A short while ago we got introduced to an awesome new comic series called ‘The Family Graves.’ Luckily, we got the opportunity to talk to one of its creators, Tim Bach. Check out this interview below, as Tim introduces us to ‘The Family Graves,’ its characters, and how it was made…
-PH: Lets start with ‘The Family Graves.’ What’s it about?
-Tim: The Family Graves is a mix of The Incredibles and classic movie monsters—a four-issue mini-series blending monsters, science fiction, and family drama into an epic supernatural adventure!
Phil Graves is an alchemical engineer who–after trying to undo his curse has recently turned into an unpredictably shifting werewolf. Together with his dysfunctional, mismatched family of monsters, he must race across dimensions collecting a set of magical mirrors in order to stop a chronal vampire from devouring the space-time continuum and destroying reality.
Besides werewolf Phil, this fantastic dimension-hopping super team of monsters is made up of Bjanka (mom/gorgon), Nori (teenage daughter, siren), Lum (nine-year-old fish-boy), and Gordo (adorable baby zombie with an unquenchable hunger for brains!). And as they square off against a powerful vampire, they experience danger and discovery and uncover family secrets as they race through every mirror portal. It’s not long before readers are wondering, Can the family hold together even as reality falls apart?
-PH: So the story follows Phil Graves. What more can you tell us about his character, and how you came up with him?
-Tim: Dr. Phil Graves is a wealthy inventor and popular college professor. He’s kind of a good-hearted mad scientist type, fascinated by what he can do while not always appreciating the consequences of his actions.
Just before our story starts, he was attacked by a werewolf. After suffering from the monthly lycanthropic cycle, he thought he could cure himself. But in his hubris, he only made the curse worse. He now transforms into a werewolf randomly, mostly when under stress–but it can happen at any time, and usually does. This is causing a lot of problems in his work and home life.
Before being bitten, Phil was a normal human. He believed in science, in things he could see. Now he’s being pulled in all directions and worried he’s losing his family–or worse, driving them away. But all this gets more complicated when he uncovers a strange old mirror, rumored to be part of the legendary Mirrors of Tepish. While studying the mirrors, he launches his family into a dimension-hopping race to prevent their dark power from destroying his family and the world.
As to where Phil came from… I’ve always loved werewolves. The Wolf-Man with Lon Chaney Jr. made a huge impression on me as a kid. I always liked how he was a reluctant monster, and how over the arc of those movies you see him really trying to do the right thing. Dracula was evil. But the Wolf-Man didn’t want to do all those things. He was torn, he felt guilt. He was trying to do the right thing. It was really powerful stuff.
With Phil, I wanted to explore a character trying to do the right thing–but who keeps sabotaging himself. Phil has money, a certain amount of power and fame, and a family who loves him, but he has this curse, too–and it’s threatening everything he has or wants. There’s a really dire external threat–but you get the idea that Phil could solve that problem if he wasn’t also trying to keep the werewolf at bay. I really like that idea that we can sometimes be our own worst enemy, you know? I think we can all relate to doing stupid stuff that we know undercuts the things we want.
-PH: Speaking of characters, you have a whole mix of monsters in the Graves family. How did you decide on those monsters for your characters?
-Tim: I’m a big fan of horror movies. But I’m a HUGE fan of the Universal monsters: Dracula, Wolf-Man, Frankenstein, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Mummy. Wolf-Man and the Creature are constantly competing for my #1 monster spot! I just can’t get enough of them. And I also love the Hammer films and Godzilla, King Kong, and anything with creatures and monsters, like Jason and the Argonauts. I used to watch all these movies on Saturday afternoons and just be mesmerized. They had big impact on me, and I’ve always wanted to tell something in a monster-verse.
So we have Phil (dad, werewolf). He’s got smarts and tech–sometimes–and brute strength, at other times. I also wanted to make sure my super team was balanced power- and weakness-wise. Immediately, I thought of a nine-year-old Creature from the Black Lagoon, Lum–our fish-boy. For the mom, Bjanka, I wanted a formidable monster who could go toe-to-toe with a werewolf or any threat, and a gorgon from Greek mythology seemed like the best pairing. I wanted to give them a daughter to balance things out and explore other sides. With Nori (teenage daughter, siren), I get to explore the idea of someone who isn’t a typical monster, but can do devastating mind control. What’s that like? If she can make people do what she wants, can she ever really trust anyone? And, finally, Gordo. What family is complete without an adorable baby zombie with an unquenchable hunger for brains?!
-PH: The story blends science fiction, family drama, monsters, and epic adventure. How challenging was it to combined all those attributes into one story?
-Tim: In a lot of ways, they all fall naturally together rather seamlessly. Horror has always kind of mixed these things. If you think about it, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein isn’t just a monster book, it’s one of the first science fiction novels.
For me, one of the coolest things about horror is how versatile it is. It encompasses monster movies, teen slasher flicks, haunted houses, space monsters, and even psychological terror. You can kind of tell any story you want, because at its heart, horror really isn’t the gore–although that’s great–horror, real terrifying horror is achieved when something recognizable is twisted, distorted in just the right ways so that a reality that is recognizable is made uncomfortable.
Ultimately, whatever the fantastical nature of the story, if you set it in the real world–or at least a real world, a believable setting, people can relate. Part of that is making the characters relatable. We might have werewolves and vampires in this story. But if you’re a parent or you’ve had parents, you’re going to relate to them. And when people see strong characters, they’re willing to go with you on a journey, even if it’s a funny fish-boy walking down the street with his sister.
-PH: What can you tell us about how you created the art for this comic?
