What if your imaginary friend was a killer from a slasher film? Set in Scotland in 1994, the new comic book series The Nasty answers this compelling question with blood-splattered results as it follows 18-year-old Graeme “Thumper” Connell, who enjoys watching notorious "video nasties" with his friends in The Murder Club, until one night when they come across a cursed videotape that just might bring its cinematic nightmares to lethal life.

With the first issue of The Nasty coming out on April 5th from Vault Comics, we caught up with writer John Lees and artist Adam Cahoon (who contributed art in the first two issues before stepping in as the main illustrator in issue #3) to discuss the making of The Nasty, including exploring how horror can be comforting, taking a subversive approach to the concept of imaginary friends, and creating their own "video nasties" for this series!

Below, you can check out our full Q&A with Lees and Cahoon, and we also have preview pages from The Nasty #1! To learn more about The Nasty ahead of its April 5th release, be sure to keep an eye on Vault Comics' official website!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer questions for us, John, and congratulations on your new comic book series The Nasty! How and when did you come up with the idea for this series?

John Lees: The Nasty is a story that’s been in my head for many years, now. It’s possibly the most personal story I’ve ever written. It’s about growing up in Scotland in the 1990s. It’s about being creative, and the joy that comes from making art, even if the people around you don’t get it. And it’s about loving horror, and how horror can be scary, sure, but it can also be a source of comfort and inspiration. Those were ideas that I thought it would be cool to explore in comics form. And from there, in further developing the concept, I drew inspiration from “let’s make a movie” capers like Bowfinger, Son of Rambow, and particularly One Cut of the Dead, comedic slice-of-life comics like Giant Days, and the Scottish films of Bill Forsyth, like Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero, all mixed in the melting pot with lots of horror iconography.

Adam, how did you initially get involved with this comic book series, and what was your reaction the first time you read the script by John Lees?

Adam Cahoon: I was brought on initially to design fake movie posters for the video store in the story. My involvement in the book evolved several times and when George decided to leave the book, I was asked to take over as artist. John's humor was evident from the very start when I was given his list of fake movie titles, so I wasn't surprised when I finally got to read the script, that this slasher book was full of humor. What I wasn't expecting was how much heart this story had and how quickly I would fall in love with these characters.

I love how you incorporate the real-life elements of “video nasties” in this story. How familiar were you with “video nasties” when you were growing up? Do you have any favorites that influenced you while writing The Nasty?

John Lees: The video nasties have long been one of my favorite topics. As well as all those other influences I listed above, one of the big things driving the creation of this comic is that I yearned to tell a story set against the backdrop of the video nasties moral panic. It’s such a striking snapshot of British cultural history in the ’80s and ’90s, and it sadly has resonances still being felt around the world to this day. I was born in 1986, so, growing up in the ’90s, the peak of the hysteria was a little before my time. But it did have certain reprises. I vividly remember the furor over Child’s Play 3 being (wrongly) blamed for a child’s murder, for example. But the more I got into horror, the more fascinated I became with the video nasties, consuming books and documentaries on the subject.

As far as influencing The Nasty goes, while none of the actual narratives of any of the video nasties really reflect our story, while I was writing the series, I absolutely immersed myself in watching or rewatching a bunch of those films. Graeme “Thumper” Connell, our main character, is part of a group of friends called The Murder Club, who covertly watch banned horror movies, so I wanted to get in their headspace by watching the kind of films they’d be watching. And I think they’d particularly appreciate the especially trashy, gory, schlocky ones, the likes of Zombie Flesh Eaters, Eaten Alive, Flesh for Frankenstein, Hell of the Living Dead, The Beyond.

Adam Cahoon: Other than Evil Dead, I was completely new to video nasties going into this. As for influence for this book, I have used Tim Burton, Edgar Wright, the work of Junji Ito, and Black Hole by Charles Burns.

In the first issue of The Nasty, we’re introduced to Graeme’s imaginary friend, Red Ennis, a hulking slasher from one of the “video nasties.” Adam, did you have a lot of creative freedom when you were first drawing Red Ennis, or did John Lees have a specific vision in mind when it came to that character?

Adam Cahoon: Ennis was designed by John and George Kambadais, the initial artist for The Nasty, so when I came on at issue 3, his look was very much in place. I have tried to hue closely to the initial design of the characters so that the transition between George and myself is an easy one for readers. That said, I've been given a great deal of creative freedom to make all of the characters my own.

