Alex De Campi is the scarily talented author of comics such as Smoke, Kat & Mouse, My Little Pony and Grindhouse Doors Open at Midnight. She is also an accomplished director of music videos such as Amanda Plummers’s Leeds United, and if this isn’t enough she is game for an interview and incredibly upbeat at signings. Please Welcome her to Unleash the Fanboy.
[UTF] In 2006 You book Smoke was nominated for an Eisner Award, did this come as a surprise at the time?
[ADC]Oh. most definitely. Who gets an Eisner nomination for their first ever published comic book? It was nuts. Totally out of left field. I like to joke that only 3 people read Smoke, but two were on the Eisner committee. I mean, I’m still incredibly proud of Smoke as a book (even if I do think the sequel, Ashes, is better). We were nominated for “Best Limited Series” but lost to Grant Morrison & Co for SEVEN SOLDIERS which was only right and proper. SEVEN SOLDIERS was a much greater achievement.
[UTF] I’m a big fan of most cult movies and was very excited to see the release of Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight. This seems like a difficult project to get off the ground, how did you manage it?
[ADC] On the contrary. It was the easiest project to get off the ground that I’ve ever pitched. From original pitch email to editor, it was approved and through costing within 48 hours. I must say, it gave me a slightly skewed idea of what the pitch process was like! Since then I’ve had series that sat in approval queues for a year, only to be ultimately rejected. (And then picked up almost instantly by another publisher, luckily… after I’d gone off and had a big cry and then gathered up the pieces of myself to try again.) GRINDHOUSE is the best obvious idea that somehow nobody else had before me. A lot of its charm is the format, though: two-issue stories, totally unconnected in theme or content (other than copious amounts of sex, gore and “ew!” moments). A different artist for each story. The stories are fast, nasty and fun, and they get out before you get tired of them. When people have tried grindhouse stories before, they’ve been 6-issue minis… the equivalent of Terence Malick filming Grindhouse, with a 360-minute Director’s Cut. There was a reason these films were like 88 minutes long, tops. But the fan reaction was great to the series, we had a blast writing it, and we’ve got admirers/followers in our footsteps — two more Grindhouse series by other people got announced this year!
[UTF] There are clear expectations with a series such as Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight, the audience is going to be looking for familiar tropes. So far you’ve excelled at honoring the archetypes without descending into cliché. Is this something your conscious of while scripting?
[ADC] Oh yes. I wrote this series because I genuinely, really love Grindhouse (it was pretty much all I watched as a kid, and war films), but I also didn’t want to Tarantino it, and have people being like, “oh, she took that from THRILLER and she took that other bit from COFFY and that character there is the blind girl from THE BEYOND”. I don’t find those stories fun, when all it is, is a connect-the-dots of the writer’s influences or things she’s read/seen. So I deliberately didn’t re-watch any films before starting the series. But I knew every issue had to have one really gruesome scare, usually by about page 10, and some up front sex in the first half too. We tried to vary the scare a lot. I don’t think gore works very well in comics, because after the first page turn to gore, I just start staring at how the artist has drawn the intestines…. or maybe that’s just a thing I do. So each issue changes around the grossness or the scare. I tried to put in things that really grossed me out or creeped me out… oh and I am still super-proud of my “shower scene” spread in the first part of the PRISON SHIP ANTARES (women in prison… in space) arc. That’s how you do a shower scene, folks.
[UTF] Of the Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight storylines released so far which has been your favorite?
[ADC] Ack! That would be telling. I think FLESH FEAST OF THE DEVIL DOLL (the final story arc) is probably the strongest story, technically, in terms of structure and character arc, but there are moments I just love in every one of the stories. I also love FLESH FEAST and BEE VIXENS FROM MARS (the first story arc) because both stories caused, um, dismay among certain members of the publishing team. Bee Vixens intercut sexuality and gore in a way that made some people quite uncomfortable, and of course Flesh Feast has a demoness who ass-rapes truckers and fills them full of gallons of white liquid. I got no pushback on a 16-person gang rape of a teenage girl, but one trucker gets ass raped and people were like WHOA NELLY JUST STOP THAT RIGHT THERE.
