by Jason Michel
Q1: Ryan, without giving too much away, tell me a little about the inspiration for Harbor Moon.
While at USC’s grad school for film producing, I was determined to graduate and not have to be an assistant. So I aggressively pursued a wealth of material – books, comics, web comics – I must have read over 500 scripts in two years before one caught my eye. Titled ‘Bloodkin’ it was an X-Men type story about a man without a past who finds out he is from a town in Maine that the government has its eye on because the inhabitants are werewolves. I took the script to Dikran, the co-writer and a classmate, and we immediately sparked to the core idea (by Brian Anderson) about a man that’s half werewolf coming home to his ‘family’. I optioned that script and Dikran and I began a long journey taking the story down many paths before we came to what is now HARBOR MOON. So what started off as a military action thing with political components became a smaller, isolated horror piece. More like a Clint Eastwood western from the 80’s, such as ‘Pale Rider’ or ‘High Plains Drifter’, than X-Men. The loner with a ton of secrets entering a town with even more secrets.
Q2: The artwork for your book is both raw & stunningly exquisite at times. How much input did you as a writer have in producing it?
Pawel penciled, inked, painted and lettered everything. Nikodem Cabala did 6 pages in the middle, when our hero (Tim) reads pages from an old tome, and we all decided to go with a completely different art style for that. But everything else was Pawel. He and Karol Wisniewski would layout each page, then he would sketch the page, I’d do my notes… which were pretty extensive sometimes. Other panels/pages might not have any notes. Then once we locked those, Pawel would ink/paint it – and I would give notes on that. Sometimes the rough pencils wound up not working once it was inked/colored – and things needed to change. And as the script came to life on the page, things in the script had to change – and I was making those changes with Karol and Pawel as we went. I was technically the final word on each panel – but to be honest, it was more about me finding the right artist and letting him do what he does rather than trying to fit that artist into my neat little box.
Q3: Werewolves seem to be the underdog (no pun intended) of horror, don’t they?
They lack that Miltonesque charm of the Anne Rice vampires (or the tepid virginity of Twilight) & the body horror & social commentary of zombies. I find them to be the most tragic of all the horror staples.
& what is it about them that is still fascinating to us? Is it the idea of letting loose the animal inside?
For sure. Werewolves are tough. They play to our base instincts. Once they turn there is not much logic going into their decisions. Vampires are all sleek and sexy, but they are soulless. You don’t see too many vampire families. Werewolves act as a pack, looking out for each other. They are the working man’s monster.
I think werewolves are hard, because they don’t speak. And usually stories focus on one werewolf who is suffering through a curse or bite, so we lose our hero when they turn. But in reality, wolves travel in packs. Harbor Moon takes a pretty different approach and treat werewolves as a species, or a race, rather than a curse. We tried to ground this in as much reality as possible. I know that sounds ridiculous – but we did our research on wolves and how they act and tried to infuse that into the story and the characters.
Q4: What do you see as landmarks in the Horror Comic genre? Ones that were really game changing.
This is a tough one, more because I am no expert and I will undoubtedly leave off some well-deserving titles. I can only answer for me, so here it goes:
The Sandman. Neil Gaiman. He’s one of the best ever and this is his best work.
The Walking Dead. Right now no one can touch Kirkman, and for good reason. To me – he has completely redefined the genre.
30 Days of Night. Templesmith’s art was mind-blowing at the time. Much more so than the actual story (although that was good too).
Spawn. I guess this could be more a ‘superhero’ book, but I think the character and book, and Image, started an independent comic surge – and this character comes as close to horror in tights as you can get.
Although, If I were using that logic, then Batman: The Dark Knight Returns would top this list.
Q5: There seems to be some cross pollination between the comic & movie industry (Thirty Days of Night, various manga), how do you see this developing? Is it a good thing for the comic industry or a deal with the devil?
In general, it is a good thing. It means that more people will be exposed to books they may have never heard of – by seeing the movie and/or by going out and getting the book because of the movie. It is undeniable there is a direct correlation between a rise in book sales and promotion for the film. Also, smaller press publishers, which were scraping by, can now earn larger sums of money to keep afloat.
But that, to me, is where things start to go sour. Because a lot of small press publishers now only care about the film/tv rights. Their reason to create books is not to sell books, but to sell the film/tv rights. This will wind up eating the industry from the bottom up. You can’t sustain a company with that business model. Especially when you don’t have the volume of books that a Marvel or DC has. I worry, too, that creators get into this as a means to an end. If your eye is on a rights deal, how can you possibly create a good book? The writing will suffer. The art will suffer. And in the end, the readers will suffer.
