An Interview with Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie
What’s it like hosting some of continuing some of the biggest fan-favorite stories in sci-fi? If not the end of everything, what’s really in store for Hellboy and friends? Find out all that and more, as we interview one of the best in the business.
Whether it’s the Mignolaverse or Ei8ht, Angel and Faith or even Archie vs. Predator, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Dark Horse Publishing and read from their amazing shelf of franchise and creator-owned books. This week’s DPH offerings includes a special one-shot issue of Abe Sapien, and we at Geeks with Wives excited to bring you an interview with Abe writer and Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie!
Geeks With Wives: You’re coming up on three years now as editor in chief at Dark Horse – congrats, belatedly! How has your time as EIC impacted how you work as a writer?
Scott Allie: I wouldn’t say the EiC job impacts me creatively. I hope not. My work as an editor does, but the difference between EiC and Editor is mostly administrative. So if it’s impacted my writing—or my editing—it’s in purely boring ways.
However, since becoming EiC, I acquired Fight Club, and working with Chuck has affected my writing. I think working with Mignola impacted my natural verbosity, telling me less was more. Then working with Joss Whedon made me sort of fall in love with words again, and that Joss influence was at war with the Mignola influence. Working with Chuck has opened up a whole new way of looking at writing, for me, and I find myself slicing away at dialogue more these days. I think some people might think that at my ripe old age I shouldn’t be so easily influenced, but I’ve been pretty damn lucky to not just work with some incredible folks, but talk to them in pretty great depth about their craft. And that leaves a mark …
GWW: There are some really interesting new titles out at Dark Horse right now, including Fred Van Lente’s Resurrectionists and last month’s debut of Matt Kindt’s Past Aways. What do you think makes Dark Horse such a great fit for creator owned titles like these?
SA: We let them do whatever they want—I mean, when we decide to do a book, we give them the freedom to do it their way, while offering them the full support of a publisher. They have an editor, which believe it or not some creators really want, see the value of. We promote their books, we handle the production and business side of it—we do those things while letting them really own and control their book, and that is a slightly different cocktail than anyone else offers. I heard from a friend the other day about another publisher, one that’s close to us in market share, who dropped their interest in his book entirely once they realized entertainment rights weren’t available. We have an entertainment division, and there are books for which we make deals that tie publishing to entertainment—but we’re primarily a publisher, and the deals we make revolve around that. This year we have a lot of amazing original series launching, and the ones that excite me the most involve some of my favorite creators doing concepts that only they could do, stories only they could tell. Comics is a beautiful art form for really personal, idiosyncratic work, and we’ve got a ton of it coming. All the publishers are bringing more books like that across, more than ever. It’s a great time to read comics.
GWW: Of course, Dark Horse is also home to some epic properties like Buffy, Mass Effect, and the Mignolaverse. Does it get intimidating, managing books for such well-established universes?
SA: Oh yeah. Each one brings with it a different set of challenges. I’ve never worked on a video game property, but the TV shows, the movies, even the original ones like Mignola’s or the Robert E Howard stuff—they bring with them devout fan bases who have expectations of the material. That’s always a unique challenge.
GWW: Speaking of the Mignolaverse: last month there were some very sensational headlines about the end of Hellboy and the universe in general. You and Mike Mignola have been pretty clear that we’re not all that close to the end of this world, but were you surprised by the response to Mike stating flat out that the end is (relatively speaking) in sight?
SA: Yeah. Clickbait articles are disappointing. When I tried to address the inaccurate reports at the retailer breakfast at Chicago last week, I explained that it’s not ending anytime soon, it’s just that we know how it ends, if not quite when. I said that, and talked about over a dozen other titles. One site reported on the breakfast, and the headline was Hellboy Is Coming To An End. But I guess it’s our mistake for talking about it at all. The fact is, what we’re doing now is some of the craziest stuff we’ve done, and it’s not slowing down. We have two issues of Hellboy coming out this summer in which, dead and in Hell, he discovers that you can still get deathly ill, and he has to make friends with some lunatic doctors to try to save his life, such as it is.
GWW: Is it common, with properties as expansive as Hellboy, to already have such a clear sense of how things will end and how long it will take to get there?
SA: Not in my experience. But Mike always had a long term game plan formulating. Lately it’s become more clear, more of the details falling into place. I’m a big believer in knowing where you’re going, and I think part of that belief comes from seeing how it’s informed what Mike’s done.
GWW: How about on ABE SAPIEN — is it a relief to have an idea of where Abe will end up, when the final Mignolapocalypse comes to pass?
