[Interview] Sandy King Carpenter & James Ninness Discuss John Carpenter’s ‘Tales of Science Fiction’

Sandy King Carpenter has been working in film media since the 70’s, primarily as a script supervisor. She has worked on almost every form of media including TV, film and animation with many of the big names in those productions. While working on Starman in 1984, she met John Carpenter; four years later, she started producing his movies. Then in 1990 they married.

Since then, there have been a variety of projects under Storm King Productions, including graphic novels. The newest project is John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction, due to hit stands on July 26th. This is a monthly sci-fi anthology series.

I had an opportunity to sit down at C2E2 with Sandy and writer James Ninness to talk about Storm King and the new series.

PopCultHQ: You have a panel tomorrow…is there anything you are going to reveal about your series? Anything new, unknown or upcoming that you plan to reveal which you can tell us without revealing any spoilers?

JAMES: That’s a great question.

(W) James Ninness (A) Andres Esparza (CA) Nick Percival

SANDY: Yeah, what we have coming is new and different as we are launching John Carpenter’s Tales of Science Fiction. James Ninness is writing it. The nature of this is that it’s going to be an ongoing monthly book that is going to be made up of many series. So the first one out of the box James Ninness is writing. He is sitting here with me (at C2E2) and it’s [entitled] Vault, which will be followed by Vortex by Mike Sizemore, a writer from England, that will be followed by a series by Louise Simonson, and that will be followed by a series by Joe Harris. What we want to do with this is just keep a great set of stories in science fiction or year round monthly and by making the miniseries, we just hope to keep the interest up, the stories vital, and not try and wring the life out of something by keeping something going too long. Our excitement is that James is starting off with a bang with a really great book.

PopCultHQ: How many stories would you say are in each grouping.

JAMES: July would be Vault 1, August would be Vault 2, September would be Vault 3. Vortex would start in October [with issues} 1-8 and then the other story starts. So it is anthological as a brand, as a series, but each issue is just one story and they are all disconnected.

So they will all be different lengths, like mine is a three-issue story, because that is all I need to tell that story. Vortex is longer because it needs more issues to tell that story and they just kind of keep going, like Sandy said with different stories.

SANDY: Plus, all that connects them is that they are science fiction books.

PopCultHQ (to James): So where are the inspirations for these coming from?

JAMES:  I am a big fan of a lot of different science fiction horror. This inspiration….this one is hard, because if I tell too much about the inspiration, it gives away…Three of my favorite sci-fi horror films are Event Horizon, Alien, and Sunshine with Danny Boyle.

PopCultHQ: Sunshine, I recall that one.

JAMES: Yes, it is very underrated.

PopCultHQ: Wow, I haven’t even thought of that one in a long time. It was good.

JAMES: Yes, this one nods to all of those and then there are a few others I could mention, but again it would spoil issue 3, so we will just not.

PopCultHQ: Do you think horror is making a comeback?

SANDY: Horror will never go away.

JAMES: Good horror might be making a comeback.

SANDY: Well, I think that when you get to slasher porn, that’s not even horror.  I think that there has always been a place from the beginning of cinema. And from the beginning of writing there’s always been horror, there’s always been a place for people to exorcise their demons. And much like a roller coaster exists for you to safely experience near-death, writing, horror writing will always be here, horror movies will always be here. The quality will vary depending on what people think they can rip off and do easily…Horror is not easy. I think that good storytelling never goes out of fashion.

PopCultHQ (to Sandy):  Are there any plans to bring any of the Storm King comics to either the large or small screen?

Sandy: We will have an announcement fairly soon about the things that Storm King is doing with the studios, but that is not necessarily bringing comics there. I don’t think all comics make good movies, I don’t think all movies make good comics. If something appropriate happens where it can inhabit the same universe but I don’t think you clone a comic to make filmic storytelling…if the right thing happens that’s an offshoot, possibly but that’s not the plan. When we make comics, we make really great comics. We make movies, we make them to be great movies.

PopCultHQ (to Sandy): When it comes to the writing between movies and comics, what is the biggest difference?

Sandy: Writing comics is a really great discipline that I think every film writer should have to do because it is a great economy of effort in storytelling. In order to move somebody, particularly in horror, in order to scare somebody in 22 pages, you have to be really be disciplined. You have to really build suspense and pay it off in 22 pages. I mean, there are times I will sit down and I’ll write something and think “WOW! Yeah, I nailed that!” and I will read it the next day and go “I did nothing.” You don’t have the luxury of a longer timeline. You don’t have the same kinds of builds. But, it’s really great because you have to discipline yourself in a way. It’s not that you’re not disciplined in films, but that you have to really think of each movie differently and there’s phrases you can’t use like “as the sun sets” …. well that isn’t happening…There is all those kinds of things that you can’t use in movies, so you have to think differently in a different way. They are two different disciplines.

PopCultHQ (to James): What do you enjoy most about working with Sandy and Storm King, or am I putting you on the spot?

