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Inside Look: Scream Queen #1

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Out this last week from Boom! Entertainment, Scream Queen #1 is a macabre mix of dark humor, horror and teen love. Series writer Brendan Hay gave Broken Frontier this exclusive creator's commentary on the issue below.

The solicitation reads:

"Everyone wants to be loved. Even the shambling, macabre mockery of a man who brings terror to the town of Rumson and leaves blood in his wake. But when he sets his sights on Molly, beauty queen of Rumson High, she’s going to be more than he can handle! The Daily Show staff writer Brendan Hay brings a Heathers-meets-Carrie sensibility to his horror series debut!"

###

Ah, Scream Queen. Don’t let the title fool you; this is not a comic about a really loud Freddie Mercury tribute band. No, Scream Queen #1 is the first installment in a five-issue mini-series from BOOM! Studios. Written by me with art by Nate Watson, it’s the story of a lonely slasher named Wrighty who falls in love with Molly, one of his would-be teenage victims. It’s a mash-up of horror, comedy, and romance that examines the hilarious pain of teenage love in its most demented form.

Scream Queen #1 also represents a personal victory for me. I’m a lifelong comic book fan, but for the last couple years, I’ve been writing almost exclusively for TV, working on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Simpsons, Frank TV, and others. During this time, I squeezed in the occasional comic book work – contributing short stories to Lovebunny & Mr. Hell and Tromatic Tales for Devil’s Due, and Cthulhu Tales for BOOM! – but Scream Queen marks my first bigger, serialized project. Hopefully, this will be the first of many, as writing Scream Queen has been a blast. I hope you enjoy!


Scream Queen #1 Pages 1 and 2

Page 1

Welcome to Rumson Field Mall. It’s Wrighty’s home, Molly’s workplace, and our location for much of Scream Queen. Yes, I’ve created a comic book that largely takes place inside a mall. If that doesn’t reveal my Long Island roots, nothing will.

Before we get to the killings, I’m attempting to mislead the reader on these first few pages with a scene straight out of a teen sex comedy. Horror movies have taught me that scares work best after you’ve first made the audience feel at ease. Plus, I’m normally a comedy writer, so I couldn’t help but open with some joking banter.

Page 2

Reason #429 why it’s awesome having Mark Waid as my editor: he helped me trim my overwritten 30-page plot into a perfectly reasonable 23-page first issue. This opening sequence is a great example of how he saved me from myself. I was so into trying to create this false sense of a light teen comedy at the start of the issue, I originally followed these characters for 6 or 7 pages. However, Mark made me realize 3-pages works just as well since these characters are basically cannon fodder.

We also meet George the Janitor on this page. Even though he only appears in a few scenes, his cranky, creepy demeanor made him fun to write. When we were first starting this project, our artist, the awesome Nate Watson, said he wished George appeared in more of the story. Now in hindsight, I kinda wish that too.


Scream Queen #1 Pages 3 and 5

Page 3

Ah, our story’s first kill. When writing a horror screenplay, they say you need to have a death/scare by page 10, and the same logic applies here. So meet Wrighty, our resident knife-wielding lunatic. This page is his perfect intro, establishing the comic’s genre-mixing and Wrighty’s slasher cred by having him interrupt our teen comedy with a blood-splattering murder. Which is appropriate since Scream Queen began with me wondering, "What if you dropped Leatherface into Pretty in Pink?"

Of course, slitting teenagers’ throats is only one aspect of Wrighty. Now that it’s clear he’s our slasher, we will soon reveal he’s no mere Jason Voorhies-esque killing machine. Wrighty is also a sad, romantic teenager with dreams… who just happens to also have an uncontrollable murderous rage. Hey, nobody’s perfect.

Page 5

Meet our heroine, Molly, and the rest of our main characters, Kira, Trent, and Fisher. From the beginning, I never wanted Molly to be a whiny victim or a dumb, overly-buxom blonde. Thankfully, Nate’s on the same page, so she’s introduced as a sweet, fun, and slightly self-depreciating teen who knows what she wants, but lacks the confidence to stand up and grab it. As Ross Richie described her, she’s that girl from high school who hasn’t yet realized how awesome and pretty she really is. So really, how could Wrighty NOT fall for her?

