Interview: Shawn Gabborin & Rick Lundeen

American indie Publisher Action Lab has recently put out its first salvo of books. Alongside Princeless, which I have spoken about before, Action Lab has released a number of books which I’ll be reviewing over the coming weeks. I’ll also be interviewing the people responsible. This time around I sat down for an e mail conversation with Shawn Gabborin & Rick Lundeen, the creators of Snowed In, a horror one shot.

What’s Snowed In about? 

S.G: Surface level answer?  A group of friends find themselves stuck in a backwoods cabin when a stranger comes knocking, warning that “it” is coming, and “it” wants them dead.  Cut a little deeper and it’s a story about fear, paranoia, and the effects both have on the human mind when compounded by isolation and the unknown.

R.L: I think you’re spot on, Shawn.  I think people will be able to relate to the situation.  Strange sounds.  A knock at the door in the middle of nowhere.  The power of the imagination. I think that’s what it comes down to.

So how did the idea for the story, & the two of you working together, come about?

R.L: I used to frequent a website called “ComicSpace” as it used to be an excellent showcase for work and while there, I made quite a few connections with artists and writers, one of which was Shawn—and I *think* Shawn approached me about illustrating a 2 page story for a book he was writing, a collection of 2 page horror stories. Sounded like a cool concept–I’ll let Shawn elaborate on that–but it was black and white and I usually enjoy trying to get some good mood out of black and white digital tones.  In my opinion, you can get a lot more stark atmosphere with b&w.  In any case, it was some time afterward that he approached me with “Snowed In”.

I occasionally get approached with scripts and a lot depends on my regular work schedule and if the script grabs me, not necessarily in that order.  I read this script and I couldn’t put it down so I was in.

"The things Hitchcock *didn't* show on screen, the way he made your imagination work for him in his storytelling was just amazing. The audiences imagination is the powerful tool you can wield when doing suspense and he truly was the master"

S.G: Writing Snowed In was a natural growth from my own fears.  I have a literally paralyzing fear of snow, so I guess it was just a matter of time until a story was born from it.  I actually wrote the majority of the script during a snow induced panic attack.  I had a barebones outline for Snowed In jotted down, but when that snow storm hit, I just sat down and started writing

When it came time to find an artist, I knew I needed someone who could pull off the small details needed to sell the story.  So much of Snowed In is atmosphere, which really falls on the artists shoulders.  I self-publish a comic called Short Stack, which is a series to 2 page horror stories… and through that have worked with over 80 artists by now.  So I sent out feelers to two or three that I thought could provide the style I needed.  Rick was my first choice, so I was ecstatic when he said ‘yes’.  Just from the 2 pager he did for Short Stack, I knew he could pull off not just the mood of Snowed In, but also the facial expressions and body language needed to sell the tension.  He was the perfect fit.

R.L: I wanted to add that reading through the script—I mean, talk about a page turner, man ‘o man.    I had to be somewhere, get ready, take a shower, etc., and I literally was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, next to the shower stall while the water’s running—-and I literally could not put it down—- the wife’s yelling “Are you ready yet?”  I’m yelling back “Hold on, hold on…!”

It read like a very cool episode of the Twilight Zone and I love the ‘Zone.

It’s interesting that you say about your fear of snow because it’s something that translates really well in the book as the intensity ratchets up. You’re both clearly horror fans, & you’ve already mentioned The ‘Zone, what other influences do you guys have (be they horror or otherwise)? 

 R.L: I’m not as big a fan of horror as I am of suspense. I think horror encompasses a wide range of things including the splatter flicks, which I’m not really a fan of but give me Hitchcock any day.  The things Hitchcock *didn’t* show on screen, the way he made your imagination work for him in his storytelling was just amazing. The audiences imagination is the powerful tool you can wield when doing suspense and he truly was the master.   Take Jon Carpenter with the original Halloween– there was very little blood or gore in that picture but that soundtrack combined with a guy in a mask simply walking through a room or sitting up had you crawling up the walls!

On the art side, growing up, I was a huge fan of the old Fantastic Four with John Buscema pencils and Joe Sinnott inks and I think I really imprinted on Perez and Byrne in the mid to late ’70′s.  If ever I draw a frame and I see any hint of Perez in there or any other artist I admire, it brings a smile to my face.  ‘Course, if I could channel Perez 24/7, that’d be nice too!

S.G: I am a huge horror fan!  Give me a horror film to submerge myself into for 90 minutes (good, bad, or cheesy), and I’m a happy guy.  When you ask about influences, the first three names to come to mind would be Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Rod Serling.  All three of these gentlemen, I feel, were masters at not only telling good horror/suspense stories, but at making you care about the characters.  That to me is something I strive for when I write.  I want to make characters, not just bodies to add to the pile.  Not that I am opposed to the use of one-note cannon fodder characters to ratchet up the body count (I LOVE slasher flicks), but I just want more out of my own writing.

