Actor/director/creator Dan Fogler grew up watching pulp horror on television, and now he's bringing his own version of pulp to Archaia Comics. "Moon Lake," an original collection of stories in a universe created by Fogler, is set to drop this October and Fogler couldn't be more excited. "It's a homage to a lot of the stuff that I grew up watching like "Tales from the Crypt' and "Twilight Zone' and "Amazing Stories,' so I put all the stuff I used to watch staying up late at night into this anthology," the writer told CBR. "It's my baby."
Readers may know Fogler best as an actor on the silver screen – he played Hutch in the cameo-filled "Fanboys" and Randy Daytona in "Balls of Fury" – or remember him for his Tony Award winning performance in "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," but Fogler is also known as a director, notably for his most recent film which takes place at Moon Lake. "I directed this movie called "Hysterical Psycho,' which was a homage to Hitchcock, like Hitchcock on acid. I thought, "Well, shit man, if I can make Hitchcock on acid, why can't I make 'Hitchcock Presents' on acid?' So that turned into "Moon Lake,'" Fogler said. "'Hysterical Psycho' could have been one of the many stories that happened at Moon Lake. Moon Lake is this inherently evil place for a million different reasons, [located] up north, right near Canada. It's like a crossroads of a million different parallel universes connecting that are leaking evil into our world! It's an anthology, and there's a number of different stories that [are] very tied into our own history, so we've got prehistoric tales all the way up until now."
Some of the tales of Moon Lake are straight from Fogler's creative mind, but some, such as "Desensitized Deirdre," were sprung from a previous collaborative process. "When I was first figuring out the universe, I thought of a character, who I created with R.H. Stavis, who has over the last couple of years become a good friend," Fogler told CBR News. "We were just playing around one day, and Desensitized Deidre came out. She's one of my favorite characters. She is essentially like the perfect cheerleader, straight A's, everyone loves her – but then one day she has the most horrific day of her life. She loses everything, there's a supernatural storm brewing and she gets zapped and she goes insane. She gets hit by lightning, just as she loses her mind and she gets sent to this wonderland; this made-in-cartoon wonderland is what she sees, like if she's feeding lollipops to a teddy bear. In actuality, she's sticking a brain saw into a nurse's face. She and I came up with this ridiculous character in 'The Ridiculous Adventures of Desensitized Deirdre,' and I thought she would be an amazing Moon Lake character."
According to Fogler, Stavis' involvement was the main reason "Moon Lake" landed with Archaia. "I asked her who I could go to to make this happen and she said the classiest people to go to would be Archaia," he recalled. "I met Stephen Christy back when I was at another company, when I was pitching another idea. He and I just hit it off. We're good friends now, so it just seemed like the right choice."
"Moon Lake" is filled with stories like "Desensitized Deirdre" that have a premium blend of horror, humor and irony all in the same story, and much of that comes from the free rein that Fogler gave his creative teams to play in his universe. "I gave everybody a good blueprint to start from. I have a hundred different ideas for stories, so I said to choose one," he explained. "Some of them were full, like 'Desensitized Deirdre.' I created that with Rachel [Stavis]. She's very much from both our brains. Cave Girl is straight from my head, I wrote a whole script for that – this whole history of Cave Girl and Z-Rex, which is a prehistoric character, this incredibly hot witch, which is basically an homage to 'Heavy Metal.' Over the course of the story, she gets this pet, Zombiesaurus Rex, who we affectionately call Z-Rex. The two of them go across the land and they have many, many different adventures. Kind of like 'Samurai Jack,' they walk the Earth and they meet everybody from Robin Hood to Conan. They just meet everybody on the way to where they're going. That has the potential for a lot of different stories. I love that story, and it's straight from my head."
Other journeys readers will take during their stay at "Moon Lake" include "Black Bear Blues," a sick, twisted version of the "Grizzly Man" documentary about a were-bear, "His Final Escape," the story of an escape artist attempting to debunk the horror surrounding Moon Lake, and "Camp Sasquatch."
"'Camp Sasquatch,' is [written by] Tim Seeley and [illustrated by] Robbi Rodriguez. I created this story which is like this slasher, wild '80s film," Fogler told us. "It's like 'Jaws,' except the shark is a killer sasquatch. I'll probably make this movie at some point. It's a slasher movie, but it's also like 'Animal House,' so imagine 'Animal House' meets 'Jaws' where Jaws is the sasquatch. They took that script and they made it their own. Everyone does a scary sasquatch - why not do a sasquatch that almost has a personality of Hunter S. Thompson from another dimension coming to ours to shoot pictures of us 'National Geographic' style, during our mating season? What they turned my 'Camp Sasquatch' into is kind of wonderful, so I'm glad I gave them the freedom that I did."
