Interview - Garry McLaughlin and Jamie McMorrow

Writer Garry McLaughlin and artist Jamie McMorrow are feeling that a Year of Fear is what's necessary for comic book fans. They started with The Abortion, a haunting tale of an aborted fetus seeking revenge against its parents. They followed that up with Yellow, a story about an unlikely mass murderer. These titles have been parlayed into a new publishing label called Laser Age Comics.

They've got ten more horror one-shots on the horizon, but they took a break from tales of terror to answer a few questions posed by Omnicomic. Well, a break from terror unless the thought of Justin Bieber terrifies you.

Omnicomic: You’ve started Laser Age Comics to publish the Year of Fear works. What’s the origin behind naming it Laser Age?

Jamie : A combination of arrogance and humour! We've had the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the overlong Dark Age and the contentious (when-and-did-it-actually happen?) Diamond Age. It seemed pretty funny to not only announce a new aeon of comics, but to then call our company after it. I was pretty up for calling the new movement the Rainbow Age, but who on Earth, apart from some hippies, would buy a book under that banner?

In all honesty, it seems to me that modern pop culture really is eating itself, y'know? What was the best track I heard last week? Justin Bieber's Baby slowed down 800%. The Fantastic Four movie franchise is getting rebooted about half an hour after the last movie came out. Pride, Prejudice And Zombies is a big, big seller. And after this culture has completely cannibalised itself, what's left? That's the time for the Laser Age, cleansing all with its unholy light and giving us a fresh, empty page to write on. See? Arrogance and humour.

Garry: Indeed. This really started as Jamie’s ‘unified theory of everything’, which he’s outlined pretty well here. We just feel there’s a change around the corner, where things get a little less po-faced and ‘epic’. It might seem strange that we’re doing horror as part of this, but there’s a distinct lack of horror comics on the shelves, and I think that’s because people are so consumed by the awfulness of ‘real stuff’. Come the Laser Age, they’ll hopefully return to the vicarious thrill of being scared by strange leather-gloved protagonists and murderous abortions...

Omnicomic: Despite the modern feel to the name “Laser Age Publishing,” so far “The Abortion” and “Yellow” have had a Golden Age, pulpy feel to them. Is that an intentional atmospheric device to add to the tension in the books?

Jamie : A Golden Age, pulpy, feel? Thanks, I like that! As for 'an intentional atmospheric device', I'm afraid I'm not that smart, but, as of now, I'm going to be using that line and claiming it as my own!

I think the thing with this Laser Age business is that it's more something that Garry and I aspire to, rather than something which we've already achieved. This is definitely true for me, anyway. When we truly come up with a Laser Age comic, you'll know, because it'll come with a health warning and a set of industrial strength sunglasses.

Garry: Well the atmosphere is definitely deliberate. I based the designs of the covers for The Abortion and ‘Yellow’ on a series of old, pulpy sources. As I said before, we’re kind of missing those old school horrors because the shelves are full of gloss. I remember picking up old pulpy comics as a kid that just made me feel a little weird and strange even reading them. A little wrong, you know?

As for the use of the publishing name as a means of adding tension, I suppose there’s something unconscious in there, which Jamie would probably never admit to. He’s cleverer than he admits. Like he says though, these are comics released by Laser Age Comics. They’re not ‘Laser Age’ comics... Not yet...

Omnicomic: Why did you and Jamie decide to create a “Year of Fear?”

Garry: To be honest, a combination of the amount of work Jamie produced and arrogance, both of which we seem to be thriving on right now. I started art duties on The Abortion at a time when Jamie was really churning out these great, one shot horrors, each of them with a slight twist or edge. Almost from the start, we saw this as a trade collection of these weird horror shorts, each with slightly diffferent influences and art styles. I suppose we were challenging ourselves, more than anything else. The 'Year' related more to the intended number, twelve, than the timescales, which we soon realised was utterly impossible...

Jamie : And , come on....A brand new horror one-shot every month? Without a single vampire or zombie in sight? Hallelujah! I'd buy that!

Omnicomic: “Yellow” features an unconventional killer (a point I made in my review). Is the reveal of the killer the true “horror” part of the comic?

Garry: I like to think so. I love horror films, but I hate average, sensationalist slashers or 'torture porn' or whatever. I prefer movies that find the horror in strange places, in the unexpected, and in the humanity of the characters. 'Yellow' does all of this, I think. The twist in the tale that comes with the reveal was elevated at a late stage into something altogether more emotional when Jamie added some further dialogue, and it suddenly seemed less like a gimmick and more like the hinge on which the whole horror of the comic rests.

