Clay McLeod Chapman is taking us to the theater. But because this is one of his peculiar creations, it’s not any ordinary show. A writer who specializes in the weird and wonderful, Chapman has given his talents to short stories, novels, plays and film, each one intriguing and, well, skewed and scary.
Richmond native Clay McLeod Chapman (Photo courtesy the author)
“Essentially, A/V inserts bloodsuckers into pivotal points and history,” Chapman explains. “Guess what moment in time I picked for my story? The Great Richmond Theatre Fire of 1811." Because Richmonders seem to be everywhere these days, as it happens, the editor of this series is city native Ellie Pyle. When Chapman pitched his idea for inserting a fanged one into the historic inferno, Pyle said without hesitation: write that one.”
Image from American Vampire #2's Richmond Theater Fire story by Clay McLeod Chapman (Image courtesy the author)
Chapman is pleased and surprised that his story was paired with comics legend Richard Isanove. Isanove’s artistry has distinguished “The Dark Tower” adaptation and “Wolverine Origins.” Says Chapman, “His work just takes everything to a higher level.”
And if you’ve always thought self-storage complexes were perhaps a little creepy, Chapman has made a graphic novel serial just for you, called simply, “Self Storage.” The series is published through the new comic book company 451 Media, spun out of the empire of Michael Bay (yes, that Michael Bay). Because I felt obligated, I asked if, this being a Bay enterprise, he received a requirement for explosions. Chapman deadpans, “Well, exactly. They thought it was all fine except that I had to blow up more stuff in the story line.”
The publishing house has tapped Hollywood writers and directors to create in the graphic novel format. “And I was fortunate to be selected to participate in the maiden voyage,” says Chapman. “Self Storage” started its limited edition run in Oct. 2105 with the final issue in July. The complete novel is bound together first in digital format for release in a few days, in time for Halloween, with a paperback form out for Valentine’s 2017. “Because," says Chapman, "nothing says Iove more than a zombie rom com.”
He laughs. “If you can believe it, it was a passion project. Nobody wants to touch a zom rom com story, but I was eager to tell it, and these guys took a chance with me. I was a kid in candy store. It kind of fuses the notion of self-storage and “The Walking Dead.” People go to lot sales and at auction buy the contents and take the risk that there’s something of value. How do you know what’s in there until you’ve really looked?”
That description gave me a good “Twilight Zone” chill.
In other news, Chapman’s performance/storytelling series called “The Pumpkin Pie Show” is in its second decade. He’ll return in February to Richmond and the Modlin Center through the 5th Wall Theater. “I’m thinking we’ll bring some friends – at least Hanna Cheek."
Further on the horizon, but soon enough, is a collection of 40 stories, “Nothing Untoward,” based out of Pumpkin Pie material, “collected in one massive compendium,” Chapman says. That’s due out in March 2017. “It’s a mixture of pieces we’ve performed for years, but new to print; a little bit of a mixed bag for people to look at.”
The assortment is described by publisher Applause Books as a look into the “depraved minds of those madmen and women who drift along the periphery of humankind. Sometimes darkly humorous, sometimes strangely heartbreaking, these stories explore the domestic horrors of the everyday, finding terror within our own households.”