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MARK MILLER
Writer of The Tingler
Published by: Bluewater Productions

Interviewed by: Allen Klingelhoets - (Posted: 8/9/2009)

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Mark Miller

Allen: Please tell me about yourself. It is best to recall new readers are always reading Jazma interviews. Help our readers get familiar with you.

Mark: Sure. Comic books have been a part of my life since I was a tiny tike. I believe I started reading them when I was about 9 years old in a small town called Lima, Ohio. I moved to Chicago for grad school in 2001 and still reside there. About eight years ago, I got together with a bunch of guys on the message boards of Ainít It Cool News.com and started reviewing comic books for them under the pen name Ambush Bug. Iíve been doing it ever since and currently Iím the AICN Comics Editor for the site. By day, I pay the bills as a licensed expressive therapist for children and adolescents in the Chicago area.

Allen: Mark. Please tell me how you became involved with writing Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler comic.

Mark: A while back, I wrote the Foreword for the RISERS Trade Paperback; a comic I gave a positive review to, and in the process, befriended the writer Martin Fisher. After a lot of talk, we started collaborating on a few projects together. He introduced me to Darren G. Davis at Bluewater Comics who was interested in reading a few pitches from me for his VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS and ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS lines. Iíve dabbled in writing for ages, but only recently did I take it seriously. Iím happy as hell Darren took a chance on me.

Allen: What is The Tingler?

Mark: The Tingler is the physical embodiment of fear. It lives in all of us. Itís that paralyzing sensation you get when you experience something absolutely terrifying. In William Castleís classic movie, he gave shape to that sensation (it looked a lot like a cross between a black lobster and a shiny caterpillar) and itís one of my favorite films as a kid. Normally, when a person is frightened, the Tingler grows from the base of the spine and uses its vice-like grip to paralyze the person until he or she screams, then it retreats into whatever netherworld it came from. Or maybe it goes into their butt. Not sure. In the movie, Dr. Warren Chapin removes a Tingler from a mute woman who dies of fright and it slithers away and goes on a rampage in a movie theater.

Allen: Is this comic created in response to it being half century since movie was in theatres?

Mark: Half a century! Man, thatís a long time. No, it was created because I love the original movie. I think the timing of it was just serendipitous.

Allen: Who actually thought of idea to bring this story to comic book form?

Mark: When I approached Darren and talked about writing something for VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS, I automatically thought of THE TINGLER. It was my favorite Vincent Price movie. I immediately started thinking of a way to continue the story. Although itís an amazing film, there are a few plot holes in it towards the end which gave me a lot of room to work. I fill in a couple of those holes such as what happens to Dave and Lucy (who sort of disappear in the last act of the film) and I follow up on Dr. Chapinís drug habit and how that influences his obsession with the Tingler.

Allen: Who is artist for Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler comic book?

Mark: The artistís name is Alex Lopez. This is his first work in the US. Heís from Chile and is extremely, super talented. I sent in the script and it was as if he were reading my mind. The panels were exactly the way I saw them in my head. Alex is going to be a big name. Iím so happy he was able to draw this story.

Allen: William Castle was Producer and Director of The Tingler. Did you have a chance to watch the movie in your youth?

Mark: I saw the movie on Dr. Creepís Shock Theater when I was a kid in Ohio. Next to THE BRAIN THAT WOULDNíT DIE, it was one of my all time favorite old horror movies. About ten years ago, I saw it again at an all-night horror movie marathon and it rekindled my love for the film. Iíve seen it tons of times on cable since and own the DVD. So Iím a bit of a fan.

Allen: Please tell me a little about The Tingler story. Who are main characters? What is the setting?

Mark: Dr. Warren Chapin is another one of Vincent Priceís classic roles. Heís this obsessive researcher who walks a fine ethical line when investigating matters of science. In the film, thereís much debate over the right and wrong aspects of his work with the Tingler. More so here than in most of Priceís horror roles, this one I believe is the most complex. Heís not a bad man, just flawed in that he does anything he has to in order to learn the truth.

