Friday, July 1, 2016

Kickstart the Week(end) with What Lies Inside: The 10th Anniversary Split Lip

By: Nicole D’Andria

This week I’m showcasing the Kickstarter for the hardcover What Lies Inside: The 10th Anniversary Split Lip. It was the Best Webcomic winner according to the Horror Comic Awards in 2014. This award-winning anthology has been called "the best horror anthology on the Internet" by Comics Should Be Good. Instead of focusing on grossing you out, Split Lip explores strangeness and being unsettled. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, series creator/writer Sam Costello is releasing a limited addition hardcover, and he’s sharing the weird fiction of Split Lip with me in an interview.

The limited edition book (only 500 copies) is a 350-page hardcover with 13 Split Lip stories. Each of the 13 stories featured in the anthology is self-contained, so newcomers are welcome. The stories are written by Sam Costello and are drawn by artists all over the world. Stories include:

There are also 50+ pages of new materials, including a new commentary on every story by Sam Costello, behind-the-scenes materials on every story, and interviews with 11 artists. There will also be essays by Sean T. Collins (Rolling Stone) and Lauren Davis (io9).

If you’re still unsure it’s your thing, Costello is offering a 55 page preview of the anthology on Dropbox.

The project will be successfully funded if at least $6,500 is pledged by July 8, 2016 at 2:09 PM EDT. Some awards include a DRM-free PDF of a Split Lip mini comic of your choice for $2; the hardcover in PDF form for $5; and a print copy of the hardcover signed and numbered by Costello for $30. You can pledge money to the Kickstarter here.

UPDATE: The original project unfortunately failed to get fully funded, but a new project launched with a $3,700 goal. The final day to pledge is now November 4, 2016 at 3:47 PM EDT. You can view that updated project here.

Sam Costello

Me: Split Lip has been compared to the darker episodes of The Twilight Zone. What episode of The Twilight Zone do you think best encapsulates Split Lip?

Sam Costello: No one has ever asked me that before. Great question!  

I’m not sure there’s a single episode of The Twilight Zone that holds the key to unlock Split Lip, but there are a handful that paint a pretty accurate picture.

In Season 1, there’s “The Hitch Hiker” and “Mirror Image.” “The Hitch Hiker”—which I first heard as an MP3 of the radio play from Orson Welles’ CBS radio program—is about a woman driving alone across country who keeps encountering the same hitch hiker over and over, even though he’s on foot and she’s in the car. Where it ends isn’t a total surprise, but it’s got an uncanny creepiness I like. “Mirror Image” is right up Split Lip’s alley: it all takes place in a bus station in Ithaca, New York (where I went to college), and involves doppelgangers, tricks of time and space, and general surreality. It’s maybe my favorite episode from Season 1.

Season 2 has the classic “Eye of the Beholder.” Split Lip focuses on the individual, personal experience of, and alienation by, the fantastic, rather than dwelling on world-building or examining what makes its world different from ours. That’s what happens in this episode.

“The Arrival,” from Season 3, is also a heavy influence. I was watching it when I first started conceiving of Split Lip, in fact. It’s about a plane crash, an investigator, time looping back on itself, and a dark discovery. It’s terrific.

Lastly, “Night Call,” from Season 5, is basically the template for the Split Lip story “The Tree of Remembrance.” ( I think I may have even stolen—er, borrowed—the resolution of my story from this one.

Bad Radio, art by Nelson Evergreen

Me: Which of the stories that you have written for Split Lip is your favorite and why?

Costello: It’s impossible to pick a single favorite, I think. It’s like picking a favorite child (though I did see a study this week that said 70% or more of parents admit to having favorite children, so what do I know). There are different things I like about every story, but some recent highlights include:

“Victims” - I love Steven Perkins’ art on this one, and I think the recovered-memory theme, and what the memories are, is pretty compelling. I find the scene of the woman coming through the crowd on the sidewalk chilling. That gradually dawning dread is a lot of fun.

