- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2009

This is the 58th in an infinite series profiling the elite of the comic-book industry. This time we crack the corpus callosum of Scott Allie and ask him to … give us a piece of your mind.

Writer and editor extraordinaire at Dark Horse Comics, Mr. Allie has helped usher in the revival of the horror comic, thanks to his work on titles such as the Devil’s Footprints, Hellboy, Zombie World and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The prolific creator is writing Gage Wallace’s woeful world of Exurbia while crafting the life of Solomon Kane and keeping an eye on the B.P.R.D.

Official title: Senior managing editor

Favorite childhood memories: Walking through the New England forest with my grandfather. We’d often be in stretches of woods less than a mile wide, but it felt like high adventure to me.

First comic book ever read: It was either an issue of Man-Thing or Star Wars.

Last comic book read for fun: Stumptown, from Oni Press, by Greg Rucka and this new local guy, Matthew Southworth, who’s terrific.

Influences: Bob Dylan, Alan Moore, Mike Mignola, Joss Whedon, Harvey Kurtzman, Carson McCullers, the Rolling Stones, Roman Polanski, David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock. With most of those, when I turned on to their work, I engaged in outright studying them, and trying to figure out what I could learn, what I could bring to my own work. Except with the Stones, who I just listened to so much at so early an age that their songs inform my outlook on people and relationships.

Which Dark Horse title are you having the most fun editing? Today, it’s the Umbrella Academy, because our problem-solving method is to latch onto an outlandish idea and then make it work by strictly Umbrella Academy logic.

Did you have a plan with Dark Horse for the revival of horror comics or was it just the right time? Well, it was both, in that I had a plan sitting up my sleeve for years, because all I ever wanted to do was horror comics.

I kept strategizing about how and when to do it, and working out theories about when horror would make a big comeback. And I was ultimately right, but I wasn’t able to totally get a jump on it. So when Steve Niles hit it big with 30 Days, I was ready to get right in there.

But rather than jumping on the bandwagon with current trends, I just stuck with how Dark Horse usually approaches things - rather than trying to duplicate the vampire or torture or zombie trends, we went out there with a lot of the kind of horror comics we wanted to read, the kinds we were already doing. We did some stuff that fit into the trends, but the focus was on our more classic sense of horror.

Why did you decide to work in comics? It was more a case of deciding to work in publishing - I chose publishing as a career, did not let myself consider other options or compromises. I got a job at a great small literary magazine and watched them grow and succeed - Glimmer Train Stories. When I left them, I had money saved and decided to self-publish. I did a book called Sick Smiles and squandered my savings.

All this time, I just happened to be in the same town as Dark Horse and started getting to know people here. It happened to coincide that they needed an editor right when I’d run out of money self-publishing. So that was how I came to actually work in comics, although I’d been doing some comics and losing money. I knew I could only really succeed if I got into publishing; I felt like comics were a real long-shot as a career path, although it was certainly what I wanted.

Is Hollywood corrupting or helping the comic-book industry? Oh, sad. Yeah, Hollywood is corrupting comics, while helping comics. It’s so complicated, it’s hard to address. Who was it who said that any influence is corruption, because the individual should be free to determine his own identity? Well, certainly Hollywood is determining comics’ identity to a large degree. But like anything this big, it’s impossible to point to a spot on the map and say, “There, there is the evil.” Hollywood is corrupting comics even as it is keeping the industry alive.

I don’t think Hollywood is so much the problem as a closing off of imagination and a widening of the commercial and business world with the aid of such tools as “branding” and “multiple platforms,” that way of talking about entertainment. That is killing Hollywood as sure as it’s killing publishing, but Hollywood just has more money to bleed before they go belly-up. So I think economic forces - not the economy of the day, per se, but the evolution of the entertainment business - is hurting all forms of commercial art, from the music biz to the comics.

Creative origins of Exurbia: When I was self-publishing Sick Smiles, I worked with Kevin McGovern on a bunch of different kinds of stories. One of the first things we did was a little four-pager that looks a lot like the opening of the Exurbia graphic novel. After that, we did some horror, some action-adventure, but nothing clicked. Kevin wasn’t cut out for that.

So we went back to the character of Gage, from Exurbia, and we focused on him and his world - the real world, our world, Portland. And the book grew out of that - it grew out of a certain surreal perception of life in Portland in the mid-‘90s. It’s not really about Portland, though there are a lot of references. It’s more about living in a crazy, hopeless world where people pin their hopes on absurd ideas, and the idea of being saved by anyone or anything is a roll of the dice.

What’s your involvement with Solomon Kane? I was editing Conan, and it was my job to get his other characters, Kane and Kull, up and running. I read a bunch of Kull, tried to figure out how the comic should work, and found a creative team.

Then I had to study Kane, and the more I thought about how it should work as a comic, the more I thought I should write it myself. So I made my case to Mike Richardson, owner of the company, and Randy Stradley, the VP of publishing, and they said OK. I really connected with the character, the milieu, and I wanted to explore all that. I love Conan, but I had no strong desire to write Conan. I thought I had something unique to contribute to Kane.

Projects coming up for Dark Horse: One of the things I’m most excited about next year is the Green River Killer graphic novel, telling the story of the cop who caught the killer and got a confession out of him. It’s an intricate, dark story, but it’s really human and moving. Really looking forward to that, and some events in Buffy coming up early in the year. She learned how to fly recently. Buffy can fly, like Superman. And it just gets nuttier from there.

Besides this interview, what’s the stupidest thing you ever did? I listened to the wrong people and let the Angel license get away from us. Like my answer to your question about Hollywood and influence … can’t listen to anyone.

Send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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