At the end of movie, Dr. Chapin has given up his pursuit of the Tingler. I pick up the story not long afterwards and something happens that leads him to deepest, darkest Africa with new questions about the Tingler. Along with him is his loyal lab assistant Dave and Daveís gal Lucy (both from the movie too). They serve as Warrenís moral compass through this dark journey. Also along for the ride is Hickman Huxley, an Alan Quartermain type, who is piloting the riverboat and acting as guide. Huxley and Dr. Chapin donít get along that well. The story takes the Tingler out of the suburbia from the original film and puts it into a more primitive setting. I try to squeeze all of the fear potential out of that jungle that I can and move the story forward a bit.

Allen: What is a Percepto?

Mark: Percepto is an invention by William Castle, who was a master showman and notorious for cinema shenanigans that made his movies all the more popular. The gimmick that went along with the theatrical release of THE TINGLER was one of his best. When the creature gets loose in the movie and enters an old movie house, the screen goes completely dark because the Tingler has attacked the film projector guy. Castle placed vibrating buzzers under select chairs prior to audiences entering the theaters. When the screen goes black, all you hear is Vincent Priceís voice warning the audience that the Tingler loose in the theater. Then Castle flipped the switch and folks went apeshit when they felt their seats vibrating. This was a more innocent time, so Iím sure it was a lot more shocking than it would be today. These days, people might enjoy the vibes a bit too much (which may lead to a totally different audience reaction). In my story, although I obviously canít recreate the Percepto experience in comic book form, I do pay homage to that memorable sequence of the original movie.

Allen: Did you find yourself wanting to scream while watching ďThe TinglerĒ?

Mark: I donít really have that reaction to horror films. I do jump at just about anything, especially the cheap music jumps that are so common in todayís lesser fright films; not because I find them particularly scary but because of my love for cinema and my tendency to dive right into a film while Iím watching it. But for a film done in 1959, the movie is pretty scary. Thereís an extended color sequence in the black and white film where a mute woman comes across a bathtub full of bright red blood. The contrast of the red blood against the black and white set is extremely effective every time I watch it.

Allen: Is this story a sequel or direct 1959 movie adaptation?

Mark: Itís a direct sequel. It picks up just a short time after the film ends and jumps right into the action.

Allen: How many issues did it take to tell Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler story? How many pages are in each issue?

Mark: Two issues. 22 pages. Plus possibly some special features towards the end. Not sure yet.

Allen: When will this story come out in stores?

Mark: I believe the first issue comes out the last week of September (30th) and the second, just in time for Halloween, on the last week of October (28th). You can order the first issue in Julyís previews.

Allen: Will this story be collected into graphic trade?

Mark: I hope so. I believe it will, but itís no guarantee, so please go out and buy the single issues to make sure that happens.

Allen: Did you ever find yourself looking around the room for a Tingler while writing this story?

Mark: No, itís funny. As I put this story together, I really gave a lot of thought towards what happens when a person gets scared. Iíve always been one of those who jumps and reacts when Iím startled, but Iíve seen tons of people freeze and have that paralyzing feeling when faced with something frightening. Castle really stumbled onto something cool when he came up with the concept of the Tingler.

Allen: What age group would you say is reader group for Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler comic?

Mark: Well, itís definitely horror, so I donít think younger kids should really check it out. But then again, I was the type of kid who watched FRIDAY THE 13th and THE EXCORCIST obsessively when I was 8. I loved the gore and grue, even as a wee lad (and I turned out somewhat ok, I guess). There really isnít any sex or anything like that in the story, but there will be blood and some drug use within. So parents, decide for yourselves if itís something your kid should read.

Allen: Do you know if there is going to be a movie remake of The Tingler?

Mark: I have no idea. I hope they call me if they do. Iíd love to be involved. Maybe I can hold the boom or drive the truck or something.

Allen: What are some of your favorite Vincent Price movies?

