Lost Angels co-creators Chris Anderson and David Accampo recently launched their latest Kickstarter campaign, Spectral: A Showcase of Fear. Back in 2017, Anderson and Accampo embarked on their first “horror one-shot,” DevilSkin. Quickly, the creators’ self-published horror series took off and expanded into six short stories that will be reprinted in this volume, but with a great morality twist. The full collection of stories adds a brand new seventh character, Professor Spectral, who provides the graphic novel’s interstitial cautionary tales about all sorts of spookies that go bump in the night.
But one of the coolest parts of this graphic novel is that Anderson and Accampo, whose Lost Angels has been optioned for film, have teamed up with puppet-maker Andrew Jensonto produce limited edition puppets based on Spectral‘s creature designs. The Beat recently caught up with Anderson and Accampo to discuss how the creators’ collaboration started, the inspiration behind the puppets, and more. Check it out below, along with some of the artwork from the graphic novel.
REBECCA OLIVER KAPLAN: The Kickstarter campaign poses the question, “What is the Devil to you?” So now, I am curious about what the Devil means to you?
CHRIS ANDERSON: Well, the devil is an idea, isn’t it? It can be so many things. It can be that itch that you get to be a little mischievous or the voice in the heads of full-blown psychos. That’s what people say anyway. My real answer is a bit boring though. I don’t think the devil is anything. BUT I do like thinking about it and trying to capture it on paper.
DAVID ACCAMPO: As the writer, I’m going to cheat and say that the reason our puppeteer asks that question is that I love that question more than the answer. In my reading/viewing life, I’ve seen the devil as everything from tempter to torturer to freethinking rebel. I love that everyone brings their own meaning to the Devil. In fact, the first story in our volume, DevilSkin, is about a kid who puts on a devil costume that fits like a second skin. But I suspect that the devil he finds while he’s in that costume is as individual to him as to anyone else who has worn it.
KAPLAN: The art in Spectral is almost entirely black and white, accented with a color pop. Each story is assigned its own unique color that symbolizes a point on the spectrum of fear. What are the colors of fear? What inspired you to assign colors to different types of fear?
ANDERSON: What we posit here is that fear is a spectrum of things. Red for the pure evil of the devil, green stands for want, lust, envy in our witch story, blue for the ghostly realm, the yellow moon, etc… for the most part, the colors we chose were obvious based on the type of creature the story was about and just kind of worked out that way. But the spot color was also a device to build suspense. Much as the music builds in a film, the color entering the page foreshadows something ominous about to happen. The color is the embodiment of fear.
KAPLAN: I liked the new framing sequence with Professor Spectral, an enigmatic puppeteer who travels to different towns in his pageant wagon and tells local children cautionary tales about the Devil, which reminds me of a medieval mystery play or morality play. What was the genesis of the frame and new character, Professor Spectral?
ACCAMPO: Well, first – thank you! It’s funny, Chris likes to say that this project has always been one that’s “told us what it wants to be.” And I think he’s right. The secret origin of the puppeteer starts with Andrew Jenson, a friend of Chris’, who asked Chris if he could make some puppets based on Chris’ designs for these stories. When we started producing these stories as individual comics to self-publish for conventions, we always had in the back of our minds that it would be cool to collect them. But I always felt that we needed a STORY to bind them together—a framing sequence that would recontextualize the stories and put them into a spectrum. I just didn’t know WHAT that framing sequence would be until I saw Andy’s puppet designs. And it all fell into place.
KAPLAN: You have collaborated with Dave on other comic projects. How did your relationship begin? Is there a piece of your work that helped define, change, or develop the way you collaborate?
ANDERSON: Dave and I met quite a few years ago in Los Angeles. His writing partner at the time was a friend and we all worked on a story together that didn’t really get much traction. But then David asked me to work with him on an idea he had that became our book, Lost Angels. David had the whole story ready to go and it sort of morphed and the world of that story grew as I designed things which sparked new ideas and directions for him to take things. It’s hard to say what helped divine the way we cooperate. With Spectral, we purposefully tried different ways of working together. Full script, Marvel-Style, you name it. The funny thing is, it worked really well for us no matter which way we went. I think he and I have a lot of the same sensibilities when it comes to storytelling. He has the heart and I have the tone. We work as one unit at this point.
