Creating Horror Icons with Brian Pulido, Part 1

Thu, July 13th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Dan Wickline, Guest Contributor

Brian Pulido has made a career out of scaring people. From Evil Ernie and Lady Death to the New Line horror properties, Pulido has been crafting tales of fright that has grown an amazing fan following. And now he's firing up the creative kiln once more for two new horror series from Avatar Press. In part one of a two part interview, CBR News sat down for a chat with Brian about his work with Avatar and his approach to the new series "Bad Moon Rising."

In most of your writing career you've been able to focus on your own creations with a great deal of success; but you took on the New Line properties of "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Friday the Thirteenth" and "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," each having their own built-in fan base. What excited you about taking on these characters and what reservations did you have?

I have loved and adored each of these iconic horror franchises as a fan first, particularly their early stories, but I must admit that it was intimidating at first. When Avatar publisher William Christensen pitched me the opportunity to write the books, I said yes, almost as a gut reflex, of course I was excited, then paranoia set in. Could I do these characters justice? Could I inhabit their psyches? Could I spin stories that excited their rabid fan bases? After all, up to then I've only had a bit of experience doing licensed books. These guys are major players.

Thankfully, my fears didn't last long. I was just psyched to start. As soon as I outlined the stories, it felt natural. I believe I was born to do "Freddy speak"..

In another interview you spoke of the characters having their own areas of horror that they cover. What do you see those areas being and how important was that knowledge in your approach to writing them?

Freddy is the trickster character. His type of character appears in all mythologies through out the world. He tricks people into something horrible.

Jason is the unstoppable, undead monster. He makes us confront all our fears of body horror, mutilation and death itself.

The Hewitt family is the most terrifying of all. With Jason and Freddy, you can at least say they are supernatural and get a bit of relief from that, but the Hewitts are real. They're us at our worst and most depraved.

Over the years we have seen many attempts at new horror creatures, but only a handful have ever achieved the iconic status of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface and a small handful of others. What do you think it takes to make a successful horror icon?

They must tap into a fear of the time. The fear in the zeitgeist of the moment. Freddy taps into the missing children phenomenon that was becoming national news when he came into being. That's when you saw the kids on the side of the milk cartons. The news was going front page with the epidemic of missing kids. Freddy put a face to it.

The Hewitt family, and to a degree Jason, taps into the notion of our neighbors being murderers. If you think back on the first "Texas Chainsaw," the news and media were grappling with the serial killer concept. The Ed Gein case was being ruminated on and the Manson family / Tate LaBianca murders were front-page news. Our neighbors, seemingly mild mannered, were capable of murder.

Jason in his purest form is also an expression of adolescent guilt. If you have sex, you're gonna die.

In both "Bad Moon Rising" and "Mischief Night," the "hero" of the story appears to be a heroine. What is it about female characters that make them better leads for horror stories?

What's cool about horror is that there are all kinds of stories. Just look at "Masters of Horror" and you get a sense of how far reaching it can be.

In these particular stories, slasher stories, female leads are both vulnerable and sympathetic. Both men and women can feel vulnerability as they watch Jessica Biel run away from Leatherface. A lot of these stories are about women gaining power in the face of insurmountable odds. They're going from mousy or weak to empowered and enabled. For me, it is natural to tell that story. My character Lady Death went from a girl named Hope to a ravishing bitch goddess that men fear.

Also many of the fans of horror are women, so it is natural to have female leads.

What is your long-term objective with these two new titles? Would you like to see them move on into other mediums?

Absolutely. We'd like them to be movies. While the comics stand on their own, we can easily see these stories playing on the big screen.

"Bad Moon Rising" is set in the fictional town of Hope, Arizona. As a resident of the state, what unique elements do you think the setting brings to a horror story that we haven't seen before?

The land itself is a character. It is isolating. In the desert, it is tough going. It is life or death out there. Whether it is the elements or some desert dwelling creature, you could easily die in three days or less.

