AfterShock Comics Announces OGN ‘Fearbook Club’ Coming From Its YA Seismic Press Imprint

by Olly MacNamee

AfterShock Comics today announce a new original graphic novel under its Seismic Press imprint from Richard Ashley Hamilton (How To Train Your Dragon, Guillermo Del Toro’s Trollhunters) and artist Marco Matrone debuting in January 2022. Fearbook Club is supernatural story of ghosts, former friendships and not fitting in:

“When shy 6th-grade shutterbug Whit Garcia starts middle school, he’s forced to join a yearbook club with three other weirdos who will never be voted “most likely to succeed.” But after the ghosts of missing students start haunting them, Whit, Hester, Hillary and Press must solve the supernatural secret behind these spirits — or their yearbook club will be voted most likely to join them.

But are these ghostly students the real bad guys? Or are they just warning Whit and his friends? Warning them about a darkness beyond their schoolyard…a darkness that threatens to swallow the school – and its occupants – whole.”

As with other AfterShock releases, we get a good deal of background information on this new book from writer Richard Ashley Hamilton. A good deal more:

“Specifically, it’s about Whit Garcia, a 6th grader who has to start at a new middle school after his family suffers a loss. Whit’s a bit of a shutterbug, which is partially a hobby and partially a defense mechanism. His camera helps him keep others at a distance. Better to observe people through a lens than get too close, start to care, and potentially lose them, right?

But Whit’s new principal sees right through this. She figures that if Whit likes taking pictures so much, why not take them as part of the yearbook club? Well, Whit can think of a few reasons why not.

For one, there’s only three other members: Whit’s bully and two twin sisters. They all have their reasons for joining. The bully is commuting detentions with yearbook duty. One twin has been banned from every other club because she’s annoyed them with her stand-up comedy. And the other is just there to get revenge on everyone who’s ever dissed her by drawing moustaches and unibrows on their class portraits. So, that’s the club.  

But then Whit starts to notice weird stuff in the school photos he develops. He spots things on the exposures that weren’t there in-person. Things like creepy kids with seriously dated clothing, photonegative skin, and glowing black eyes. Creepy kids that now stare right through the film at Whit.

These “negative kids” are the spirits of former students who disappeared and haven’t been noticed or remembered since. And if Whit doesn’t figure out why, then he and his yearbook club just might go missing, too.

 But in a more general sense, our story is about fear and how today’s kids — kids like my sons — are growing up saturated in it. Fear follows them everywhere, in their devices, in social media, in their parents’ dinner table conversations. 

 We grown-ups are lucky because we get to sublimate our fears whenever we see scary movies or read horror books that speak directly to us as adults. Kids don’t quite have that same opportunity. My hope is that Fearbook Club gives them a way to safely process their fears in fiction that is both about them and for them.

 That’s the main reason I’m excited for readers to experience our book. The second is that Fearbook Club actually started out as a campfire story I told my boys one Friday the 13th. It gave them the worst nightmares ever. I am now very much looking forward to traumatizing other people’s children, too.”

As for his inspirations?

“I certainly drew from what James Tynion IV has done with comics like The Woods and Something is Killing the Children in terms of pacing and ratcheting up the dread with each page turn. Stephen King’s IT had an outsized influence. I’m sure there’s some Stranger Things in there, too. But most of all, I would say we’ve been going for an Amblin-y vibe with Fearbook Club. Part of that stems from growing up with movies like The Goonies where young characters faced real peril and were often more aware and insightful than their parents.

 But part of that probably also comes from the fact that I was ridiculously lucky enough to work for and learn from the writer/director of the How To Train Your Dragon movies, Dean DeBlois. And Dean definitely trained me to ground all plot and action in character and to never shy away from emotion. 

On a personal note, I feel like I also mined a lot of the fears that I faced when I was in middle school — not fitting in, not being special, never getting noticed by girls or anyone else for that matter — as well as the fears my wife and I now face as parents. When our sons started elementary school, the principal asked us to write “comfort letters.” Basically, you have to put into words how you want your kids to keep calm in times of crisis — like an earthquake or an active shooter situation — but also everything you want to say to your son or daughter in case you never see them again. 

These comfort letters are by far the hardest things I have ever had to write, and they really speak to that culture of fear we’re all living in. It would be great if Fearbook Club could teach our readers a few skills to survive and maybe even thrive with all of that fear.”

Not to be left out, artist Marco Matrone discusses his art style and approach to this new project:

“Approaching the design of a comic page, it’s very important to understand that the drawings must be at the service of writing and narration. You have to know how to dose all the ingredients such as the rhythm, the details, the spectacularity and the dynamism. If you exceed with one of them it must always be in relation with what is required in the script; if you exceed with everything you risk obtaining a page that can be beautiful but not very functional. I really appreciate comics where the drawing is fast, light, space-saving and accompanies the text and the story.

 Another very important aspect in comics for me is the empty space: being able to keep free spaces that are not filled obsessively, as often happens. The empty space allows us to imagine where the movement of the characters will take place; when it fails, everything becomes completely blocked.  As a reader I have difficulty when I read too detailed and too spectacular works. My attention is catalyzed too much by the drawing and does not pass quickly forward. Stylistically, I love a lot of things and I think I am very influenced in comics by all those authors who take their inspiration from American and European animation, in which synthesis and functionality have a perfect balance. I also love Japanese comics and animation; probably they are ahead light years on everything related to the dynamism of action.”

Look out for Fearbook Club on Wednesday 5th January from Aftershock/Seismic Press

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