Fogler is not only the creator of "Moon Lake," he's contributing chapter breaks featuring a character he premiered in his movie "Hysterical Psycho." "I created this obese, Hitchcockian narrator who is just completely deadpan and is flatulent from eating too much moon cheese - he literally is a man in the moon. He lives inside the moon, going insane, retelling the stories of Moon Lake," the creator said in an voice reminiscent of Hitchcock himself. "He's this whacked-out [character], basically Hitchcock, but 600 pounds and he is going insane. He may be on psychedelics, who knows? That's the narrator character, who they allowed me to write, and he introduces all the stories, kind of like the Cryptkeeper. You get to hear his origin and how he ended up in the moon. That's another story, called 'Musical Me.' I wrote that and Brooke [Allen] drew it. I think it's going to be hysterically lovely."
While Fogler has written for the screen and stage, this will be his first sojourn into the world of comics. Well, not actually his first. "When I was a kid, we used to call them 'Budget Comic Books.' Me and my brother used to play the Marvel Roleplaying Game quite a bit when I was a kid," recalled Fogler. "You could create your own character, so I was drawing my own characters all the time and creating comic books for them. I had this character called Doctor Anarchy who was kind of like the Punisher and Wolverine, but he was also incredibly strong like the Hulk. I took all my favorite characters and put them into this one guy who basically walks around beating people up and kicking ass for justice! I would draw the pictures and my brother would write the comic books. Doing that is basically storyboarding, and that's the first step to making a film. Everything ties into everything else. I started pretty early with that, but this is the first time that I'm just writing in the comic book world."
Fogler was a fan of comics from a young age, citing some of his favorites as Todd McFarlane's "Spider-Man" and "Spawn" and the many works of Frank Miller. Despite being a longtime fan of the format, however, this form of creation was not without challenge for the veteran screenwriter. "Fitting everything into the panels [was difficult]. The magic number is five. You've got to get everything down to five panels, and I couldn't! It's hard to do. It's hard to cram all that insanity in there when you want to," Fogler said. "But I'm a good audience when there's an editor involved, and I'm a good editor for myself too. You leave a lot of the babies, but the one you get is something sleeker and tells the story faster. It's really an amazing art form. I love it. Just the fact that I'm making comic books appeals to the little kid in me. It's a dream come true. I just want to make more! [Laughs] Ideas are building up. I wish the process was faster, to get stuff out there."
"You have to be more concise with the words, because you're sharing with the art," Fogler continued. "Hopefully in some cases the words on the page in the bubbles are becoming the art. You definitely have to choose your words, like haiku! You really have to be specific. I was very verbose - you'll probably notice that, especially in the narrator parts. I look at a lot of graphic novels, seeing how they're doing that, and you see whole pages go by where it's no words, it's just beautiful art. It's just panels and panels of action. It's telling a story without the words at all."
Despite these challenges, Fogler said that he found that he would actually take writing for comics over the screen or stage. "There are pros and cons definitely, but I prefer this. Absolutely. I come to it from a very visual perspective, so I'd rather do it like this. It's so much easier," he said. "It seems very silly to me that people kill themselves writing a script, and then they take the movie script, put it onto someone's desk and expect that person to devour it the way you spit it out. They want you to just take it and overnight give you feedback when everyone in today's society is a multimedia level person. It seems like that's why people are making movies out of graphic novels every second. It's really sad to say, but I think the best way to sell your script is to make it into a graphic novel."
As for "Moon Lake," Fogler hopes that this will be the first of many visits through various mediums for audiences to his serial horror location. "Well, if people dig it, which I think they will – even if they don't, I've got so much stuff I want to get out there. I definitely want to do volume one through thirteen of "Moon Lake' and see if it can't translate into television," he said. "'Moon Lake' would be great on television. I think it would be great on Adult Swim or Comedy Central. Of course, I'd like to take the individual stories and spin them off. 'Desensitized Deirdre' and 'Cave Girl' have a lot of potential, and so do a lot of the other characters. There's a lot of room for more stories with them. I think that 'Moon Lake' is a good mothership for ideas. I'm going to make more! 'Hysterical Psycho 2' and 'Camp Sasquatch' will be movies down the line. If I get to half the ideas that I have, I'll be a happy man."