-Tim: The book has a very super hero feel to it. The world is bright and seems normal, until you see an elven creature in the corner. All of this works to accentuate the scary and dark parts–because you don’t always see them coming. As the team moves from world to world, we have different landscapes and moods, and the reader is really immersed in the whirlwind of the story–but it’s always anchored in reality.
Brian Atkins did the pencils and inks for this book. Brian is incredibly talented storyteller. I’d worked with him before, and when I was coming up with the initial concept for the book, I knew there was no one better to co-create this with me.
He does a fantastic job with big action and also with the emotional moments. He’s capable of elaborate double-page action splashes and then slowing things down and focusing in on simple looks and gestures. He knows how to bring that stuff to life in very dramatic ways. And his character designs–his monsters–are really terrific.
In the end, there are a lot of chills and thrills, but at its heart, this is a family drama—primarily about fathers and sons—dressed up in the teeth and claws of a monster adventure story. There’s yelling and hugging, tears and laughs, but also grand action with these all-too-human monsters. And Brian just brings all of that across in his line work.
-PH: You worked on the comic along with Brian Atkins, Dijjo Lima, and Marco Della Verde. Can you talk about what it was like working with them, and how everyone contributed?
-Tim: Making comics is a team sport. You really need a collection of talented artisans to bring a book to life, and everyone on this team stepped up and exceeded expectations. From my script to the lines to the colors, then the letters, the story just got better after each person touched it. It’s not quite an assembly line, but everyone does their part in a sequence, and we’re sending messages back and forth and it’s a lot for me to manage–and it can get a little crazy. But it’s very satisfying to watch it all come together.
I mentioned Brian’s wonderful work above. Dijjo Lima as well as Ander Zarate added the vivid colors and dark shadows to our monster family. And it was quite a challenge working with werewolf hair, Medusa scales, fish skin. They really delivered. Just look at those pages. The book looks fantastic.
I’ve worked with Marco on several projects. He’s a very talented letterer, and he also handles a lot of the production work for me–getting the files ready for printing, etc. I would be lost without his assistance. Brandon Daniels also stepped in to help with some production details.
-PH: As for yourself, when did you get into the comic world?
-Tim: I’ve always been into stories, and I’ve been writing for a long time. But a few years ago, I decided to take it seriously. Somehow, I had the good fortune to meet Andy Schmidt, a former editor at Marvel and IDW, who teaches classes on writing for comics. He created a whole school and community based on creating comics called Comics Experience. I got involved, and I’ve stayed involved because the camaraderie and learning that goes on in that community is unbelievably great. There are so many talented creators–at every stage from casual fan to season pro–sharing what they’re working on and sharing what they’ve learned. Everyone is so generous and supportive. It’s a great place to fill up the creative tank, and it’s an invaluable resource.
I workshop some scripts, and then got together with some artists and started making comics. You can read some of my early short comics at my site, moonrisecomics.com. There’s monsters and aliens, and other cool stuff. From those short stories, I went on to create a mini graphic novel with Brian Atkins called Gargoyle By Moonlight. That did well, and I’ve just kept plugging along. The comics medium is so versatile and rich. And I have a lot of stories to tell.
-PH: You created Moonrise Comics. How did that come about, and how has that helped you get your comics out into the world?
-Tim: When I was getting started, I wanted to be able to direct people to one place to find all of my projects. Moonrise Comics is my imprint–and the home to a lot of my projects, such as Gargoyle By Moonlight and the upcoming Cash Box Dreams. Rather than trying to keep multiple websites and “brands” going at once or starting over from scratch with each project, I use moonrisecomics.com as my platform. Having one site has allowed people to follow me and keep up on what I’m working on. It’s a great platform to promote my work and the work of my collaborators. The Family Graves is published by Source Point Press. They have a whole range of horror and supernatural stories. They are an awesome company growing every year. Even though The Family Graves is more heroic than horror, its monster family adventure angle makes it a good fit for their audience, and we couldn’t be happier to be onboard. It’s been great getting to know the Source Point Press team and getting out there to promote all their cool titles. Anyone into supernatural stories should give the Source Point Press titles a look.
-PH: You’re obviously a fan of comics, but have you always been a horror fan? Have your comics always had horror themes?
-Tim: Definitely. As I mentioned, I couldn’t get enough of the classic monsters growing up. As I got older, there was Freddy and Jason, Jaws, American Werewolf in London, Wolfen, Night of the Living Dead, and so many other ghouls, monsters, and creepy houses that I can’t name them all. And I still love thrillers and chillers.
I love great stories–and I think horror let’s you tell some of the best. I love the conventions of the genre and even the silly tropes. With horror, you can tell internal and external struggles, explore the human condition/relationships, go sci-fi, get trapped in a haunted house, tell psychological stories, get weird–anything.
-PH: Here’s your chance to promote anything we haven’t talked about. Lets us know something more about ‘The Family Graves’ or Moonrise Comics that wasn’t mentioned, your next project, and/or anything else you would like to mention.
-Tim: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I’d recommend that people check out The Family Graves. There’s a monster-size 10-page preview available at: http://www.moonrisecomics.com/the-family-graves.html. All four issues are out now, so if you like to binge your entertainment, you can get the complete series and enjoy a satisfying read. Dig The Family Graves and climb in for an adventure-packed monster-size great time!
The book can be purchased through the Source Point Press store (http://sourcepointpress.storenvy.com) and at the dozens of comic cons we’ll be attending. It’s available digitally now at DriveThru Comics (http://drivethrucomics.com/product/240078/Family-Graves-1), and will be on comiXology any day now.
And thanks to Tim for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully you got a good look into this new comic series, and how it was made. Again, don’t forget to get your copy at the links Tim mentioned above, and stay updated with them at Moonrise Comics!