Mark: THE TINGLER is my all time favorite. WITCHFINDER GENERAL (THE CONQUEROR WORM) is a close second. And of course, the two DR. PHIBES films. I also always loved Michael Jacksonís THRILLER and if the King of Pop would let Bluewater do it, I have a hell of a story inspired by that video bouncing around in my brainpan. LAST MAN ON EARTH was good too and MADHOUSE was campy fun. Too many great films. Vincent Price was one of those actors that, no matter what he did, he gave his all and made it unique and classy, despite the horrifying material. He treated schlock like Shakespeare.

Allen: What other projects do you have in works for Bluewater Productions?

Mark: Iíve got two other projects at the moment. A prequel of sorts for the late great David Carradineís epic low-budgeter DEATHSPORT for Bluewaterís ROGER CORMAN PRESENTS line. Thatís a four issue miniseries with art from Roy Huteson whoís got a gritty style reminiscent of Ben Templesmith and Ashley Wood. And I just finished another one-shot for VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS, this time focusing on another one of my favorites; WITCHFINDER GENERAL. That one is drawn by Manoel Magalhaes who draws a mean lookiní witchhunter. Trust me.

Allen: What other projects are you working on for other companies? How did you manage to fit Vincent Price Presents: The Tingler into your schedule?

Mark: Iím also working on a few projects that I canít really talk about yet with Martin Fisher (writer of RISERS). Plus a few more just in the planning stages. Plus I still act as comic book editor for Ainít It Cool News.com on our two weekly comic columns AICN Comics: Shoot the Messenger (news, interview, previews every Monday) and AICN Comics Reviews (with the rest of the AICN @$$Holes every Wednesday). Plus of course, my day job, so Iím keepiní busy.

Allen: What do you like to do with your limited spare time?

Mark: I try to work out at the gym. Read as many comics as I can. Occasionally sleep. Go to tons of movies. Drink alcoholÖsometimes too much alcohol.

Allen: What kinds of comic books did you read in your youth? What kinds of comic books do you read at present time?

Mark: I started out like many folks. My first comic was the STAR WARS movie adaptation, but I think I read a ton of old HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS comics before that. I didnít become a serious fan of comics until I discovered Marvel and DC super hero comics. To this day, I still am all over the board when it comes to what I buy. Iím mostly a Marvel & DC guy, but the job as editor at AICN has opened my eyes as to how many cool indie books there are out there. More and more, I get excited about indie books than I do the mainstream these days.

Allen: Are you must be a novel reader? What kinds of novels do you like to read?

Mark: When I have the time, I like to read true crime, mysteries, and how to writing and film books. But I honestly donít have as much time as I would want to read. Last book I read was Peter Davidís TIGERHEART; a damn fine adventure novel that acts as a sequel to PETER PAN, but stands on its own too. Iím currently reading PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. Itís a novel of pure genius.

Allen: If you could have any comic book super powers which ones would you like to have?

Mark: Iíve always just wanted to fly. You donít know how many times I have wanted to just put my car in park in the middle of backed-up Chicago traffic and fly my ass out of there. In comics, powers can get so elaborate and technical but I think the most amazing (and most overlooked) power is being able to take flight.

Allen: Do you have website? What is best way to contact you?

Mark: You could reach me through AICN Comics at www.aintitcool.com and click on my link on our AICN Comics pages. Or you can just email me at mlmambushbug@gmail.com .

Allen: Thank you Mark for taking time out to do Jazma interview with me. Your time is deeply appreciated. I hope to do another interview with you again in future. Would you like to close interview with any final thoughts?

Mark: Thank you for interviewing me. If youíre a fan of THE TINGLER, you wonít want to miss the sequel. But even if you havenít seen the film (and what the hell is wrong with you if you havenít!?!?!), we catch you up really quickly and jump right into the horror-slash-action. I wanted to honor the coolness of the original film and push it forward a bit in a direction that shows other aspects of the Tingler and the people in search of it. If you like adventure horror, or action macabre as I like to call it, I hope you check VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS: THE TINGLER #1 in Julyís Previews and when itís out in late September.


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