After his beloved girlfriend, Catherine, is abducted during a freak accident, Stephen Thorn devotes his life to the singular purpose of tracking her down. Along the way, he slowly begins to unravel, as the grief forces him to do things he never thought possible. Written by Jason McNamara with art by Greg Hinkle, The Rattler is a new graphic novel that will soon be released by Image Comics. A worthy new addition to the true crime drama, this gruesome tale will remain with its readers for days after they turn the final page.
Inspired by true events and born out of a Kickstarter campaign, The Rattler has had an unconventional trip to publication. McNamara spoke with Uproxx about Thorn’s descent into madness and why Kickstarter was the perfect place to launch this project.
This story was born out of your personal experiences, as readers can see in the end notes of the book. Tell me about the narrative decisions that you made to build off the nonfictional events. Did it help you sort through any residual trauma?
The story was inspired by a road trip I took with a friend years ago. We ran out of gas in a rural area of California and a passing motorist offered to tow our car to a gas station. Instead, he attempted to drive away with my friend and leave me behind. Luckily she was able to get away and he drove off empty handed. Strangely enough, at the time, it wasn’t that traumatic, but over the years, I’ve dwelled on it more.
I would wonder; what if she hadn’t gotten away? What would that have done to me? Then I’d feel guilty that I was focusing on myself…and then I realized that was the story: How a self-aggrandizing writer would commodify the tragedy as a brand. So it’s a personal story in that I’m writing about all the narcissistic traits I dislike in myself.
The art in this book is mesmerizingly grotesque, and the lack of color save for the red blood is particularly striking. Can you explain this creative decision?
Originally, we conceived using just black and white to set a tone and establish a mood, but Greg had the idea that the use of red could work in parallel with Stephen’s mental state. As Stephen travels further down the rabbit hole, the bloodier each page becomes until it’s everywhere. I was skeptical at first because it sounded gimmicky, but once Greg showed me a few pages I knew it would service the story.
Can you point to any major influences on your work, either other comic writers or from the true crime genre?
My biggest creative influence will always be John Carpenter. He’s the master of taking deceptively simple genre concepts and crafting atmospheric thrillers that encompass big ideas without getting bogged down by them. I listen to his soundtracks constantly when I write.