Sam Costello is the author of the stories brought to life on splitlipcomic.com. Each tale is a horror comic posted weekly on the site. The gruesomness of each tale varies, but the eerie and twisted tone of the tales remains the same.
I recently reviewed his bound edition of Last Caress and Other Uncanny Encounters and was blown away by the stories I read. So Alexander and I harassed Sam with a bunch of questions about how he got into writing horror comics. Here’s the interview 🙂
HM: What was the path your life took to bring you to creating your collection on SplitLipComic.com?
SC: I’ve been a comics fan since I was a kid. I was a big Marvel fan, always looking to pick up new issues of X-Men or Spider-man at the drugstore or supermarket. By the time I was 13 or 14, I had a collection of about 1,500 comics. As high school went on and the 90s happened in comics, I grew more and more distant from comics. They just didn’t have as much to interest me as I become an older teenager and headed into college.
At the same time, I’d always been interested in imaginative literature and horror. I loved to think about worlds just slightly different than our own, especially ones that scared me. I devoured most of Stephen King’s work, got deep into Clive Barker, read a lot of Lovecraft.
At the end of my senior year of college, a friend of mine loaned me some of his comics—the first 10 or so issues of 100 Bullets, Frank Miller’s 300, and things like that. Seeing the more sophisticated and adult stories that comics were offering got me very much interested in the medium again, this time seeking out things from Vertigo, Fantagraphics, Dark Horse, and other publishers.
I’d always been interested in writing. The more I read these modern comics, the more interested I got in trying to write them. I spent a couple of years writing scripts for short stories and failing to get them produced or accepted into anthologies.
HM: What inspired you to create Split Lip Comic and how did you get started?
Well, failing to get those short stories made was one major driver in me creating Split Lip. I just didn’t want to wait around for someone else to give me permission to make comics. I was working for a web development company, and knew just enough about making websites that I was able to cobble something together.
SC: The thing that really helped shape Split Lip, though, was the Twilight Zone. I remember watching one of those marathons they play on SyFy over holidays—just sitting on the couch for hours, enjoying story after story, and thinking about how great it was that all these stories were the work of just a couple of writers. I loved them so much that I thought about adapting them to comics, but then decided that there was no point in telling someone else’s stories. I wanted to tell my own. I wanted to do something in the tradition of the Twilight Zone, but that was original and modern. And that turned out to be Split Lip.
HM: How do you find the artists you partner with?
SC: Where we all find everything these days: The Internet! In the early days of Split Lip, I’d find them on comics message boards and portfolio sites. These days, it’s all Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr. I look in anthologies and get introduced by artists to their friends.
HM: What is your process for writing your stories?
SC: There’s no single process, really. Mostly it involves coming across some idea or detail that sticks with me and captures my imagination. Take the story that’s serializing on the Split Lip website right now: Unsub. That story got started from reading a magazine article about a man addicted to cheating on his wife, who would always be sure to introduce his wife—without her knowledge—to the women he was sleeping with behind her back.
Something about that idea, about the person you’re supposed to be able to trust the most in the world betraying you in such a profound and ghoulish way, and taking orchestrated pleasure in it, stuck with me. I spent a while—years, I think—marinating the idea and looking at it through a horror lens. Eventually, the plot just came together and I wrote the first draft in an afternoon.
If your readers are curious how it came out, they can read Unsub here: http://splitlipcomic.com/comic/unsub-pg1/
HM: Is there a particular comic you are the most proud of? Why?
SC: That’s like picking a favorite child! It’s not possible. There are so many stories I’m proud of, all for different reasons. Some have a great marriage of art and story; some include a line I’m really attached to or a structural or narrative trick I think is cool. Others are just scary! I can’t say any one story is my favorite, but some good ones to check out include:
HM: What was the first piece of horror media you experienced that made an impact on you?
SC: Oh boy, I don’t know if I remember what that would have been. I remember being 7 or 8 and hearing Michael Jackson’s Thriller and thinking the Vincent Price monologue in the middle was just so cool and so eerie. I’m sure there were things before that, though. I think I’ve been a horror fan my whole life.
HM: What about the horror medium do you find inspiring?
SC: It’s a way to interrogate ourselves and the world around us in a “safe” way. Some of the questions I get to ask in horror, some of the ideas I get to explore, would be too upsetting, or too cliched, or too sensitive if taken head-on. But looking at them through the lens of metaphor and speculation, I think we can get at some truths about the world and our lives that might be tricky to examine otherwise.
That and I just really like to feel freaked out!
HM: What is your favorite part of your creation process? Why?
SC: There are a few real highlights: Typing “The End” into a script; an artist saying yes to working on a story; getting the first few pages back from a new artist on a new story; holding a finished book in my hands.
HM: Are there any comments we made during our review you would like to respond to?
SC: Just that I really appreciated how much thought you put into the review—you guys really picked up on some aspects of the stories that not everyone sees; I think we’re on a similar wavelength—and that you were willing to do the review, and such a long one, at all. It’s tough for indie comics to get reviews, especially ones of any length, so it was exciting and flattering to see yours. Thank you.
HM: It’s my absolute pleasure! I know how hard it can be for indie makers in any field, so I take particular pleasure in chatting about the good ones I find.
HM: Where do you see Split lip Comic going as a company?
SC: In the grand scope of things, who knows? I don’t have any huge ambitions. I just wanted to keep making comics I find interesting and challenging and scary with artists who I think are terrific.
In the near term, though, I’ll be at a few conventions this summer and fall, including CT Horrorfest in Danbury, CT, Boston Comic-Con, and Fantacon, in Albany, NY. I’ll have a bunch of new minicomics and expect to debut the 6th Split Lip collection at Boston Comic-Con. if any of your readers are at those events, I hope they’ll come by and say hi!
You can check out all of the fun horror comics Sam is posting over on SplitLipComic.com and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Happy haunting this week!