During a Friday evening panel at C2E2, Saladin Ahmed (Miles Morales: Spider-Man) and Dave Acosta (Elvira) showcased their upcoming series Terrorwar, which debuts April 19 on Image Comics.
Terrorwar is a futuristic story, informed by ‘80s scientific horror cinema, that is set in the last inhabited city on an Earth that has been rendered unlivable. Haunting the city are monsters called Terrors that take the shape of their victims’ worst fears. There’s a group of fighters who are uniquely equipped to fight the Terrors using psychic powers.
The series has been a long time coming, as Acosta and Ahmed have been trying to work on a project together since 2015. When the pandemic hit in 2020, they were in the middle of pitching a Dracula book called Dragon. It was on the schedule for a while — and then there was no schedule. They took it to Kickstarter, and it worked out great.
Three weeks after Acosta turned in Dragon, however, Ahmed approached him with another idea: Terrorwar.
Ahmed has always tooled around with creator-owned stuff and loves horror, as does Acosta. As a result, the collaboration has been — “not to get weird” — almost like a marriage, Ahmed said.
Here are five questions about Terrorwar the panel answered.
Was there a certain genesis for this story from the era of 80s horror that was a particular inspiration?
Ahmed said he sometimes starts his projects with titles. Because he’s an Arab American, the phrase “war on terror” has been electrified into his brain, he said. So what if there was an actual war on the embodiment of terror or fear.
The city in the story is kind of “Blade Runner”-esque and steampunk, while the vibe itself of the Terrors being pursued is kind of “Aliens.”
Was it always going to be other groups of contractors competing for jobs?
Ahmed said Acosta realized the main characters in the flesh, but he had the idea of the competing contractors. It’s not just this one group fighting scary, unthinkable monsters. They’re competing for jobs, as well.
What did Acosta draw inspiration from in design?
Acosta said every time he got scripts, everything was described in futuristic ways that made him react in terms of “What is this? I can’t draw this.” And then he would calm down and look at what he could draw inspiration from — from movies like Blade Runner to Michael Golden’s G.I. Joe to toys in old Sears catalog.
The characters themselves are inspired by classic team stories like X-Men and Ghostbusters, and in that spirit, their designs reflect various details about their roles and personalities — from the brains of the group to the muscle.
Acosta said he loves that Ahmed gives him plenty of room on what everything should look like and doesn’t describe every detail in his scripts.
Did they use a full script or Marvel Method?
Ahmed said he came to comics as a novelist and had to learn how to find a “happy medium” of working together with an artist. Ahmed started out doing everything full script, because he felt he was being lazy if he didn’t send the artist every detail.
Acosta said Ahmed is really good at scripting in a way where the dialogue and things like that are already fully scripted, but he won’t overly describe scenes — i.e., simply saying “they fight” or “a scary soldier.”
Ahmed said it’s a kind of interaction you can sometimes only have in creator-owned stuff, because the pace of Marvel and DC can get in the way of that kind of dynamic.
The Terrors are based on people’s worst fears manifested physically. How do they come up with the Terrors each issue, and if they were faced with Terrors, what would they be?
You have to focus on less abstract kinds of fears, Ahmed said. For him, the Terror he’d have to confront is something bad happening to his kids. Ahmed said Terrors are usually what happens to you in your dreams that you fear.
Acosta said alien abduction would be his Terror, because you can’t escape until they decide they’re done with you.