Vincent's Spine-Tingler

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The Tingler, a 1959 film directed by William Castle and starring Vincent Price may be more famous for the theater tricks designed to scare the audience with buzzers underneath their seats, than for the movie itself. Following on the success of House on Haunted Hill, the Vincent Price vehicle did deliver some frightening scenes, and viewed today, retains the charm of 1950s cinema along with the nostalgic camp. Bluewater Productions presents the sequel to the Tingler in a two-issue limited series written by Mark Miller and illustrated by Alex Lopez.

Broken Frontier caught up with Mark Miller and got his thoughts on the upcoming project.

BROKEN FRONTIER: How did you come to be involved with the Vincent Price Comics and Bluewater?

MARK MILLER: One of the folks I often write with, Martin Fisher (who did the very cool RISERS miniseries for Alterna Comics) put me in touch with Darren G. Davis of Bluewater. I had heard that Bluewater had just bought the rights to publish comics under the Vincent Price and Roger Corman banners. I talked with Darren about the possibility of doing something about The Tingler because it is my all time favorite Vincent Price movie. I wrote up a pitch and Darren gave it an A-OK.

 BF: Tell us a little about The Tingler comic...

MM: The Tingler comic is a sequel to the original movie. Not a reimagining. Not a reboot. Not a remake. It is all about fear; where it comes from and how do you combat it. William Castle gave that fear shape when he came up with the Tingler, a creature that lives in the spine of all of us that paralyzes us when we start to get scared. The only way to release the vice-like grip is through the body's natural reaction to fear: a scream.

The comic picks up the story right where the movie left off, with Vincent Price's Dr. Warren Chapin character disillusioned after the fiasco at the movie theater when the Tingler ran amok there. Chapin happens upon an article that shows a picture of an African tribe that worships a very familiar insectoid like creature. Still thirsty for information about the Tingler, Chapin grabs a pith helmet, his loyal lab assistant Dave, his assistant's girl Lucy, and hires a crusty Alan Quartermain-type jungle expert with a river boat named Hickman Huxley and goes searching for the lost tribe.

BF: The comic is a sequel to the movie, The Tingler. What about the film inspired you to do the sequel?

MM: Everyone knows about The Tingler because of the Percepto scene at the end where the director William Castle put buzzers under select movie theater seats to scare viewers when the camera goes dark and the Tingler is loose in the theater at the end of the movie. I love that concept, but on top of that, you have Vincent Price shooting up with a Fear serum and having a bad acid trip. You've got a scary as hell sequence where the movie owner is trying to scare his wife to death. And you've got some great characters, probably one of Price's best roles, where he plays a hero, but one slightly skewed because he's willing to bend the rules in the name of science. Plus there's a hokey aspect to it because the monster is a foot-long rubber lobster-centipede pulled by a visible string. I saw the movie as a kid and loved it. I saw it a few years ago at an all night movie marathon and loved it again. It's one of those movies I can't get enough of, so I was so happy when I found out I could write a follow up to it.

BF: The movie was a “Weird Science” type horror film. You take the material in a totally different direction, what was the thinking behind that?

MM: I tried to keep the tone along the same lines as a late fifties horror film and even though it gets a bit bloody, I still think it maintains that until the end. The film was kind of graphic in a creative way. In the film, Chapin cuts out the Tingler from the dead woman and we see it all in shadow as he pulls it out inch by inch and it squirms in his hands. There's the scene with the bathtub full of blood. Pretty graphic for 1959.

The theater scene was classic, but I knew in order to advance to story I had to take the characters elsewhere. I always loved movies like Cannibal Holocaust, so I thought it'd be cool to see these characters react when they were thrown into that type of situation. Above all and whatever situation I put them in, the characters (especially Price's character) were really important to get right. So Dave and Lucy had to have a hokey feel to them since they were hokey love birds in the film, but they are different hokey love birds in a dangerous jungle than when they are in the suburbs as they were in the film. Chapin had to be hellbent on finding the truth about the Tingler, but he's in the jungle, an environment he's not used to and he's forced to rely on Huxley, the river boat captain, which chafes his ass because he doesn't get along with Huxley. As long as the characters are consistent, I could take them anywhere and I think it works.

BF: How does this series fit in with the other Vincent Price comics Bluewater has done?

