And it’s ironic to be going to Seattle for a horror convention, because the last time I was in Seattle, a few months ago, it was for a comics convention, and a little something extra which derailed my writing of this blog.
In Seattle at Emerald City ComiCon, we announced The Green River Killer: A Detective Story, a graphic novel telling the long ordeal of the detective, Tom Jensen, who pursued America’s most prolific serial killer for twenty years before identifying him as Gary Ridgway and putting him away for life. The book’s written by Jeff Jensen, a journalist and son of the detective. It promises to be a unique bit of true-crime comics, genuinely without precedent.
While in Seattle, Jeff and his dad took me, Ramon Perez—the artist on the book—and Sierra Hahn, the book’s editor, on a tour of significant locations from the investigation. I’d figured this would make a great blog for Dread Central. It was amazing talking to Tom Jensen about his dealings with Ridgway, the killer. We also talked about my favorite show, “Dexter”, and I was surprised by how Tom was able to talk about it both in light of the reality he’d dealt with and, more pragmatically, in terms of what’s needed to make good TV. We talked about dealing with these dark things in our work—although Tom said, “I’ve seen some of the things you put out, and you deal with a lot darker things than me.” Really? I edit Hellboy comics, you bring Gary Ridgway to justice, and I’m facing darker forces? I think not. But we talked about keeping those dark things out of our personal lives, and Tom said, “I guess it’s like Ridgway or “Dexter”, you compartmentalize.” That was a spooky moment. But it’s to the point, for me; all of this stuff, the true and the false, is interesting to me because of the glimpse you get into human darkness. I’m not a blood-and-guts guy—I like the moral horror, suspense, the insight into what makes humans so goddamn inhuman. Myself included.
Jeff, Sierra, Ramon, and I, in talking about the character in the book, had taken to referring to the killer as Gary — but it made perfect sense that Tom, having actually met the guy and spent hours interrogating him, wouldn’t want that sort of familiarity, and called him Ridgway. For days after, Sierra and I tried adjusting our language to refer to him as Ridgway, but I think we both realized that we were dealing with a character in a book, and that the creation of a piece of art, as opposed to police work, does require that identification—just as it lets you off the hook of dealing with the full reality of it.
So I’m not going to recount that day in Seattle as I figured I would, because there’s no way to do so without sensationalizing something that, when you’re faced with it, is draining, and damaging to your whole sense of humanity. Ridgway killed forty-eight women and was so broken that he had no actual remorse, except for how his crimes were going to make his own life miserable now that he’d been caught.
When I got back to Portland, there was a new episode of “Law and Order: SVU”, another show I like—one which used to be a lot better, but the writing’s been suffering. That night they happened to be going after a serial killer.
I felt like I was watching a cartoon, it was so damn silly compared to the reality of Gary. The TV melodrama, the excitement of one of these cop shows—it’s a pratfall compared to the weight of what he did, and what he must have been to do it. Of course, I was in a pretty dark mood after Seattle. I’ve mellowed. I’ll probably go see Drag Me to Hell sometime this week, so I’m ready to talk to people about it at Crypticon. But it was a harsh and depressing education in real horror that I got last time I was in Seattle.
The cast of the old Carpenter film The Fog is gonna be at Crypticon, which is sort of the main reason I’m going—no harsh realities, no long dark night of the soul there!—along with my artist and best friend Todd Herman. A few years ago we did a graphic novel prequel to the much-maligned remake of The Fog — but we did our comic specifically to work as a prequel to Carpenter’s film; even got a quote from him on the back cover. So we’re selling those, and giving away some free comics with the help of Elisabeth Forsythe and Things from Another World.
Dark Horse has been cranking up the horror output lately. On sale now are new archival reprints of Boris Karloff’s Tales of Mystery and Creepy Vol. 3, as well as the first collection from 2008’s Goon Year: The Goon Vol. 7: A Place of Heartache and Grief, by Eric Powell. This week we’re putting out the most genuine horror comic from the successful Buffy line, Tales of the Vampires, along with the goofball horror yarn Werewolves on the Moon Vs. Vampires #1. Next week, from Mike Mignola and team, War on Frogs #3, and the week after, the scariest horror comic I’ve read in a long time, Pixu: The Mark of Evil. And next month, I hope you check out the collected Solomon Kane: The Castle of the Devil, written by yours truly.
Talk again after Crypticon —
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