Tito W. James: You’ve worked on Invader ZIM for quite some time. But the project that got you into working on Invader ZIM was Serenity Rose. Tell me about that.
Aaron Alexovich: Serenity is a character I’d use in short films in animation school. Jhonen Vasquez (ZIM’s creator) just happened to come to the animation student’s end of the year show and saw my work. It’s the same kinda spooky, cute, hilarious, yet terrifying kind of style that Johnen does and he thought our styles would match pretty well. So he hired me to do character designs for Invader ZIM right out of college. And then he encouraged me to do my own webcomic, and I’ll never forgive him for that.
Ten years later I have gigantic book collecting the entire run of Serenity Rose.
TWJ: Could you give me the elevator pitch?
AA: It’s about this horrifically social-phobic little witch. Who, sadly, is stuck in a town that makes all of its money on supernatural tourism. Serenity is stuck in this “scary Disneyland” and she’s the main attraction. And she’s hating every moment of it.
It’s like Salem on steroids. The town was founded by witches hundreds of years ago on the west coast of the United States because they wanted to stay away from all the colonization. It’s just my spooky little cute world. My little refuge from everything else that’s going on.
TWJ: What was your first interaction with horror as a kid?
AA: Oh gosh, bad interactions. I was a very anxious little kid. I was scarred of absolutely everything. What really helped me was looking at books like Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark or horror comics like Swamp Thing. It was like a safe way to interact with all these terrifying things.
That was my introduction to horror and I’ve wanted to scare kids ever since. In fact we’re raising money for a children’s book that’s going to raise the next generation of horror fans. It’s called It’s Not Scary. The story’s about a monster kid taking a normal boy on a tour through her monstrous mansion full of nightmares. It’s a safe way for kids to interact with horror I guess.
TWJ: I remember being terrified of the Grim Reaper until I saw Billy and Mandy. Then he just seemed comical.
AA: I was obsessed with the Grim Reaper as a kid. I though that the last ghost in A Christmas Carol was the grim reaper. I would always wait for him to show up and I was always terrified and excited to see him.
TWJ: Which version of the Christmas Carol are you thinking of?
TWJ: Yeah the Muppet’s one was horrifically scary. Also the final ghost in Scrooged was really bizarre.
AA: Oh yeah, that one was really great too. That reminds me of the monster at the end of Baron Munchausen.
TWJ: Why are you attracted to horror and creepy stuff now even though it scared you as a kid?
AA: It’s probably because it scared me as a kid! Taking control of that thing that terrified you– if feels very empowering, I guess. You want to grab hold of it, make it your own. Now you have the power and you can scare people.
TWJ: Is there anything that still scares you?
AA: The only thing that kind of does it for me is David Lynch’s work. There are moments from that last Twin Peaks series that still get under my skin a little bit. Because it’s like you’re peering into another dimension where things are just wrong and off kilter just enough that you feel really uncomfortable. You can be spooked still as an adult but not so much scared.