For our Horror Week conversations segment at Capes and Tights we sat down with comic book artist Piotr Kowalski to discuss his role in creating some of our favorite horror comics.
Piotr Kowalski started his professional career in Europe working on series such as Gail, La Branche Lincoln, Urban Vampires, Dracula L’immortel and Badlands. He published his first comic series in the American market in 2010 and since then his output has grown to nearly 170 issues. His most popular titles are Sex, Marvel Knights: Hulk, The Dark Tower, Bloodborne, The Witcher, Steam Man, God of Tremors, Join The Future, Wellington and Wolfenstein. He lives in Warsaw and in Brussels. He is a big horror and death metal fan.
JS: What was your journey into comics?
PK: I started off my professional career as a comic book artist nearly 25 years ago with two comic book series for two major European publishing houses. After 15 albums done in Belgium and in France I decided to try my luck in the American market and my debut was the horror mini-series, Malignant Man written by the master of horror James Wan himself. Since then I have done over 200 comics and a few graphic novels. I am a horror fan and an obsessive metalhead.
What is your horror genre journey? Is the horror genre something you have always been attracted too?
Yes, I have always been attracted to horror, but I also think that horror has always been attracted to me.
Horror came to me right at the beginning of my journey; I did a fantasy/horror series Gail and then I did Urban Vampires (the title says it all) and after that I had a chance to work with Dacre Stoker on the comic adaptation of his novel Dracula L’Immortel published by Casterman.
Most of the comics I have done since then are horror and over the years horror has become my playground. It doesn’t matter if it is a slasher, a classic vampire story or a gore/torture porn project, whenever a horror script arrives into my inbox I know I will enjoy working on it. Drawing horror is pure fun for me. Monsters, zombies, dead bodies, mutilated corpses, guts, brains, ghosts, vampires, giant blood-thirsty robots , cannibals, I drew them all. And I loved every minute of it.
What are some things that can make or break a good horror comic book?
Well, I can tell you what my personal approach is. I am convinced that drawing a good comic book is very much like directing a movie. You have a script,you have your actors and you have to build a movie set for them. You have to give them the right environment so that they can play their roles right. My job is to entertain the viewer/reader. In order to do that I need to deliver a comic that works on every level.
Narration-wise it has to work too, this is why I tend to suggest certain solutions to the writers when I am convinced it is necessary. But the main thing that is absolutely crucial to every horror comic is art. You can sell even a weak story if you draw it right.
What do you look for in a horror comic, either creating or reading?
I read with my eyes, so to speak. So, to me the visual aspect of a horror comic is a key thing. I like a realistic style, I like details. When I read a comic, I need to see that the artist cared about the audience and made sure that his art delivered all key aspects: actors play their roles, the setting works well, action sequences are dynamic enough, monsters are scary, etc. This is what I am looking for-a good, realistic art.
What are some of you all-time favorite horror books, comics or movies?
My answer to this question could be as long as a book. I love classic Hammer horrors, I love Repulsion by R. Polanski. I love the original Omen and The Shining. I love giallo horror movies, I love Italian cannibal horrors, I love rape & revenge movies, monster attack movies, survival horrors, slashers, gore, body-horror, torture porn, I like indie-horrors and found-footage stuff. I am a death metal fan so all that nasty, weird, over-the-top obscene imagery you can find on all Cannibal Corpse album covers is my thing. I love the artwork of Les Edwards. I love Stephen King.
Why is horror storytelling important to you and is creating comics in the horror genre something you hope to do for a while moving forward?
Horror gives me a chance to express myself. I mean, recently I drew a giant spider attacking New York and a pair of hunters fighting off hordes of zombies in a scary dungeon. Drawing sequences like that is pure pleasure for me; I really like when my editors allow me to go wild and give me a lot of creative freedom. Horror scripts are naturally coming my way–I guess I have developed a certain reputation for myself as the “horror guy”. Twenty-five years of drawing horrors are behind me so now I am looking forward to another twenty-five!
Thank you so much for all your beautiful work in comics, specifically horror comics! We are huge fans of Piotr Kowalski, keep it up!