At 25 years old, Vicente Francisco Garcia’s star is on the rise. His first graphic novel Let Us Prey, a splatterpunk western collection from Death’s Head Press, is due out this Fall. He’s also working on a sci-fi horror film titled Unidentified, and as any creative will tell you, there are so many other projects that we’re just not ready to talk about yet.
The talented young man has seemingly everything going for him, and we were proud to have him aboard for our 2021 Horror Pride Month celebration. What’s more, I think it might be one of the most important interviews we publish this year.
There’s a common misconception, I think, when we discuss LGBTQ+ artists and when they give interviews that they’re entirely comfortable in their skin and with who they are. Even those who aren’t quite there will employ that famous “fake it ’til you make it’ attitude. It’s rare to sit down with someone who watns to be included in a series like this who repeatedly explains that they believe this interview may be one of the most important they ever do, but it also makes them so nervous to do it.
Such was the case with Garcia, and it became one of the most fascinatingly raw, vulnerable, honest interviews of the year.
From an early age, Garcia discovered that he liked to be scared. It began when he discovered he could use his parent’s big family parties as cover to sneak away and watch movies they might not allow otherwise.
“We’re a big Mexican family, you know, so it’s all these cousins, uncles, aunts, always coming over and so they would host these weekend parties,” Garcia explained as our interview began. “It was always one of those party weekends that I would end up watching something that would scare the shit out of me. I remember being like eight and watching Night of the Living Dead while my parents were having a party. I remember tears running down my face because I was so scared by what I was watching. I was so embarrassed at the time. I kept thinking I’m not going to run outside crying because some black and white horror movie scared me!”
HIs parents and younger sister would question why he kept watching movies that scared him so much and all he could tell them was that he loved it, and that love continues to this day. Garcia fully admits that he’s the guy accidentally throwing his popcorn during jump scares and who gets nervous over unexplained creaking in his house.
Still, he is drawn to the those things that scare him and make him uncomfortable. In fact, the only source of fear that he is reticent about approaching is the subject of his bisexuality, though that’s honestly as much due to outside influences as it is about internal conflict.
“I’ve heard every phrase in the book,” he said. “I’ve heard you’re just experimenting. I’ve heard you’re actually gay. I’ve heard it’s just a phase. You’re doing it to be edgy. You’re doing it to be contrarian. For so long, I was convinced that if I was going to make it in Hollywood, I was going to have to play the straight white guy all the time.”
Luckily for both Garcia and us, he had friends who stood with him to bolster his confidence. They talked to him about the importance of being his authentic self as he made strides toward success and he is ultimately glad they did. He was also encouraged by his publisher to infiltrate the western/horror subgenres with his own identity knocking away the Mexican stereotypes so often seen in both westerns and horror and addressing the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in that space as well.
“I swear if I see one more la llorona movie…there were like two last year,” he exclaimed. “It’s like the trope of the drunk Mexican in all those western movies. If there was a Mexican, he was the town drunk. If you’re going to do a horror movie with a Mexican now, it has to be about la llorona or a chupacabra or something.”
Garcia describes the book as a sort of Junji Ito-styled collection, featuring multiple stories of varying lengths in one graphic novel volume. How he came to publishing was a journey unto itself.
The author met artist Adam James on a horror lit forum when he was 14 years old. James, who was older, posted some of his artwork to the site. It intrigued the young writer-to-be, and they began to talk about the horror books they loved. Garcia would come to refer to James as the man who literary raised him The man encouraged him to step outside mainstream authors like King and Laymon to explore literary horror and beyond.
It was exactly what the youngster needed to fuel his love of horror, and sparked a working relationship almost immediately.
“It took a few years to happen, of course,” Garcia pointed out. “I had to learn how to script. He had to learn how to draw. This is a first for both of us. At 17, he and I made a four-page comic just to work together. We submitted to a couple of places and got some good feedback, but no one bit. We took it as a sign that maybe we weren’t as good as we thought we might be.”
Not long after, Garcia threw himself into film work, securing jobs as a PA on sets, though he never gave up on the idea of creating a comic with James. Then, around two years ago, they wrote an entire pitch including eight sample pages of a comic idea for Image Comics. The company liked it, and held onto it for quite a while without making a decision.
“We crossed our fingers and hoped for the best, but they ultimately didn’t pick it up,” he said. “The funny thing is that two days after they passed on it, I sent the same pitch to Jarod [Barbee] and he loved it and he picked it up. We went from not having an Image collection to having a Death’s Head Press collection. It was whiplash because we’d been working on this pitch for Image for so long and we were so bummed when we were rejected but it all really worked out in the end.”
Garcia and James, a family man who lives in Nebraska, collaborate via FaceTime, Zoom, and text, crafting their worlds together. What has emerged in their months of work on Let Us Prey is a black and white comic filled with terror. Additionally each story has one symbolic color that stands out among the images.
“One story has gold, like gold the mineral,” he said. “It’s about townspeople fighting over gold. It’s black and white, but the gold is color, and you see it and as a result, it just pops on the page. In the story I’m working on right now, there’s a lot of blood and gore and a lot of cowboys and horses dying in horrific ways, and we chose red, and it’s a vibrant scarlet. So it’s black and white, but every time someone gets shot you see that red come out. Each story is designed for one color in mind that will pop off the page like Frank Miller Sin City style.”
To say he’s proud of the book would be an understatement. What has surprised him most, however, is that his pride in his work has led to a stronger pride in himself as a bisexual Mexican-American man.
“When I was younger I did my best to relate to the abundance of straight white male characters in films and books,” he said. “If you’re straight and white, you have a 250 percent better chance of making it in Hollywood or anywhere else. Looking back now, I can’t help but wonder if I’d been exposed to more, seen more different representation, if maybe I would have hated my real self just a little bit less.”
Now, though he is still finding his footing, he finds himself in the position of being and providing that representation and inspiration to others in ways he never would have imagined even a year ago.
He’s also expanded his own reading list. Devouring work by more diverse authors who speak to his love of horror and his identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Specifically he cites the work of Mark Allan Gunnells, Norman Prentiss, and Aaron Dries who he calls an “amazing example” of being out and proud as a gay writer of horror fiction.
As for me, looking at this young man who was so emotionally vulnerable in our conversation, I can only say that bravery is seeing the terrifying road ahead and continuing the journey because it is the right thing to do. For me, that makes Vicente Francisco Garcia one of the bravest people I know.
Look for Let Us Prey from Vicente Francisco Garcia and Adam James later this year from Death’s Head Press.
IMAGES OF VICENTE FRANCISCO GARCIA PROVIDED BY MIGUEL ROAN