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FOG! Chats With ‘Split Lip’ Writer Sam Costello About His Kickstarter

samcostelloSplit Lip is an anthology of short horror comics written by Sam Costello and drawn by artists from around the world. All stories are self-contained, so you can start reading anywhere. Fans of The Twilight Zone and weird fiction will enjoy these stories, but beware—keeping the lights on can’t keep you safe from dangerous ideas.

And to celebrate Split Lip‘s 1oth anniversary, Sam is Kickstarting a limited edition hardcover, What Lies inside, which includes 13 stories (5 remastered), 50+ pages of new material, interviews, and more.

Sam took some time to discuss the award winning web series, the Kickstarter and his influences with FOG!

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FOG!: It’s the 10th Anniversary of Split Lip. For readers unfamiliar with Split Lip, what is is?

Sam Costello: Split Lip is an anthology of dark comics written by me and drawn by artists from around the world. All the stories are totally self-contained, so there’s no order to the books or stories. Readers are free to discover the stories they like the best in any order. The stories range from 5 to about 30 pages and cover all kinds of dark topics: cannibalism, cancer, ghosts, monsters, bugs, new gods, and more.

You’re launching a Kickstarter campaign to produce a hardcover collection including 13 stories. So far you’ve published 45 stories. What made you select the ones included in the book?

When planning the book, I wanted to give a good overview of these first 10 years of Split Lip. My partner, who is very smart about these issues and has been right so many times that I try to adopt almost all of her ideas now, suggested I should pick out the key themes of the series and then pick the stories that best represented them. With that idea in hand, I broke the book down into 4 sections: Supernatural, Monsters and Creatures, Tragedies, and Hell Is Other People. Each of those represents one facet of the kind of horror I’m interested in and the kind of stories I like to tell at Split Lip. With those themes in place, it wasn’t too hard to come up with the 13 stories.

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What was the original genesis of Split Lip?

There’s a good reason I reference The Twilight Zone a lot when talking about Split Lip: the original idea for the series came to me when watching that show. A couple of years before I started writing Split Lip, I was watching one of the 24-hour TheTwilight Zone marathons they have on the SyFy Channel at the holidays.

As I watched episode after episode, I became really taken with the idea of a single voice, Rod Serling, being the driving force behind such a rich, diverse, and expansive series (I know now, of course, that Serling wrote maybe 60% of the series, not all of it, but I think the idea stands. There’s no questioning that The Twilight Zone speaks with Serling’s voice no matter who wrote an individual script).

My first thought was, “I should adapt Twilight Zone stories to comics!” But then I thought it would be better to try to tell new stories in the same format and tradition. I put the idea aside for a few years and worked on publishing minicomics and getting short comics accepted to anthologies with not that much success. After enough frustration, I decided to stop waiting for others to publish my work and decided to start a webcomic. The old Twilight Zone idea popped back into my mind and I was off and running.

The Kickstarter describes Split Lip as Twilight Zone style comics. Are you a fan of the series and what writers have influenced your work?

I think we know the answer to the first question! As to influences, they range across media, including: Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker, Brian Evenson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Dan Chaon in fiction; Emily Carroll, Josh Simmons, Grant Morrison, EC Comics, and many others in comics; all kinds of directors and movies, from Wes Craven to John Carpenter to J-horror like The Ring, The Grudge, and Audition to some of the New French Extremity films to recent American indies like Resolution and At The Devil’s Door; in TV, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal; elsewhere, these days I like thinking along with Andrea Subissati and Alex West of The Faculty of Horror podcast.

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The stories have all previously appeared online; have you ever had interest in developing a longer narrative?

I do and hope to work on those in the relatively near future. Trevor Denham and I have had discussions about expanding the story we worked on for this book, “See No Evil,” into a miniseries. I also some stories set in the same world that I’ve been tinkering with for years. I don’t know when it will come, but I expect much longer Split Lip stories someday.

Can you tell me about some of the collaborators you’ve worked with over the years? Do you write the story first and find an artist to match the story or do you write with a particular artist in mind?

I usually write the story first. Generally, when writing the story I have an idea of the kind of art I want to bring the script to life and write with that in mind, but it’s relatively rare that I have a specific artist already in place. In a few cases, usually with people I’ve collaborated with before, we’ll discuss the story before I write, or a least finish, the script. I often take ideas for scenes, character designs, dialogue, etc. from artists and incorporate them into the stories.

In one or two cases, such as “The Tree of Remembrance” (which isn’t in this book), I wrote the script closer to Marvel-style and let artist Nelson Evergreen decide on the panels, pagebreaks, etc.

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Do you have any favorite stories that you’ve written?

That’s so tough. I don’t think I have a single favorite, but I do have ones that I’m particularly proud of. Some of the recent stories—Doll’s House, See No Evil, Victims, Unsub; all of which are in the anniversary book—are good examples. I feel like I challenged myself in those and succeeded in what I set out to do.

What are you currently geeking out over (comics, movies, music, books, tv, etc)?

I find myself listening to a lot of Emily Jane White these days. I always listen to a ton of Mountain Goats, Willie Nelson, and some Gillian Welch.

The TV show I can’t get out of my head right now, and that I always look forward to finding the time for, is The Kettering Incident. It’s an Australian show a lot like Twin Peaks—sometimes uncomfortably so. I don’t quite know how good it is yet, but I do know that it’s captivating and there are vanishingly few TV shows that can be so tense and menacing in their quiet, subtle scenes. I’m hoping to get some time to see the new Blair Witch soon; I loved the first one.

In comics, I’m geeking out over the new Split Lip stories I’m writing. I’ve been really busy over the last year or so and haven’t had much time to write. I’ve been making a lot of notes, though. Now I finally have the time to do something with those notes and it’s so much fun. I can’t wait to get those stories out into the world.

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