Victims, art by Steven Perkins (Credence, Blackwatch)

“Unsub” - T.J. Kirsch did a fantastic job taking a story that’s basically one conversation and making it both visually interesting and emotionally affecting. 

Unsub, art by T.J. Kirsch (Lost and Found, Oni)

“See No Evil” - I really tried to focus on writing especially cool visuals that would be exciting to draw. Trevor Denham really knocked it out of the park: burning pentagrams, conjured creatures, the long shadow of death, and more.

See No Evil, art by Trevor Denham
Me: You’ve worked with numerous artists from around the world on these stories. What was the process of finding these artists like?

Costello: It can be as simple as someone introducing me to one of their friends. Shane Oakley, who does the covers for the Split Lip books, introduced me to David Hitchcock and Gary Crutchley, who have combined for 4 stories. It can come from meeting someone at a convention: TJ Kirsch came to my table at the Albany (NY) Comic Con many years ago and has done a couple of stories since.

Mostly, though, it comes down to scouring social media and Tumblr and portfolio sites and saving a lot of bookmarks. I usually have a completed script before I approach an artist, so I have at least some sense of the style I’m looking for. Occasionally I have a specific artist in mind when I write, but normally it’s more of a feeling or sensibility I’m seeking. I look to match the feeling an artist’s work conveys to the tone I want to achieve and we go from there.

The Harvestmen, art by Sami Makkonen (Deadworld, IDW) Remastered with new lettering

Me: How did you decide which 13 stories would be included in this anthology? 

Costello: The 10th anniversary anthology is organized around the primary themes that Split Lip explores: the Supernatural, Monsters, Tragedies, and Hell Is Other People. What the first two entail is probably obvious; the others may need some explanation.

At their heart, I think a lot of the best horror stories are actually tragedies. A Nightmare on Elm St. is about kids being killed and parents abdicating their responsibility to care for the world they’re leaving their kids. That’s a two-fold tragedy. The Grudge is about domestic violence, murder, and suicide—all tragedies. I’ve tried to explore the tragic aspect of horror in a number of stories.

Hell Is Other People, perhaps the most famous quote from Sartre’s No Exit, speaks to one of Split Lip’s primary obsessions: that people are ultimately unknowable, that we all contain infinite depths of possibilities and secrets and darkness that we shield from even those closest to us. To me, that’s terrifying.

I looked for the stories that I thought best embodied those themes and demonstrated the artistic range of the series. I wanted stories picked from the full 10-year run, too. “Headin’ South” was the 8th story we published. It’s in the book. So is “See No Evil,” which is the second-most-recent story. As a 10th anniversary book, I wanted it to represent the full sweep of Split Lip’s first decade. 

Doll’s House, art by Savannah Horrocks (Sleep of Reason, Iron Circus)

Me: What is the number one reason people should back your Kickstarter?

Costello: They will get a 350-page book featuring dangerous stories for curious minds, aka weird stories featuring characters, plots, and approaches to the spooky, creepy, and uncanny that they haven’t encountered before.

Me: What inspirational words do you have for aspiring comic book writers?

Costello: Just get started. People often wait to be discovered, or try to get stories into anthologies, or network endlessly looking for a way into the industry. Don’t bother with that stuff. The only way you’ll get better—and, hopefully, eventually get published—is by writing and putting that writing out into the world.

I know what it’s like: I spent years trying to get 8-page stories into anthologies before I started Split Lip. I think I published one story. Since I started Split Lip, I’ve published 45 stories on the site, 3 in another comic, had a short published by Boom! Studios, placed Split Lip stories in anthologies published by Image and Caliber, and more.

I wrote a series on making your own comics for iFanboy a few years ago ( It all still holds true today. In a time when it’s so easy to publish comics on the web, there’s no excuse not to start putting your work in front of an audience. Get started today; it’s the only way forward.

Headin’ South, art by Kyle Strahm (Spread, Image)

Me: Thanks for your time Sam! If you’re interested in the unsettling, check out the Kickstarter for What Lies Inside: The 10th Anniversary Split Lip.

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