JAMES: No, no, cover your ears Sandy…I write things that I expect people to tell me are too weird and Sandy doesn’t. She’s one of the few editors I’ve worked with, I mean she’s more than an editor, but [she’s] also an editor, who actually kinda fans the flame. I’ll think I’ve gone too far with something and she will say take it a little bit further. They really mean it when they say they want to give the creators the ability to work at Storm King and tell their stories, they’re serious. They don’t want to neuter you or hold you back in any way. So it’s great to work with a publisher that actually wants you to go as weird as your willing to go, as long as your telling a solid story and there is something real and authentic about what you are trying to say. So there is substance, but there is also a little less leash which can be nice at times.

PopCultHQ (to Sandy): Do you think that freedom is because of your experience with your husband’s creativity and yours, and just having been stifled before with studios and such?

SANDY: Well, the way we work is that we really don’t work where we are stifled, but I think the idea is that I look for it because my background came from animation and script supervision and that kind of thing. I just look for what an artist needs to do and means to say and look to see if they did it most effectively and if I see a spot where I think perhaps they didn’t get it across as accurately as they meant to. Because that is what I do with my husband’s work and it’s what my husband does in my work. So the idea is artist supporting artist. “Is this where you meant to go?” “Where are your strengths in this story and did you play to them?” And I think that is what we try to do in our movies, that’s where good editing comes in, that’s where I feel that good production comes in. Did you support the vision? And as an editor, am I supporting the vision of that writer? So you don’t entirely stand back and just go “okay, fall on your face if you want to.”

JAMES: And to add to that… it also serves the story, right? When I get feedback on something from Sandy, she’s not concerned with the marketing of the book to a particular segment. She’s genuinely concerned with the narrative, with that story. Her edits, her suggestions, her thoughts are “Is this story being told in the most effective way it can be?” Not “Will we hit the 13-18 female demographic?”  That’s not always serving the story.  And there are editors I’ve worked with that go “You can’t do that” and they put the bumpers on, which can hurt the story.

SANDY: Yeah, I don’t care about that, I care about what is most effective for the story. “Is your story getting across?” “Did we hit it?” “Is this the point you wanted to make?” This is what I got….if it is all ‘yes’, then fine, now next is….”Where is the art?”…”where do we go?” “Where is the art that best serves the story?”  Then we go tracking that down.

PopCultHQ: One more question for each of you…

PopCultHQ (to Sandy): Because you have done a ton of interviews, what is the one question that you wish someone had asked you about Storm King and comics. Do you have one?

JAMES: that is a good Inception level question right there.

(James and Sandy both laugh as Sandy thinks)

 SANDY: duuuhhh

PopCultHQ: I know with me, there has always been one question after I walk away I go “Why didn’t they ask me?” or “Why didn’t I ask that?

JAMES (to Sandy): Can I ask you one?

SANDY: Sure.

JAMES (to Sandy): Why do you do comics?

SANDY: Why do I do comics? I think that the process of making movies is so slowed down now it takes so long from the time you have an idea to actually getting green-lit and getting on a set and doing it that you tend to lose…you don’t lose the fire of creativity…but you can sit there and it is easily two years before you are in production. With comics I can sit down with James, we can sit there and have an idea and go, “Wow! Let’s do it” and there is an immediacy to it that’s a lot of fun. So you can have an immediate storytelling and creative experience and turn around and get it out.

I get it’s just another medium, we are all storytellers…in my company we are all storytellers at heart and it is another medium that’s more immediate and I can draw on the strengths and the training I have throughout my career and still be putting something out while I am waiting for the longer ideas to pay off…so that’s fun for me and I’m not putting anybody at risk with million of dollars out somewhere. If I fall on my face, what is the worst that will happen….Poor me….One book. Oh well, someone doesn’t like it…big deal.

We can sit down, like we sat down this morning and we had an idea for a book. I fully expect that within the next year we will have that book out. And that’s what fun. There is an immediacy that is tactile and then you have the book in your hand and you have something you created in almost no time.

PopCultHQ (to James): My question to you is going to be similar; what started you in comics?

JAMES: There is no money in short stories. Honestly, I studied creative writing and thought I would publish short stories out of college, which there is no money there. It turns out there is not much more in comics.

SANDY: I didn’t know there was any.

JAMES: Yeah…so I was fooled twice, but that is what got me started. I was publishing short stories in journals and stuff like that and a friend of mine….I hadn’t been into comics at all…this was after college or at the end of college…a friend of mine that was into comics gave me 100 Bullets, Preacher, Sandman, Planetary and some others. I got way into them and he kinda convinced me that each issue was like a short story and they all came together to form something bigger.

PopCultHQ (to James): He became your crack dealer.

JAMES: He totally did. And so I fell in love with it , and I started just consuming books. He had been in it for years so he just kinda gave me the top…the best stuff  and then I worked backwards, but that was it…and I wanted to be a part of that…Comics are a great way to tell short stories and build something bigger with them, use them as blocks to kinda construct your own mythologies and narratives.


Written by James Ninness
Art by Andres Esparza
Cover Art by Nick Percival

The first story of John Carpenter’s monthly anthology series Tales of Science Fiction. When the moon-bound crew of Gaia stumbles across an enormous alien vessel, more technologically advanced than their own, priorities change. The mystery deepens when the crew discovers the name of the vessel along the hull written in English: “Vault.”

In Shops: Jul 26, 2017
SRP: $3.99

For more info, check out the trailer: