In comics, the horror genre can be tough to crack. Generally these stories inspire a mood that not everyone is interested in experiencing and only those horror comics that can truly engage their readers with a rich story and a deep mythology tend to survive. In other words, the stories that last are those that are most human. In Sanity, AZ, a collection of horror stories in graphic novel form, is a collaborative effort from four writers and twenty different artist that may just survive the test of time. Rush Urbalejo caught up with one of the writers of this new book, James Ninness, at this weekend’s Amazing! Arizona Comic Convention and James was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk about this interesting collaboration.
Kabooooom: So tell us a bit about In Sanity, Az.
James: The whole book is a series of vignettes. We have four writers, just over twenty artists, and it is a bunch of short stories that all take place in the same town with the same characters. Though they’re stand alone [stories], there is an over arcing kind of narrative. Very dark, definitely horror, but more the suspense horror than the graphic naked-girls-running-away-from-a-guy-with-a-chainsaw horror.
So, we are talking more Hitchcock than Eli Roth, right?
Right! Well, there are definitely moments of Eli Roth. Anytime you have like thirty people collaborating on a book, everybody comes at it with their different ideas for horror. Really, the whole thing when we first started…We actually had four writers in a cabin in the woods. We turned off everything and we tried to figure out what scared us. Then, we give that to an artist and they have, you know, they have their own ideas they want to add to the story, and that’s what we wanted: we wanted this to be fully collaborative. So, while you’re reading it, there are going to be some stories that are more funny and silly scary, and then there are some that are downright disturbing. Everything from killing families to putting weird things in your food…It kind of runs the whole gamut.
The stories all take place in the town of Sanity, Az. Are all of the writers Arizona natives?
No, not at all! We are all from California, I’m from San Diego. What it was is that we went to Phoenix Comicon a few years back and we were all in the car driving and we noticed a lot of small…just groups of buildings in the middle of the desert. It looked like people were living there and it just tripped us out. We were like, “who does this?” We wanted to stop for gas and kind of look around but then we felt like we were the ones being creepy. That’s actually what started the story. When we started this, it was from the perspective of the townspeople who think they are normal. If we were to stop and start poking around the town, then we’re the weirdoes, right? So, we wanted to kind of write this from that perspective. Yes, these people are insane but when outsiders come in, they look at us like we’re the weirdos.
Being that this is horror, is it safe to assume the book is aimed at an older audience? In other words, readers shouldn’t pick up a copy for their little one, right?
Absolutely. I have two children: I have a four year old and a two year old. I write stuff for them and I write stuff not for them. This is definitely for the grownups. I would NOT let my children read this book; I wouldn’t let my grandparents read this book. We are definitely targeting a very specific audience.
This project was funded through Kickstarter, correct?
What was the hardest part of that process? What was the toughest obstacle to overcome?
Getting the word out. We were fortunate in that we had twenty-four people involved, so that helps. That’s huge. Usually you have two creators, maybe three, and they’re using their network. Because we had such a wider net that we could cast, that was nice. Unfortunately, I think a lot of Kickstarters just aren’t able to get people talking or looking at their book. And if they do, sometimes the project just isn’t enough. You have to have something that people want to look at then get them to look at it. We were blessed to have a few people that are kind of already working in this field, spreading the word for us to help us out and that was the toughest part: just getting the word out. I think most people who saw the trailer, what we were trying to do, once we got them on the site, threw a couple bucks our way. We ended up clearing ten thousand dollars, I think, which was just enough to pay all the artists. Now the writers are selling the book and trying to make their money.
You mentioned earlier that you also write some stuff for your children. What else do you write?
I actually…I try to write whatever I’m interested in. A lot of the stuff I write is definitely darker, I guess. Maybe it’s just weirder…”Weirder” is probably a better word than “darker”.
Yeah! I mean, I just wrote a book that I can’t really talk about but it’s about space truckers and weird aliens that are genies…It’s just bizarre. It’s this whole weird thing and I think that’s the kind of stuff I like. Sometimes, it tends to be scary but other times it tends to be funny. It really just depends on the audience I’m writing for, I guess.
Alright, any advice for aspiring creators out there?
Work everyday and don’t worry about pleasing everyone. There are going to be people that hate your stuff, and that’s ok! There are also going to be people that love it.
Thanks to James for taking some time to talk to us! You can find more information on this, and James’s other works, on his website. For those that are anxious to grab a copy of In Sanity, AZ, take a trip over to Amazon and pick it up today!