Deaditorial: The Art of the Horror Tie-inFearful Features,News Ken W. Hanley
Believe it or not, the horror genre is at a strangely unpredictable place at the moment. With haunting movies on the decline, the battle for the horror zeitgeist is raging on between the returning J-Horror and the slowly reviving slasher subgenres. Meanwhile, horror TV is at an all-time high, dominated by THE WALKING DEAD and AMERICAN HORROR STORY while still offering prestigious entertainment like PENNY DREADFUL and HANNIBAL. And horror video games are on the upswing, with UNTIL DAWN and THE EVIL WITHIN filling in the hole left by the dissolution of SILENT HILLS.
Yet as the price of advertising climbs and climbs while social media proves to be a harder ocean to navigate without the proper financial incentive, producers are trying harder and harder to find ways to expand upon and promote their particular properties. While television companies look into the likes of mobile games, lavish fan events and merchandising, other studios try to find more creative ways to not only create awareness for their ideas but create organic growth that would reward fright fans. And in the case of the latter, one particular market has become a boon for tie-in material: the graphic novel realm.
While writing and illustrating comic books isn’t exactly a cheap venture, it’s certainly a more practical avenue than new video content, developing gaming content or sinking cash into a social media campaign that could disastrously backfire. But, relatively speaking, graphic novels and comic series are a near perfect outlet for the horror genre: fantastical concepts that otherwise might be too expensive for the big screen can be brought to the page with cinematic, rating-fluid illustrations. And when it comes to upcoming or cult properties in need of a tie-in, few mediums are better fitting than the comic book realm.
At the moment, there’s no better example of the art of the tie-in at its strongest than that of LEGENDARY Comics, who have found a vibrant and clever way to build upon their intellectual property. On the economic side, they’ve found a cost-effective way to keep a property alive in between cinematic efforts, offering a new chapter in the TRICK ‘R TREAT universe while TRICK ‘R TREAT 2 remains in the pipe-line. Meanwhile, they also found a fantastic way to establish KRAMPUS before it hit theaters whilst not giving too much of their main monster away.
But perhaps what makes LEGENDARY’s model one to follow is that they develop their tie-in comics with the same amount of care and quality standards as they do with their films. While other companies may rush to develop a comic-book tie-in as cheap as possible in order to have a promotional tool to give away at a fan convention, LEGENDARY incorporates the vision of each of their films into their graphic novels, creating stories that- if produced as films- would stand side-by-side with the original properties. From the art to the writing, these tie-ins don’t just highlight what works about the properties but give those qualities an extra dimension in a way that action figures or games might not. So for titles like KRAMPUS: THE SHADOW OF ST. NICHOLAS and TRICK ‘R TREAT, DAYS OF THE DEAD, LEGENDARY utilizes the tools and even the limitations of the medium to tell quality tales that expand their respective universes and stories in a valuable, respectful way.
So while the tie-in isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, especially as brands grow or, in some instances, wane, there are better ways to capitalize on a hungry marketplace that benefits the horror crowd as much as it does the horror producers. With horror being viewed as a niche market by many, it’s only right that the realm of comic books- a growing marketplace without the regulations of the MPAA or FCC looming upon them- helps offer new tales of terror in universes horror hounds know and love. And if more companies took LEGENDARY’s lead to ensure the quality of the tie-in matched that of the original property, perhaps the unpredictable future of horror could fill in the hole that beloved horror novelizations once inhabited in the hearts of fright fans.