To the horror and thriller junkies like myself around the globe: I’ve found the perfect graphic novel for you. Recently, I reviewed Theatrics, written by the founder and editor-in-chief of TPub Comics, Neil Gibson and I had nothing but good things to say about it. So, believe me when I tell you that Gibson’s graphic novel Twisted Dark goes above and beyond any expectations I previously had.
Twisted Dark is described as followed by its publisher:
Twisted Dark is a series of interconnected psychological thrillers, perfect for fans of twist endings and comics that reveal more on the second reading. Each story stands alone, but the more you read, the more connections you see between the characters. There are over 100 characters that appear more than once and one of the joys of reading is when you spot a reference that you know others will have missed. A rotating team of talented artists draw the stories, with each style offering something new.
With a description like “interconnected psychological thrillers,” I think it goes without saying that these stories are not for the faint of heart. Of course, that becomes clear even with just the title of the first story: “Suicide.” There are definitely moments when you’ll feel compelled to put the novel down and take a breather because the themes are so dark, but also because they’re disturbingly…human. I spoke with author Neil Gibson to get a better idea of the intentions behind this.
What drew you to the psychological aspect of horror rather than the supernatural?
NG: What drew me to the psychological aspect was because it’s easier for me…also you have to bear in mind that’s the very first thing I ever wrote in my life, so the reason I went for something dark and edgy was because I was terrified of being boring. I read some work by other writers and it’s boring! I don’t want to be like that, so I thought that if I wrote something that was a bit dark with twist endings, it would be…it wouldn’t be boring. And people liked it, so I just carried on going with it. But for me, honestly, it’s much easier to base stuff on the realistic and believable. I hate stories that are…that have big plot holes and are unbelievable, so it’s just easier for me to do it based in the real world.
I think that’s part of the draw with Twisted Dark, and also the way all of the stories are interconnected in some way. Did you set out with the goal of making that happen once you decided to continue writing Twisted Dark?
NG: Right from the start, I did plan it just in case. And it was like a, you know, one percent chance of it taking off, so I did plan it. And I did plan it there in case it did and I planned to tie it all together by, if I was to get there, volume seven. But as I carried on, I got far too many ideas and the minimum it’s going to have now is eighteen volumes.
So you expect it to continue for quite a while then?
NG: Oh, yes! I’ve got 150 unpublished stories and more in drafts as well.
Something else I’ve noticed is that your stories feature characters of various ethnicities and backgrounds. Is there a reason that it isn’t more Western-centric? Did you set out with that goal?
NG: Well, A: I wasn’t involved with writing and it wasn’t about diversity, which it is now. I just think the world is not just white America, so.. [chuckles] I’ve lived in I think 12 countries and I’ve traveled to over fifty, so I thought I could use some of that in my stories to shed more light on the world. Because people like to discover. I think what I like in the stories is to be first, foremost, entertained, but I like to learn a little as well. I like to be educated and I like to be made to think. So, I try to go with my stories with like a moral quandary like “what would you do” or a mystery thing, or a science fiction aspect…[unintelligible]…I try to entertain, but educate a little bit. So, if you have people halfway across the world, you can educate them about different cultures A wonderful example, and I haven’t put it in a story yet, but when I was in [unintelligible country name], the way men and women flirt…it’s a very strict society…it’s still a very old school in a way…and everyone has white Land Rovers and they’ll go to petrol stations and everyone says “hot tea, sweet tea” at petrol stations and you just raise two fingers up and the guy’ll bring you two cups of tea. And there’s a car there with four young males and this other car with four young females comes up – and there’ll be, you know, 20 cars there – and everyone turns their Bluetooth on and they’ll communicate a bit. And they’ll drive off to different petrol stations and maybe the boys will follow the girls and they look at the Bluetooth again to see who’s there so they can flirt without actually speaking in person. And for anyone in that part of the world, that’s so obvious! And if they see it in part of a story they go, “oh yeah! That’s like me!” Whereas other people in the world go, “that’s interesting. I didn’t know how the world works.” So, by handing people of different ethnicities and different countries an opportunity to learn about the world in an educating manner…at least, that’s my goal!
Are there any pop culture items, like movies, television shows, books, that influence the mindset you get into when writing these stories?
NG: I’d say no, I don’t. A lot of people say, “where do you get your influences from?” And it’s one of three things. It’s either a fact I happened to have heard of and found interesting, and I built a story around that. Or it’s interesting conversation or philosophical point that I want to build a conversation around. Or I think, uh, a twist of the unexpected. And I think it just comes from that.
Twisted Dark has been compared to silver screen phenomena such as “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone,” which are both also known for their relatability to human nature. What I find fascinating about Twisted Dark is Gibson’s ability to draw on personal and very human experiences to create a warped worldview that reflects the dark nature of select human psyches. Each story presents a different view of the world due to the diversity of the characters, and the interconnectedness of each character’s stories makes the reader stop to contemplate just how universal these twisted themes truly are.
And keep in mind, this is just based on volume one of the series.
As Gibson stated, he is planning a minimum of 18 volumes and has at least 150 unpublished stories in the works. Twisted Dark is by far one of the best thriller graphic novels I have had the pleasure of reading, and an absolutely remarkable self-published work. If this is how Gibson started his career in comic writing, I can’t wait to see where it takes him and his stories!
I personally met Neil at Emerald City Comic Con where he and his crew were promoting Twisted Dark with vigor, and you may recall the poll I posted about the work this past March. TPub Comics offers a “Twisted Dark Challenge” in which readers are dared to read the first two stories, “Suicide” and “Routine,” and then try to resist buying the entire first volume of Twisted Dark. The challenge has about an 80 percent failure rate, and I gladly count myself as one of those failures. I was hooked. Now, you can take the challenge for yourself!
TGON readers have exclusive access to read Twisted Dark via Webtoons or the Twisted Dark App, but trust me when I say that you’ll want to head over to the TPub Comics website and purchase a hard copy as well. TPub offers a signed version of the work that includes exclusive extras you won’t find online. So, are you ready to take the Twisted Dark Challenge? Check out the first two stories and leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter to let me know if you passed or failed!
Spoiler alert: failure is imminent, and you won’t have any regrets.