I last interviewed Sina Grace in April about his series Ghosted in LA. Given that we are dealing with the boredom of being trapped in a boring dystopian pandemic, we can enjoy a bit of entertainment because Grace and IDW are releasing his latest book, The Haunted Mansion: Frights of Fancy. Published by IDW, Frights of Fancy gives readers a unique insight into the afterlives of those residing in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. Wanting to learn more about Frights of Fancy as well what else he’s been up to, I was able to interview Grace again for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: I last interviewed you in April. Though it has only been a few months, it feels like years have passed. So, how have you been since then?
Sina Grace: Wow! A day this year has been, what a year this day has been! I’m knocking on wood, because my personal orbit has been fairly stable. The uprisings and conversations surrounding BLM were heartbreaking and necessary, and I think like everyone else I’m just trying to define the new “normal.” I was able to raise some money for black trans funds, and since then I’ve just made the concerted decision to really only align myself with editors and folks who are on my vibe… down to taking away pitches with traction from companies. This is the new normal.
Yanes: You have worked with various companies in your career. How do you think IDW differs from the rest? Can you offer any advice to creators who want to get on IDW’s radar?
Grace: Like pretty much everyone I’ve worked with in comics, the folks at IDW love comics. Everyone I’ve dealt with over there has also had a personal affection for whichever licensed property we are playing with. The passion shows, and I think that’s why audiences really connect with their G.I. Joe, Jem, and Ninja Turtle books, to name a few. For anyone looking to get on IDW’s radar, focus on making stuff that speaks to you. All editors are looking for folks with a perspective, a flavor. Also, track who’s editing books you like. Sending blind e-mails to anybody and everybody doesn’t accomplish much. It’s much more effective to say: “Wow, I really love what you did with the GLOW comics, and if you’ve got future opportunities…”
Yanes: Your latest publication is The Haunted Mansion: Frights of Fancy. What was the inspiration for this story?
Grace: We all went into The Haunted Mansion graphic novel wanting to pursue a bit of a kooky workplace comedy. The book is tied to the Mansion’s birthday, so my goal was to also explore what makes people love the Disney attraction so much. Having our protagonist Sydney be a new ghost assigned to the Mansion’s “boo-tification,” I was able to basically cross every goal off my list in an organic manner.
Yanes: Many of your stories with ghosts. Why are interested in using ghosts in your stories? Do ghosts offer a story telling mechanic other creatures don’t offer?
Grace: To me, ghosts can represent so much in our collective unconscious, and they don’t carry the somewhat necessary “rules” of other supernatural creatures… like, werewolves and vampires have some specific signifiers readers expect from their narratives. My first graphic novel, Not My Bag, tackled ghosts of relationships past that vexed the protagonist from being able to move forward and live a healthier lifestyle.
My current projects, Ghosted in LA and The Haunted Mansion, focus more on how ghosts remind us of missed opportunities, regrets, and I use them to remind the readers about taking advantage of being alive in the “Now.” Maybe that’s why both of these books are starting to really take off. We’re trapped at home now, and haunting our own apartments, moaning about past lives. Hah!
Yanes: Disney’s Haunted Mansion has been around since 1969 and is still extremely popular. Why do you this attraction has remained a fan favorite for so long?
Grace: The magic of the Haunted Mansion is this oddly intangible thing that I believe has to do with the attraction’s discordant style. It’s a mishmash of macabre and quirky humor. When you’re a kid, there are legitimate moments to be scared of. When you’re a grownup, there are so many moments of wry humor injected in the nooks and crannies. The Haunted Mansion reminds me of the best Edward Gorey and Chas Addams strips. That sort of Lydia Deetz lighthearted darkness always has an audience with the offbeats, the peculiar, and… dare I say… the strange and unusual.
Yanes: Frights of Fancy centers on Sydney. When did this character take on a life of her own?
Grace: When I created Sydney, I knew that I wanted to write a sort of Leslie Knope go-getter a la Parks and Recreation. I was watching a lot of current-era Grey’s Anatomy, and my heart was swollen with love for the Maggie character. One night, I just realized that Sydney was an amalgamation of Leslie, Maggie, and a friend who’s from the South. Then, partway through the process, I’d gone to Louisiana for a wedding, and I felt like I saw a real-life Sydney out there. She’s upbeat but realistic, she’s modern but not cosmopolitan, and most importantly: she is 100% sincere.
Yanes: For Frights of Fancy you got to work with Egle Bartolini, Nicoletta Baldari, and Valentina Pinto. What was it like working with them?
Grace: My editor Elizabeth Brei did a fantastic job hiring this team for the book. They all worked super well together, and everyone picked up what I was putting down in the script. It was such a pleasure to get these awesome PDFs with layouts, because they were stuffed with detail and energy! Elizabeth handled the majority of communication with them, but I follow them all on instagram now and I feel like this book has made us fast friends, even though we live continents away from each other.
Yanes: On this note, was there a panel they did that stands out the most to you?
Grace: You’re gonna make me pick just one panel to select as a standout!? No. I refuse. I’m gonna talk about a few standout scenes. I adore seeing the final version of Sydney meeting Mum in the ballroom. There were so many little tidbits we snuck in that scene. Then, I really loved the scene at the end where we get an iconic group shot of our haunted cast rallying together to take on a certain challenge that’s presented in the book. Scenes with Sally and Sydney melt my heart. There’s just so much love packed into these 60 pages.
Yanes: When people finish reading The Haunted Mansion: Frights of Fancy, what do you hope they take away from the experience?
Grace: My hope for people finishing The Haunted Mansion is that they get to see new layers of how the Mansion operates from the inside out, and that they’d get excited for the endless possibilities of stories that exist within the walls. Ideally, generations old and new can see that this book teaches a valuable lesson about understanding different perspectives, and potentially instills the notion of massaging folks from the past into the present. Most importantly, I hope it gets people excited to go back to Disneyland whenever it re-opens… because at the end of the day, this is my love letter to the Haunted Mansion as an attraction.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working that people can look forward to?
Grace: Well! If you like the way I write ghosts, everyone should pick up my series Ghosted in LA from Boom Studios. The story has wrapped up in single issues, and the second collection should be out or a week away from hitting stores when this conversation is released. I love that book so much, and I am looking forward to it finding a bigger audience in the book market.
Additionally, I have a new series at Image Comics launching with a bunch of my pals (Omar Spahi, Jenny Fine, Mx. Struble) called Getting it Together. It’s a modern update on the “Friends” concept, where your friends are your family in your 20s… but boy howdy do we complicate things with the stuff folks today are dealing with. That’s a raunchy good time, and I can’t wait for people to read it. Pre-orders for Getting it Together are available now with your local comic store, and it launches in October.