EXCLUSIVE: Talking With Dan Watters And Caspar Wijngaard About New Punk Horror Series ‘Home Sick Pilots’

by Olly MacNamee

Partners-in-crime Dan Watters and Caspar Wijngaard reunite one again to bring you a new and very different kind of horror series from Image Comics. A “loose sequel to Limbo”, Home Sick Pilots is a heady mix of hardcore horror, punk rock, coming-of-age angst and sci-fi too. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to both co-creators ahead of the first issue dropping this December 9th. And, having read the first issue (review to come early next week) whatever your local comic book store will order won’t be enough. Trust me. So, after reading this interview, maybe get in touch with them to reserve your copy now.

Olly MacNamee: I have to ask, after your first critically-acclaimed Image Comics’ series Limbo, what was it like getting the band back together for this new comic book, Home Sick Pilots and why this project?

Dan Watters: Limbo was 5 years ago at this stage, and we’ve both been sort of working across the aisle from each other, Caspar at Marvel and me at DC, so it’s been really great to come back and find out what new tricks we have in the toolbox. This project was something we started to talk about as a loose sequel to Limbo, but ended up cutting that element as Home Sick Pilots became more interesting to us in itself. It’s the kind of idea that evolved out of conversation, and one that the two of us could only have come up with together. Which is the whole point of making a book like this.

Caspar Wijngaard: We have spoken for the longest time about returning to image to make a follow up to Limbo, as Dan explained, once we got the ball rolling we discovered there was really special in the subplot we were developing. We really fell in love with these new characters and it felt criminal not to make them the focus of our new series. It’s a spiritual successor to Limbo, it shares the same DNA and fans of the mini series have a lot to look forward to. 

OM: Home Sick Pilots starts off as a haunted house story, but it hints as being something far bigger and far more than just your usual supernaturally possession house. You seem to be messing with the cardinal rules of the genre – which is pretty punk in itself – especially at the end of this first issue. What can readers expect from this new neon-horror?  

DW: Yeah, I’m definitely interested in where the ghost metaphor goes beyond the limits of ‘alright, they’re sure gonna spook you’. Our ghosts have agendas and purpose, and they have power with which to act on it. We’ve used the cross-pitch of The Shining meets Power Rangers as a quick way to describe the book, and the latter emerges in a big way in issue 2- we’re looking at how ghosts bond to people and warp them to their own ends. That’s what ghosts do, after all- we’re all haunted, and the things that haunt us are a part of what defines each of us.

CW: Like Limbo we decided on two genres that we wanted cover and started to build the foundations of how these could operate cohesively in a fresh way. I love being ambitious with creator owned projects and Image have always been very supportive of our ridiculously audacious genre mashing.

OM: It’s set in the mid-nineties, specifically. Your formative years, I believe, from what you recently told The Hollywood Reporter? Write about what you know, and all that? Is this one of your most personal books yet then?

DW: I’m a little younger, but this is definitely a really personal book. I’ve drawn on more real-life anecdotes for this than anything else I’ve done, and so many of the characters are amalgamations of people I knew and know. A close friend of mine actually saw the preview pages and went ‘oh shit, is that my old squat?’. And I had to admit it kind of was!

CW: There are personal elements for sure. I was a teen in the mid to late 90’s and the most important things to me then were my friends, music and booze. We even made a comic that was kind of a day-by-day biopic retelling of lives, expect we would fight monsters and ride mechs to pad out all the mundane activities and run in with rival kids. so, actually a lot like HSP!

OM: We get to meet one of our focal characters, Amida, who has something about her that sets her out from the crowd. A foster kid and a punk-rocker. And, judging by this first issues opening pages, something of the supernatural about her too. She herself a bit of a walking mystery herself, isn’t she?

DW: For sure. Ami is unmoored, and that’s exactly what draws her into the scene. Punk has always been a place for the unloved and the unwashed. It’s a community and a family, but can also be kinda aggressive and dangerous. It’s a scary and safe place all at once. As for your other questions, all shall be revealed..

OM: As the title for this new series would suggest, this isn’t just going to be Amida’s story is it?

DW: Yeah, the title is the name of the band, the three-piece power trio who are all at the heart of the story. The two guys – Buzz and Rip – are a big part of this story too. No guitarist is an island, I guess. Buzz is kind of the heart of the Home Sick Pilots. Rip is the local weed dealer, and a bit of a maniac. I’ve known a good few Rips.

CW: Not in slightest, each issue will follow the various Pilots and their quest to understand the Old James House and all its mysteries. There are also some really exciting characters that show up throughout the first arc, laying the ground work for bigger things to come. 

OM: And what kind of horror stories enamored you both as kids and later as teens and adults? Any early influences that haunt this contemporary tale of terror? Can I see something of the house from Hitchcock’s Psycho in there, for instance?

DW: Our love of horror is something we’ve been pretty united on. I’m interested in haunted houses of all types, and how those manifest. You could maybe argue that the Psycho house is haunted as all hell, since Bates himself is. Haunted houses are metaphors for us – they are containers of ghosts, and that’s also a very good description of what people are. Hence the premise of our book… the house that gets up and walks across California, full of ghosts.

I’ve always loved horror, but as a child my parents were pretty strict on that front – my mother had been far too scarred by The Exorcist. So instead I would wonder the halls of the video rental shop and gaze at forbidden covers for forbidden Clive Barker and Brian Yuzna films. The box-art always made them look terrifying. I hope Home Sick Pilots captures a bit of that feeling.

OM: Finally then, what would be the ideal soundtrack would be to accompany this series? Lots of Fugazi (who you name check in the debut issue), NoFX and Bad Religion but hopefully no Oasis?

DW: I suspect you will see a playlist from us sooner rather than later! I would say a lot of stuff from Sub-Pop, Lookout Records, a bit of skate thrash. I’ve been listening to a fair bit of Jawbreaker while writing recent issues.

CW: Lots of 90’s era KROQ, I still a tapes I made as teen, hours of songs ripped from world famous Los Angeles radio station. So a good dose of grunge, rock and punk and like Dan suggested no Oasis. 

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