Scott Chantler interview

Last year, writer J. Torres and artist Scott Chantler brought you Days Like This, a look at a girl group in the early 60s. This month, they return with Scandalous. This book, published by Oni, takes a look at tabloid journalism in 1950s Hollywood. Worlds of Westfield Content Editor Roger Ash recently contacted artist Scott Chantler to find out more about the book.

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story of Scandalous and who are the main characters involved?

Scott Chantler: Scandalous is basically the story of two rival Hollywood gossip columnists in the early '50s. One, Paige Turner (a pseudonym), writes a "legit" column for a real newspaper, and has all sorts of connections to the rich and powerful... she's basically a mouthpiece for the studios. The other, Harry Richards, works the shadier side of the business, investigating celebrities' personal lives for the tabloids. When they lock horns, it gets messy for everyone.

Westfield: How much story input did you have?

Chantler: J. already had the concept before he asked me to work on it, and always seemed to have a clear idea where he was going with it, so I just stayed out of his way. He's a pretty experienced writer, and knows what he's doing. He's always open to suggestions, though, and I occasionally make one, but for the most part, the story is all J's. I just tried to focus on interesting ways of telling it.

Westfield: How much research did you do to get down the look of 1950s Hollywood?

Chantler: Plenty. It's very much a specific time and place, and has to feel right. The audience would know immediately if you tried to fake something. So yeah, I've spent a lot of time looking at old photographs... at the library, on the Web, wherever I can track down what I need.

Westfield: Tabloid journalism seems to be a hot topic now. Why was the decision made to set the story in the 50s instead on now? How do you think it relates to tabloid journalism now, and sensationalism in general?

Chantler: This would really be a better question for J., since it's really his concept. But I think it probably has to do with the '50s being the birth of tabloids as we know them today, as well as being the height of the Hollywood studio system. It was a very glamorous time to be a movie star (unlike today when actors seem to be having a competition to see who can look the most homeless), and it existed side-by-side (and certainly attracted) the trashiest of gossip-mongers. Those are the kinds of contrasts you look for when telling stories. And, of course, there's also all the anti-Communist stuff going on at the time, which allowed room to explore the whole theme of persecution a little further.

Westfield: How much of a part do actual events - the Cold War, the anti-Communist movement, etc. - and people of the period play in the story?

Chantler: Like I say, post-War anti-Communist paranoia plays a big part. At least a few of the characters we meet have been blacklisted, or are about to be.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Chantler: I've got a couple of new things in the works with various publishers, including a graphic novel for Oni next year that I'm writing myself. All I'll say for now is that it's something different from anything I've done in comics so far... it's a western, but should be a fairly unconventional one.