An Interview With Carmelo Chimera Of Chimera’s Comics
‘Cellar Door’ is the second release from Chimera’s Comics and is a collection of darker horror comics inspired by the likes of H.P. Lovecraft’s works and the ‘Twilight Zone’! The concept of the collection is that “in “Cellar Door,” an author retreats to a secluded manor to overcome his writer’s block. There he meets a hungry reader literally foaming at the mouth for his work. What follows are 15 stories the author must “feed” to his reader to keep himself alive.”
It is a fun anthology graphic novel in the works that should clock in at roughly 140 pages which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and will include 15 works of terror. Initially, a chain of comic shops in the suburbs of Chicago, the company has grown into a publishing house that has caught our eye.
Today, we’re sitting down with Carmelo Chimera who is a co-founder of the shops and publishing house!
Stuart Conover (SC): Carmelo, Thanks for sitting down with us today! Could you tell our readers a bit about how the idea for this collection came together?
Carmelo Chimera (CC): Thanks, Stuart. This collection grew out of our first work because we built a pretty large following around “Magnificent.” My friend Ryan Fleharty, who wrote one of the Cellar Door stories, pushed me to spearhead it. And it turned out, in our community were a lot of talented creators with a real passion for horror. So it felt a lot like a bunch of friends sitting around a campfire telling stories until finally, someone wrote it all down.
SC: One of our favorite “Trembling With Fear” contributors, Kevin M. Folliard is part of this project. How did you go about bringing the writers into the project which are attached to it?
CC: All of the writers on “Cellar Door” are people I know personally from the Chimera’s Comics Community. Some were friends or customers, like Kevin. I’ve always been a big fan of his work – his horror is engaging but fun. And even though this book is scary, I wanted it to be fun too. So I hand selected people like Kevin who I knew were not only very talented, but also very enthusiastic and enjoyable to work with. You spend most of your life with the people you work with, so it’s important to make sure they’re the kind of people you actually want to be around.
SC: When putting ‘Cellar Door’ together did you suggest specific types of stories or subgenres of horror for it or did the authors pitch their ideas to you?
CC: Originally “Cellar Door” was a lot stricter sci-fi horror – my first story was about time travel, for example. But we did sort of expand on that, and I took sci-fi pretty loosely which is the Twilight Zone influence. Not every episode was about space or aliens, but they all have that kind of otherworldly twist. So I told the creators, stuff that kind of twists and turns is what we’re looking for.
SC: Editing fiction by itself can be difficult, what changes when you throw artwork for a story into the mix as well?
CC: Editing artwork is really tough because it’s practically speaking very difficult to revise. “We’ll fix it in post” is not really an option. In the first place, you can’t always just erase one part. Maybe you change a character design – now it’s got to be redrawn on every page. Plus it’s collaborative – you don’t usually have one creator who is penciling, inking, and coloring. So practically, you really have to edit as you go, evaluating thumbnails and such. I think at its core it depends on a good collaborative relationship between the writer and artist much earlier in the process, which is also what makes comics fun. The product is more than the sum of its parts because it’s the combination of several viewpoints and talents.
SC: Did you pair the artists with the authors for this work? How did this shake out?
CC: For the most part, they came as teams. Kevin [Folliard] for example works closely with his cousin, J.T. Molloy, so they were invited together. Other people, like comics vet Rafael Nieves, brought on his people from his own network. I trusted I got the right creators and wanted to do little to interfere with their unique teams. For my wife Christine, who is a first-time author, I helped scout and recruit artists. As for how we do that, it’s a question of pairing the artist’s style with the tone of a given story, and keeping it in budget. Christine’s, for example, is the most real segment, and therefore the most scary to me, and required a very serious approach.
SC: If you could include any writer or artist in a future release, who would it be for each and why?
CC: The artist I’d love to work with is Gene Ha – he’s a friend, and a customer at our stores. He’s the Eisner-award winning artist of “Top 10” and most recently his own series “Mae.” He’s incredibly talented, and his work has both heart and imagination. He’s such a big name he’s both a dream and somehow not out of reach because he’s approachable. As for writers, I’m a big fan of Russell Nohelty of Wannabe Press. He’s done both horror books and comics, like “Katrina Hates The Dead.” He’s also a friend, but again he’s so busy and has his own business and way of doing things that he feels a little out of reach even.
SC: Do you have any future projects in mind that you could share a tease of with us?
CC: I’m working on two projects I’m very excited about. The first is a sci-fi political conspiracy thriller comic called “Fake News.” There, the government builds this big Space Force to fight a war in the stars – but the whole thing might be one big hoax. The second is a prequel to “Magnificent” – I want to pit my superhero against the real-life horrors we face like mass shootings and domestic violence. How does a real superhero change all that? And how does it change him?
SC: In what sounds like an interesting journey, how did you end up going from comic sellers to comic publishers?
CC: It was almost as interesting as my journey from lawyer to comic seller. You know, in many ways the publishing came first. I came up with “Magnificent” when I was in college. I shared it with a friend who ended up drawing it, and that’s who I started the comic book stores with. The stores really became a diversion, but in hindsight, it’s all part of the journey because that’s how we built our initial audience for the first comic. Like Steve Jobs says, you can only connect the dots with hindsight.
SC: There is a huge horror community in Chicago. What do you feel it is about the Midwest and the Windy City in particular that draws fans of horror out?
CC: There’s something about the Midwest that feels very American – so it’s very relatable. Haddonfield, Supernatural, lots of stories take place here. We’ve got a lot of urban legends, like Resurrection Mary and Bachelor’s Grove. So horror feels very baked in to what it means to be a Midwesterner. Chicago specifically though, it’s hard to say. Maybe because we live in such a violent city that we need that escapism.
SC: The framework for the story puts us into the shoes of an author which is a perfect fit for much of our audience. What other forms of horror stories do you think would be a great fit if ‘Cellar Door’ is a success and a sequel would be created?
CC: I kind of had the idea of “Cellar Door: Dead of Winter” where everything is loosely cold themed – but maybe that’s just because I’m dreading winter myself. As far as the overarching narrative though, I love Metafiction and breaking the fourth wall, so if there’s some way I could craft something that literally incorporates the reader that’s something I would pursue in a sequel.
SC: Thank you again for your time today, is there anything that you’d like share with our readers today?
CC: For authors, I want to say, just never give up. It took me nine years to finish “Magnificent.” But “Cellar Door” will be out less than a year later, so I’m picking up momentum. Don’t give up. As for everyone, you can get a 38-page preview of “Cellar Door” at the Kickstarter page so if you’re on the fence, give it a shot!
To wrap things up, again we’d like to share that ‘Cellar Door’ is currently available on Kickstarter and you should check it out today!
“Cellar Door” is a sci-fi and horror graphic novel anthology for mature readers. Some stories will creep you out; some have twists to make your head explode, and some may even make you laugh. But mostly? It’ll just scare the hell out of you. Featuring:
140 page hardcover with matte finish
15 tales of terror in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft and “The Twilight Zone.”
Stories from over a dozen new and veteran comics creators!
Be sure to check it out on Kickstarter today!
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Stuart Conover is a father, husband, published author, blogger, geek, entrepreneur, horror fanatic, and runs a few websites including Horror Tree!