Jim Zub And Djibril Morissette-Phan Explore The Dark Side Of Hollywood In ‘Glitterbomb’ [Interview]
Glitterbomb is a comic that's never what you expect it to be. It's a story about an actress struggling to regain her fame in an sexist, abusive industry and when the resentment she feels manifests in horrifying and incomprehensible ways, she decides to get her revenge. With the first miniseries complete and a collection on the horizon, ComicsAlliance chatted to Jim Zub and Djibril Morissette-Phan about their unique Hollywood tragedy and what the future has in store for the series.
ComicsAlliance: What kind of research do you do for a title like Glitterbomb. I imagine there’s some true life Hollywood tragedy in there, but was there anything specific that inspired or helped shape the world of Glitterbomb?
Jim Zub: The inspiration for the story grew out of my own fears. A few years ago I had some setbacks and wondered if that would be the extent of my creative career. Tons of people aspire to make it "big," but so few actually break through. The more I thought about it, and the more the overwhelming odds seemed so clear to me, the more I felt like that was fertile emotional soil to plant a story seed in. After some initial exploration I looked at where that kind of material --- fame, failure, and loss --- would really be amped up and Hollywood seemed like a natural fit.
From there I dug in and researched the Hollywood that happens off camera. Big budgets and even bigger egos. Lots and lots of fascinating stories about risk takers and outcasts along with deluded and broken people.
Djibril Morissette-Phan: On a visual level, I tried to stick to reality as much as I could to really ground the story so I had to do a good amount of research. I have to tip my hat to Kurt [Michael Russell], our colorist, to really push the visual atmosphere to the next level. He made my realistic environment very moody and unsettling, which was exactly what was needed.
CA: Was there ever a point Glitterbomb was going to be a straight up tale of Hollywood revenge, or was the horror baked in from the outset?
JZ: The supernatural-horror element was there from the beginning. Some early versions of the story were more funny-sarcastic, but I always knew there would be something otherworldly as part of it. Heightening the emotions with something horrific and violent is at the core of the story.
CA: When it comes to the story’s themes of sexual abuse and the lasting damage it has on Farrah, how hard is it to toe the line and make sure it serves the story and isn’t exploitative?
JZ: Everyone’s threshold is different, but I tried to skew the story to something where the sex isn’t "on camera." Farrah has been traumatized and its effect is shown without voyeuristically presenting the reader with the sexual acts. I wanted to avoid making something terrible and invasive look titillating or acting like we were glorifying it in any way. That’s not the point. Farrah isn’t there to act as thinly-veiled wank off material.
CA: How did the two of you decide on a design for the horror elements of the book? Do the parasitical elements of the design reflect a larger point about the nature of show business?
JZ: I sent Djibril reference of parasites, insects, all kinds of weird creature bits. He really pulled it all together into something cohesive and interesting. The parasite stuff was definitely intentional. The creature in Glitterbomb is real and doing these things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not playing with some metaphors as well.
DMP: The more terrifying element of the creature for me is the fact that it's not always manifesting itself the same way, making it impossible for the reader to know just how horrific it can become. That lines up with our intention to tell a story first, making the supernatural element more of a vehicle than the focus.
CA: How do you decide what level of gore is appropriate for certain scenes? Is there a point where the exact right amount of gore is integral to how a scene plays.
JZ: I trusted Djibril to infuse the violent scenes with enough squirm-worthy material without making it ridiculous. He did a masterful job of it. It’s not a splatterfest or gore for gore’s sake. Every time the creature unloads it’s because we’ve built up the tension and it "needs" to be let loose. It’s carnage with purpose.
DMP: Since most of the horror and violence in the book is used as a catharsis, I really didn't feel like I had to hold back too much. It is used pretty sporadically throughout the book as Jim said, only three or four times in a really outrageous way, so I didn’t feel like showing a lot at those moments would be going overboard. I also tried to have a certain level of build up all throughout the book to make the finale really satisfying.
CA: Is what happened to Farrah something with an explanation that you know and will eventually share with readers, or it more of a Walking Dead-style mystery where the answers risk making it less mysterious?
JZ: I tried to make it clear that the creature is a reaction, a thing that drives a character story rather than a monster mythos that needs to be codified and solved. As you said, the unknown makes it scarier and keeps the focus on our characters rather than finding a weakness. Silver crosses, salt circles, or garlic aren’t at the heart of this.
CA: Lastly, where does Glitterbomb go from here?
JZ: Our second mini-series will be arriving in the Fall. It will focus primarily on Kaydon, the babysitter, and deal with the aftermath of volume one. She’s been thrust into a strange form of tragedy-fame that we’ve seen many times before. What she does with it and how it changes her is worth exploring.
Glitterbomb, Vol. 1: Red Carpet will be available at your local comic shop and digitally on March 1.
Notice of Disclosure: One of the editors at ComicsAlliance has a working relationship with Jim Zubkavich, co-creator of Glitterbomb. The editor had no participation in the commission or execution of this piece.