The Nasty takes the whole dynamics of having an imaginary friend into a drastically (and much more deadly) direction, but it totally makes sense for those of us who grew up watching horror movies where the slasher was the star. What were you the most excited to explore with this friendship between Graeme and Red Ennis?

John Lees: I never had an imaginary friend when I was little. But I do have memories of watching all these horror movies at like four, five, six years old, and having daydreams about how cool it would be if Michael Myers was my pal. And I think, as a child, part of the process of rationalizing that is sanding down the hard edges of this mass-murdering killer. And that was the part of the dynamic between Graeme and Red Ennis that I was most keen to play with. How we could take this giant slasher and present him in ways where he could be reimagined as soft and cuddly and friendly, have him doing things you wouldn’t imagine a slasher doing. And so, there are these moments where we can just see Red Ennis chilling in the background with an ice cream cone, trying to figure out how to eat it without taking off his mask, or fiddling around with stuff on a desk.

In The Nasty, the main character Graeme is a member of a group called The Murder Club that watches a wide variety of “video nasties.” Adam, how fun was it for you to illustrate all of these different movies within the main story? Did you set out to give each film its own unique style while still interweaving it with the look of the overall story?

Adam Cahoon: If I could, I would JUST illustrate fake movies. It was a blast. It was a lot of fun working with the prompts John gave me. Each one seemed very unique and most of them were instantly funny. I tried really hard to not only give each film a look that was unique to its title, but also give each one a look that would have been unique to the production house that would have made it so that one looks like an A24 poster, one like a Saul Bass design, and one like an illustrated poster for an ’80s comedy.

John, your prose in The Nasty is depicted brilliantly by George Kambadais and Adam Cahoon. What has it been like working with George and Adam on this series, and what made each of them the perfect fit to bring this series to bloody life with their artwork?

John Lees: I’d been a fan of George’s work for some time before he came onboard for the first two issues of The Nasty. When discussing the aesthetic for the book I wanted with Vault, I talked about how, though there is dark subject matter, I wanted it presented with a light touch, so that even when things get scary, that sense of fun isn’t too far away. And George brought his trademark charm and vibrancy to his pages. Adam also proved to be an integral element of these opening issues. It was him who drew up our array of fake movie posters, which are crucial in making Monster-Dome Video—one of the central locations of our story—come to life. And from issue #3 onwards, Adam has taken over full art duties for the series. And he’s been an absolute pleasure to work with—engaged, communicative, and so committed to telling this story and making it his own. The little sight gags and flourishes he’s adding into these pages are making it richer, and are so in-tune with the tone we’re striving for.

Do you each have a favorite moment from The Nasty that you’re excited for readers to experience?

John Lees: Absolutely! I don’t want to give too much away, but the entirety of issue #5, I think that’s going to be a blast, and I can’t wait to see what Adam Cahoon, colorist Kurt Michael Russell, and letterer Jim Campbell bring to that. And it’s a while away yet, but there are big emotional beats in the final issue, too, that I can’t wait for us to get to. By that point, those who’ve been reading will have been on a journey, and I hope they’ll find the payoff really rewarding.

Adam Cahoon: I'm in the middle of a scene right now where the characters are making a movie. It is a really great behind-the-scenes look at misfits working together, building something, and pulling it off. I cannot wait for people to see it!

Adam, what have you enjoyed the most about working with John Lees and the rest of the creative team for The Nasty?

Adam Cahoon: John was instantly a friend. We have a very similar sense of humor and hit it off immediately. I think we have a similar love for craft and for making things as a collective, and so working with him has been nothing but laughs, excitement, and joy. Everyone involved with the story at Vault has been nothing but supportive and engaged. There is a real sense that we are all equally in this together.

Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from The Nasty?

John Lees: Once you find what makes you happy—be it an interest or creative talent you’re passionate about, or a community of friends who make your life richer—do what you can to hold onto them. Be open and earnest about what you love, and if people don’t like that, that’s their problem, don’t let them put you off. Oh, and also, that horror is freaking AWESOME!

Adam Cahoon: I hope readers take away from this the heart in this story, the humor, and a love for these very developed and mostly human characters.

