Few things in life bring people together like childhood traumas and nothing says childhood trauma quite like Middle School. You’re going through myriad changes, life is chaos, and being in school just makes it all seem so much worse. We’re all looking for heroes at this stage in life, people who can take this torment and rise above it in ways that remind us that we can survive too. Rob Potchak remembers those days well and his new comic book, Junior High Horrors explores the terror of those days with help from some of our favorite horror icons reimagined as Middle Schoolers.
An author of Immortal and Scorn, Potchak is excited to share his love of comics and horror with parents and teens alike and took some time to talk to me about his latest creation.
Dan - Tell me how Junior High Horrors came to be.
Rob - I’ve been writing comic books off and on for 20 years now and about a year ago Keenspot came to me and asked if I’d be interested in publishing a book I’ve been working on called Immortal. Chris Crosby, the publisher, said if I could come up with some new ideas and get them inked he’d continue publishing them. I came up with the idea last year of taking your favorite horror characters and turning them into 12 year old kids. They were originally drawn like (Charles) Schultz characters because I thought it would be funny if Jason Voorhees was dropped in with the Peanuts kids.
Dan - What’s the story like?
Rob - The first two issues deal with a field trip to King Stephen’s Petting Zoo. The entire thing takes the iconography of the characters and reimagines them as 12 year old kids. None of them want to go to school cause they get bullied and made fun of and, like Scooby Doo by the end they’re the heroes. After that the kids take on a flu epidemic in a very Robert Kirkman way.
Dan - And who’s the audience you’re looking to write for?
Rob - The audience should be along the lines into the Rick and Morty comics and Five Nights at Freddy’s but connects with adult horror fans who are sharing this with their kids. It’s like Animaniacs. If you watch it now as an adult you get so much more out of it than you did as a kid.
Dan - You had a surprising inspiration for this comic too, right?
Rob - Yeah. Jamie Lee Curtis. Other than the new Halloween and Scream Queens she hasn’t really been doing a lot that we’ve been paying attention to. Only she has. She’s been writing kids books that also appeal to the parents as well. In comics (and video games) the audience that’s being written to is predominantly 25 and up. They’re not really working to grow and bring in a new audience. I wanted to make something that would introduce all of these characters to a newer audience while still appealing to the older generation that grew up with these characters.
(left to right) Nancy St Elms, Frederick "Scaredy Cat", Mikey Holliday, Laurie Holliday, and J.V.
Dan - What’s the difference between writing a short story or a screenplay and writing a comic book?
Rob - Interestingly enough, it’s amazing comic book scripts haven’t been adapted into movies more often. You have to write a comic script panel by panel. You can have an action sequence that gets drawn into three pages that is written in a single paragraph or two. Comic scripts take what would happen in a movie script and truncate it down into a 20 minute episode or so.
Dan - When can I get a copy of Junior High Horrors?
Rob - The first issue launches September 19th and I’ll be doing a signings that day starting at Arkham Comics in Raleigh, NC.
Dan - What advice would you offer to a comic artist starting out?
Rob - Don’t give up on your dream. Keep at it. It’s not just Marvel, DC, Image, or Dark Horse. There are lots of places looking to publish new comics.
Junior High Horrors launches September 19th from Keenspot Comics. If you’re in Raleigh, NC and can make it, drop by Arkham Comics to get your signed copy from the author himself, Rob Potchak. And be sure to follow his YouTube, Facebook and Twitter for more updates.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.