MM: This stands alone and I think it's one of the first Vincent Price Presents to be derived from a Vincent Price film. Vincent Price Presents is a cool title because it's a showcase for horror where sometimes Vincent Price hosts the story like the Crypt Keeper and others he stars in them. But the Vincent Price stories you've seen so far have been original concepts. This one's a comic book sequel to one of his best movies.

BF: Can you give us a little bit of your background in comics, and about your interest in the horror genre, ie…what books/movies inspired you?

MM: I'm the main editor of AICN Comics, the comic book section of Ain't It Cool News.com and review/edit/interview under the moniker Ambush Bug. I've written for AICN for over eight years. But I've been collecting and reading comics for over 25 years. It wasn't until a few years ago that I did some 10 page features for Cream City Comics' Muscles & Fights anthology books that I entertained the lunatic inside me that always wanted to write comics.

Horror has always been an interest to me. My mom attributes this to the fact that she saw The Exorcist while she was pregnant with me. I learned to read from Famous Monsters and Fangoria books and spent all my childhood free time reading comics and watching horror movies on Night Owl Theater and Dr. Creep's Theater in Ohio. That's where I first saw The Tingler and The Brain That Wouldn't Die, two of my all time favorite movies. There's something about the visceral feeling you get from a horror film that is unlike any other genre.

BF: Any particular direction you see horror comics taking? Does the Zombie/Vampire craze have much life left in it?

MM: I hope people start realizing that art is a huge factor in horror comics. Too often I've read what could have been a really scary story, but all the lines are crisp and all of the panels are clean and brightly lit. To me, the best horror comics are the ultra fine details of Bernie Wrightson or the jarbled panel puzzles of Ben Templesmith. Those two very distinct styles are most effective horror-wise for two very different reasons. Wrightson's work (and his modern counterparts Powell, Hotz, and Kelley Jones) are highly detailed and that really gets you in there to observe these not so comfortable details. Pulling you in like that takes you to a place you're not so cozy. Ben Templesmith's art (and his modern counterparts like Ashley Wood, for example) pulls you in in a different way. In those panels you are searching through layers of darks and jumbled lines and once you're deep into the panel and you realize what's going on, that's when it gets you. Art is so important. Art that is inappropriate to the material can ruin a good horror story.

I think there's always room for vampire and zombie books in comics. It all depends on the story. Sure there are a lot of zombie/vamp books out there, but there are twice as many good and bad super hero books out there and they're not going anywhere.

BF: Do you have any other projects in the works?

MM: After this two-part Tingler story, I have a one-shot Vincent Price Presents book coming out focusing on another classic horror film Witchfinder General also known as The Conqueror Worm. It's a prequel story set during the witch hunt era in Europe and follows the earliest years of Matthew Hopkins, a real life witch hunter. This is sort of an origin story of one of Vincent Price's most diabolical film roles. That comes out in February, I think. It's a twisted kind of love story, so maybe it'll come out for Valentine's Day.

Later in 2010, I have a four-part miniseries derived from the old David Carradine classic Deathsport. It's coming out through Bluewater's Roger Corman Presents line, but I'm just getting the art back from that one so it'll be a while before that hits the stands. That miniseries is sort of a reimagining-slash-prequel to the original film. The original movie had it's charm, but it was a pretty low budget flick. I try to amp it up and put a modern spin on it. I had a blast coming up with the deadly Olympic style games. Each issue will feature one sporting event as a trio of contestants fight a bunch of psychotic Sportsmen for their freedom.

I also have an original vampire miniseries coming out from Bluewater that I don't know if I can talk about yet. All I'll say is that it's called Nanny & Hank and it's vampires like you've never seen them before. I think there's going to be a preview in the back of the Stephanie Meyer (the Twilight writer) biography that Bluewater is releasing through their Female Force biography line. I think the Meyer book will be out in October and Nanny & Hank will be out in 2010.

Plus I do the AICN Comics column twice a week on aintitcoolnews.com, so I'm keeping busy.

BF: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about you, The Tingler, or Bluewater Comics?

MM: I love the movie. I did The Tingler comic because I love the movie. So if you love the movie, I hope you like it. If you haven't seen the movie, go rent it or buy it, and then read Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler #1 when it comes out on September 30th (with the second issue coming out on October 28th just in time for Halloween). You don't have to see the film to enjoy the book because it's its own story though. I just wanted to make a comic that honored the coolness of the original film.

Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler #1 is out now from Bluewater priced $3.99 with #2 available from October 28th.

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