What has it been like to team up with Vault Comics to publish The Nasty?

John Lees: Vault have been fantastic to work with. Obviously, they are a real buzz publisher in the industry right now, putting out some of the most exciting comics on the market, with this formidable roster of talent that have made comics for them. And so, it was a bit daunting to step into that lineup, to think about carrying on that streak, hoping you don’t mess it up! But the team have been so supportive. Editorial have been insightful and encouraging, and made the story better. And everybody, from design to marketing, has been on-point and working hard to make this book visible and give it the best platform possible. I’ve had a blast, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

Adam Cahoon: Vault has been one of my favorite publishers since I discovered them in 2017/2018, so to get to work with them has been a bit of a dream. It has been an incredible experience at every level.

Do you have plans for future installments of The Nasty beyond this story arc? It feels like there is a lot of potential for even more stories in this world, especially with the cursed video element.

John Lees: I think that, with The Nasty, we tell a full story with a satisfying ending. But sure, there’s potential there to tell more stories in this world, be that unpacking more of the lore of the cursed video, or catching up with Thumper and the gang later in life. I also think it could be VERY fun to do a series of spinoffs, “adapting” all the fake movies in this universe, like Hunk McBuff: Vengeance Man or Pervert Bigfoot.

John, what advice would you give to aspiring comic book writers who are just getting started?

John Lees: A great starting point is looking into your local comics scene. Are there cons or smaller events in your area? Go along, buy some small press comics from the creators exhibiting, take a look at the writers and artists who are a little ahead of you on their journey, making comics and getting them on a table. That’s one of the big first steps you’ll be working towards, so it’s good to see that in action. Is there a drink & draw in your area? Even if you don’t draw, it could be worth going to hang out and get to know artists better. Is there a comics writing group in your area? If not, do you want to start one? And if you don’t have the numbers for an in-person meet, maybe look into joining or starting an online group? One of the most valuable things you can have early in your career is a peer review group, other writers who can give you feedback on your scripts, help you improve. And, as you all move forward in your career and start gaining more contacts in the industry, you can all help each other out and lift each other up.

Adam, what advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists who are just getting started?

Adam Cahoon: Dig in. Draw, or write, or color every single day. Even if it's only for 15 minutes, do it every day. If you want to be published or you want to put out your own comics, work at it every day.

With the first issue of The Nasty coming out on April 5th from Vault Comics, what other upcoming projects are you excited about, and where can our readers go online to keep up with your work?

John Lees: I currently have a Kickstarter running. Sink: Cutthroat, the latest entry in my hard-boiled Glasgow pulp crime saga, Sink. It’s already at around 200% funding, but there’s always room for more. And this is a chance for readers to get caught up on the series as well as jumping on with the new chapter. You can check that out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/comixtribe/sink-cutthroat

If readers want to keep up with my work, I have a weekly newsletter with the latest updates about my comics, as well as lots more commentary and tidbits on a range of topics, which you can subscribe to at www.deep-ender.johnleescomics.com. I also have a Patreon page, where I share behind-the-scenes process insight, original prose stories, and more, which you can find at www.patreon.com/johnlees. And I have an online shop selling my back catalog of comics, at www.johnleescomics.bigcartel.com.

On top of all that, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram, @johnlees927!

Adam Cahoon: There are a couple projects that I cannot talk about right now, but you can find me on Twitter and IG as @adamccahoon, or you can check out my website adamcahoon.com


We have preview pages from The Nasty #1 below, and to learn more about The Nasty ahead of the first issue's April 5th release, be sure to keep an eye on Vault Comics' official website!

The Nasty synopsis (via Previews World): "Scotland, 1994.

Eighteen-year-old Thumper Connell still has an imaginary friend: the masked killer from his favourite slasher film. Thumper is obsessed with horror and always has been. He fills his time with scary VHS rentals and hanging out with his fellow fans, The Murder Club. But everything changes when his local video shop acquires one of the notorious films known as "video nasties" - films so scary, they're the target of the British Moral Decency League's crusade to ban and burn. But it's only a movie, right? It's all just imaginary, isn't it?

A story about the perception of evil, the power of genre, the love of fandom, the need to create art, oh, and crap-your-pants TERROR!"

Cover Art by Adam Cahoon:

Variant Cover Art by Sally Cantirino:

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.