Between the Balloons

When I reached out to Amanda Deibert and Cat Staggs it was to talk about their upcoming work on John Carpenter’s Tales for Halloween Night, Volume Two.  When it was all said and done we tackled everything from horror genre staples to the massive amount of work each of them have out now and coming soon.  Amanda is a TV and comic book writer, as well as an actress.  Some of her most recent work includes an issue of Wonder Woman ’77 and a low budget horror comedy, Helltown.   Cat is an illustrator who has worked for DC, IDW, Image, and even Lucas Film.  She has an upcoming series at Image Comics with Gail Simone called Crosswind.  In between all that they manage to enjoy classic horror films and raise a family together.

Two Headed Nerd / Ryan Mount: How has the collaboration process been for the two of you?  You being married and having a family, I imagine that the dynamics are different when working together instead of an outside creator?

Amanda Deibert: I love working with Cat.  I’ve worked with other artists and they are great and the work is beautiful, but with Cat I get two things. One: Her work is amazingly gorgeous so I am spoiled and have high standards with everyone, but when she’s the artist I know those standards are going to be met. Two: we have a shorthand. I know when I write something that she “gets” it so I can be a bit breezier in my descriptions and also her studio is in our home so if she has a question or wants feedback I’m right there. Mostly this just means I get to peek at the art in process and die over how lucky I am.

Cat Staggs: Like Amanda said, the shorthand is great. It’s not often that you get that kind of effortless collaboration so when it comes along it’s amazing. It’s the rare chance to get to tell a story in exactly the way both of us envision.

THN: As creators and parents, have you looked at the genre any different since becoming parents?  I have spoken to a couple of friends who had children and they tend to shy away from the genre since becoming parents and was curious if either of you had a shift in your perception of the genre since becoming parents.

AD: I wish I could say “no” but there are some things I can’t do anymore. Basically if anything horrible happens to a baby or young child I am out. And I mean not even in horror… like if a baby is left unattended too long in a sit-com I’m out… it’s crazy and sad and I blame hormones and love. If the horror stays in the adult only realm I’m fine.

CS: Honestly, I am waiting to be able to watch some of my favorite movies with her, that’s what I’m looking forward to… Otherwise, I’m fine.

THN: Whether it be film, television, or comics, the Horror Genre really thrives in the Anthology style of storytelling.  What aspects of storytelling do you believe helps perpetuate this across all mediums?

AD: I know I love seeing how different people approach a theme and an anthology gives you that in a way that not much else can. You get a small but satisfying taste of each artist’s point of view that both stands alone and compliments the others (when done well).  I know for me personally, it fuels my creativity to see different approaches together and how they are each fascinating/beautiful/scary/thought provoking in their own way. It reminds me that we all have a unique voice and that is an incredibly great thing.

THN: Why do you think Horror above all else thrives in this story style?

AD: I’ve never thought of it as a horror-centric thing as I’ve certainly been involved in other types of anthologies within the comic book world, but if I had to venture a guess I would say that it works because great horror comes with a strong point of view. We all have our own personal histories/demons/fears/fantasies and when you can bring so many together at one time that is very powerful and also ensures that even if one thing doesn’t hit home for you something else surely will.

THN: I know you both are fans of classic films such as The Fog, Carrier, Poltergeist, but any other horror films you are into?

AD:  I love the Hammer films, but for purely lesbian reasons that have everything to do with my libido.  they are amazing on so many levels. I will forever be grateful to my friend Stacie Ponder for introducing me to them years ago. I’m a huge fan of Ingrid Pitt, so my favorites are The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula. And if you’re looking for their biggest successes I’d say probably The Curse of Frankenstein and Dracula.

THN: There has been a long tradition of the horror genre (in both film and comics) to lean on attractive women in small amounts of clothing and lack of mental prowess.  Do you see the genre evolving past that?

AD: Oh, this comes right after my lesbian fantasy Hammer films confession… But seriously, yes, I do think people are continuing to evolve and realize that women are human and can be interesting and compelling and strong and awesome… Although, I would argue that there have been some really strong final girls all along. “Halloween” being one great example.

THN: When putting together your story for John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night Vol 2 did you give any extra thought to those women stereotypes? Did you avoid them?  Did you embrace them?  Or did you tell your story?

AD: Look, I’m a woman. That’s just part of who I am. I’m also a writer and when I tell a story I am there to tell a story. I told a story that fed into the kind of horror I enjoy. Is it informed by my being a woman? Sure, as much as it is by everything else about my life because my writing comes out of my brain, but ultimately I am here to tell the best story I can tell and in this case to hopefully scare the shit out of you and entertain you, too. The women and the men in my story are characters who do some messed up shit and some messed up shit happens to them too.

THN: So, what can you tell us about the upcoming story in John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night?

AD: There are some crazy turns in our story so I don’t want to give too much away, but a man kills his wife pretty immediately and violently… and then she really starts to bother him. It’s very twisted, violent and even a little sexy at times.

CS: It’s not something I get to draw very often which makes it fun for me. I think people are going to be surprised and disturbed.

THN: I watched Hell Town because I am a sucker for low budget horror flicks and it being October, what better time than now.    And I loved it, hit me right in my sweet spot between Piranha and The Lost Skeleton of Cadvra.  Tell me how you got involved with the project.

AD: I had smaller roles in two of Steve Balderson’s previous films and he is amazing to work with so when he asked me to come on board for Hell Town I was overjoyed.

THN: Do you typically enjoy the Horror-Comedy genre?  As a writer and as an actress, is it harder to act and/or write with a purposely satirical script than with a more straight-forward script?

AD: I’d never done horror-comedy before, but I had been in a few other low budget horror films and I primarily work in comedy so it was a natural fit for me. The thing with acting in a film that is so ridiculous is to take it deadly seriously…because the character I am playing is a soap actress within this soap and SHE takes it deadly serious. Both of the directors, Steve and Elizabeth Spear were great at keeping us on track. They pushed us to go as big as we could and we trusted them to reign us in when needed.

THN: As comic creators, do you think the comedy horror genre could also be told as well in an anthology style series to that of John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night?

AD: If it were well-done, sure. Personally, I prefer the creepy/scary horror anthology.

CS: I agree it can be done, the visual gags would be easy, but I agree with Amanda that horror anthologies are generally better as traditional horror.

THN: Switching gears a bit, I’d love to know more about Cat’s upcoming project, Crosswind from Image comics.

CS: It’s a bit of Goodfellas meets Freaky Friday.  I can’t say too much right now, but I can say is that it’s sexy and dark and mysterious. Gail has written some really amazing scripts.

THN: How was it working with Gail Simone and how is collaboration process between you as a team?

CS: She is amazing. She’s always been a writer I’ve admired so getting to work with her is a dream and she really provides a stunning world for me to play in. I could not be happier drawing these characters.

THN: When can we expect to be reading Crosswind?

CS: We don’t have an official release date right now, so I’ll let Image handle that information when they release it in the Previews.

I want to thank both Amanda and Cat for taking the time and giving us a wonderful interview.  Make sure to check out all the fantastic work they are involved with right now, including John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night Volume Two, on the shelves this week.

Follow them both on twitter, Amanda is @amandadeibert and Catt is @CatStaggs.

Make sure to follow me as well at @hebruise and check out my horror comic reviews over at horror-writers.net or of course check out the Two Headed Nerd podcast with Joe and Matt wherever you get podcasts and follow them on twitter @twoheadednerd.