A post I had to illustrate with the stock image of Lady Stanczia and Lord Imri’s eerie mountainside castle. (Last seen in Vampire Hunter Thorn #3.)
Q1: How would you describe the difference between “spooky” and “scary”? Is there one?
“Spooky” is a particular aesthetic, all ominous and Halloween-y. “Scary” is a much broader category. If you narrowly miss being in a car accident, that’s scary, but not spooky. Dark misty forests with no sound except a cold breeze rustling the leaves, on the other hand…those are both spooky and scary.
Q2: What makes a scene or setting spooky to you?
Let me just rec some comics that do spooky really well, and you can work it out backwards from there.
The Last Halloween (ongoing) is full of claustrophobic staging and ominous crosshatching. Along with all the specific pumpkins-and-graveyards type stuff.
Stand Still Stay Silent (ongoing) gets these wonderful eerie effects from detailed art with limited palettes. Check out this shadowy, rain-drenched forest.
Awful Hospital (hiatus) does a great job of combining the gory and horrific with the oppressively mundane.
Serenity Rose (complete) has lots of shadow-filled forests, ornate but falling-apart old houses, and elaborate gothic architecture. Plus stuff in the corner staring at you.
Q3: Are spooky settings limited to specific genres? Why or why not?
If you’re writing something like a lighthearted comedy or a fluffy romance, there’s a limit to how deep you can go into horror territory. But spookiness doesn’t have to be horrific — you can also do the cute-and-fun version. Any genre can be paired with at least some point on the spooky spectrum.
Or, to put it another way: any comic can do a Halloween special.
Q4: What sorts of elements make a scene less spooky?
Bright lighting, pastel palettes, humor.
Spookiness isn’t really something that happens by accident, it’s something you have to actively cultivate. But those are things that can temper it after it’s been cultivated.
Q5: Provide us some examples of your favorite spooky settings!
I did it for other webcomics up in Q2, so here are some from Leif & Thorn:
The dark and deserted-by-order Embassy gardens from Homecoming. And again in Vampire Masquerade, complete with cold blowing winds.
Mata in a deep dark hole — this is one where the spookiness gets tempered by the way he stays relaxed and keeps making jokes.
Stanczia and Imri’s castle from the main continuity. Complete with ominous business deals.
Rec your own favorite spooky comics in the comments!