KAPLAN: You’re a 2016 Comics Talent Development Writer’s Workshop graduate. How did the workshop prepare you for a career in indie comics?
ACCAMPO: The first of these stories (DevilSkin, again) was written RIGHT after I finished the workshop with Scott Snyder. And in some ways, it was a response to that – but not in the way you might think. I had downloaded ALL this information about writing high-stakes super-hero stories while hanging out with amazing writers, and I was still processing all that info. So DevilSkin was almost the antithesis to all that heavy-duty process talk. It was written completely intuitively, just going with my gut, going small instead of big, evoking mood more than plot.
I should also note that I had been doing indie comics since 2012, with my first comic, Sparrow & Crowe. I had both that and Lost Angels under my belt before the workshop, and I was co-writing the graphic novel, The Margins during the workshop. So I had been making comics already, but I think the Talent Development Workshop helped me to better refine my understanding of the language of comics, as well as my storytelling skills.
KAPLAN: How did Andrew Jenson become involved in Spectral?
ANDERSON: Andy and I worked together at high school. He drew, I drew, our friend Sam was a writer. We were even talking about starting a comic company comeback them and getting together to work on our books. SAC Comics (Sam, Andy, Chris). We went in to do other things and drifted apart but a few years ago, we got back in touch with each other. Turns out, Andy started a company called Son of Jen puppets and wanted to make some muppet-style puppets based on some of the Spectral stories. They’re amazing. That’s how we knew they had to be incorporated into the story and the spark that brought Professor Spectral to life. We also knew right away that the puppets had to be part of our Kickstarter campaign.
KAPLAN: Why did you choose to promote this project on Kickstarter? Can you tell The Beat any details about the Kickstarter campaign that our readers might not know yet (eg, stretch goals and extras)?
ACCAMPO: The individual stories began as self-published one-shot comics to sell at conventions, so it made sense for us to continue that trajectory on a bigger scale for the full volume. Chris and I have the capabilities to write, draw and design every page, so this book is a pure collaborative passion project. It felt like the right step to then take this directly to readers via Kickstarter.
ANDERSON: Yeah, and you know, this thing really is telling us what it is and what it wants to be. Andy absolutely had to be a part of this and the ability to have tiers where you can own actual puppets from the story was something we could only do with Kickstarter.
ACCAMPO: We haven’t announced any stretch goals yet, but we DO have plans. One of the first goals, which I’ll reveal here for the first time, will be to expand the page count on the book and add an extra horror story and some behind-the-scenes process stuff. We’ve got more ideas beyond that, but we need to hit that first goal first!
KAPLAN: Is there anything else you want to include?
ANDERSON: You know, my older cousin, John D LeMay, was the star of Friday the 13th the Series and Jason goes to Hell and as a kid, I really looked up to him. That set me down the horror path. I’m now a veteran of CREEPSHOW having worked with Greg Nicatero on both the comic and the first season of the show. So I’ve had the chance to hone the horror genre in comics with David and Spectral is the culmination of all of that. I really think fans of the genre are going to appreciate what we’ve done here and newcomers will be made into new fans.
ACCAMPO: We’ve tried hard to make Spectral the kind of book and campaign that we would back. We set the prices as carefully as possible, and we’ve added all sorts of cool tiers to make this feel like a unique project that’s more than just plucking a book off a shelf. I hope it resonates.
It’s also an experiment for us. If we can use the Kickstarter platform to directly appeal to a fanbase, we will continue to offer more books this way. As this campaign goes along, I’ve been furiously scribbling notes for a potential Volume 2—creepy creatures we haven’t yet given the Spectral spin, as well as more on the story of Professor Spectral.
In fact, I’m already starting to form some ideas of where he comes from and why he does what he does…which I haven’t even shared with Chris yet!
The Kickstarter campaign for Spectral is live now and runs until July 7, 2022.