The Dark Forest Cover Quick Question: If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody is around to hear it fall, does it make an actual sound? Answer: Who give a flying f*ck! I don't. And neither does my great mate Russell, who I spoke to only the other day, whilst blowing up trees from a far off vantage point. BOOOOM! See? There goes one now!

1) What are your own origins, Russell? Plus what path did you take in life to get to where you are today?   Probably completely the wrong one, but I’m here now! Ha!

I’m English, born in South London, but now living in the Midlands. I've been a comics fan for as long as I could read, and I've enjoyed horror since my teens. I messed around with writing when I was young, but it wasn't until about ten years ago when I actually started doing anything with it.

Within the space of a couple of months, I started working with Sergio Calvet [artist on 'The Dark of the Forest'] on a few shorts under the name 'It’s The Beer Talking', and hooked up with Drew Edwards on his comic, 'Halloween Man', where for the last ten years I have functioned as the editor, right-hand-man, and sounding board. Drew has just announced that 'Halloween Man' is to be published by Monsterverse Comics, so look out for further news on that.

The Dark Forest Art
Working alongside Drew has been brilliant, yet I've been aching to get my own stuff back out there. I've written a few scripts over the past year, and this is one of the first ones to break free.

2) How did ‘The Dark Of The Forest’ come about? It’s ‘secret origin’ so to speak.   I’m a big fan of the 'Grindhouse Trailer Classics' and '42nd Street Forever' trailer collections. A few years ago I had the idea for a comic / art project filled with posters and comic-format trailers for fake 60's / 70's / 80's cult genre movies. I had a list of titles and very vague concepts roughed out – and then heard about Stephen Romano’s book, 'Shock Festival', and had to rethink.

The plan went away but the list remained. 

'The Dark of the Forest' was one of the titles I came up with, and I was considering a story about a bigfoot-style forest monster. The idea of setting it in Spain struck me as different, and immediately opened up the story for me – not least because I had a Spanish artist I’d worked with many times previously.

3) In your own words how would you describe this story?   It’s a hybrid of various influences from different horror sub-genres. There’s some Euro-horror there, a bit of man-against-nature, and a lot of proto-slasher. At the most basic level, a group of friends go off to the woods and are hunted down by a big monster. Gratuitous sex and violence, just like mother used to make.

4) What song would you say best represents this project and why?   I don't know about a single song to represent it as such, but I can tell you what album would be on heavy rotation in their tape deck: Boney M, 'Nightflight to Venus'. 

5) If you could get a celebrity – either living or dead – to promote your wares, who would you choose, and why would you want to choose this particular person?   Alive, definitely. A dead one wouldn't be much use. They’re too quiet. And they smell.

Fast And FrighteningFor this book I’d probably want someone from the horror field. I like the podcast Adam Green and Joe Lynch do (and Hatchet was one of my many, many influences), so I’d pick them. From comics, someone with a horror pedigree like Tim Seeley, as his Hack/Slash is one of my all-time favorites.

Dead people? Once I've passed the publicity value of having the approval of Jesus and Hitler, I’d probably wish someone more relevant had been interested. Let’s go with artist Mike Wieringo from the comics field, and from horror cinema, Freddie Francis, director of way too many films to name here. 

Although “9/10 I couldn't put it down – Hitler” would be a great cover quote.

6) Why did you call your publishing house, ‘Freaktown Comics’? Plus do you have any other projects lined up for the future?   I wanted a name that suggested the unusual, and I like the reclaimed pejorative, “Freak”. But Freak Comics didn't sound right to me. It may have come from Funky Town, I'm not sure. Freaktown suggests a literal town for freaks, a safe haven where outcasts and weirdos can find a sense of community. Welcome to Freaktown… you’re amongst friends. 

It also means I get to use my cheap triple-entendre tagline - The Best “F” in Comics.

The Dark Forest InforgraphicI have my next few books are in various stages – launched at the same time as 'The Dark of the Forest' is a book called 'Fast and Frightening' – A Comic About Roller Derby, which is a comic about Roller Derby.

Coming at some point next year will be my anthology, 'Dead Men Tell Tales', which is inspired by the Amicus portmanteau movies of the early seventies. Plus my big project, 'Slashermania', an eighties-set epic inspired by that much-maligned sub-genre. I'm just starting to see art from that one now, and it's absolutely beautiful.

7) What have you learnt about yourself through this endeavour? And were there any unforeseen obstacles you had to contend with along the way?   Actually, this one’s been pretty smooth sailing. Plot to script to final script to art and letters. The hardest part was attempting vaguely naturalistic dialogue whilst avoiding colloquialism/slang, so as to make Sergio’s job easier when this is translated into Spanish sometime next year.

8) During your time in this field, what is the one thing that has kept you in good stead?   I've been pretty low profile so far – small press and webcomics editors don’t tend to be noticed very often. So while nobody’s got a bad word to say about me, they don’t really have any other kind of word to say either.

9) If ‘Forest’ had a motto, what would it be?   I think the sinister man at the start says it best: 'Never linger too long in one place. Never be alone. The dark of the forest hides things man was never supposed to see'. 

So there you have it, folks. My make Russell and 'The Dark Forest' in a nutshell. When you have the time, please make sure you check out this great comic on its official Freaktown Comics facebook and twitter pages. Go on. Chop-Chop.