Newsletter #30: The Ghoul's Night

Some thoughts on the making of Night of the Ghoul, a special announcement, and a hearty helping of plugs!

  
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Hey guys, it's Scott.

So, huge, huge day over here. Release day for Night of the Ghoul, the third book from our Best Jackett Press line with comiXology Originals. We Have Demons was two weeks ago, Clear was one week ago, and now here's our third—Night of the Ghoul with Francesco Francavilla, one of my close friends and one of the best artists in the industry. I couldn't be prouder of this book, really of all three, I think. If you like any of them, please go tell the artists, because they're doing next level acrobatics on these things. And I'm just so grateful and honored to be a part of them.

But Night of the Ghoul is the story of the greatest horror movie of all time from the 1930s, called Night of the Ghoul, which was lost in a deadly studio fire that killed a bunch of people and was never seen by anyone. And the comic picks up in the present with a man named Forrest Inman, who's kind of a down-on-his-luck dad who always wanted to be in film, but now works digitizing old movies for this studio. And he comes across the fragments and the remnants of what he believes to be this film Night of the Ghoul, this legendary lost masterpiece, and he watches them. And the story starts with him having tracked down the writer/director of Night of the Ghoul, who is still alive at 100+ years old, but is in hospice care in a rest home out in the middle of the desert in California.

And so, Forrest takes his son, who's also a horror fan (or was before they had a falling out), and the two of them go to this rest home to try and find out the truth about what happened with this movie. And everything spirals into a horrifying, deadly, claustrophobic nightmare from there, because as soon as they walk in and they speak to the writer/director T.F. Merritt for the first time, he tells them they never should have come there, because the Ghoul is real and it's in the building and it's gonna kill all of them.

So, it's one of my favorite books I've ever been a part of, and it comes from a really pure place. The origin story of the book starts in about 2015/2016 when Francesco and I were just chatting about our love of classic horror films. We both were huge fans of all the Universal Monsters, and Francesco does a lot of work on the side doing posters and lobby cards and tributes to classic horror films. And I was complimenting some of them that I had reposted, and we started talking about how we felt with everything going on in the world in 2016, it was time for new classic monster. Wouldn't it be great if we could do a series where we started to create new monsters, but in the mold of things like the Wolf Man and the Mummy and vampires, Dracula, Frankenstein, all that kind of stuff?

And so, I started playing around with it and came up with this idea for a monster called the Ghoul that hides in human hosts and gestates for many, many years, and eventually emerges and causes plagues that will wipe out whole civilizations. And nobody knows how many Ghouls there are, nobody knows how many are still around, all of it. So, it's also the monster in our mythology that's responsible for all other monsters, because the terrible diseases and plagues that it's caused are the catalysts for all these legends. So, for example, a terrible plague it caused made blood not clot and coagulate after you die, causing the myths of vampires. And another one was like a neurologically debilitating parasite that caused the zombie myth and legend. And so, it's kind of the granddaddy of all monsters, even though nobody's ever heard of it.

So, the fun is taking this thing, the Ghoul, which is sort of right now like the little brother, or the B-team monster, for all these other great monsters that you've heard of, and elevating it to royal status. So, it's a lot of fun. I love the book. And one thing I'd say is, I think the movie that Francesco and I were talking about, if I remember correctly, that started the Night of the Ghoul creative conversations was Night of the Living Dead.

Night of Living Dead is like my favorite horror movie of all time, that and Frankenstein. Frankenstein is my favorite book, but Night of the Living Dead—I remember vividly seeing that film because when I was growing up in New York City, there was a video store on 26th Street and Third Avenue called The Video Stop. I still remember it. It was one of the longest lasting video stores in the city, too. So, it was even still there like 10 years ago. I remember the smell of the cardboard boxes, I remember the carpet, I loved going there.

And one of the secrets about it was that it wouldn't rent R-rated movies to kids, but they’d deliver them to your house if you called. So, it was this neighborhood secret, and we would always order the worst films, obviously, like Sleepaway Camp 2 and Silent Night, Deadly Night and all that kind of 80s slasher stuff. And one day I rented Night of the Living Dead, and I was so disappointed when it came and it was black and white. And I must have been like, 10 or 11, maybe 12 years old or something like that. But I was like, “ugh, I’ll watch it, whatever…” And I watched it, and it really upset me and I couldn't tell why. And it gave me legit nightmares. Like, it was the first film ever that caused me anxiety and panic attacks about the possibility of zombies. And I had seen all this other gory, horrifying stuff, and I didn't understand why this film got under my skin so much. And I told people that I hated it. I remember being like, “that film sucks and it's awful and don't watch it.”

And eventually I returned to it years later, when I was more of a teenager. And I wanted to be a writer at that point. And I kind of took it apart and realized why it was so great. For me, it was a perfect example of horror. And I've said this before in the class, I think, but horror to me when done right is like a pure form of conflict, where you're facing off with monsters or villains that are essentially pure extensions of your worst fears and your nightmares about the world, about yourself, about those things when it's done right. So, it's almost like conflict on steroids, because that's what conflict is in drama, too, right? It's just done through different layers. So, this is almost like with all of those layers peeled away in the most raw fashion possible.

