Storm King Productions President Sandy King Details the State of Horror Comics and the Genre's Future

Sandy King has created an exciting career in the horror genre, with her skills having applied to a [...]

Sandy King has created an exciting career in the horror genre, with her skills having applied to a variety of mediums. Whether it be her work producing films like They Live, In the Mouth of Madness, and Vampires, or her work bringing comic books like John Carpenter's Tales of Science Fiction and John Carpenter's Asylum. As to the latter, King launched Storm King Productions in 1991 and Storm King Comics in 2013, delivering terrifying tales from some of the hottest names in horror comics, allowing readers to enjoy ambitious genre stories in a new medium. Storm King has even began developing some of their properties for potential TV series, allowing the brand to dominate even more mediums. recently had the opportunity to chat with King about her career in movies and TV, her transition to horror comics, and what's on the horizon for Storm King.

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(Photo: Storm King Productions) You have a large number of credits to your name in the world of movies and TV, but recently you've been focusing almost solely on comic books. Was there a specific moment when you decided that you wanted to invest your time in comics and graphics novels?

Sandy King: I think what happened that came into play in both our TV and film production, probably from my art background, was that we do a pretty extensive art presentation with every project we make. And we had this one project, Asylum, that we'd put together with [Thomas Hann Griffin] that we were originally thinking would be a television series and had a pretty cool premise with a Catholic priest with the gift of discernment. The location of Los Angeles was a significant character, if you would, in the story. And it was in development, and it was at a major studio. And we sat down for one of those regular hellacious development discussions and they're all excited about it, except they keep thinking, "Why don't we make it a sleepy little town in this rural community," which is code for, "We want to shoot non-union in the Carolinas."

And I said, "No, Los Angeles is a character in this." And some other assistant goes, "Well, it's not like it's a graphic novel we have to match or anything" and I said, "Actually, it is." We had all this art, and it really was a visual thing and at that point, I got kicked by the two agents and a writing partner under the table and we walked out, and I went, "They have no intention of doing what we're doing. It should be a comic book." And came home and said that to [husband] John [Carpenter] and he said, "What do we know about comic books?" And I said, "Nothing."

But people had been after him to put his name on comic books, usually just for the purpose of selling bad comics, and this actually had a great story that really was for comics, and we then spent two years researching both the business and the manufacturing, of the creating of comics, before we started to launch Asylum. And we don't take it for granted. We didn't just think, "Oh, we make movies, so obviously we can comics." We relied on great advice from people like Tim Bradstreet, Steve Niles, and a lot of really great people that were very generous with their advice and time. And that's how we did it.

It sounds like the financial stakes are lower for a comic book but a compelling story can still be delivered.

We're not exactly risking life and limb to tell great stories, and that's one of the fun things about comics. We can create any universe. We can blow up anything and literally, you can say, "Oh, you didn't like this story? OK. Guess you're out four bucks. Sorry, we tried." But we're only limited by our imaginations. It costs the same for us to make a major extravaganza sci-fi comic with giant spaceships and monsters as it does to tell a creepier, smaller horror story, and that's fun. I really like its limitless palate.

Have any projects come your way in recent years that were originally conceived as movies, but your knowledge of the comics industry has allowed you to reimagine them in a new medium?

Not so much. I kinda see them through different lenses. For the most part, what I've really focused on is either making a great movie, a great TV show, or a great comic book. Studio mindsets seem to think any great comic book makes a great movie or great movies make great comic books. They're different mediums. Doesn't mean something good can't eventually grow out of one, but I don't see one as just a test market feeding ground to do something else.

There's possibilities that a couple things may make a universe that something else can grow out of, but I'm seeing it as we're just really trying to establish a great Storm King brand in the comics world. If something else grows or some of the stories work, all good. But that's not my goal. I think if you look too far beyond the current goal post, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Maybe I'm just short-sighted. But I really want to focus on making sure that the one thing's good first. If a studio comes to me and thinks it's a great idea, fine. We had one. We had one where SYFY wanted Tales From Halloween Night, but it quickly became evident that they just wanted the title.

And I really saw a disaster on the horizon. So I went, "No, no, no. This is not a good idea." It was a greenlit series, but if it's not gonna be something cool for the fans and for the eventual audience, then I don't think it's a good idea to do it.

We've definitely already seen plenty of projects where a studio only wanted a name and didn't care about the final product.

I think the thing that they should be able to see in the new Halloween is, it's a great template for that, and the new Mad Max and things like that. If you give a shit and you put it out, the audience will come. And they recognize when somebody cared about them and is in it, putting out a great story and putting out production value. And that's what we try and do with the comics. It's what we try and do with anything else that comes because we don't have anything to prove.

One project that's coming later this year is a launch of titles aimed at younger readers.

We're getting ready to launch horror stories and sci-fi stories for kids because I think most of those suck. Why shouldn't kids have good horror stories?

What can readers expect from this new line?

Storm Kids is gonna have stories for kids that... every parent has to decide what their kid's ready for, but say 10 and up. But they should be stories that don't make an adult puke either. They're scary, but they're not inappropriate. The other stories that we do for [Tales for a Halloween Night] and stuff. Those are, I would say 14 and 15 and up. And again, that's a parent's call, not mine. But they're written for grown-ups. The best ones have lots of other issues that aren't kid issues. These will be regular haunted houses and we've got one by Steve Niles coming, Monica Blue: A Werewolf Story and all kinds of cool stuff.

We've got a sci-fi one by Louise Simonson, Hyper Breed. It's just got great spaceships and mutants and battles in the stars. So there's really cool stuff coming out but, again, they're good scary stories and stuff for the younger age group.

Last year's Halloween was one of the biggest genre successes of the year. Have there been any talks to revive any other horror property that you and John have worked on?

There is something coming up that we may revisit, but it can't be announced yet. There's actually a few things. Right now, it seems that the television space is really pretty interesting. We have a deal over at UCP, and the interesting thing is it takes an eternity for things to go from, "Wow, this is a good idea isn't it?" to, "Yeah, and?"

So things move slowly, but I think there's gonna be a roll out of announcements during this coming year. So there's a number of series that I think will get announced this year that have been in active development now for the last three years. And we have a couple of features. On the feature side, it's more fun for us to do new ideas. It's not that interesting to do remakes or that kind of thing. I think Halloween was unique in that ability to have actually the same characters be able to come back and have a reason to be revisited.

We have trade paperbacks on schedule to be released from June through the fall. We've got Standoff and Twitch, the new Tales for a Halloween Night.

People regularly compare the current political climate to the events of They Live, leading many people to assume a new iteration of that film could be on the way.

It's pretty hard to satirize the current day. It was subtle back then. Now? We're living in a fucking cartoon. I don't know. We already showed the Bush era, the first Bush, in satire. This is beyond parody. In the comics, Joe Harris usually weighs in as our voice of doom for us, but damn, I don't know that we could roll out something before Trump blows us all up.

Not getting to see a sequel to They Live due to nuclear holocaust is a depressing thought.

I hate to put it that way, but the studios move awfully slowly. It's hard to crank something out that fast. Back when we were doing They Live, nobody wanted to hear it then either. They didn't think that was a threat. The drifter's line of, "It's a threat, we all saw it everyday," was actually taken from something that one of the executives said.

If the bombs ever get launched, at least promise us you'll reach out to us to let us know what the plan was for a They Live sequel.

Yeah! I'll tell you what the proposal was. So you can rest easy.