Comic Book Day: Talking “Clive Barker’s Next Testament” with Mark Miller
By Dan Casey on April 24, 2013
Though there are plenty of announcements to look forward to at C2E2 this weekend, the fine folks at BOOM! Studios had a bombshell of their own to drop: next month, they’ll be publishing Clive Barker’s Next Testament. Written by Clive Barker and Mark Miller, this maxi-series is a horror-fantasy epic of Biblical proportions. Literally. As in they meet God (you know, from that book). To get the skinny on the sacrilegious series, I sat down with Seraphim Films co-head and Next Testament co-writer Mark Miller, who gave us the goods on everything from how he got into horror to building the story from the ground up to the most succinct answer yet to the vaunted “burrito question.” So, say your prayers and read on, because what comes next is straight from the Seraphim scribe’s scripture.
NERDIST: We all know Clive’s reputation for scaring us shitless, but tell me about your background? What attracted you to horror?
MARK MILLER: I had a babysitter, my aunt, who used to rent and watch movies that I probably shouldn’t have seen at an early age. Her favorite genre was horror, so it was all that ever played on my TV during my formative years. Sure, some of them messed with me more than others (Eraserhead at age 12? Too soon!), but I always thought it was great. It wasn’t long before I started picking the titles myself, and that’s when the real fun began.
Later, however, I began to realize that horror was more than just blood and boobies. I discovered that the genre had a real power to it. I now firmly believe that horror, when done right, has the ability to be transgressive, and show us truths about the world that other genres cannot. It was my kooky Aunt Teresa that attracted me to horror in the first place, but what sustained me was its ability to hit those raw nerves and show us things we’d otherwise never have the courage to face.
N: As a medium for horror, how do you think comics fare? Are they more or less effective than film at creating that sense of unease and dread?
MM: As with anything, it depends on the comic. But comics exist in a sort of middle ground. They’re not quite books (which really have the ability to get inside our heads and mess with the wiring), and they’re not quite movies (which tend to be a more passive, albeit less-controlled experience), and because of that, I think comics books are the best of both worlds.
There’s a lot of stuff that happens between the panels that leaves room in a reader’s mind for some pretty freaky shit to go down. For those reasons, I’ve found that comics are an incredibly effective medium for horror.
Are they more effective than films? For certain things, definitely. I haven’t been scared by a horror film in years. But I have walked away from many of them feeling distinctly icky. Comics, on the other hand, have sent my heart racing recently. And nothing beats that feeling.
N: You’re currently writing Hellraiser for BOOM! Studios, but Next Testament is an original series. What sort of challenges does tackling a project like this pose in comparison to working with an existing character?
MM: Great question. It’s truly a matter of replacing one set of problems for an entirely new batch. With Hellraiser, I realized that my mind wasn’t automatically wired for continual episodic storytelling and I had to retrain it. Running with a story and not being able to see the finish line is terrifying. And one of the biggest issues with Hellraiser was that I took over during an incredibly hectic time. They were behind schedule and every week I was turning in scripts that were being drawn as I wrote them. There was no time to think. It was purely about doing. And not knowing where my end was, I often felt like I was a train running on tracks that were being set down directly in front of me.
It was harrowing and exciting and I’m happy I’m not doing it now, but I look forward to doing it again… if that makes any sense.
Now, however, with the new comic, it’s a much more contained story. I already know what the ending is. I like that. And it’s these types of stories that I feel I was born to write. I grew up watching so many movies that my mind just works in these 3 act chunks. So when I moved over to Next Testament, I could practically feel my brain salivating.
But as I said, new challenges have arisen. There’s a structure to this kind of storytelling that doesn’t exist in an ongoing series. It’s a bit like writing a movie instead of a television show. There’s a lot less room for detail, so the need for economic storytelling is far greater.
Honestly, though, neither form requires any more skill than the other. They’re both challenging as hell. One of them demands a perfect, meticulously mapped out vision. The other utilizes an epic ability to build worlds and retain information. And as if that weren’t enough, they have to be good too.
N: Well, it sounds like you’re up to the task. Tell us a bit about Next Testament and what we can expect.
MM: It’s about a man who unearths God – The God – and soon discovers he’s made a terrible mistake. This is the God of the Old Testament we’re talking about here. He’s not exactly known for being rational or compassionate. As for what to expect from the series, I’m going to go with sex, violence, and sacrilege. Y’know, all the important stuff.
N: Of course – the important stuff. How closely did you work with Clive in creating Next Testament? Is it more of a situation where he’s involved in creating the architecture of the story and the major plot points, leaving you to fill in the details?
MM: Clive is always the architect. He’s a master at what he does for a reason. With Hellraiser, I was stepping into a mythology that already existed. This is something entirely new, obviously. And it’s something we created together, which thus far, is one of the major highlights of my career. What this means is there’s a lot in the story that comes from both of us. There are story sessions where we get together and throw everything at the walls to see what sticks. There’s nothing more fun than those getting creative with Clive.
But, to get back to the question, we hash out everything beforehand. Clive generally offers the ideas that are broader in scope, while I tend to focus on the minutiae. It’s probably why we work so well together. Sometimes the sessions last minutes, sometimes hours. But whenever we’re done, I sit down and write it to form. That’s when the final editing session happens and, at that point, it’s just me battling the story at my desk. Not everything is going to fit and not everything is going to work for the medium. But that’s what novelizations are for….
N: The artwork I’ve seen so far is gorgeous, but foreboding. What inspired the visual design of Next Testament?
MM: Thanks. We’re thrilled by it because it’s Clive’s painting style that’s the overriding inspiration for the visual design. It’s primal and completely unhinged, and at the same time, unbelievably meticulous. If you do an image search for “Clive Barker’s Paintings,” you’ll see exactly what I mean on all fronts. We very much wanted to bring his style to the comic form. And, thus far, I think the artists have done an incredible job.
N: Apart from Next Testament, what else can we expect from the folks over at Seraphim in the coming months?
MM: Lots, as a matter of fact. Books. Comics. Movies. A web store. Even live plays. There’s nothing that isn’t in the works. Clive has never been content to be any single type of artist. He directs, produces, paints, and he even writes novels for adults as well as children. It’s one of the reasons I’m so happy to have been able to do this interview. I think Seraphim and Nerdist share similar visions. Sure, the end results are a hair different, but I feel the paths are comparable. And I’m happy they’ve finally crossed.
N: Us too. What comics are you reading and enjoying right now?
MM: My mainstays are The Walking Dead, of course, and Invincible. I’m a big fan of both. But who isn’t, right? I just started reading Preacher, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I know it’s a bit like saying, “I haven’t seen The Godfather yet,” but I just never found the time. A friend finally just handed me his trade paperbacks and told me not to give them back until I’d read them all. And the last comic I read was the new issue of Adventure Time. As dark as I like to go, I do enjoy the funny stuff.
But when I want the perfect mixture of dark and light, which is most of the time, I go with EC Comics. I’m always in the mood for those bad boys. I grew up reading those and I’m constantly finding new things to love about them.
N: Odd, but tough: what is in your ideal burrito?
MM: One word: Breakfast.
BOOM! Studios’ Clive Barker’s Next Testament by Clive Barker and Mark Miller comes to a local comic book store near you on May 29th. Are you excited for the comic? Let us know in the comments below!