Haunted By Their Past Deeds
Old Haunts is a new supernatural gangster series by Rob Williams, Ollie Masters and Laurence Campbell, out in June and here’s Tripwire’s editor-in-chief talking to one of its writers and creators Rob Williams for our first chat on the series…
TRIPWIRE: What was the genesis of Old Haunts?
ROB WILLIAMS: Ollie Masters and I were working up a different idea that wasn’t quite coming together. In talking we found out we’d both had the vague idea of gangsters haunted by an actual ghost. So we decided to write it together. Ollie and I tend to love a lot of the same sort of films and TV programmes, so we were coming at it from a similar place.
TW: How did it end up at AWA?
RW: Axel Alonso was just putting AWA together. He asked Ollie if he has anything to pitch at pretty much the exact time that we were working up an Old Haunts pitch. The timing was right. And Axel loved the idea.
TW: How collaborative is it with Ollie?
RW: The whole story and series is broken by both of us. That involved lots of skype calls. We broke the structure of each issue together. Did a Zero Draft for each page, and then Ollie would get one half of the issue to first draft and I’d get the other half. Then we’d pass each other’s scripts back and fore, to smooth out the edges. Hopefully you get one consistent tone throughout.
TW: You have worked with Laurence Campbell before. How did he join as artist?
RW: Laurence is just perfect for Old Haunts, in getting that sort of creepy sense of building dread and indistinct horror. Luckily as he’s a friend I knew his run on BPRD was coming to an end. Ollie and I pitched him the book, he loved the idea and had worked with Axel a bunch of times before. Axel loves Laurence’s work. So we were away.
TW: It starts off as feeling like a straight gangster story but it quickly turns into something that is cross genre with elements of the supernatural in it too. How do you balance a story that crosses genres?
RW: Very easily. I never feel particularly worried about doing that. You’re telling a story about characters faced with a problem, who want something, all the storytelling core blocks. You’re just flipping the reality they see as we go. The horror in Old Haunts is very much in their own minds. It’s subjective. It’s not meat cleaver through the head. It’s ‘Holy shit, did I just see what I think I just saw.’ The reality of the city and the physical threat of rival gangsters is all real. It’s just our three main characters are seeing ghosts from their pasts at the same time.
TW: Also it is a very American story but the three creators here are all British. What do you think this brings to such an American tale?
RW: Again, that’s not something I’m that worried about. I’ve been to LA a few times. We’ve all seen enough Los Angeles-based movies. Setting it in LA one night gives it a distinct look. We talked a lot about doing a haunting in a modern, sleek city. Ghost stories are always in old houses. This is a 2020 ghost story. The lights reflected in those big skyskrapers in Downtown LA where you’re not sure what you’re seeing reflected. And a desert on the doorstep where the bodies are buried. This is a story that feels very LA. Setting it in Canary Wharf wouldn’t have been quite the same.
TW: You have written for other publishers like DC, Rebellion and Marvel. How different is it seeing your work come up from AWA?
RW: This is creator-owned. It was very freeing. Our characters. Our world. We got to bring the tone we wanted. It’s deliberately very filmic. Old Haunts does feel like a movie on paper to all of us, I think.
TW: The timing of its original release was around when the virus hit the industry and the world. How much momentum do you think the series has lost with its new release date?
RW: Well, everyone in comics has been hit by the pandemic in one form or another. We’ll see how it affects sales. Creatively, it’s one of my favourite things I’ve been involved with. We hope that enough people get to their comic shop to pick it up as it’s a beautiful-looking book, thanks to laurence and Lee Loughridge.
TW: Without giving too much away, do you and Ollie leave things open for a second series featuring these three protagonists or was this always designed as a one off mini series?
RW: A story with a definite start-middle-end really appealed to us. But there’s definitely an idea for more, if sales permit it.
TW: If you had to pick, what is the gangster film that has had the greatest influence on you, particularly for Old Haunts?
RW: It’s probably not a gangster film, really. We talked about this being a cross between Michael Mann’s Collateral and a David Lynch movie. So, Collateral meets Mulholland Drive, really.