Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Interview with Editor Peter Normaton

Dan: Hi Peter thanks for taking some time to talk about From the Tomb Magazine. Would you mind sharing what From the Tomb Magazine is all about for those who might not know about it?

Peter: Yes of course. From the Tomb is a celebration of the last seventy years of horror, crime and science fiction comics. We look at the great artists, writers and publishers who have crafted these comics for so many years and occasionally reprint some of the old stories. I want to keep the memory of these comics alive; some of them from the fifties are now very rare and probably won't ever be seen by many collectors.

Dan: What was it that made you want to create such a magazine?

Peter: I just love magazines and books crammed with great artwork. I created my first comic while on summer holidays when I was only seven or eight years old. When I was in my teens I put together my own hand written and drawn comic fanzines, mainly about Marvel Comics related characters, although I did one called Dare which was a horror based 'zine. I discovered the fan press when I was fifteen at the very beginning of 1977, this had an enormous impact, particularly Alan Austin's Comics Unlimited published over here in the UK. I never aspired to becoming a professional because I knew I wasn't in that league, but I dreamed of having my own comic fanzine. The idea for From the Tomb came many years later some time around 1991 when I was picking up EC related fan publications and had acquired Mike Bensons book Horror Comics and Ernie Gerber's beautiful Photo-Journals Volumes 1 & 2. At first it was to be an EC zine but as time went on and I explored other publishers from the 1950s it evolved to become a pre-Code zine. It was while I was writing a piece on Skywald for Calum MacIver's H. P. Lovecraft tribute Strange Aeons six months before the debut of From the Tomb I realised my roots lay in the horror comics of the 1970s.

Dan: How have things been going so far in the 9 years you have been doing the magazine?

Peter: It's been a very exciting nine years where I have achieved more than I ever dreamed. Back in the early days I printed every issue myself on an A3 Hewlett Packard, I loved putting each issue together but the printing was a nightmare. Once we moved to professional printing with #9, thanks to the intervention of John Anderson of Soaring Penguin, things just got better and better. With this issue came distribution with Diamond which opened so many doors including contributions to several books and the chance to edit The Mammoth Book of Horror ComIcs. Sales have remained steady throughout this seven year period and the magazine has built up a quite dedicated following. One of the many wonderful things about running From the Tomb is getting home from another bad day at work and finding mail from all over the world waiting for me in the hall or the on the PC. This year started in the worst way possible with Diamond's cancellation of From the Tomb. I was very down but since then I have come to realise just how many people value my efforts. The support I have received has been unbelievable. Now, I want to make it work for those fellows.

Dan: Do you feel the magazine is geared more towards the History of Horror Comics or would you say there a good mix of past and present?

Peter: The majority of the magazine is dedicated to older comics from the 1950s through to the 1970s, although comics from the 1980s and 1990s have now earned their place in comic book history. As time has gone on we have included a lot more coverage of modern horror comics, especially those published by smaller independent companies.

Dan: What artists, writers and creators have you worked with during the magazines run so far and who do you have coming up or want to work with in the future?

Peter: I have been very lucky in my time with From the Tomb to have worked with some of the greats in comic books. Al Feldstein has been a big supporter of the magazine. I was stunned when he contributed a cover to issue #4. This was something of a sensation over here in the UK with sales and interest seeing an almost immediate increase. Al has contributed an interview along with two other covers each of which have attracted more interest. Issue #11 is now on the way to selling out its entire thousand print run. Jamie Delano contributed an interview courtesy of Paul Birch, Pete Von Sholly who has worked for Last Gasp and Dark Horse as well as story boarding countless films including Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile has contributed three covers plus three strips, the Gravesweller cover on #19 was another one that brought in many new readers. Disney's Eric Pigors has also produced three incredible covers along with an interview. He always amazes me in that he will take time away from paying work to produce these incredible paintings, he was instrumental in getting me the interview with Eric Powell of The Goon infamy. The interview with Joe Sinnott is probably one of the finest to be seen in the magazine, Joe and his family did everything they could to make this very special. Way back in issue #12 Alan Hewetson helped out, he wrote probably his last article on comics, The Human Gargoyles were due to return. He also arranged for Maelo Cintron to do the cover which led to Maelo doing an interview for #21. UK publishers and editors Alan Class and Dez Skinn have also contributed interviews along with P Craig Russell, B.K. Taylor, Tim Boxell, Gary Reed, Jerry Grandenetti, Barbara Vampirella Leigh and surrealists Terrance Lindall and Sean Madden. Ronn Sutton will be making a welcome appearance in #27 and hopefully The Gurch and Steve Bissette in #28 with Shane Oakley scheduled for #29 and more Al Feldstein to follow. I'd love to see Dave Hitchcock, Mike Ploog, Richard Corben, Michael Kaluta and Bernie Wrightson in these pages but they are all very busy people.

Dan: So lets go off topic, what horror/monster comics are you reading right now?

Peter: I never miss an issue of Hellblazer, Boom Studios Zombie Tales and their Lovecraft related comics. I am also enjoying DDP'S The Zombies that Ate the World and anything by Steve Niles. Arial Press's Harker also look very interesting. I was a big fan of Nightmares and Fairy tales before it came to an end. The sad thing at the moment is quite a few good horror comics have appeared over the last few years but precious few make it over three issues.

Dan: Do you feel that today's horror books can stand up against those of the past?

Peter: They have a tough act to follow. I can't see anything ever matching EC, but creators like Steve Bissette, Steve Niles, Shane Oakley and Dave Hitchcock will have future commentators talking about 21st century horror comics and Alan Moore's From Hell will always be there.

Dan: Where do you see From the Tomb Magazine going in the future?

Peter: It's been a tough year so I am having to take it one issue at a time but I want to include more pre-Code reprints and champion the work of smaller publishers. There's so much talent out there that needs to get recognised. Of course the emphasis will remain on the older comics, that's how From the Tomb has acquired its reputation. I am hoping to enlist the support of Steve Bissett, The Gurch, Shane Oakley and Steve Niles in future issues, but they are all busy people. The 68 page format with 36 in colour shouldn't change, it wouldn't be the same without the colour. I would be sure to keep regular contributors Frank Motler and Barry Forshaw, I couldn't do it without them. If we could keep things stable the aim would be to move to a quarterly schedule but there's a lot of work to be done before that can happen..

Dan: If you could sum up a one sentence sales pitch for the magazine what would it be?

Peter: It's the only magazine of its kind celebrating the good, the bad and the ugly of comic book terror.

Dan: Thanks Peter for taking some time to talk with me today about the magazine.

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