"The holiday really is meant to be this quasi, strange, mystical night. We wanted to find stories that could take place in different time periods, so that we could follow the timeline back to its source."
Fans looking for even more tales from the popular Trick ‘r Treat world, don’t worry…Sam is waiting. Just in time for Halloween, Legendary has released Days of the Dead, a four-part collection of tales from creator Michael Dougherty (director of Krampus and screenwriter of X-Men 2, Superman Returns). Joining Dougherty on the graphic novel are his Krampus co-writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields, as well as an acclaimed team of creators, including Mark Andreyko (Batwoman), Fiona Staples (Saga), Stephen Byrne (Buffy/Angel), Stuart Sayger (Bram Stoker’s Death Ship) and Zid (Son of Merlin).
“This time was definitely different, and it was more fun because I got to work on it with friends of mine,” Dougherty explains to EW. “So it didn’t quite feel as lonely as writing something completely by myself. It felt like going trick or treating or having a Halloween party with friends.” Along with new tales that span horror stories from 1950s Los Angeles to Western pioneers, Days of the Dead also features something a little different: original storytelling.
“Zach, Todd and I had just finished the Krampus script, or at least a draft of it, and the opportunity to write a graphic novel that sort of expands on the Trick ‘r Treat franchise came up. And Legendary was really into it and I thought it was a neat idea, especially because it was originally old comics that inspired the movie, so it felt like really coming full circle doing four stories and putting it out as a graphic novel,” says Dougherty. “We started brainstorming, and we definitely wanted to explore the notion of what Halloween was like in different cultures and in different time periods. Because the history of the holiday is so rich and interesting by itself, and when you start really peeling back the layers and looking into it, it’s not just a night where you dress your kids up and they go out and get candy from strangers. If you really follow its history, its timeline takes you on a fascinating journey all the way back to ancient Ireland and ancient Europe, and finding out why witches and ghosts and pumpkins and everything else has a place in today’s tradition.”
This is far from Dougherty’s first foray into the world of comics, but the creator laughs when asked if it was more challenging to come back into the world of graphic novels, after working on so many recent scripts. “We started talking about that amongst ourselves, because this is the first time the three of us have worked together in this format,” he reveals. “The thing is, because you care so much, whether you’re making a film or a comic, it can be just as rewarding and also just as frustrating. Because it doesn’t matter what you make: there’s always going to be obstacles or roadblocks along the way. But what I think is really enjoyable in the comic book is that you can break more rules. You can be more daring in a sense than you can with the film. Comic books are a much smaller investment, but I think they also lend themselves to coloring outside the lines.”
“With the movies, you have a limited budget, you have 90 minutes to tell the story — it’s a very rigid structure,” he continues. “With the comic book, you can literally color outside the lines, you can get weird…the only limit really is your imagination. It made sense to break a few rules and get weird with the comic book more than we would with the films.”
One of the most interesting parts of Days of the Dead are the multiple collaborations from a number of acclaimed comic artists. “We found artists who we were fans of that really trusted and we created scripts,” says co-writer Casey. “And you send these pages through the science of the internet, and then you start getting back these really incredible images.”
“We were really keen on finding people whose styles were different from each other, first of all, but also whose styles really meshed with the tone of the story and fit with the characters,” Dougherty adds. “Fiona [Staples] we had worked with previously on the first set of graphic novels, it was one of her earliest gigs, and we knew that her style would really mesh well with this particular story. And [Stephen] Byrne was a relatively new discovery, I first saw an animated short that he did and it was just a revelation.”
Todd goes on to explain how the collaborations with Zid and Saygers came about. “With Zid, I was unfamiliar with him, and our editor, Robert, showed us his work…once we saw that, we said, ‘this is the guy.’ Stuart, oddly enough, ten years ago I bought a print from him at a comic convention and it was actually again Robert who brought up Stuart, and I was familiar with his storytelling.”
Asked why fans are still so passionate about the Trick ‘r Treat saga, and why it’s become so beloved to them over the years, Dougherty becomes pensive. “I can’t say for sure, but the intent of the movie and the intent of the character of Sam was to always create something that truly embodied what the holiday was about,” he says. “I’m a firm believer that the holiday isn’t about the utterly terrified, or drowning in blood and gore. There’s something playful about Halloween. There’s till something kind of appealing, and even adorable about it. The intent was to create a movie that really captured that spirit and a character that really embodied it, and hopefully these comics capture that same essence.”
Trick ‘r Treat: Days of the Dead is available now.