In comics, I love anything by Garth Ennis or Joe Hill.  Both of who, again, have a knack for creating characters you love, and characters you love to hate.  Read an issue or two of Preacher or Locke & Key and tell me it doesn’t make you want to sit down and write!

R.L: Yeah, I love Preacher.  Years ago, I’d gotten the first trade and was so blown away, I’d kept on collecting until I got the entire series. Excellent stuff.

"Cut a little deeper and it's a story about fear, paranoia, and the effects both have on the human mind when compounded by isolation and the unknown."

I came to within a week of actual bankruptcy years ago when I was collecting the Preacher trades because I literally couldn’t wait till pay day to buy them. Also, Bode Locke is my favourite current character in comics at the moment, so you’re in good company there. Both those titles have a number of things that only become apparent on re-reading the books and Snowed In has a number of similar moments. Were these things that were in the script to begin with or were these moments developed after you teamed up?

S.G: A lot of them were there from the beginning.  As a comic writer, it’s important to me that the artist is a big part of the creative process when it comes to what winds up on the page.  Because of that, I tend to be very loose with my panel descriptions (especially when it’s an artist I trust) so they have room to play.  The last thing I want to do is write two paragraph descriptions of each panel, and have the artist be confined by my writing!  Where’s the fun in that?  To me, that’s a good way to make an artist bored with the project real quick!

That being said, there were a number of “small” things I had in the script that I was specific about.  The depth of the snow in this panel, a missing item in another (and something attached to that item later).  Just a few things to keep the mystery of what “it” is rolling.  And kudos to Rick for highlighting each of them brilliantly.  When your eye is naturally drawn to a face in the panel, you may miss something in the hand… until you go back for a second look.

R.L: Shawn was very clear in what he wanted and that’s great, he had a very clear vision, right down to the layout of the cabin itself.  I wanted to make sure I honored the details. Then I had the freedom to choose the camera angles and lighting, etc. for hopefully the best way to dramatically present the scene.

It’s definitely a book that benefits from multiple read throughs & you guys have obviously got a great creative balance which really comes across in the story. Do either of you have any plans to work together again in the near future & are there any other genres you’d like to tackle?

S.G: We don’t have any more collaborations scheduled at this time, but I’d jump at the chance to work with Rick again anytime the opportunity presents itself!

As for other genres, I am trying to branch out.  I’ve done a lot of horror, and will continue with it as horror is my first love, but I am trying out some other genres.  I have a superhero title called Fracture (also through Action Lab) and a few scripts ranging from sci-fi to crime noir that I’m working on.  I think coming from a horror background lets me look at these genres from a viewpoint that most may not… and hopefully it’s an angle people will enjoy.

"reading through the script... I had to be somewhere, and I literally was sitting on the floor in the bathroom, next to the shower stall while the water's running and I literally could not put it down"

R.L: Yes, I’d love to work with Shawn again and schedules permitting, it’ll happen again some time.  As for different genres, with my own stuff at Epoch, I’ve done humor (“The Door” and “So, You Want to be a Supervillain?”) drama (“We Three Kings”), superheroes “Mataak” and “100 Covers”, etc.  But with other writers like Shawn, I’ve also done some historical (“The Gustave Whitehead Story”), horror (“Jacob” with Shawn), even some adults only work (“Perfect Strangers” with Carmenica Diaz).  I was bouncing around trying my hand at different genres for a couple years there and there are still some I could get into.

Damn you guys are busy. With this in mind what advice would you give to anyone looking to get into writing & / or drawing comic books?

R.L: With nothing more than a pencil and a piece of paper, I can create a universe.  Comic books are the only graphic art form native to America and I think that should be respected.  More and more people are coming around to that fact but it’s a fantastic way to create and with the ‘net, there are literally a million avenues to express yourself in graphic storytelling.  If you want to do it, keep on drawing and writing.  The multiverse is the limit.

S.G: I agree with Rick.  I’ve always said the only one who can stop you is you.  If you want to draw or write comics, then just do it.  Is your first work going to be your best?  Probably not.  Mine wasn’t.  But if you can look back on it and learn from it, then it was worth doing.  And if you hit a rough patch, push through it. There’s a quite from Will Rogers that I write on the inside cover of every notebook I use: “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”  I have no clue when or where I heard it, but it has served me well over the years when it comes to working through those rough patches.

Snowed In is available now & you can see my verdict on the book here

If you want to see more of Rick’s work you can visit his website here