Molly also references Avril Lavigne on this page. Without realizing it until now, I refer to Ms. "Sk8er Boi" three times in the first two issues. So if you want to know what constitutes a guilty pleasure on my ipod… there you go. The next time I write a comic, I need to earn my music cred back by working in references to The Hold Steady.

   
Scream Queen #1 Pages 9 and 10

Pages 9 & 10

Here you see that Wrighty isn’t quite the monster that earlier throat-slitting suggested. This is one of my goals with the book: to create a sympathetic slasher. Sure, Wrighty kills teens. A lot. But he’s also a lonely, confused kid who just wants to be loved (hence George yelling at him for "sneaking out" on page 9 and watching teens through a peephole on page 10). If an abusive janitor raised you in the mall’s crawl space, who’s to say you’d turn out any better?

We’ll learn more about George and how he "adopted" Wrighty in the next issue, but their violent, warped parent/child relationship is clear from these two pages. Which brings us to Scream Queen #1’s essay question: who is the real monster in this comic, Wrighty or George? Discuss, and cite evidence. Partial credit will be awarded.

Also on this page, we get a peak inside Wrighty’s bedroom. This whole set-up – Wrighty living in the walls, obsessively watching the normal teens - is a sorta-homage to the 70’s horror film Bad Ronald. My fiancée’s friend introduced me to this movie a few years back and it’s the campy but entertaining story of a kid who, after accidentally murdering another child, is sealed up inside his house’s crawl space by his Mom. Of course, Mom dies and a new family with three beautiful young daughters moves in, so Ronald starts watching them and… well, if you can ever track down Bad Ronald (I don’t think it’s on DVD), check it out. It’s a fun flick and was a major influence on me when I was figuring out how to create a sympathetic monster.

Page 13

The mix of death and teen flirtation makes this second-favorite page in this issue. It’s a dark, absurd juxtaposition, but Nate draws the scene with such a deadpan, straight tone, it plays wonderfully. Thanks to this tone Nate’s created, Molly’s line in the second panel – "Poor George. The mall killed you…" – is simultaneously sad and hilarious. And think: this is just a page of talking heads. That’s always the sign of a good artist, when he can make a page of talking heads come to life.

I’d also like to point out Molly, Trent and Kira’s place of employment, "Grape Scott!" I was proud of thinking up the name for this fake, Orange Julius-esque food court franchise, but man, Nate elevated the entire gag with those uniforms. Nothing says a humiliating after-school job like plastic shoulder grapes.

Page 20

And now, my favorite page in the issue. It’s almost the end of the first issue, and in terms of the overall mini-series, this page marks the end of our first act. Here, Wrighty forgoes trying to kill Molly because he instead realizes – thanks to her beauty and random acts of kindness – that he’s in love with her. Naturally, though, he swoons while her best friend pukes on her shoes. That’s what passes for a romantic image in Scream Queen.

Also, a quick shout-out to Kira, the puking redhead. Initially, when I was plotting this book, her character existed solely for exposition purposes. While writing the first issue though, I developed a crush on her. She was just so much fun to write, that foul-mouthed best friend who’s always egging on Molly’s best and worst behavior. As such, her role in the rest of the series has expanded greatly.

Where do we go from here? Wrighty sets out to woo Molly, though his idea of romance involves killing anyone who so much as looks at her funny. At first, this helps transform Molly from a sweet, unnoticed food court employee into an ultra-popular cheerleader. But as the bodies keep piling up, Molly becomes paranoid, worrying that she has a deadly secret admirer. Will this fear transform her into Carrie… or Buffy? And will Wrighty find a way to win Molly’s heart… or be forced to cut it out of her chest? And how does a mascot named Rummy the Rumson Rhino fit into all of this? Find out in the remaining four issues of Scream Queen. The body count keeps rising, Nate Watson’s art keeps kicking ass (especially his cover to issue #3) and our story builds to the only location a teen horror-comedy-romance could ever stage its climax: the prom!

Scream Queen #1 is out now from Boom! priced $3.99

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