SA: Yeah, again, it provides a road map, and it gives me a certain confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. We know how Abe’s series ends, and we know how his story ends in the long run. And I think both are really great payoffs, really rewarding to the reader. And really, I think as much about the long time Mignola fan, reading this stuff now and waiting for the big turning points to come, as I do about the reader ten, fifteen years from now, discovering this stuff when it’s all over, able to just buy a big fat trade paperback every week at their local comic store to burn through the whole saga, and that reader strikes me as someone with a lot of fun in store for them.
GWW: Speaking of apocalypses: Abe’s been having a tough time of things lately, but for this month’s issue #23 you’re teaming back up with legendary illustrator Kevin Nowlan to bring us a one-shot tale of one of Abe and Hellboy’s old investigations. How great was it to have Kevin doing the cover and illustrations on this issue?
SA: So great. I am such a big fan of his. I’ve been lucky enough to work with him a bunch on Mignola-related one shots, but to have him draw something I wrote was a lot of fun. Writing something knowing he was going to draw it was incredible. We came up with something that suited him, something he wanted to draw, lots of distinctive faces, outdoor scenes, and a lake monster. I love talking to an artist, seeing what they want to draw, and trying to build a story around that. I’m really happy with the finished product, and just grateful to Kevin for the opportunity.
GWW: His work is so distinctive; what makes him such a great fit for the Mignolaverse?
SA: Well, partly that he’s so distinctive. We love that, we love the guys who have carved out their own style. And his storytelling is impeccable, which is something we value greatly. We just don’t want someone who can draw the script and get it done—ideally we want someone who’ll bring a voice to it. This led me to write this script differently, not break it all down into panels. It’s not Marvel-plot-style, but it was something I hadn’t done before. All the dialogue was there, and I might specify that one scene was three pages, one was one, this should happen on the page turn—but the pacing was all Kevin, because his pacing is fantastic.
GWW: For folks like me who may be a little behind on their BPRD lore, an issue of “vintage” Abe and Hellboy snooping around British Columbia was a fun way to reacquaint myself with these two characters and get inspired to bring myself up to speed. On some level, was that the goal? Why this story, this month?
SA: The purpose of the oneshots in the monthly Abe series is complex. On the one hand, it’s to give Max & Seba a break without letting someone else tell part of their story. Max and Seba are the artists on Dark and Terrible, this ongoing saga, and it’s written for them. I don’t want anyone else to have part of that, so in order to do fill ins, it seemed a good idea to jump to the past, classic Abe, which was such a great design it’s nice to see it out there again. And one shots allow us to get guys like Kevin. Sometimes the one shots are timed to tell you something about Abe’s past, or someone else’s past, that enriches the monthly storyline, the one the twins are doing. But in the case of Kevin, it was just the best story I could think of for Kevin, and slotted in the month that Kevin could get it done for.
GWW: Obviously Hellboy is otherwise occupied in the underworld these days, so modern-day investigations with Abe would be a little tough. But is there any chance we might get more one-shots like this?
SA: Maybe. There’s no immediate plans for another Hellboy guest appearance, although he does appear in another flashback soon.
GWW: And since I know every issue of Abe Sapien from here on out can’t be a (comparatively) light-hearted flashback … any hints about what we’re going to see from Abe in coming issues?
SA: The issue after this, issue #24, is the beginning of Abe really getting answers. When Abe left the BPRD, his goal was to go to the Salton Sea to confront an Ogdru Hem there. The Hem had split by the time he got there, and thus began his somewhat aimless wandering. He recently left Texas determined to head to Rhode Island to dig into his past some more, to prove once and for all that he’s not a monster, he’s not connected to the Ogdru Hem. However, on the west coast of Florida, he finds another Ogdru Hem, and stops in the small town that lives in the shadow of this giant monster. And there he learns a bit more about what he is, and what he isn’t, and every issue from here on out will move him closer to that truth, more pieces will fall into place.
GWW: I like to wrap things up with “if this, read that” suggestions for our Geeks with Wives readers. Aside from other Mignolaverse books like new addition Frankenstein Underground, what are some Dark Horse titles folks should check out if they like Abe Sapien?
SA: Colder by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra, which does bizarre psychological horror like nothing else. I’d recommend the Buffy books, because my approach to character in Abe and my other writing is heavily influenced by Joss, and what we’re all trying to pull off in those books. Absolutely check out Harrow County, which has all the texture and mystery and weirdness of the Mignola books, drawn by one of our main artists, Tyler Crook. And it’s a little ways out, but check out Black Hammer, by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, which is a bit more superhero than the Mignola books, but so smart and complex and fun that everyone should be waiting for that one.
Abe Sapien #23 hits stores tomorrow — keep an eye out for our Geeks with Wives review, and for our reviews of other fantastic Dark Horse titles!