By Mitch Barracuda
Harold Sipe is the creator and writer of the comedy/horror comic book Screamland, his first foray into comic books with Image Comics. “Comics were always around and I grew up with them as part of my overall vocabulary and worldview.” Harold remembers. “My mom would always buy me one or two when we would go out and run errands, back then they were only like 50 or 60 cents. Really decent of her, as I think she never really cared for them herself.”
Harold went to college at the Kansas City Art Institute during a time that will surely go down as the “comic book golden age” of the school. In addition to Hector Casanova, his classmates included: Matt Fraction, Jim Mahfood, Steven Sanders, and Chris Grine. Harold feels very fortunate to have such a wide and talented community to call on for advice and support.
Harold currently oversees mobile comic book and manga applications for uclick/GoComics. His next book is The Kraken Armada, an action/sci-fi epic drawn by Steven (Five Fists of Science) Sanders and he is working on a Screamland follow-up. Check out more at the official Screamland MySpace page.
Geeks of Doom: Last stop. Geeks of Doom. All passengers must do an interview before exiting the bus.
Harold Sipe: Wow, that’s still way cheaper than cab fare to the airport. Thanks for having me.
GoD: Harold, you’re currently the writer for Screamland published by Image Comics. How is writing that book going for you?
HS: It’s been fantastic. This being my first comic it really blows my mind that I got to work with the artist I really wanted for the book and that I got to tell my story and have Image and so many people be so supportive.
It’s been a hell of a lot of fun. I finished the last script a couple of months ago and it really depressed me on some level that I wouldn’t be writing Screamland anymore.
GoD: I hope not. So monsters like Frankenstein, The Wolf-Man, and Dracula not only exist, but they continue to be actors in Hollywood. How did you come about this idea?
HS: I lived in L.A. for several years, and really didn’t have a very good time of it. I guess it say a lot about me that I couldn’t manage to be happy in perpetual summer-land.
The last year I was there, all I wanted to do was to leave. The book became a meditation of sorts. It is where I processed all these thoughts of my surroundings and my daydreams of getting the hell out of there.
It also became somewhat of a meditation on the whole celebrity culture. We have become so saturated with all that stuff I am not even sure that is just about L.A., thought it does intensify quite a bit living there.
Most mornings I just want to grab a cup of coffee and check the news to see if we bombed someone today. In order to get any real information I have to navigate this mine field of drunken celebrity photos.
That’s a lot of serious going on in a humor book, I suppose.
GoD: Is this book based on some personal experiences you’ve had in Hollywood?
HS: Uh, sadly yes. I mean, I never had any acting aspirations, but the drinking was definitely a thing. It’s funny to me how many people have mentioned all of the drinking in the book, because that’s pretty much all I did in L.A.
Issue three (shipping this month) has a bit with Carl, our werewolf, in a bar. The last half of the book is based VERY closely on personal experience. I don’t want to give too much away, but it has to do with a mechanical bull…
GoD: Screamland at times feels like a cross between Entourage and Angel (well, Season 5 at least) with the drama mixed in perfectly with the humor. Are these along with any other TV shows an influence for the book?
HS: I must be one of the few guys on Earth that has never seen either Buffy or Angel. I will pause here for stunned gasps from your readers. … I didn’t watch TV at all for a number of years, and those shows sort of fell in that timeframe.
Entourage I will totally confess to as a bit of an influence. I didn’t care for the last season that much, but when that show is on, it is on. I think as far as TV shows go, I have to site Arrested Development. I was watching seasons 1-3 on DVD as I wrote the first three issues. The timing in that show is amazing.
Another media influence would be a radio show on KCRW, Harry Shearer’s Le Show. Harry Shearer does many of the voices on The Simpsons and has been in every Christopher Guest movie since Spinal Tap. His…just his wit. I HAVE to listen to that show every week. Sometimes when I was inventing characters for Screamland, they would all have Harry Shearer voices in my head.
GoD: Why do you feel readers should show sympathy for a character like Frankenstein’s monster in trying to be a Hollywood star again?
HS: I am not sure they should. I feel at lot of sympathy for the characters, but it is really more heartbreak at their single-minded pursuit of these long gone glory days.