But that movie, what I love about it is that it was it was so merciless in its execution. It was about the zombies or was scary at first. But ultimately, it's this pressure cooker, almost theatrical, claustrophobic play about how we deserve the zombies, that we can't get along, even in the face of this horrible cataclysm and this death marching towards us long enough to survive a single day or night. So, it was so powerful, all the characters I thought would survive didn't—the young couple, not only are they destroyed and burned alive at the gas pump, but eaten in front of you. The daughter downstairs who was bitten, which is one of the most horrifying scenes in all cinema, kills her own parents.

[Sorry for all the spoilers, but if you haven't seen the film, it's literally like 60 years old, so you've had a long time to watch it.]

And then the ending, the incredibly powerful ending where Ben, who survived the whole night, is killed by militias coming around who don't even care to to see if he's alive, with all of the echoes of civil rights and the zeitgeist of that time cooked into the DNA of that film. Coming out in the 60s and having that be the monster—the monster is the zombies, but the zombies really are the mirror that reflects the worst aspects of ourselves. That was powerful, and it really stuck with me, and I think that's why it gave me such trouble as a kid. Like, at that point I'd seen Return of the Living Dead, which spooked me out, but was just like a funny horror/comedy gore fest, and Linnea Quigley from that film was like my first crush… anyway, another story for another day.

But Night of the Ghoul, inspired by great classic horror, but done in a way that's more modern with a very spooky twist. I hope you enjoy it. Again, you can get all the books from comiXology Originals: We Have Demons, Clear, and Night of the Ghoul for the price of one issue of one comic a month if you subscribe to comiXology Unlimited. Tyler, if you can stick that link right here:

Subscribe to comiXology Unlimited!

And if you have Prime, you already have access to them. But the goal with comiXology Unlimited—again, the reason I'm shilling so hard for it is because I have so many friends and people I admire and great creators from the past who I've seen on comiXology Unlimited, whose books are available to you for free with that same subscription or for the price of that subscription. So, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Ariela Kristantina, Marc Bernardin, Chip Zdarsky, Jeff Lemire, all those books, over 40,000 books, are available to you to fall in love with comics all over again if you get that subscription. Then you can go to your store and buy everything you want for your shelf. I believe that's the kind of methodology that just strengthens the industry.

So, other news, Detroit Comic Con was awesome. Thank you guys so much for showing up. My hand is sore from signing, but I'm happy and it was great seeing brother Greg and Donny Cates and Ben Percy and Liam Sharp, who are all amazing and you should go follow all of them. And after talking to Donny, I was thinking, for those of you who are taking the class and in the paid subscription format of this newsletter, wouldn't it be fun if Donny came and talked to us next session, a week from tomorrow, about characterization? So, Donny was kind enough to agree. We're gonna have a blast.

I'll look at a couple of his books, and if you want to take a look ahead of time, we're going to look at the beginnings of Thanos Wins, God Country, and then his Venom run. And I'll talk about characterization in general with some of my stuff. And then Donny will come on towards the end of the class to chat and answer your questions and we'll have a great time. He's a good friend, and we always have a blast. So, if you haven't signed up, you can still sign up. All the old classes are available to you, they’re archived in video and audio and all of it. It's only seven bucks a month. So, you sign up, you can take one class, if you don't like it, you can drop it. But I'm very proud of the fact that it's only been going up. So, if you take it, my hope is that you'll love it and keep going because I'm having such a great time doing it.

A couple other quick things. There's some amazing creators with books out this week and next week. This week, please go check out Destroy All Monsters by pals Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips with Jacob Phillips on colors. Legendary team, the Reckless series is amazing. I've loved everything they've done. This one is really, really great, don't miss it.

Also, Gunslinger Spawn #1 by buddy Aleš Kot and Todd McFarlane, Toddfather, who's also a good friend, and Brett Booth, Philip Tan, and Kevin Keane on art, so I'm sure that'll be a huge amount of fun.

And in the coming weeks are big, big releases from friends. We have House of Slaughter from the mind of James Tynion and his amazing series Something Is Killing the Children. The spin-off about Erica Slaughter’s house of monster killers by Tate Brombal, Werther Dell'Edera and Chris Shehan. It's gonna be great. And our brother on a lot of our Best Jackett books, Deron Bennett and his AndWorld Design, are lettering. Check that out.

Newburn, also, by pal Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips of That Texas Blood—Sean Phillips’ son, also, which is my dream, to have my kid come in and be a comic book writer as well, but I feel like all of them are going to go become Ultimate Fighters or something completely the opposite. But I got an early peek at it and it's fantastic. Go check it out.

And a quick plug for other people on Substack who you should check out. Chip, obviously, Kelly Thompson, Rodney Barnes, Saladin Ahmed, James’ Tiny Onion Studios, I mean, he's been on here for a while, Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman, Jonathan Hickman, Sophie Campbell… go follow everyone, because everyone is loving the community and being a part of this and the connection that it allows for us with you. So, thanks again. Anything you want from me, leave me comments, email Best Jacket Press, Tyler will take all your questions. And yeah, let's keep going!

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