Conskipper may be brand new, but our journalists have been covering the world of pop culture conventions for years. The following interview was originally conducted by John Evans as a freelancer on August 11th, 2019.
Between his successful Kickstarter initiatives and the upcoming 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking Nocturnals comic franchise, writer/artist Dan Brereton is one busy guy. His appearance at Terrificon 2019- his first convention ever in the state of Connecticut- delighted fans, who showed up in droves to shake hands, seek autographs, and support the Hero Initiative (a program designed to provide financial support and emergency medical aid for comic creators in need) with cash donations. We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Brereton on the first day of Terrificon to discuss the world of horror which has greatly influenced his work, and his own artistic process.
What was your experience like with the horror genre when you were growing up?
Dan Brereton: When I was a kid I didn’t like horror movies. I grew up scared of the dark. It was scary when the lights went off in my house, the result of an overactive imagination. I remember when Trilogy of Terror aired on the television, I took a really long bath to avoid having to see any of it! I remember on my first Halloween (at almost two years old) I was dressed up in a little devil costume and I recall a driveway that was set up with witches cauldrons expelling dry ice smoke in the air. My grandmother and aunts had on witch masks and outfits and they cackled at me in high pitched voices, saying they were going to put me in the pot. I started crying, but then they spoke to me through the masks in their regular voices, saying everything was okay and it was just pretend. This obviously stayed with me, but as an adult I’ve come to see it as a rite of passage into the worlds and stories I’ve immersed myself in as a creator. Superhero comics had the same affect on me later at age 8.
Halloween and comic books became a safe and fun way to deal with my childhood fears.
What were the ways in which you began to embrace your fears and fall in love with horror?
Brereton: Drawing monsters was a way out of being afraid. The monsters I would draw were mine and they wouldn’t hurt me. Even in high school, I wasn’t a big fan of the slasher movies like some of my peers were, I liked comics and books such as Man-Thing, where the monsters weren’t out to hurt people. Daimon Hellstrom of Son of Satan looked scary, but he was a good guy.
Reading the works of Stephen King, Mary Shelley, Clive Barker, and H.P. Lovecraft was a big turnaround point for me. Bernie Wrightson’s illustrations for Frankenstein just blew me away. He created the definitive artwork for that novel. Eventually my love of books spilled into movies. Alien was the first scary movie I ever saw. I remember reading the novelization first so I could know what was coming. Everything about it was so captivating, but I closed my eyes for the chestburster scene! Once I got into horror movies, I was sucked in by the adrenaline rush. One time in high school, my friends and I bought a ticket for Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and we turned it into a triple feature and stuck around for The Road Warrior and The Thing! Everything about The Thing was incredible. The special effects were mind-blowing, and the story and the characters pull you in.
Are you interested in any contemporary horror films, or do you mainly focus on the classics?
Brereton: I love Midsommar and Hereditary. Several of the current films, I would say- while many remakes are typically disappointing and soulless. Mandy and Revenge are also incredible. These kinds of movies aren’t just repackaging the classics like some of the inferior material that’s out there right now, they’re digging deeper with their storytelling.
What influenced you to write and draw comic books, rather than enter the world of novels and films that you also love?
Brereton: Comic writing comes to me the most naturally. Writing for comics or for any format or medium ( screenplay, prose) it always starts as a story – I have the notebook app on my phone , my composition books and sketchbooks to fill with written and sketches ideas. But once I sit down and do thumbnail layouts for a story all of it is boiled down in that rough visual narrative – which often takes me to different places . Sometimes there’s too much , and I have to start cutting scenes – and adding in others . It’s much easier to edit when you’re looking directly at what are rudimentary comic book pages and panels .
I also love being able to experiment visually with the way stories are told. When I was younger I used to be caught up in the artwork and let the story carry me along and when creating characters, I fill sketchbooks – it sometimes a name occurs to me and a visual comes along with it.
Nocturnals sprung from all of these influences and desires. I wanted to create monsters that weren’t out there hurting or scaring people. My monsters were fighting battles at night so we could all sleep peacefully.
Watching you interact with your fans at your table, it’s clear you want to make sure everybody has a wonderful experience. When you drew a Batgirl sketch for the kid with the sketchbook, his eyes lit up as the drawing began to take shape. What’s your philosophy on fan interactions?
Brereton: When someone hands over a sketchbook to you and it’s full over other artists’ work, you see what everyone did before you and you ask yourself, ““Am I good enough to stand toe-to-toe with these artists ?” It’s somewhat of an unspoken challenge for many artists , which often results in the owner having a sketchbook full of great work. Ego is such a pain in the ass! I want people to walk away happy. People coming up to you and being nice to you, that’s not something I grew up with. I want to show my appreciation for it.