Interview: Mark Slater, Artist and creator or the indie comic ‘DREADFUL’

Heya Shamblers…

I know we like to interview a bunch of indie filmmakers, but this time I’ve got a whole new angle, Mark Slater is the epitome of the indie artist, he is making his OWN comic (called ‘Dreadful’ by the way) and legging it around himself to get it noticed! This is exactly the kind of love of horror that gets me going! The drive to do something like this is so incredible, the fucking passion to get moving on it and get it out there for the simple love of doing it… Now Mark is a freelance comic artist and illustrator that has clients ranging from private collectors to companies such as 5FINITY and Topps… so it’s not like this is all he does, but the spirit to go out and do this is what I really dig about Mark, he was featured on INNER SPACE when he was stationed at FanExpo this past summer, and we met him there… Ladies and Gents: Mark Slater!

ZK: Welcome to the site Mark, let’s jump right in, tell us about Dreadful and how it all came about.

MS: Dreadful is a short-story horror comic of my own creation; [so far] each book is between thirty and forty pages and consists of three different stories by two different artists. I got the idea for the title from the old “Penny Dreadfuls” that circulated in England in the 1800’s; the idea being that each [comic] would feature new or continuing stories to shock, thrill and horrify. So far the subject matter has been mostly zombie-focused but, as the series keeps going it is my hope that we can branch out into other areas of the supernatural. Issue two features a story about vampires (that don’t sparkle)!

Dreadful really came about in late 2009; I went to FanExpo in Toronto for the first time as a fan and I absolutely loved it – the atmosphere, the sense of inclusion and shared-passion in everyone there – it was incredible. Going through Artist’s Alley and seeing that other people had said “dammit, I’m making my own book on my own terms now” helped give me the confidence to not only say the same thing to myself, but also, “I’m going to be here next year on the other side of the table.” And I did!

By the time I sat down to actually start putting Dreadful together, I already had the second story, “Safe and Sound” half finished. I had been contacted earlier that year by a guy in the States who was compiling a zombie comic anthology. He asked me if I would be interested in doing a story to be included in the book and I said sure but, when I had about eight of the ten pages finished, I emailed him to ask how I would be compensated. His response was, “you send us the pages, we print them, and then you buy copies of the book at cost to sell off on your own!” Needless to say I didn’t send him any pages and I never spoke to him again.

The first story, Drywater, I came up with after seeing Resident Evil: Extinction; I thought it was going to be a zombie western. When it wasn’t I was a little disappointed but I thought to myself, “why don’t I just write my own!?” and I did! The only thing I didn’t want, though, was to have it be too old-fashioned – I wanted that old-west feel but with a more contemporary vibe. One of my favorite movies is Last Man Standing (with Bruce Willis) and I more or less based the overall look of Drywater on that type of setting, those type of characters; sort of a 1920’s old-west look but with cars and basic automatic weapons.

The third story, SKP came about by sheer good fortune! Again, in late 2009, a California-based artist by the name of Lance Sawyer was searching for Boba Fett references on DeviantArt and he came across my image called “Fett’s Vette” (Boba Fett throwing up a peace sign). He loved the image and contacted me about it; we chatted back and forth and have since become great friends. I told him I was putting together a comic of my own and what it was about, asked him if he’d like to contribute and he said yes!

So, by mid August of 2010, issue one of Dreadful was complete – penciled, inked, scanned and lettered. I took it to a print shop in North Bay, Ontario (where I was living at the time) and they had two-hundred copies ready for me within about a week. I tell you, there are few things more amazing or more satisfying than to hold a finished book in your hands and to be able to say, “this is mine, I made it.” It is a unique and unbelievably gratifying experience when all that hard work finally pays off and you can have something tangible to show for all your efforts. What made premiering issue one of Dreadful at FanExpo 2010 even better (aside from achieving a personal goal), was that Lance even flew up from California to Toronto to launch the book with me! I’m pleased to say it was a huge success and sold out by the end of the weekend.

Issue two of Dreadful features two short stories by me and a third by a UK-based artist by the name of Wynn Ryder. The first story is, once again, Drywater – it continues in issue two and will continue into issue three (where I intend to wrap it up); the third story is called Happy Birthday Trenton.

