Mina Elwell talks InferNoct, Scout Comics

infernoctEarlier this year, publisher Scout Comics announced an impressive slate of new comics to be released throughout 2017. I talked to Mina Elwell, Media Director at Scout Comics and writer of InferNoct, an upcoming horror comic from Scout.

Graphic Policy: First, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Could you please tell us a little about yourself?

Mina Elwell: Thank you! I think of myself as a research-based writer. I love hearing about bizarre things –history, mythology, biology, muttering on the subway. (InferNoct is mostly the last one.) Talking to me could go off in any direction.

GP: You’re writing InferNoct, which has been described as a “Lovecraftian” horror story. What can readers expect from this comic?

ME: There’s a kind of looming existential dread associated with Lovecraftian horror, going back to HP Lovecraft’s stories, that I wanted to capture with InferNoct. As horror fans, we’re a little desensitized to extreme gore. A lot of us grew up watching American slashers – we’re hard to shock. What makes Lovecraftian stories disturbing is the sense that we do not really understand each other, nothing we do really matters, and our sanity is fragile.

And tentacles. There will be tentacles.

GP: As a filmmaker, what is it like to switch between writing for film and writing for comics? Are there things that each allows you to do as a writer that you can’t do with the other?

ME: One of the things I really like about comics is how small our team is. Eli Powell and I are co-creators. Tristan Elwell is our color artist, Marshall Dillon is our letterer, and James Pruett is our editor. That’s it. I’m able to write for them and to them, with their specific styles in mind. My scripts have notes and suggestions for Eli, links to hats and sea creatures he might like to draw.

A film script, even for an indie film, is going to be seen by a lot more people. You’re writing for the lighting techs, and the PA’s, not just the director and the editor.

GP: How do these different genres and mediums allow you to explore different kinds of storytelling?

ME: Films (and TV of course) allow a wide variety of people to come together to create the same thing – it’s music, it’s cinematography, it’s costumes and props and makeup, it’s editing, it’s writing. It feels like you’re watching one vision, but you’re really watching the work of hundreds of people working for months.

Eli and I have always been on the same page. What you’re seeing is pretty close to what I first imagined.

GP: What were some of InferNoct’s influences? What drew you to the horror genre?

ME: Other than Lovecraft…

When I was creating the world of InferNoct, I thought a lot about the original 1973 Wickerman, and the way that our perceptions of the townspeople switch several times throughout. InferNoct is an American love letter to folk horror.

With Sam, the protagonist, thought about The Crying of Lot 49, my favorite Pynchon novel. She’s a very different kind of person than Oedipa, but they’re both trying to reinvent themselves, and struggling to face a new reality… or what reality means, depending on how you read it.

I really looked at Thomas Ligotti’s stories when I was thinking about fear. Nobody does fear better than Ligotti.

GP: Based on the description, InferNoct has a really intriguing and unique concept. It’s also not your first horror story. Do you find yourself trying to break or avoid horror tropes when conceptualizing new stories?

ME: In general, I try not to worry about it too much. If two people started out with the exact same concept, they’d probably end up with entirely different final projects. At the same time, most people are pretty familiar with the horror movie archetypes (thank you Scary Movie and Scream Queens) so there’s a danger that anything set in a cabin in the woods with several promiscuous teens will become a parody pretty quickly. Eli and I made the decision to take out a “Hello?” shouted into an empty house the other day… everyone knows that’s how you get killed.

GP: Though the comic isn’t out yet, you’ve been releasing Trauma Cleanup Reports on InferNoct’s Facebook page. This is a pretty awesome way to market the book, set the tone for the story, and show off Eli Powell’s art. How did idea for the trauma reports come about?

ME: I wrote the first Trauma Report as something to hand out at conventions – my first one was Flame Con. I was hoping it would be something to give people a taste of what the series would be like, through the eyes of a different protagonist. Once I started to actually meet people at the cons, and they were excited about the series, I realized I wanted to have something running until release that would help them remember us.

GP: Eli Powell’s art looks absolutely incredible in the previews I’ve seen. What does he bring to the story?

ME: Eli brings a lot of depth to the characters, especially Sam, who is the main character but doesn’t have a ton of dialogue. I think my favorite thing about Eli’s work on InferNoct though is that every time I look at it I find something new. He brings something so funny and twisted to it. I feel like I’m playing Where’s Waldo, except “Waldo” is the name of something slightly sticky with too many teeth.

GP: I was reading an article the other day that suggested humor is a necessary counterpoint to fear because it makes the fear more conquerable. For you, what role does humor play in InferNoct?

ME: Humor is a great way of dealing with fear. It’s probably the best way of exposing things for what they really are — though given our current political situation, it’s pretty clear that we can laugh at something and find it terrifying at the same time…

The humor in InferNoct is pretty dark. There are definitely a few “it’s funny because it’s so awful” moments. We meet a fairly absurd cast of characters who have some terrible things happen to them. Eli’s art is wonderful in that respect as well. In issue 1 I described our character Joey as distracted, and Eli did the most hilarious zoned out expression for him. Keep an eye out for that one…

GP: You’re also Scout Comics’ Media Director. As readers and comic fans, we get to see the final product rather than the behind-the-scenes. What are some of your responsibilities as Media Director? Is there anything that would surprise readers about your job?

ME: There are some really cool new series coming out of Scout at the moment, but since they’re brand new characters, you don’t necessarily know what to expect. I want to make sure it’s getting to the audience that’s going to fall in love with it. Michael Sanchez, our editorial director, is a real master of that as well.

GP: Last year, Scout announced an impressive slate of new comics. What Scout books are you looking forward to in 2017?

ME: There are so many good Scout books coming out this year. I’m really excited about Smoketown, which is coming out right now. Mindbender, written by our wonderful editor James Pruett, is available for preorder this month. If you’ve ever seen InferNoct at a convention, we’re often tabling with AC Medina, whose series Welcome to Paradise really developed alongside InferNoct. I’m looking forward to experiencing it as a reader.

GP: What are your favorite comics/comic-related movies or games?

ME: I grew up on Sandman. Is it surprising that I love horror and dark fantasy? For games, I’m all about Telltale right now. I love that style of episodic storytelling.

GP: I played through Telltale Batman about a month ago and am so ready for Season Two! I love comics because I find the episodic, interrupted narrative immerses you in the story and yanks you right back out. It’s really effective in building suspense between issues, and I was surprised how well that translated to video games.

ME: Absolutely, I think immersing the player in the world is something that Telltale does really well. They do a wonderful job expanding on existing universes. Wolf Among Us had some fantastic original characters that fleshed it out and made it feel real. Obviously, I love a strange cast in a strange world!

GP: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I didn’t ask you?

ME: Most commonly asked question: Yes! The colorist Tristan Elwell is my father. I’ve been watching him make incredible pictures my whole life; it’s pretty exciting to have him working on something with me. Maybe someday I’ll be able to actually get him to come to a con.

GP: Having grown up with comics like Sandman and an artist/illustrator father, did you always know you wanted to enter the comics field in some capacity?

ME: I’d be happy to be telling stories in literally any medium you can think of, but I’m thrilled to be working on a comic with my dad, who introduced me to comics as a little kid. Does it get better than that?

GP: Thanks again!

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