Q&A: A conversation with Stef Hutchinson

By: Joel Frehn | The Duquesne Duke

Recently, I had the chance to talk with Stef Hutchinson about his work on the comics for Halloween and Demons. Hutchinson has a distinguished bibliography/filmography in the Horror genre. Some of his contributions include writing, directing, and producing the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror; contributing segments to Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy and Scream: The Inside Story, as well as writing comics for franchises such as Day of the Dead and Demons.

How did the Demons 3 comic come about? How was the writing of it compared to the Halloween work?

That came about as a result of writing the Day of the Dead & Battle Royale comics for Arrow Video, here in the UK. They were ‘pack-in’ comics, the idea being that you got an extension to the story as a special feature.

The approach to Demons 3 was very different to anything I did with Halloween. With Halloween, I tried to keep the actual plots very minimal. The strength of the original Halloween is its execution – the extreme simplicity of the story allows it to be a piece full of mood and atmosphere. I’ve always felt that one of the pressures of a sequel that doesn’t always pay-off is the introduction of more storyline, and that’s why I’ve never connected with the Thorn mythos of the middle Halloween films.

So, when approaching a Halloween book, I do it from a starting point of mood or theme rather than plot. You have to keep it, ultimately, about a man in a mask – or a force – that kills people, and the effects on those unfortunate to fall in his path. As we continued we played more with the metaphorical elements, and it saddens me that issue 3 of The First Death of Laurie Strode was never released because those themes started to combine and in many ways, become even more abstract.

With Demons 3, it was the exact opposite. It was a heavily plotted multi-timeline spanning tale. We opted to go with a sequel due to the ‘fake’ Demons sequels that had been released. The Demons films don’t really make much sense, particularly if you watch them back-to-back, and that’s part of their charm (and not uncommon in Italian horror), but that sort of haphazard storytelling wouldn’t translate to comic books too well. I looked towards the ‘70s Marvel horror books and basically dialed them up to 11. And whereas the original Halloween offers very little plot elements to build on, the Demons films have plenty, so it was really a case of choosing how not to approach it.

Shifting to the Halloween franchise, how did Autopsis come about?

Well, I was never happy with 25 Years of Terror. I mean, I think it’s okay and all, but it was meddled with right at the last minute … So I guess Autopsis was a result of me wanting to put something in there that felt like mine and, even though it was put together very fast, reflected the sheer amount of work I’d put into that documentary that was ultimately lost.

I approached it in a way that I’m sure didn’t sit well with a lot of readers. As it was being packed-in with the documentary, there was no pressure in terms of selling it, so The Shape only appears in 3 panels total. I like that though, because it’s plain to me that even though he isn’t physically there, the sense of his presence is on every page. It’s certainly a much more ‘out there’ story than its immediate predecessor, One Good Scare.

When you finished Autopsis, did you have a bible [of sorts] mapped out for your run with the series? For instance, the death of the Beauty Queen in Halloween 30 was first mentioned in Autopsis.

Yes, in my head. I do very little planning on paper – if I keep it in my head it remains flexible. It has shifted and blurred as time passed and new ideas came about, so it’s kinda organic in that sense. But yes, there’s always been a direction in mind. The death of Miss Haddonfield is pretty symbolic in an obvious way, but it was also part of a larger storyline (which is why it was also alluded to in the rough draft of Sam, where it first appeared)

In terms of the canon of Halloween, are the novelizations canon or elements of them? I recall a newspaper clipping on the website mentioning the disappearance of the TV producer, which I remember was present in Dennis Etchinson’s novelization of the second film.

The whole idea of canon is a tricky one. My stance is that the canon is whatever you want it to be – I think it’s up to the reader to decide which parts he wants to include, regardless of what the ‘official’ intent is.

That being said, we do have a very specific canon when we’re writing the material, so as to clarify what story we’re telling and keep a consistent mood and tone. That canon, as you’ve probably guessed consists solely of Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween H20 and the opening act of Halloween Resurrection (mainly because I want to forget that Busta Rhymes ever happened). We just use those elements, mainly because we’re trying to maintain the simplicity and elegance of the original film.

Now, the TV Producer you mention is a part of our continuity. She appeared in the original script for Halloween II, which is why she’s in Dennis Etchison’s novelization. Her death scene involved The Shape climbing out of her trunk in a rather strange way, and the implication was that The Shape drove to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital in her car.

Now, as you know, the character is present in Halloween II, asking for witness statements outside of the Wallace House. After that point, she disappears. So, we went in our own direction with the character and used it to tie in a few elements of Halloween II that didn’t seem to fit, without changing them. Hopefully we’ll get that story out at some point via the website, as it’s a prose piece.

 -This interview has been edited and condensed