TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE is a comic book, based on the happenings back in the early 90s in Norway, with all the church burnings and murders in combination with the rise and fall of MAYHEM’s Euronymous. It was written by Sam Hart and drawn by Trevor "Morbid" Markwart, who both kindly answered a couple of our questions for the following interview. Read on to find out more about this unusual project…
Hey Sam, hey Trevor… how are you? Thanks for taking the time to answer this interview. Maybe we could start this feature with a little bit of background info about you guys… Please introduce yourselves to our readers. Who are you, where do you come from and what have you done previously to creating TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE?
Sam: "I’m an Australian living in Seattle, I’ve written for a few online sites such as KEXP, Daily Dead and Beatdust."
Trevor: "I am semi-successful screenwriter of horror films and a former high school art teacher. I’ve turned my energies to working on fulfilling my childhood dreams of being a horror comics artist."
I suppose both of you are Metal fans first and foremost, so when did you start listening to Metal, which bands are your personal faves these days and have you ever been playing music yourselves?
Sam: "I got into Metal through METALLICA in about 1993, I made sure to see them live the next time they came to Sydney, but that wasn’t until 1998, but it was my first concert experience and a fond memory. Currently, I’m listening to alot of early SEPULTURA – "Arise" and "Chaos A.D." are in regular rotation. I’ve dabbled in making music, but it is with an MPC, so it is basically Hip Hop beats and has nothing to do with Metal."
Trevor: "I am not a musician, but I am a Metal fan from my teen years. Somewhere in my parent’s basement are original vinyl records of MOTÖRHEAD’s "Iron Fist", "Ace Of Spades", etc. While drawing the book I really got more into Black Metal and ended up with a bunch of material I would listen to every day in my car, and while working on the pages. The early material holds up the best, I think. "A Blaze In The Northern Sky", "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" and "Nemesis Divina" by SATYRICON are albums I continue to listen to."
Is TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE your first project in the comic book genre? Do you read / collect comic books yourselves? Any favorites? Which artists and writers have been very influential on you guys over the years?
Sam: "Yes, TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE is the first comic I’ve written. I love (obviously) the old EC horror comics of the past, also Tomb Of Dracula. Another big inspiration is Fangoria magazine. I’m a big fan of writers Hunter S. Thompson and Stephen King. Art wise, I really dig the styles of Corlen Kruger, graffiti artist DJPRODUCT@1969 and I think Trevor’s work is great too!"
Trevor: "I used to collect comic books, but sold the valuable ones off in auction years ago. It’s a silly thing, the comic book collector world – one little flake or crease and your comic drops by a $100 or even a $1000 in value. I am fantasizing about starting a collection of the most soiled, ruined, and beat-up 1950’s EC horror comics available. I think that would be fun and a lot more “real”. My two favourite comic book artists are Richard Corben and Graham “Ghastly” Ingels. This is my first graphic novel, not my first published work."
I suppose the title TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE is based on the classic TALES FROM THE CRYPT series, isn’t it? Who came up with the idea to combine Horror topics with this Black Metal related story?
Sam: "Yeah, it totally is. I came up with the idea many years ago, but I was surprised nobody had done it earlier – it seemed like such a good combination. I had some visa issues so I wasn’t able to work for a period of time and thought it would be a good time to attempt to write it. I think I got in contact with Trevor after seeing his portfolio in early 2016 and we finished it in early 2018, so (off and on) it was around a 2 year project."
I’ve noticed that you’ve crowdfunded the project via Indiegogo… Was it difficult to raise the money you needed? How did you promote the whole project?
Sam: "Yeah, I was very hesitant to do the Indiegogo at first, I honestly did not think many people would support it – but after becoming unemployed for a period of time (again due to Visa issues) I had both time and a need for income where I HAD to do the Indiegogo. Initially, support was very slow but we were very lucky that Metal Injection posted about the comic – after that post on their site we raised around 80% of the goal within 24 hours. It was crazy and we are very thankful for them."
I suppose Corpsepaint Comics is your own "company", that you created for TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE, isn’t it? Have you also tried to sell the finished version to an already established company?
Sam: "I guess you could call it a ‘faux company’. The idea was to make the comic look and feel like it was just 1 issue in a comic book series that has already been going on for many years with countless back issues and a fanbase, so the company name was just to add to that aesthetic. We are currently in talks with a German publishing company – so hopefully it will be locally distributed in your native tongue shortly!"
The story of TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE has already been told in countless variations and even a movie has been filmed about it, so what was the reason that you still wanted to do a comic book version of it as well? Don’t you think that Black Metal fans are already pretty much bored by the entire happenings and disgust any form of "mainstream" re-telling of what was going on in Norway back then?
Sam: "I totally understand their (Black Metal fans) cynicism in regards to the constant retelling of the stories, but for every person who has heard the story before – there is 10 people who have not. In reality, I wrote this comic because it was something I wanted to write – I thought it would be cool to see it in a visual medium as it was different from the documentaries and books that had covered it before. If people were interested in reading it – cool, if not – cool as well!"