When I was leaving North Bay at the end of April, 2011, I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my good friend Clayton and his family, and I also missed his (and his son’s) birthday. I called him up and apologized and told him, “you’ll have your birthday present at the end of August!” In Happy Birthday Trenton, Clayton’s son (Trenton) receives an ancient book in the mail called “Dangerous Occult,” from a mysterious relative for his birthday. Naturally, Clayton confiscates it, and unwittingly reads (as he would) an incantation that proceeds to zombify the entire family (including guests that show up for Trenton’s birthday party). From what I understand it was well-received – they’re all just as big fans of horror as I am.

The second story in issue two is called “Midlands After Midnight” (it’s the one about vampires that don’t sparkle). It was written and illustrated by a great UK-based artist friend of mine by the name of Wynn Ryder. Wynn is an absolutely amazing artist and I was stoked when he agreed to come on board and contribute a story to Dreadful. I told him he could do whatever he wanted, just as long as it wasn’t zombies (zombies are great but we’re trying to branch out)! He replied “I’m writing a vampire story!” and I said, “awesome!” I really can’t say enough great things about Wynn’s art, it’s simply beautiful to look at and it really helped to enhance the second issue.

ZK: I see on your site (LINK) that you also do ZOMBIE PORTRAITS! How long have you been into horror, and what are your favorites?

MS: Yes, I do indeed create custom zombie portraits! I’ve been doing them for just over a year now and I’d like to think they’re growing in popularity; the more people see them the more the word seems to spread about them. People get them done either for themselves or for a friend or relative, and then their friends or relatives see them and want one too! They seem to make great birthday or Christmas gifts! [Zombie portraits] really helped me out at FanExpo and they’re always great fun to work on – you can do whatever you want to the person and never feel bad about it! If people are interested they can check out all the ones I’ve done before over on TheHorde’s main page: http://bethehorde.blogspot.com

I’ve been into horror, probably, since I was a teenager. My uncle got me hooked through important horror start-up movies such as Jaws, Aliens, Cronenberg’s The Fly, Silence of the Lambs, The Thing, stuff like that. When I was in high-school, a friend of mine and I would get together every Friday after school to watch what he considered to be the most important horror movies – Evil Dead, Dawn of the Dead (the original), Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street. I couldn’t get enough and always wanted to keep seeing more – he really helped further my education on the subject!

When I left for university I started researching on my own – investigating all the “banned in certain countries”, bootleg, never-before-seen, insert-cliche-here, horror movies and soaked up all the new releases that I could in theaters. I enjoy pretty much anything as long as it’s decent but, admittedly, few things get me more excited than word of a new zombie flick. I’ve always been faithful to the originals though, the Canon if you will, and I hold those closest to my horror heart. I can’t stand crap like “Hostel” or anything in the “gorno / torture-porn” genre, really – it’s just cruel violence for the sake of it and lacks a point or message, which so many of the classics really carry, and which I really value in good horror movies. If I had to pick an all-time favorite, I think it would be John Carpenter’s Halloween. I watch it every year and I just think it’s brilliant in its execution.

ZK: I get a kick out of the celebrity sketch cards, especially the horror ones (STAY FUCKING PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN RULES!!!). What mediums do you prefer to work in when you are working on a piece?

MS: Thanks, I’m glad you dig them! Those were great fun to work on and I was really pleased with the response they got. The classic monsters (Invisible Man, Phantom of the Opera) and cult-favorite characters such as Ash, Herbert West and Dr. Loomis were snapped up pretty quickly. I still have a few left over from last year – they’re posted on my blog (or will be shortly) and available with free shipping! Those were all done as part of my personal sketch-card series, 31 Days of Halloween – it seemed to go over so well last year that I brought it back again this year! Again, stay tuned to the blog for daily updates and cards for sale. I’m doing my best not to repeat myself but I’ll probably end up doing another Ash as Halloween draws closer. Speaking of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man card – that one went straight away but I’ve still got the Slimer, Vigo and Gozer cards available! They’re looking for a good home!

