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ECCC 2018 Exclusive – Interview: Pornsak Pichetshote on “Infidel”, Haunting Comic Book Shelves on March 14th

By: v.o.lynn

Bestselling editor, Pornsak Pichetshote is excited about Infidel, his upcoming release with Image press. It’s a monthly horror miniseries that promises to take some new twists on familiar conventions of the “apartment haunting”.

“Infidel is about an American-Muslim woman and her multiracial neighbors, who all live in a building haunted by creatures that seemingly feed off xenophobia,” Pichetshote said. “We wanted to take the haunted house and aggressively modernize it. We’ve moved it to New York City, it takes place in an apartment building, it has a cast of multiple faiths and ethnic backgrounds.”

Any time Pichetshote and his team touch on a classic trope, they try to rethink it: how do we consume new information? Well, the television at home in the background doesn’t work for exposition anymore, we consume it online. “Nowadays, you don’t have news carelessly playing in the background. You are making a very conscious choice to take news in.” So if news is carelessly playing in the background, it might be at a gas station (where it feeds you snippets of news and ads on your gas station pump) or at a bodega. “A lot of it is our expectations on what racism is, and who’s the most affected by racism, and xenophobia – all that kind of stuff.”

The main character is Aisha, a Pakistani-American Muslim woman who was born and raised in Jersey. “’Cause I was born in Jersey,” adds Pichetshote, “Well, actually, I was born in New York, but was raised in Jersey.” Aisha is a huge Star Wars fan, and is engaged to Tom, a white non-Muslim who is a single parent. This causes tensions on both sides of the couple: Aisha’s mom isn’t terribly happy, being from a more conservative standpoint, for example. And then Tom’s mother, with a history of islamophobia… it doesn’t bode well for the couple. “She says she’s over it, and Aisha believes in her and wants to give her the benefit of the doubt, but her fiancée (Tom), less so.”

So much of the comic is naturally charged with the task of unpacking and thinking through really tense concepts, according to Pichetshote. “We’re at this interesting time right now, where we’re having a lot of conversation about: Who are our allies? What is an ally? What leniency do you give an ally? One of the conflicts that comes up in the first issue is – Is racism a cancer? Does it ever go away? Do you cure it, or does it just go into regression? And that is the question – Can you learn your way out of that?”

The writer was evasive when it came to the spirits haunting Aisha and those around her. “I will say that there is a history in haunted house stories where ghosts are remnants of extreme emotions. And there’s another trope known as the revenge haunting – where if you do something to me, I will now haunt you, and it doesn’t matter what I do with you because the harm you have done to me justifies everything that I do.” Additionally, the trope of building onto a greater evil or disturbing a once peaceful or once spiritual place. “Our creatures are very consciously feeding off of those tropes, and I like to think that we found our own unique spin on that. And that… that is as much as I will say… about the creatures.”

This isn’t Pichetshote’s debut comic title: that honor goes to “Flashpoint: Green Arrow Industries” from 2011. He was a Vertigo editor for seven years, working on titles like Day Tripper and Sweet Tooth, Swamp Thing, and Losers. He moved to LA, breaking into TV as an executive on CW’s “Arrow”, “Flash” as well as “Constantine” and “Gotham”. “If you remember when Arrow came out, we had to try to define what a superhero tv show was. It was right on the heels of ‘The Cape’ on NBC and ‘No Ordinary Family’ on ABC where networks were shying away a little bit from superheroes. It was a rough time for DC, we were just coming off the Green Lantern movie. A lot of it was – what does a show have to be to still appeal to the DC Fans. And how do we make sure the characters are still the characters. And there’s a different version of that in every show.” His goal with every show was to bring the fandom an entertaining show, sharing the rich history of DC in each series, deciding which side characters made the most sense, or how certain characters could be used best. “How can you help them be the wind in your sails?”

“I took a break from DC, wrote the Green Arrow Industries episode, and I really wanted to focus on my own writing.” He’s currently involved in “Two Sentence Horror Stories”, streaming on GoNinety. “If I had known about Two-Sentence Horror Stories, I might not have made Infidel, just because no-one was telling… I mean – I wanted stories with characters of color, or gender orientations, that you’re not used to seeing in stories, but where those backgrounds influence the turns of the stories. There’s a lot of colorblind casting and anyone could play that spot.” A lot of what he’s doing with Infidel has a lot of focus on – how might a person react due to their personal social history in a certain situation, based on their race or orientation, but also on their individuality. The same sort of writing was going on in Two-Sentence Horror stories. “So I’m a writer on season two. Mira’s such a beast of a storyteller, such a kindred spirit. The interview was such… I would do it for free because this is what I do anyway, so how could I turn this down?’.”

Infidel, with stunning art by Aaron Campbell, bold coloring by Jose Villarrubia, and Letter/designer Jeff Powell will hits stands March 14th, rated M for mature (in case you hadn’t guessed it by now). You can look for local comic shops, check out the variant covers, or preorder digital here.

While you’re waiting for Infidel to hit stands, you can check out Two Sentence Horror Stories here. May the chills be with you.

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