True Believers

In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, writer Joshua Viola talks about the gripping and grisly new comic book, True Believers #1 (Hex Publishers). Find out what happens when Viola joins The Only Good Indians author Stephen Graham Jones and artist Ben Matsuya as they delve into the world of cosplay and fan conventions.

THE PLOT: In the world of meta horror, Killr emerges as the embodiment of evil within the slasher genre, born from a cult-favorite short film that inspires a trilogy. Amid the franchise’s rising popularity, devoted fans fervently embrace Killr, celebrating the character with enthusiastic cosplay. At the Colorado Festival of Horror, fanatics Rip and Kit—proudly labeling themselves as ‘true believers’—embark on a profound journey of self-discovery under Kit’s guidance.”

With the first issue now live on Kickstarter, writer Joshua Viola opens up about how the concept came about, co-writing with Stephen Graham Jones, and creating a new type of slasher. Join us as we head into the writer’s room and discuss the craft of horror storytelling.

VILLAIN MEDIA: Tell me how True Believers came about. 

JOSHUA VIOLA: True Believers emerged from a desire to create a meta experience with the Colorado Festival of Horror, where the story unfolds. 

Given my longstanding involvement with the con since its beginning, we brainstormed innovative ideas for this year’s event. When Stephen Graham Jones agreed to do it, we traded ideas until we settled on a convention-themed slasher narrative, one that explores the fanaticism surrounding a slasher character and the consequences of taking fandom too far.

VM: What interests you about the characters of Rip and Kit?

Rip and Kit’s dynamic lies in their shared devotion to our slasher character, Killr™, to the extent that they proudly identify as “true believers.” However, their approaches to fandom differ significantly. This allows us to delve into the diverse interpretations of fandom and the intriguing ways fans engage with each other. In many ways, the story explores the underlying implications of toxic fandom.

VM: Tell me about creating the horror atmosphere in a single location, the Colorado Festival of Horror.

JV: The initial spark for this project was not characters or plot, but rather a setting: the Colorado Festival of Horror. My long-standing involvement with the convention, coupled with my early experience with cons, served as the foundation. 

Stephen and I frequently cross paths at conventions, making the idea of delving into fandom and cosplay within this context particularly enticing to both of us. To add an extra layer of intrigue, we decided to throw a slasher in the mix.

VM: Tell me about working with artist Ben Matsuya on creating the chilling slasher character, Killr.

JV: Ben is a natural collaborator. Having worked together in the past, I knew crafting a slasher character with him was going to be fun. 

Initially, Stephen and I brainstormed ideas for our slasher. Then, Xander Smith and Aaron Lovett provided initial concept art sketches.

After selecting our preferred concepts, we entrusted them to Ben, who ultimately shaped Killr™’s final appearance.

VM: How did True Believers change you as a storyteller?

JV: This is the first time I’ve gone full meta. It’s a style I’ve hesitated to explore in the past. There just never really seemed to be a reason for me to do it before. However, our involvement with the Colorado Festival of Horror presented a distinctive opportunity to weave a fictional tale within a real setting and event.

 It was a really unique opportunity. Typically, I lean towards the world-building aspect of storytelling as a starting point, but in this case, the setting and framework were already in place. This allowed Stephen and I to dive straight into the characters and plot, which was a liberating experience.

VM: What are you working on now?

JV: In addition to the upcoming True Believers issues, I have several projects in progress.

These include a comic book tie-in to a new video game franchise, another comic tie-in to a popular haunted attraction in Colorado, a horror novella, a cyberpunk novella, and a collection of short stories, all slated for release in 2024. 

I look forward to discussing them with you in the near future!

Readers can find more information from the Kickstarter campaign and Hex Publishers on X aka Twitter and Facebook.

By Jorge Solis