Jamie : I too, bloody love horror films, but am heartily sick of these modern ones in which every single character, including the killer, looks like they've just stepped off 90210. I want my horror to be ugly and creepy, not oiled up and fashionable!

Garry: What about creepy and oiled up? Would that work?

Omnicomic: With both “The Abortion” and “Yellow” do you want the reader to fear their own capabilities? That is, does the fear lie in what we’re truly capable of as humans?

Jamie : Again, I'm going to have to play the 'I'm not that smart' card. Is that really lame of me? It's just that both the comics that we've released so far were written by me in a very short space of time, with no question as to what they were 'really' about. As I've looked over them again, with a little perspective, I've every so often spotted little themes and subtexts, but I'm happy for that stuff just to come out, unedited, and worry about what it all 'means' later. And I'd never want people to fear their own capabilities. That'd be mean.

Garry: Big question! I’d second Jamie here and say that we didn’t really think about this too much. Having said that, I think all good horror should play on duality, particularly the dual tendencies of human nature. ‘Yellow’ particularly is full of that for me. Who’s the bad guy? And why? There are no clear cut answers, and that’s usually true in life.

I think that’s where the true horror lies. It’s the fear of what lies within us, rather than the other. But we didn’t really mean any of that to happen! Hindsight’s a great thing...

Omnicomic: Can we expect different genres from Laser Age Comics? Or will most comics deal with social topics (such as abortion and age)?

Jamie : I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up a common misunderstanding....The Abortion comic, in which an aborted foetus wreaks a bloody revenge on the parents who got rid of it, is in no way a comment, in any shape or form, on abortion as an issue. It's a horror story, pure and simple. So, I really don't see it, or the follow up 'Yellow', as dealing with social topics. If people are wanting informed, well-researched opinions or debate, I really advise them to look anywhere other than a comic that I've written. Seriously, I'm daft.
But, to answer your question, and not ramble on about something that's been bugging me for a while...I'd love Laser Age Comics to put out all different kinds of stuff. And as I've completely forgotten to mention already, this talk of Comic Ages only really refers to superhero books, and who can say they wouldn't get just the teensiest delicious shiver from a superhero book brought out by a company called Laser Age Comics? Eh? Eh?

Garry: Ooh, I hope so! The Abortion was most definitely not a moral comic; there is absolutely nothing in there that questions the rightness or wrongness of it. It’s a completely unreal scenario, which is exploited simply because of the sense of horror it induces. Pun not intended.

I love the exploration of the horror genre we’ve set ourselves with Year of Fear, but in a move that will no doubt plunge my credibility among some ‘true’ comic folk out there, I’d like to come out as being a complete superhero geek. I think the genre is much maligned and usually badly served, but I also think it has immense scope as a genre in which to explore what is possible with comics. I’m looking forward to a bit of that action!

Omnicomic: What’s next after “Yellow?”

Garry: Much more from 'Year of Fear'... The next is a gruesome little number called Old Folks' Home, which we think we'll just slide out before the end of the year, then we'll work on '...And This Day', which is a very weird and psychedelic piece that I think should come with some fanfare. Beyond that, well, you'll just have to wait and see!

Omnicomic: Any conventions lined up for this year?

Garry: Not this year - I think we've taken a year to really find our feet, and balance the comicking with life and work and things, but it's my hope that by summer next year, we'll have at least four titles out there. That's when I think it'll be time to hit the conventions with a vengeance.

Omnicomic: Anything you want to plug while you have the floor?

Jamie : Yes! The Year Of Fear....12 one-shot, standalone horror tales, each one guaranteed to give you a delighful pop thrill and hopefully some pretty bad dreams, brought to you on an irregular basis by Laser Age Comics. The Abortion has been out for a while and is soon to be joined by 'Yellow', which I am so pleased with, featuring, as it does, some of the finest art ever to splutter forth from Garry's pen. And SuperNo!, which I ain't saying anything about, but just wanted to share the pretty title.

Garry: SuperNo!? This is the first I’ve heard of that one... That is a pretty title, and gets me more than a little excited. Hmm...

Okay, other than SuperNo! We’ve got the Year of Fear, obviously. I kind of see Laser Age Comics as being this organic thing though, which will grow in its own way. We’ve already just managed to bring on a couple of cool folk to help us colour, ink and letter, and I’m pushing them to try their own art. I’d like to see us expand into other genres, but remain true to this unwritten ethos of producing unusual, quirky tales.