Where did you gain the background info for the story from? Newspaper reports? The "Lords Of Chaos" book, interviews with members of the involved bands?
Sam: "As I had always been interested in the stories and the music – I had read “Lords Of Chaos” and seen basically every documentary about the scene. But when I started writing, I pretty much went down the rabbit hole and was constantly researching everything I could. Reading interview after interview to help storyboard the tales and how I wanted to portray the characters. Police reports on the crimes also helped piece things together. While one sided – Varg has a very informative website where he shares his point of views on the scene."
Have you contacted any of the still living protagonists in order to get first hand information? Are they aware of the existence of TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE? Did you already get any feedback, good or bad?
Sam: "While doing work for other websites, I did talk to people from within the so called “Black Circle” about the early Black Metal scene and the controversy – but it was before I started working on the comic book. I’m not sure if they have heard about the book, but I’m sure they are probably sick and tired hearing about things that happened a generation ago."
A lot of Trevor’s artwork is based on wellknown pictures from that period… Did you use them in order to give the whole project a more reality based look? Was it difficult to gather enough fitting pictures from those days? And what made you incorporate stuff from movies, like "Clockwork Orange" as well? Do you see a connection between Alex & Co. and the happenings in Norway somehow?
Trevor: "The visuals of the crude photos of the period were very important in creating atmosphere. A lot of it was done for effect by the people and created an underground atmosphere that I wanted to capture. Also there’s a modern version of a German Expressionist feel there. I kind of viewed the book as a sort of time capsule collection – these are historical events. Of course I had to gather photos of each person for references so that they would look like themselves – this is mostly based on real people. But there are fairly limited pictures so my drawings are a mix of complete fabrication from my head but using starting points from photos when appropriate. It all really seemed like the right approach to make things as authentic as I could. The "Clockwork Orange" connection was my idea. It’s a small part of the one story in the book, but it encapsulates things in a way. When I listen to the early BURZUM records there’s this feeling for me that Varg was like a 1990’s version of an Alex – some tracks are even synth stuff like they might be part of the soundtrack of the movie. Here he is with his little group, running around causing chaos and destruction for pleasure, trying to be the leader. They’re all just living in their own dystopia vision of the world. An intelligent and talented guy with charisma and a charm, but with a completely out-sized vision of himself and no realistic contextualization of the senseless destruction and harm he’s causing. It comes crashing down with a murder and a bad end with the law and jail. If only he could have been rehabilitated with some conditioning torture that would have been the whole deal."
Did Trevor also create the backcover artwork? It looks quite different in style…
Sam: "No, that was done by Indonesian artist Agus Zoer from Zoer Project. There is alot of great Death / Black Metal inspired art / artists coming from that part of the world. Another great artist from there is Momo Maggot (aka Murderfucker) – I recommend everyone to check their work out!"
Who’s idea was it to incorporate all those fake advertisments in the book as well and don’t you think that their humoristic approach will piss some Black Metal fans off? Did anyone of them already blame you for making fun of Black Metal in general?
Sam: "It was always my intention to put the fake advertisements into the comic, again to pay homage and to make it look like a genuine horror comic from the past. I was really interested in the juxtaposition between the tongue in cheek black humor of old EC comics and the serious (maybe a little too serious) nature of Black Metal – I think it makes for an interesting dynamic. If it pisses people off, then I feel that they need to lighten (pardon the pun) up."
The whole look of the comic book is very vintage, with all its little wrinkles and cracks… did Trevor come up with that idea as well? What made him do so?
Sam: "I actually stole that idea from Corlen Kruger and his artworks. But that "vintage" look has been well represented lately with the whole retro vibe going around pop culture at the moment."
What is the reason that you separated the whole story into three chapters? I mean, it’s all one big happening, isn’t it? Was it planned to be released a three issues originally or did you just do that in order to maintain the TALES FROM THE CRYPT connection?
Sam: "Yes, it was separated into 3 chapters to maintain the TALES FROM THE CRYPT connection. Looking back, I have wondered if I could have done a full comic for each story – that would have been cool…"
Is TALES FROM THE CRYPT just a one off project from you guys or are you already working on something new?
Sam: "People have asked if there will be a sequel to it – which I don’t see how it is possible as the story we wanted to tell reached its conclusion. I haven’t spoken to Trevor about a future project – but I wouldn’t mind taking some other horrific unsolved stories from the past (the Hinterkaifeck murders for example) and bringing them to life with the TALES FROM THE BLACK CIRCLE vibe – I think that would be unique and killer!"
If people would like to purchase one of more copies of the comic, where can they order it? Do you sell it yourselves or do you have a distribution company helping you out with it?
Sam: "Hopefully we will have something set up in Germany shortly but until then you can get your copy from our Indiegogo. Make sure to read it while listening to the read-a-long soundtrack "A Journey Through Helvete" made by the awesome artist Tsjuster!"
Ok guys, that’s about it. I better let you go now. If you would like to add something, which we haven’t covered previously, feel free to do so now.
Sam: "Thanks for reaching out & for the support!"