Typically, when I’m working on cards or comics, I prefer to use markers (Sharpies, mostly, but I use Prismacolors and Copics, too); marker is a fun, quick and easy medium to use as well as to play around with. My educational background is in Fine Arts though, so if someone wanted something done in Oil, Acrylic or Watercolour, I could do that too, no problem. I’m currently working well as a professional freelance illustrator so if anyone out there needs some work done just shoot me a message and we can get the ball rolling!

ZK: With the zombie portraits and all the classic horror influences on your work- I gotta ask, Fast or slow zombies, which do you prefer?

MS: Ooh, tough but fun call. Shall we address the argument as to whether or not fast zombies are actually zombies? In 28 Days Later they don’t technically eat your flesh; in the remake of Dawn of the Dead they do. Let me stress, first, that I am a huge zombie fan (just so I don’t get inundated with angry emails telling me I’m not), but frankly I really don’t care either way – zombies are terrifying no matter what speed they come at you. Granted, having to run from them is a little more troublesome as all humans tend to get winded eventually, but what’s most frightening about zombies is their numbers and the fact that they’re the only monster that really comes to you. Vampires and Monsters: you need to be in the castle; Mummies: you need to be in the pyramid; Werewolves: you need to be in the forest. Zombies are the ones who come knocking at your door and when they do there are thousands of them! They’re your friends and family; people you knew, and they can’t be bought or reasoned with. All they want to do is eat you and you’d better be prepared to defend yourself.

ZK: So, you’ve been creating Dreadful from the ground up, where can people get it, do you ship? Or is there an electronic copy to purchase?

MS: Indeed I have, it’s been an indie project all the way! At the moment, the only stores that carry Dreadful are here in Ontario. They are:

Blue Beetle Comics (Barrie)

The Beguiling (Toronto)

The Silver Snail (Toronto)

Paradise Comics (Toronto)

The Comic Room (Scarborough), and

Heroic-Dreams (Pickering).

I do ship, yes – the cost per book is an even $5.00 and I charge $5.00 shipping (general flat rate). I’ve been struggling with how best to go about selling an electronic copy – it would be helpful to know what people out there thought. Would $8.00 be too much for a PDF of both issues one and two together? Let me know! I’m more than happy to investigate the whole electronic comic thing if I find there is a demand for it. Otherwise, the easiest way to get yourself a copy of Dreadful is to contact me directly (all my info is on my blog- LINK HERE). I also greatly encourage anyone who picks up a copy and enjoys it to like Dreadful on Facebook! Sure it’s tacky but it’s nice to know who appreciates the work [we're] doing.

ZK: What is coming up Next for you, Mark?

MS: Right now it remains to be seen for sure as to what’s coming up next exactly – a lot of things are in talks right now. I can say for sure that I will be at FanExpo again in 2012, it’s gone great for the past two years and I can only hope the trend continues.

Otherwise I’m hoping a few things come to fruition: with any luck I’ll be doing a signing around Halloween at a comic shop in Toronto (check back to the blog for updates) – I’ll have copies of both issue one and two of Dreadful for sale there and will be taking requests for commissions and zombie portraits; I’ve submitted my application to TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) and am waiting to hear back from them – that’s in February, 2012; Wizard World Toronto in March I’m hoping to score a guest table. Nobody’s coming to me yet with offers to work for Marvel or DC so until that happens I’ll keep plugging away as hard as I can at the indie thing (it is pretty awesome to have so much control over my own work). I’ll be doing an interview with the Barrie Examiner this week so, for those of you living in the Barrie area, keep your eyes peeled for yours truly! Apart from that, issue three of Dreadful is in the works and should be finished by the new year. As always I’m taking requests for zombie portraits and I’m working on my 31 Days of Halloween sketch-cards! As soon as something new happens I post it on the blog so people can always just bookmark that and keep checking back there, I’m fairly regular at updating it. I never stop drawing and I’m always creating something new – what’s coming up next for me is whatever I choose and you all get to come along for the ride!

Well, we appreciate you dropping in, the comic is wicked, and it’s great to see people out there creating what they love! Check out Mark’s interpretation of yours truly… as he joins the GALLERY (LINK) here on Zombieinfo- like it? Want your OWN? CLICK HERE to get the details (LINK) on how you can order your own zombie portrait!

I’m ‘the Zombieking’ and this topic is now DEAD to me!

-ZK.

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