could argue was another kind of serial killer.
With a taste in films like that, I’ve always been drawn to create a comic like Nailbiter. Eventually I didn’t see any that fit the bill and made one for myself. One of my rules is “You better want to buy your own book.”
DF: It seems we are seeing more horror comics these days. What makes the genre so popular with writers, and is it as popular with comics fans?
Joshua Williamson: Horror isn’t for everybody. It just isn’t. And that’s okay. But I know I enjoy it. And I write for me.
A lot of comic writers seem to feel the same way. Horror is fun to write. Especially in comics. Because we can use our medium and the awesome comic tricks to create a feeling of dread in the reader.
DF: Compare Nailbiter to Ghosted.
Joshua Williamson: They are both horror books, but while Ghosted deals in the supernatural and is crime heavy… Nailbiter is grounded in the real world and has way less crime going on. The humor is similar in that we try to bring a bit of lightheartedness to the dark goings-on.
But they both feature dark characters with dark pasts in Jackson Winters and Nicholas Finch.
Where Ghosted is supernatural horror, Nailbiter is a bit closer to a thriller.
DF: "A slasher book about the characters" is how you summed up your feelings on Nailbiter. Tell us something about the principal characters here.
Joshua Williamson: Y’know… I know I said that but I sort of take it back. I wouldn’t even really call is a slasher book. It’s so much more than that.
DF: What do you hope to say about serial killers in this series? Should we feel as sorry for their families and loved ones as those of their victims?
Joshua Williamson: Sure. Their lives are ruined as well. They have a different kind of guilt. They feel responsible for the monsters in their lives. The damage that is done. Now, realistically the victim’s families… you should feel worse for them. But, man, the feelings that the killer’s families feel… can you imagine? What if someone you loved was secretly going around killing people? Could you have stopped it? Did you cause it?
As for what I want to say about serial killers… that would give too much away about the plans for the end and I wanted the work to speak for itself in that respect.
DF: Any real-life story behind the character of Raleigh Woods and his "Murder Store"?
Joshua Williamson: Nah. Not so much. Oh I guess sort of. Raleigh Woods just represents that part of the world that wants to cash in on the horrible things that happen in the world.
The Murder Store is based on a store at Universal Studios where they were selling novelties items from the Psycho movie. A shower curtain with a shadow of Mother on it, knives that scream when you play with them, Mother wigs, etc. It didn’t have just Psycho merchandise, but also other Universal horror movies. That always fascinated me. People will sell anything to make a buck.
But also… y’know… I bought some stuff there, too. I can’t judge.
DF: Talk a little about Mike Henderson's art. Creepy enough for ya?
Mike has been perfect on this. So much of this book is the subtle horror elements that Mike and our colorist Adam put in there. There are no two people who could have done this book.
Mike and I had worked together on a few things like Masks and Mobsters and a Ninja Turtle: Krang one shot and developed a working relationship and understanding that shows in the pages. The visual identity of a horror comic is so important. But one thing we didn’t want to do was to make it gross. We wanted to create the unease in the mundane. That is where the creepy comes from.
Mike’s ability with panel layouts and using space as a tool is so perfect. Really, he brings the horror we need.
DF: Projects current or in the near future?
My plate is a bit full. There is Ghosted and Nailbiter with Image, Captain Midnight and Predator with Dark Horse, and Robocop with BOOM. Then there is another creator owned comic on the horizon that I think will surprise people. Way too early to talk about but I’m really excited to share it with people when the time is right.
Those books are my focus right now. I’ve somehow stumbled into the career I’ve always wanted with a nice balance of Work for Hire and creator owned, but all books I enjoy.
Dynamic Forces wishes to thank Joshua Williamson for taking time out of his very busy schedule to answer our questions.
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