Last August, THEoDEAD reviewed Stef Hutchinson’s “Black Bear Blues”, a 6-page story, which was a part of the “Moon Lake” anthology published by Archaia Comics. The anthology itself was released this last October. Theo was nice enough to share the full preview of Stef’s work with the rest of the class. Now, it’s my turn to bring you guys the rest of our show-and-tell session; I am proud to present my interview with Stef regarding his story “Black Bear Blues”.
Johnny_Trouble:”Stef thanks for taking the time to talk with us about “Black Bear Blues” your contribution to the “Moon Lake” anthology. This unapologetic hit-and-run short story is a horror parody of Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man”, why did you decide to use this theme for the anthology?”
Stefan Hutchinson:“I originally wrote a VERY different story, involving mosquitoes and various sexual perversions. It was a pretty strong story, in terms of content. Jim Daly – the artist I was lucky enough to be paired with – thought it was a little too strong, so it was decided to go with something different. That original story is something I hope to publish myself at some point, as it was a radical departure from the original capsule.
So, I asked Jim which of Dan Fogler’s ideas he wanted to illustrate, and the description was something on the lines of ‘man gets bitten by a bear and a werewolf on the same night – goes crazy on a full moon, has big red eyes and loves honey”. I was stumped as to what to do for a while, until Herzog’s ‘Grizzly Man’ popped into my head, and I figured a satire based on that would be an interesting way to go.”
Johnny_Trouble: “What was the toughest part of deciding what you wanted to write for the “Moon Lake” anthology?”
Stefan Hutchinson:“Nothing, really, as I wrote the story with Jim’s artwork in mind and opted for the story possibility he had chosen.”
Johnny_Trouble: “What would you say is the main message behind your story?”
Stefan Hutchinson:“I don’t think there’s any specific message in there. There’s a few ideas that interest me, and thematically I wanted to remain close to ‘Grizzly Man’ as I find nature’s indifference terrifying, reassuring and fascinating. The story is essentially a very black comedy with some actual darkness lurking underneath that emerges at the end.”
Johnny_Trouble: “When looking at “Black Bear Blues” by itself, the story seems like a mini version of a one-shot since it is only 6 pages. Which seems like a small amount of space in which to tell an entire story, did you struggle with deciding what parts of the story you wanted to fit in or did it come easily to you?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “I had no problems with the limited space. It’s only six pages, but it has a beginning, middle, and end as it’s a standard three-act structure. It doesn’t work quite as well in the final graphic novel as I wanted it to though. Somewhere along the way, the pagination didn’t fall into place as written. The idea would be that you’d read the eight-panel page slowly, turn over the page and then BANG – a full-page image of gore and violence. In the final book, the pages are laid out opposite each other so you lose the surprise element, which is something of a shame.”
Johnny_Trouble: “The images of Thomas Treadwell and Mary Simpson getting torn apart by the were-bear are scenes of in-your-face gore. Did you demand that those scenes had to reach that level of gory awesomeness, or did Jim Daly throw in the blood and guts to match the attitude of your story on his own?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “The scenes are virtually as-written. I’m a huge fan of Jim’s work, so am completely open to any changes he would want, but he stuck to the script. Here’s my original description for Page 2:
“Big, full-page epic panel of violence. The Were-Bear, some 12’ tall, has its mouth clenched around Tom’s torso which should be bursting with blood. With one claw it should be ripping a leg off. With the other claw, it’s ripping half of his head off – the claws should be embedded in his eyes and his mouth still screaming as it rips.
We should see the camera here too – a camcorder (go with a Sony PD150) on a tripod, falling to the ground, hit by one of Tom’s limbs.
One thing to get through here is EXTREME ferocity. It should be terrifying, over the top, and as a result, it should find some humour. Play it off as serious though, because I think that will work better on all counts!”
Johnny_Trouble: “Since the character of Thomas Treadwell is based off of a real person, (who not surprisingly was killed by a bear in 2003) some people may piss and moan about the fact that you make light of his death despite your story being fiction. What would you like to say to them in response?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “Thomas Treadwell is a completely undisguised take on Timothy Treadwell, the man who was the focus of Herzog’s excellent documentary, ‘Grizzly Man’. I’m not making light of the real person’s death by any means, but I am making light of the documentary and the sculpted persona of Treadwell within it, the one that exists in mass-media. People forget that documentary films are edited, sculpted and created just as fictional films are. It’s not a coincidence that the villain in my story is also the narrator, and that he breaks the fourth wall at the very last moment.
None of us know Treadwell himself from that documentary, but a mere rendition or impersonation of the whole, so I think such a creation is acceptable for satire. That film is powerful because it goes so much beyond Treadwell’s story – for me, at least, it’s a meditation on death. And death is something I personally need to be able to laugh at, because I don’t know how I’d deal with it otherwise. Life is mean, lonely and heartbreaking – you have to learn to smile at it or else you’ll simply fall apart.
Mostly, I think anybody who is moaning is being principled for the sake of it. It just reeks of faux-sincerity and offense.”
Johnny_Trouble: “Did you have any problems getting this story approved by Archaia for the anthology since Thomas Treadwell is based on a real person?”
Stefan Hutchinson:“Nope. No problems with the Archaia editors, or Dan Fogler. However, just before we went to print I had to rewrite the dialogue because some legal bloke was worried that it was too close to the ‘real’ Timothy Treadwell dialogue in ‘Grizzly Man’. Which was er… kinda the point. That’s parody, but the risk with anything like that is that there’s always gonna be someone who can’t tell the difference.”
Johnny_Trouble: “What would you say is the biggest difference between your story and the rest of the stories in the “Moon Lake” anthology?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “Most of the others are definitely funnier than mine. Tim Seeley is a very funny man in his writing. I take my stuff way too seriously! My story ends on a much more somber note than the others and isn’t quite as insane!”
Johnny_Trouble: “Who would win in a fistfight, Steve Irwin or Timothy Treadwell?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “Steve Irwin, hands down. Timothy Treadwell seems to be far more of a pacifist.”
Johnny_Trouble: “Would it be better to be attacked by a were-bear or a rabid sasquatch?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “It would depend on how horny I was feeling.”
Johnny_Trouble: “If you had to choose, would you camp near Moon Lake or Crystal Lake?”
Stefan Hutchinson: “Crystal Lake for the nostalgia, Moon Lake for the insanity!”
I would like to say a very special “thank you” to Stef Hutchinson for his interview and all the support he has given THEoDEAD and myself with our various projects. If you don’t own “Moon Lake” already, GO PICK IT UP!
If you’re broke or have some other lame reason you don’t own it, ask for it for Xmas, or try your hand at being a hooker to get the money or something. Ok, the prostitution thing is probably a bad idea… My point is this, the “Moon Lake” anthology is a powerhouse of talent, and Stef’s work is just one shining piece of a much bigger collection of awesome.
See you later boys and girls.
THEoDEAD’s official review of “Black Bear Blues” can be found here.
WRITTEN By: Stefan Hutchinson
ILLUSTRATIONS BY: Jim Daly
If you would like to pick up a copy of “MOON LAKE” you can find a listing of stores that carry the book in your area here.