The sixth issue of Sandman is in my memory, the most horrific issue in the entire series. When I introduced my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) to Sandman, this story nearly turned her off of the series.
And rereading it I can see why. This issue seems to show Gaiman reaching down to find the most disturbing imagery in his exceptionally vivid imagination. It’s disgusting. Violent. Funny at times, sure, but disturbing to it’s very core.
I kept Janet reading the series by promising that the series shifted from the horror aspect so prevalent in this issue to an exploration of mythology. She kept reading and quickly fell in love with the series (this issue is still not a fave of hers).
I did run into a bit of a problem with this issue as it pertains to these essays, however. I’m not not a horror guy. I don’t really write it, and I don’t consume it often. In fact, if it wasn’t for my wife I’d probably never watch a horror movie (she loves 70s and 80s slasher pics so Halloween, Friday the 13th, Prom Night, etc come on enough to keep me honest). I did go through a Stephen King phase in middle school so I’ve knocked out a ton of his catalog, but I’m certainly not an expert.
As I read Issue 6 this week, with the intent on trying to break down Gaiman’s goals and execution, I felt like a phony.
Instead of faking it, I reached out to my friend David M. Brown of 5D comics. David knows horror. He does amazing work with all his books, but you can check out some of his horror work on Comixology for just 99 cents:
David agreed to reread issue 6 with me and discuss it. Because I literally threw this on him at the last minute, I wanted to use today’s post to introduce him specifically to you (or hopefully ask him some questions you haven’t seen him asked if you do know him), so I sent him a few queries to pick his brain before we sink our teeth into the issue:
Kevin: When was the first time you became engrossed in horror as a genre?
David: I can remember two things that happened around the same time. First, as a kid, my mom would let me choose a movie to rent on a weekly basis. She never seemed to be too interested in what I picked which was good for my little kid curiosity. I remember renting Child’s Play 2 over and over and over again. It took so much joy in being violent and over the top! I was instantly a fan of horror. Looking back, that movie is not scary but as a kid, it was amazing. Second thing that happened that year was I discovered comic books. The Punisher was my go to and although it wasn’t horror per se, it took the same joy in its violent, over-the-top nature that I got the same kind of rush of enjoyment from it.
Kevin: When did you realize it was a genre you’d like to explore as a creator?
David: You know, it’s weird…I never said to myself that I wanted to write horror. It’s just that when I started writing, horrible stuff came out. I’m a nice enough guy and a half way decent human being but man, when I write, it’s very cathartic for me to let the horror flow. My interests are mostly esoteric and dark so I suppose it’s just a natural fit for me. It’s not so much I chose to write horror as horror chose me to write it.
Kevin: Do you have a set of rules or guidelines for your own horror stories?
David: I suppose that depends on the story. I find that horror works best, at least for me, in short story form so that’s where I try to keep it. I think that’s why horror movie sequels usually suck…the magic is gone after the original. As far as guidelines go, I just try to keep everything original and engaging without indulging in jump scares or gore for the sake of gore. Horror, if done properly, shouldn’t need that shock value.
Kevin: You also write some brutal crime stories, The Magician and Mortal Animals spring to mind. Is there a different mindset involved with crime than horror?
David: More than any other genre, crime is most closely related to horror. For that reason, I find it to be a natural feeling to move between the two. Plus, if you look at those books, they each have traditional horror elements peppered in. What can I say, I love the dark side!
I’m going to end this post saying an HUGE thank you to David. He didn’t have to jump at the chance to help me out here, but that’s exactly what he did.
He and I are going to have a facebook chat over the next few days (I’m thinking of it like a game of long distance chess where take turns discussing in a free flowing, if sporadic discussion, which I hope will read as just a talk for you). With that said, I’m not sure if we’ll have another post up this week or not. But I’ll edit this post when it’s up and as always, publicize it on twitter.