More ‘Monster Fun:’ An Interview With Matt Baxter

by Rachel Bellwoar

They say there’s nothing money can’t buy. Now, thanks to Matt Baxter’s take on “Hire A Horror” for Monster Fun, even monsters are on the market. In celebration of the summer issue of Monster Fun, it seemed like a good time to ask Baxter some questions over email.

Rachel Bellwoar: How do you think Mr. O’Rhesus measures up as a boss?

Matt Baxter: I think Mr O’Rhesus is probably a harsh but fair boss. And by harsh, I mean he’s a vampire and we all know what they do after dark. That said, we discover in the most recent episode of “Hire A Horror” that Mr O’Rhesus enjoys a glass of ‘vegan vein juice’ after work, so maybe us mortal employees are safe from his bloodsucking. He’s probably quite old-fashioned in his managerial style, given he’s centuries old. And I suspect it can be quite disconcerting when he transforms into a bat during staff appraisals.

RB: Most of Hire A Horror’s employees are monsters. How did Ms. Harker come to work there, or is it wrong to assume she’s human?

MB: Ha! That is a GREAT question and taps into something I’ve been pondering myself since first starting work on the strip. I won’t say too much about Ms. Harker and how she became the very talented and efficient front-of-house at Hire A Horror, but it’s definitely wrong to make too many assumptions about her natural or supernatural provenance. Watch this space (and maybe pack some garlic).

RB: I love the Venus fly trap on Ms. Harker’s desk. Any chance of there ever being a musical installment of “Hire A Horror,” a la Little Shop of Horrors?

MB: Aggie – the Venus fly trap in question – is a bit like a ship’s cat in Hire A Horror HQ. She’s there to gobble up any creepy critters that cross her path. Unfortunately, because Aggie doesn’t have vocal chords, I can’t see her belting out any musical numbers in the near future. I do love a show tune myself, however, so I’d never rule out a musical episode. If Buffy can do it, so can we!

RB: One of the things that’s really fun about this series is the more issues of Monster Fun you read, the more you get to know the different side characters. In issue two, for example, we learn that the werewolf’s name is Landis (a reference to director, John Landis, perhaps?).  Is it difficult, figuring out the right balance between rewarding returning readers and making sure each story is accessible to new fans?

MB: Yes, it is a tricky balance to strike. There’s a fairly significant gap between issues of Monster Fun (it’s bi-monthly currently) and new readers can join in at any time, so I’d never assume that a reader has prior knowledge of the strip or characters. And so every episode needs to be easily enjoyed as a self-contained story with plenty of action, jokes, colour and silliness. But you’re right, I’m also working hard to develop the characters as we progress and I’m glad to hear that it’s coming across. I’d always seen this new iteration of Hire A Horror as a sort of sitcom with recurring characters, rather than as a one-off gag strip. This means that regular readers can enjoy the character development (if that’s not too grand a term) and new readers can enjoy it equally without feeling they’re missing something. (And you’re right about Landis being a sneaky film reference, perhaps more for parents and carers to spot than for our young readers. I always enjoy naming characters, it’s one of the best bits of the comic-making process I reckon.)

RB: The way lettering is used in this series really helps inform who the characters are and their personalities. How has the lettering process on this series compared to other projects you’ve worked on?

MB: The way in which I draw “Hire A Horror” is entirely different from any of my previous comics work. It’s sketched, pencilled, inked, coloured and lettered in Procreate on a nice, big (and second hand) iPad Pro. I still doodle, make notes and sketch in pencil and ink on paper as I find it a more natural way to turn thoughts into story ideas. But the “Hire A Horror” comic pages themselves are created entirely on screen. This has meant that I can integrate the speech bubbles and other typographic elements into the drawings more carefully, which I enjoy doing. I think it makes for a more well-considered and organic looking layout. I wanted “Hire A Horror” to be bursting with vivid colour (or as vivid as the four colour print process will allow), and coloured speech bubbles were a factor in that. Not much white space going on here, which will horrify my design industry peers!

RB: Would you ever consider hiring a horror for the day (and would you trust Hire A Horror with your business, or would you turn to one of the company’s competitors, like Amazombie)?

MB: I’m a regular Hire A Horror customer, aren’t you? I find zombies work especially well at birthday parties, as long as you keep them away from your guests’ brains. I’d never use a nasty multinational like Amazombie. Shop grot local!

RB: If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Matt!

The Monster Fun Summer Special is on sale now from Rebellion. Back issues of Monster Fun can be ordered here.

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