Vertigo was one of the coolest imprints for teenagers growing up in the early ’90s. Formed in 1993, the imprint pushed the boundaries of what horror was in modern comic storytelling. It’s recently made a resurgence in the last few years thanks to series like Savage Things, Red Thorn and Lucifer. Writer Tim Seeley made a splash with his Vertigo series slash sequel Lost Boys and he’s back with a horror comic that’s deeply original. So damn original I had to give the first issue 10/10.
Imaginary Fiends is a comic about a world where imaginary friends are real for some. But instead of fun, their games can turn dark very fast. I liked the comic so much I wanted to talk to Seeley about where this series originated, where it’s going and more.
AiPT!: Where’d you get the idea for Imaginary Fiends?
Tim Seeley: A lot of ideas first come from watching the world and seeing real-life events and then translating them into a cool comic. So this one kinda comes from obviously the real-life Slender Man attack in Wisconsin about two teenage girls who got obsessively involved with the meme Slender Man off the Creepypasta website. Eventually, one girl believed that the Slender Man wanted her to kill her friend. In this horrifying weird case where it sort of blurs the line in what we consider a story and what we consider reality and how people can believe something, they read on a website like Creepypasta which is so clearly for entertainment purposes. And the world we live in right now, no matter what side of the aisle politically you’re on, there’s a challenge where we’re not believing the same reality. We’re sort of choosing our own news sources and believe things that are clearly bullshit, so combining those two things made me think, what if you had someone who wasn’t really sure what was real and what was fake in their own life, but their task was to figure that out for other people.
AiPT!: And there’s monster characters!
Seeley: I really wanted to do something where I could justify a creepy spider woman running around with a weird creepy childish grin. And my nephew told his dad that he wanted to be called Key Lime Batman and I thought that was so funny the way a kid thinks. So I turned Key Lime Batman into Key Lime Frogman in issue 2 of Imaginary Fiends. I wanted to do something where I could use that weird unlimited childish imagination.
AiPT!: And you have monsters like Polly Peachpit. How did you formulate the design with Stephen Molnar?
Seeley: It was my concept and he really went crazy with it. The idea was that Melba, when imagining this creature, would probably pull from things she saw. It’s also partially based on some Japanese legends about these spider women that live under waterfalls. A lot of the things as a kid you pick up on. Things you hear and see and add them to your own personal mythology so I kind of assumed that at some point Melba heard this story and put it through her filter of things she loved and that’s why Charlie kind of looks like an anime character. He’s this beautiful boy prince but also a firefly monster. The idea is he created these things to reflect her world. That was my thinking. She’d have elements of other stories.
AiPT!: I love the idea. I think I said in my first review this concept feels so fresh and new. I also referred to Drop Dead Fred. It brought me back, I wondered if that movie influenced you?
Seeley: I saw Drop Dead Fred when i was like 16, I think, but I forgot it existed. But when I was thinking of these ideas and coming up with the monsters, I’m sure that stuff passes through your head. It had to be in there somewhere. It wasn’t a direct influence but I’m sure it had something to do with it.
AiPT!: Did you have to do any research? I don’t know if you remember, but a few weeks ago I tweeted at you this British news story about how tablets and technology are killing imaginary friends. There must be some science behind this.
Seeley: I did a lot. I read that article you tweeted, I also looked into some recent updates with the Slender Man case. The real world is generating more interesting stories than I can. It’s very important to keep up with that sort of stuff. But, yeah, it’s bizarre to me, I read a previous article about imaginary friends where teachers were kind of encouraging this to help kids develop social skills and interactions. Part of that is making social contacts with these imaginary beings which are basically themselves. I thought that was really interesting. The world continues to generate crazy stuff around these subjects.
AiPT!: Speaking of mind-altering stuff, you have alcohol use in the comic and I think PCP. Why bring that in? I think it’s obvious, but I wanted to ask you.
Seeley: To me, right away, I had to address that because it’s obvious that part of disconnection from reality is the appeal of drug and alcohol. People who would be assigned to this job would probably immediately consider, “Would I be helped by disconnecting from reality by doing drugs or getting drunk?” It also relates to the real world where the CIA and other American places were testing acid during the MKUltra experiments. I think having this FBI agent, and in issue 3 we learn he understands it’s part of their job to get out of their own minds. He’s not necessarily against her doing whatever that takes. Obviously with Crocket, he supports her doing that because he knows he has to do that for himself.
AiPT!: I love that this is part of the Vertigo imprint. I grew up with Vertigo and loved it, and then it went away. Are there any Vertigo titles you remember fondly?
Seeley: Oh yeah. I was 13 when Vertigo debuted so it was a perfect time. I think I was 13 or 14 when Death: The High Cost of Living came out, which is the first branded Vertigo book. I was so excited. It was comics that didn’t look like the comics I was used to. Tackling subjects I wasn’t used to seeing tackled in comics. I loved that stuff. Part of the reason I pitched this one to Vertigo, and I didn’t take it anywhere else, as I really wanted to do a book that was sort of traditionally Vertigo even if I did a different spin on it. To me, this book really feels like the Vertigo books when I was a kid. Its got this really adult heavy theme to it. But it’s also got crazy monsters and drug use and counterculture and all that sort of stuff really represented those kinds of books. Even artistically and stylistically, when I talked to Stephen about this, I wanted this to do, one of the hallmarks of this book was that as crazy as they were they had traditional art styles with really good storytelling. That was something we wanted to appropriate for this book. And Stephen, I think he’s doing this Steve Dillon, Jill Thompson illustrations for this story. It’s really beautiful but very clear storytelling.
AiPT!: What got you interested in comics?
Seeley: When I was 5 years old, I got this fascination with drawing and I’d just sit and draw at the kitchen table. At one point we were camping and it was raining and my mom took me to the camp store and she pointed out comic books. She said those are drawn. The connection between the doodles I’ve done on the kitchen table and these illustrated stories… something about that really connected with me at a really young age. And partially it was a way to–I lived in the country there was not a lot of other kids around and not a lot to do so it was an ability to escape in this other world. You always see that in every story I do too.
AiPT!: Do you add drawing into your writing process, like with Stephen, do you give him storyboards?
Seeley: I don’t know why, but I’ve never done that. I know other writers do that, like Grant Morrison, but I just don’t. To me, writing for someone else is very separate from drawing, so I haven’t traditionally done layouts for anybody. Occasional I’ll design characters and slip them in. I’ll do that for Green Lanterns and stuff, but they are very separate things for me for some reason.
AiPT!: Speaking of Green Lanterns, which you write, I have a co-worker who asked me to ask you are you going to have Simon and Jessica together, that’s his words, and I was like, “Together?”
Seeley: Like romantically?
Seeley: [Laughs] To me, the Green Lanterns book is, you know, a little bit of Moonlighting, the TV show. It survived season upon season building up this “will they or won’t they” relationship. As soon as they got together, everyone stopped watching the show. The idea has to be that they are partners and they understand each other in a way that most people won’t get to and they have to rely on each other–that’s more intimate that married couples sometimes. But they can’t have a relationship because it would ruin everything. The next arc of the story, we definitely get into that, there’s a whole arc about them, “are they attracted to each other, do they have romantic feelings for each other, why don’t they?” We definitely play around with that because I love that stuff.
AiPT!: That makes sense. It has to be on the surface or people might lose interest in it. I have one more question, what is your favorite method of procrastination?
Seeley: I wish I could say something great, but I think I’m like everybody else at this point, I just get lost in the Internet all the time. The internet is a great distraction of our time. If there’s any way to procrastinate it’s by getting lost in some thread.