I'm modeling Hope, Arizona on an existing town called Jerome. It is a bizarre town, set on the side of a mountain. It has had several citywide fires, its copper mines have gone bankrupt a number of times and today it is populated by locals and artists. The entire town is said to be haunted.

Arizona has a bunch of Ghost towns. These were town that sprang up around a commodity, commonly copper. The towns went bust after the mine dried up or the price on copper went down. As a result, the town's are just plain creepy. They were built for a population of say, ten thousand people, now three hundred live there. They are decrepit, run down and charming.

Black Jack Hatchet is from a time similar to what we see on "Deadwood" or "Tombstone." Since he was a murdering bastard before the mystical nature of his creation came into play, do you feel that western background is a driving force for his killing sprees?

I do. Exactly. I live in a state where Tombstone played out. There are legends of absolutely reprehensible characters killing people for little or nothing. There was a time where the land was lawless and Black Jack came from that time. He has no respect for authority. He wants what he wants and he'll stop at nothing to get it.

When creating Black Jack, there must have been a time when you made the decision to have him speak. What advantages do you find in giving him a voice like Freddy over making him a silent killing machine like Jason?

He'll be a man of few words, but yeah, he does speak. Black Jack, though an unstoppable killing machine with a penchant for horrific violence, is a man of passion. He's searching for a lost love the way, say Candyman was looking for his lost love. That needs to be communicated in what he says.

Your working with artist Wellington Alves on this project; was he attached to the project in the beginning or did he come aboard as the project moved forward and how much has his art style influence your choices in writing?

In this case, Wellington came on board after the script was written. William Christensen "cast" Wellington after he read the script. Not knowing who was assigned, I threw in all the detail I thought necessary to get the point across.

I was pretty lucky, though. As the script was being written, we had Juan Jose Ryp doing character designs based on my drawings. We got to do several rounds back and forth to develop Black Jack's look and weapon - his trusty ax, Mabel. By the time Wellington came on, Black Jack's look was established.

For fans of your work on the New Line properties, what elements of "Bad Moon Rising" do you think would most appeal to them and what elements do you feel are completely unique to this new title?

My stuff is hyper-violent. I'm always after a high body count and inventive way to kill people off. It's a gift, I'm sure of it, but I can come up with some horrific stuff. At the heart of it, I think I know what makes me afraid or grossed out, and can reproduce it.

Now the killing element is not the sum total of the experience. It is the icing on the cake. You need a good story with characters you care about. The monster is only as good as the heroes/survivors in the story and it's important to me that these characters read "real". I can't stand stupid characters in horror flicks. You know what I mean, the overtly curious characters that head toward the creepy noise, not away from it. I avoid those characters like the plague.

I like writing rebel characters or outsiders and they show up in many of my stories.

You're coming up on the fifteenth anniversary of your first published work. How much has your writing changed in that time? What do you know now that you wish you knew back then?

The last three years have been real productive for me. I've written close to one hundred comics, several screenplays, an eighteen-part podcast, some award-winning short films and more, so I think I've really honed my skills to sit down and craft stories.

I know that if I persist, the story will come and if I don't force the issue, the story tells itself to me. It's like meditation. The story is there. I just have to be open to it. It doesn't always work that way. Sometimes writing is just brutal work.

I start the day at the gym and ponder a given story as I'm working out or doing cardio, just zenning out. Details come to me and after the gym and a shower, I'm in my office, writing down what I've discovered. I suppose I'm more at peace with the process.

I'm much more disciplined and systematic. I allow time for research, outlining and writing the story. I have several stories cooking at once. I'm going all the time with stories.

To be honest with you, I'm always out to learn more, too. I constantly educate myself on writing. I'm always looking for a new wrinkle to add to my arsenal.

Come back for part two tomorrow where we dig into "Mischief Night" and why it's always women running from the homicidal maniacs.

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