But, there are still more than enough creators out there who love comics, and love telling stories in this medium. Do I want to see Harbor Moon as a movie? Sure, it would be amazing to see it come to life. We are now brought up in an age where all of this is possible. But I wouldn’t limit my desires… because we also come up on video games – and that would be really great as well.
Q6: If a film was ever made about HB, which actors would play your characters?
I’m going to go with a more ‘realistic’ (although still a dream) cast, rather than just a dream cast. Because I’m pretty sure Clint Eastwood wouldn’t play Captain, or Roland. I’ll stick to some of the bigger characters here:
Tim Vance – Eric Bana
Roland Sullivan – Brian Cox
Patrick Sullivan – Charlie Hunnam
Kristen – Lena Headey
Captain – Jeremy Isaacs
Paul – Jackie Earle Haley
Q7: We’ve had Gothic horror, Clive Barker’s joyous blasphemies & Croneberg’s Body Horror, we’re done to fucking death with torture porn which I believe The Serbian Film has outdone in all respects.
In which direction do you see horror going?
I think we’ll always be stuck with the ‘cheap scare’ horror. The girl looking in the mirror, steps back and ‘oh no’ there’s the bad guy. Occasionally that is a lot of fun. But I think those titles come and go. And I have to agree with the torture porn, which has overstayed its welcome.
What interests me, and what I think a lot of these Mexican/Spanish directors are latching onto with a lot of success, is more of an atmosphere horror – for lack of a better term. Stories that are really simple, but are completely unsettling. Something like the Orphanage, which I would consider the best horror film of the last few years. They’re not using any tricks to scare you, they are just sucking you into a world that puts you on edge… and then scaring the shit out of you. I guess on the American side, you can say that Paranormal Activity did the same thing. You can’t get more simple than that. It sucked you into the lives of these two people and then how many ‘scare’ moments did it really have? And those moments were small sound effects or other small moments.
Q8: Following on from the last question, … does anything really scare us anymore?
For sure. I don’t think we’re scared by ‘bad guys’ per se, at least after a certain age – but certainly situations scare us. People still get spooked by an empty, creaky house. People are still on edge in the wilderness/forest area at night. Do people fear make believe ghosts? No, but they fear ghosts that are ground in some reality. You just have to look at the box office of Paranormal Activity to see that. If you keep it simple and make it relatable – then it will touch a nerve. It’s when the premise is simple, like Amityville Horror, but the film sort of jumps the shark in what is happening inside the house that people check out and it doesn’t resonate.
Of course, I say all that and we’re discussing a book I wrote about a town full of werewolves.
Q9: Any sequels planned? Will we see the return of the colourful cast of HB?
We definitely have future plans for this. We actually sat down with the intention of writing it as a trilogy. So, if there is an appetite for it then there are at least two more books that will follow the storyline of the first.
There are also plans to do a Brotherhood of the Moon spin-off that ties into the first book.
We may also do a book that includes a series of separate stories that tie into the first book – following characters from the first book in the lead-up to Harbor Moon.
But it is all up to the fans and their appetite for more. We’re ready to get to work… Karol Wisniewski has been extremely helpful in this regard and he may even come onboard to write som e of this with us.
Q10: If you had to fight one comic monster, who would it be?
Mummy. I always thought he was pretty lame. Basically a zombie wrapped in toilet paper. I’d beat the shit out of that guy.
Harbor Moon – A mini-review by Jason Michel
The first thing you notice about Harbor Moon, whilst flicking through it, are the colours. Very vivid, in an Dave McKean/Arkham Asylum kind of way. The images just jump out at you. Literally. Especially the beasties, who are definitely the stars of the whole episode. The artist Pawel Sambor has used a variety of inventive styles to convey the story; from the raw, to the highly detailed, to the dizzingly dynamic. Sometimes it all feels too much & your head is left spinning as you try figure out what just happened.
Now to the story.
What is it about small towns? Harbor Moon takes place in one such place. A town with a beastly secret. It starts with a BANG, GROWLS its way through the first part, HOWLS towards the second half & finishes with a BOOM & it takes you along for the ride. The diverse characters are tough & offbeat & the dialogue is as sharp & sparse as in the tradition of a Spaghetti Western & therein lies the story’s originality. It is an enjoyable ride & a phenomenal effort that I, for one, hope gets the recognition it deserves.
You can learn more about Harbor Moon & buy it at its Official site: