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All Eight Eyes: An Interview With Steve Foxe

Writer Steve Foxe was gracious recently with his time to give Gay League an interview. You may know Foxe from his Marvel work (various X-Men projects and Web-Weaver cocreator along with Kris Anka). Foxe is also the editor of W0RLDTR33, The Deviant, and The Department of Truth. That trio of titles hints at Foxe’s appreciation of horror stories. We talked about about ALL EIGHT EYES, a horror mini series he collaborated on with Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. The five parter is recently collected by Dark Horse and includes the original short story published in Razor Blades, variant covers from the mini series, and a diary excerpt from Reynolds, one of the story’s protagonists. Young, gay, and recently homeless Vin Spencer is the other main protagonist. Dani Dominguez, a New York City Parks & Recreation department employee, is a pivotal character in her own right in interactions with both men and her boss Christopher Godino who deserved what came to him. It was an oversight in my haste to focus my questions solely on Vin and Reynolds.


Gay League: Hello, Steve! Thanks for doing this interview! How are you doing? Surviving the holiday mayhem without too many headaches and stress?

Steve Foxe: Hello! Thanks for inviting me to do the interview. Very funny opening question, though – my partner and I just bought a house and moved into it so “surviving” feels like the most optimistic word some days. Moving while juggling holiday publishing scheduling rushes are scarier than anything I could ever come up with for a horror story.

Gay League: Let’s talk horror! All Eight Eyes is a mini series that you collaborated on with artist Piotr Kowalski, colorist Brad Simpson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou as letterer. It debuted earlier this year from Dark Horse and was recently collected. Thanks to some prepping for this interview and coming across a podcast you did with Traversing the Stars’ Jeffrey Haas I know a little about the story’s origin. Could you talk about how the idea came to you and how it evolved for people reading this who may have only seen the cover to an issue while browsing in their comic shop or coming to this completely blind?

Steve Foxe: My pal James Tynion IV, whose work I edit on books like W0RLDTR33 and THE DEVIANT, wanted to start a horror anthology when Covid lockdown hit the industry hard. I ended up co-creating and editing Razorblades: The Horror Magazine with him, and when the time came for me to write a longer story for the series, the first iteration of ALL EIGHT EYES was born, with the same creative team. From the jump, we knew the short was a sort of “proof of concept” for a longer tale, and we’re very grateful Dark Horse wanted to be the home for that. But I should be super clear: you can pick up just the trade collection and get the full story, no need to follow the whole winding road.

The seed (I guess I should say “egg”) of this idea came about when I lived in New York, and I realized how many storefronts and buildings I’d never seen anyone go in or out of, year after year, and wondering what could be inside. The journey from small fragment of a notion to a full narrative took a lot of twists and turns—at one point, I considered doing something for kids with an anthropomorphic spider! But eventually it firmed up the same way most ideas do: I had an outlet and a deadline.

What ended up surprising me once I sat down to write a full-length version of the story is how authentic it ended up feeling to the ‘70s and ‘80s animal-horror movies I’ve loved since I was a kid. At the end of the day, it’s an archetype that just works, and you don’t need to add too many bells and whistles. A big predatory animal that sees us as insignificant food is scary and entertaining.

Gay League: Had you worked with everyone before collaborating on the short story for Razorblades?

Steve Foxe: I had actually only really worked with Hass, who is a very good friend of mine. He lettered some of my first publications and we talk almost every day. Brad, I had worked very briefly with as he’s colored some variant covers I solicited. But Piotr—I DM’d him totally out of the blue and was THRILLED when he was down for the idea. I’ve loved his work for years, particularly his attention to setting and grounded anatomy/presentation.

In my mind, AAE really ONLY worked if three things were true: New York City had to feel real, lived in, and always present; the spiders needed to be more or less biologically accurate; and the action could never feel like it crossed the line into an ACTION movie—it all had to be things a real, average human being could accomplish. Otherwise, you lose the horror and have another generic sci-fi/action story on your hands. Piotr, Brad, and Hass delivered beyond my wildest dreams/nightmares.

Gay League: Empty and abandoned buildings fascinate me too though usually from the viewpoint of what would renovate and live in one. Most of the ones I see in my neck of the woods here in central Illinois are old gas stations and lots of store fronts and an occasional church in really small towns. Do you still go on walks and day dream about old buildings now that you’ve moved away from Queens?

Steve Foxe: I do remain really fascinated by structures and how we use, disuse, and abandon them. Now that I’m in the Midwest, part of the appeal of the area is that many homes are old – ours is from 1926 – and carry a heavy influence from the Dutch communities that originally settled here. Comparing and contrasting that with the “gentrification chic” pop-up buildings sweeping the nation is a doozy at times. Of course, a lot of the observations I make now are from behind the wheel of a car!

Gay League: Giant spiders as apex predators is one kind of horror, incredibly visceral in how some people can react to the idea. While reading along the idea occurred to me that there’s another kind of horror story that’s being told. Less obvious than being hunted by arachnids and very mundane, it’s the horror of how humans can mistreat, abandon, or just ignore other humans. With Vinnie, it’s the fact that he’s been disowned by his father simply because he’s queer and ends up on the street. Reynolds lost his comfortable life after a tragic loss and slipped through the cracks of society. Speaking of Reynolds, that isn’t his real name.

Steve Foxe: I appreciate you picking up on that, as especially the Vinnie bit is pretty subtle—just one panel, essentially. I think there’s a surplus of debate about “elevated horror” and horror-as-metaphor, when the truth is that social issues have always gone hand in hand with horror. Black Christmas includes a woman seeking an abortion, Texas Chain Saw Massacre hinges on the idea of social classes left to rot as industry moves on, etc. I’m always wary of putting these elements too far into the forefront, as that’s usually when consumers start to feel like, “oh, I get it—the monster is grief.” But AAE isn’t particularly subtle when it comes to the class aspect. That’s also why there’s a bit of a bait-and-switch with Reynolds. Both Vin and the reader make assumptions about him at a glance, but his story holds depths you wouldn’t know unless you took the time to talk to him.

One of the other big influences on this story was a former coworker of mine relating a story where her daughter or her daughter’s classmate (can’t recall which) asked about the “dead people”—she meant New York’s homeless population, and my old coworker had been mortified to realize this kid had walked around for years at that point thinking all the unhoused people they passed were dead bodies. It really reinforced for me how much of existing in modern society requires you to normalize some pretty rancid aspects of the human existence.

Gay League: Was the choice to set All Eight Eyes in 2003 an arbitrary one? The reason I ask is because it’s second nature for me to try to put stories into a larger real world context. All I can come up with about 2003 is that it’s two years since 9/11 and the end of Giuliani’s efforts to clean up Times Square as well as his time as mayor.

Steve Foxe: Well, there’s one very cheap reason — cellphones with quality cameras weren’t widespread yet. An aspect of what’s happening in AAE is that the world at large remains somewhat willfully ignorant of these predators at the margins of society. If the story took place today, there’d be 4K footage of the spiders on TikTok.

But I also moved to NYC in 2008, and there was still a sense of the city existing in that post-9/11 world to some degree. I came of age with 9/11 and America’s shift to a very specifically “patriotic” brand of fascistic conservatism, so there are elements of that threaded into the NYC of the story.

Gay League: You created an interesting dynamic between Vinnie and Reynolds. They’re both alone and lonely to varying degrees before they meet one another and their lives are sketchy. Is it just my reading of things or were they on the path to becoming a found family? Possibly a father son dynamic since both of them are missing part of that relationship in their lives.

Steve Foxe: I’m very lucky, as a queer person, to have loving and supportive parents. But my family beyond just my parents sucks, and I’ve always been pretty hardline about biological relations meaning very little in the grand scheme of life. So atypical bonds, communities, and “found families” interest me a lot as a storyteller. With Reynolds and Vin, I never really considered a surrogate son/father dynamic, but I did lean into the idea of the wizened/jaded mentor and the sloppy apprentice. Because AEE is about this whole other level of the world existing just out of sight, Vin’s useful as a way into the story for readers, and Reynolds serves to educate Vin on aspects of life he previously ignored.

Gay League: You wrote the conclusion to be open ended so out of curiosity what do you imagine Vinnie’s life to be like today? Is he still hunting monster spiders solo or has he found a kindred spirit to share his life and mission with?

Steve Foxe: I leave that entirely to the reader! After the final page, I have no say. I’d like to think he paid it forward and spread the good word, though. As long as he keeps Possum safe.

Gay League: Jeffrey Haas and you talked about A24 horror films at one point during the Traversing The Stars podcast you and he did. It was the first time I’d heard of A24 so out of curiosity I watched Midsommar. Do you have a favorite A24 film? Also, I won’t lie. Midsommar really disturbed me psychologically but one of its intentions. What other A24 movie would you recommend to a newbie like me?

Steve Foxe: Hmm, I probably wasn’t that positive about A24 in context, as they’re usually offered up as shorthand for “horror, but intellectual/acceptable,” and AAE is much less afraid to own its pulpy side. (Sometimes literally, as the spiders and their prey both get smashed to bits.) But they’ve released some great films. The Witch is probably my absolute favorite, followed by Green Room—I’d recommend either to any budding horror fan.

Gay League: Before we wrap this up, do you have any advice for aspiring writers — and editors since you wear that figurative hat — who may be trying to break into comics or are facing writer’s block?

Steve Foxe: My most useful advice, and I promise I’m not trying to be glib, is don’t count on comics being your primary income source. Almost everyone I know in the industry, myself included, wears multiple hats to make it work. I’m lucky to pay my bills primarily through writing and editing, but that requires working all the time. There’s no shame in pursuing the aspects of the art that make you happy and excite your passions but keeping one foot in a more stable career, too.

But on the less downer end of the spectrum, my biggest pieces of advice are:

— Befriend your peers.

— Good output requires good input.

Too often, younger creators want to befriend established pros to get a leg up. The best thing you can do is start to meet and form relationships with other people climbing up at the same time you are. I always use the same example, but my first published comic was the result of a Top Cow talent hunt. The folks I won with became extremely close friends, and now I’m doing a Marvel series with one, an unannounced OGN with another, invited another to contribute to Razorblades, and have been able to trade gigs back and forth with the last member of our “class.” AND we’re all friends who can vent and celebrate each other.

To my second point, I think a lot of people want to write comics because they love comics. Especially superhero stuff. But what gets lost in that closed circle is outside influence. If you only read superhero comics, you’re making a copy of a copy of a copy at a certain point. The creators who helped me fall in love with the medium — Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan, etc. — were all approaching superheroes from influences as wide-ranging as tantric meditation and anti-nuclear protest and ‘70s punk. If you want to make good, interesting, lasting work, you need to read, listen, watch, and consume good, interesting, lasting work.

Nothing shakes me out of writer’s block faster than reading or watching something truly great. (Well, nothing aside from deadlines…!)

Gay League: Can you tease our readers about any upcoming projects? On a related note, do you have a newsletter or how can people keep up with your work?

Steve Foxe: I do have a newsletter, which readers can find at my website, SteveFoxe.com. As I’m cutting ties with social media, that’s the best way to keep up to date with my work.

At the moment, I’m busiest over at Marvel. In addition to the already announced Dead X-Men, I’m on Spider-Woman and X-Men Unlimited through a good chunk of 2024. And by the time this comes out, I believe two more of the seven or eight active projects I have there will have been announced!

I can also tease that Piotr and I have started work on another horror story, one that’s geographically not too far from ALL EIGHT EYES but is dramatically different in almost every other way. I’d look for that late next year!

Gay League: Thank you so much, Steve! And thank you too, dear reader, for taking time out of your day to read our interview! Hopefully you enjoyed it and your curiosity has been piqued about ALL EIGHT EYES and Steve’s writing in general.

Piotr Kowalski can be found on the formerly known as Twitter as well as his portfolio on Art Station.

Ask for the ALL EIGHT EYES trade at your local comic shop or bookstore. Need help finding one or the other? Comic Shop Locator and Bookshop are good resources! If all else fails, you can find copies on Amazon.

January 6, 2024
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