I mean, I hope the readers DO end up feeling sympathy for the characters. If they can’t relate or sympathize at all, then I am doing a pretty terrible job. For me, it is like this sinking feeling of watching close friends making really terrible choices.
GoD: As well as Andrea Silverman, an agent that seemingly has a heart. What’s her angle in all of this?
HS: Andrea has inherited this family business, this talent agency, and has to try and steer it into the modern age. She has, through force of will, transformed her grandfather’s business from an agency that just represented these older creature feature-types into a modern “hip” agency. She has worked hard for that, but at the same time has honored these contracts with these monsters. Lifetime contracts with immortals can stretch on a long time.
That’s why I love her character so much; she is driven but keeps her word. There will be a few interesting character bits with her in issue five that will show her in a different light, but at the end of the day she kept her word. That says a hell of a lot, you know?
GoD: What do you hope readers get out of this book?
HS: I really hope they find it funny. You mention the balance of the drama and humor, and I have worked very hard at that. I hope that comes off. At the same time, Hector and I have had so much fun putting this together; I really hope that comes across. It’s sad, but in a funny kind of way. Maybe like M*A*S*H, only without the Korean War and Alan Alda. That analogy just killed any sales on the book, I am sure.
GoD: Are there any plans to expand on Screamland, like perhaps a TV show or movie?
HS: Man that’s really a thing now, huh? Like, isn’t it crazy how often that happens? I actually think it would be pretty funny given the subject of the book, these old monsters making a comeback in a large Hollywood film. No plans currently exist, but I am not opposed to it or anything.
GoD: I hope for this series to continue past the limited series. How do you manage to mix in fantasy characters like Carl the Wolf-Man with the reality of a place like Los Angeles?
HS: Thanks, I should mention I am working on a Screamland follow-up. I am not ready to announce anything yet, and I have another book ahead of it at the moment, but it is starting to come along. I hope it happens.
Mixing fantasy characters into L.A. is not as hard as it might seem. All of these guys are just acting as metaphors for the masses longing for fame or fulfillment in Hollywood. If anything they may seem pretty tame to folks you might actually run into in L.A.
GoD: How did you and Screamland artist Hector Casanova meet?
HS: Hector was one of the first people I met when I transferred to the Kansas City Art Institute. He was really kind to me and was a really friendly presence in a new environment.
After school I rented studio space from him when I was still entertaining notions of being a fine artist.
I was always in awe of his work, and when Screamland came up he was the only person I could imagine doing it.
GoD: His style really represents the conflict of the series between man and monster as well as the real Hollywood. It’s both beautiful and dirty at the same time… and I mean that in a very good way.
HS: Totally. He had never been to L.A. at all until last summer. We took a road trip there after Comic Con last year. He soaked it up for a week and took a ton of photos. L.A., like any other city of its size, is grimy as all hell. Hector can do that, his work can be ultra-clean one moment and somehow filthy the next. So much of the tone of the book comes from his style.
GoD: Are there any characters or books you’d like to eventually get your hands on?
HS: This is all so new to me at this point; I am pretty thrilled to be able to tell stories this way. The next thing I have on tap is a Science Fiction comic I am working on with Steven (Five Fists of Science) Sanders, and that is a blast so far. It is so far from what Screamland is and it’s really letting me dive into a genre I have always wanted to work inside. I think by the fall, we will be far enough along on to talk about the project a bit more.
GoD: Cool. I will definitely be knocking on the door for it. What is one of your geekiest moments in Hollywood?
HS: Going into Meltdown and Golden Apple in the same day because I love spending hours in comic shops?
I am not sure about geeky, but I had a moment when I first saw the actual Walk of Fame. It’s one of these things you see ALL the time on TV and movies and then you and standing right there. There were lots of moments like that in L.A. You really start to realize why the whole town looks familiar, it’s because you have been watching it as a backdrop your whole life.
GoD: Alrighty Harold. Thanks for riding the Geeks of Doom bus. Next time, make sure The Mummy brings the correct change?
HS: At this point, I think it would be cruel to ask the Mummy for any amount of change. Thanks man, it’s been fun.