[UTF] What’s your process working with so many different illustrators on Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight?
[ADC] I’m afriad it’s not very exciting! I send them the script; they draw it. Certain scripts, like BRIDE OF BLOOD (the rape-revenge story) had a lot more inbuilt art direction than others… that had specific notes about changes in colour saturation and decorativeness of panels, and it was a ton of big grid spreads. Others, like BEE VIXENS, the colour artist Nolan Woodard and line artist Chris Peterson and I decided on a palette (strongly influenced by the lighting choices of Dario Argento) and then they did the rest.
[UTF] In your mind what’s the best schlocky midnight style feature to come out in the last 10 years?
[ADC] It’s not very gory but I have mad love for BUBBA HO-TEP. And I still think that ICHI THE KILLER is the best Batman-Joker film ever made.
[UTF] I must admit I was rather surprised when I saw your Bio at a signing appearance and learned that you also write My Little Pony, How did you become involved in this project?
[ADC] I have a 3 year old daughter who loves all things Pony! And sometimes, when you’re a parent, you just want to do something your little kid can enjoy. So Carla Speed McNeil (also a parent to Pony-loving kids) and I did a deliberately younger-skewed story that the 4-6 set could really enjoy. Also as a writer, it’s nice to change things up. I’d just done a ton of schlock horror… it felt refreshing to do a kids’ comedy-adventure.
[UTF] I’m a big fan of nearly all micro cultures (essentially those that don’t harm anyone), and am curious to know your thoughts on the Brony phenomena.
[ADC] Like you, as long as nobody is hurt, I’m happy people have found something they love and can express their joy in it. I do worry a little, though, about Bronies pushing little girls out of the Pony space, at conventions and in terms of editorial direction of books/stories. Basically, 99.9% of comics are for the main brony demographic (white guys) and if by co-opting Pony, they make the 0.1% of comics/pop culture out there targeted at little girls LESS for little girls and more for them? I will cut them. Nightmare Moon ain’t got nothin’ on me, boys.
[UTF] Your work falls outside of the superhero trope that dominate the comics industry, do you see the space and acceptance for other styles of storytelling within comics as expanding or shrinking?
[ADC] It’s hugely expanding. The whole damn pie is growing. It’s not like Image and Dark Horse are taking share from DC or Marvel. There are MORE READERS. I think we have Comixology to thank for that, in a big way. And some very canny indie publishers who are putting out books that appeal to eager yet traditionally under-served markets: kids. women. teens.
My brain is now constructing a story about a pie that, like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, is stomping all over downtown NYC. Sizzling hot blueberries hitting the street like meteors. People drowning in miracle whip. Everywhere the terrified screams, “COMICS! COMIIIIIICS!”.
[UTF] Is there a traditional style superhero book you’d like to take a shot at?
[ADC] I would write the living, screaming daylights out of a WINTER SOLDIER MAX book. This is a goddamn fact. Or a FANTOMEX book. I’ve always wanted to do a BLACK CAT pulp noir book. I’d also kinda love to write SUPERMAN. Or a proper, teen oriented ULTIMATE WONDER WOMAN / WONDER WOMAN YEAR ONE.
[UTF] What comic do you make a point to pick up each month?
[ADC]Ooh! There are SO MANY. Truly, we are in a golden age of comics. I love Waid & Samnee’s DAREDEVIL. I always pick up SAGA. I always pick up the Brubaker/Phillips book (FATALE, and anything else they do). I love VELVET because it is the Countess Valentina book I always wanted to write and now don’t have to (and holy cats, also the best colours in comics right now). I’m addicted to MS MARVEL. Michel Fiffe’s COPRA I have on subscription and it’s always the most inspirational book in terms of graphic storytelling and lettering. I’m generally picking up a Rick Remender book most months; he is a fantastic writer. I forgot to pick up Kaare Andrew’s IRON FIST last month and will remedy that very soon. There are so many other books I want to try, too, but I’m on a very limited income. YAY! COMICS!
A Special Thanks to Alex De Campi for taking the time to indulge me, this was definitely one of the most fun interviews I’ve done.