Joshua Williamson Discusses All Things NAILBITER and Lack of Diversity in Comics with VixenVarsity



Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s NAILBITER #11 arrives in comic book stores tomorrow and marks the beginning of a new arc for this insane serial killer series. Just a few days ago, it was announced that Williamson will be writing Marvel’s Red Skull Secret Wars series. Williamson has a plethora of great titles under his belt; Ghosted, Birthright (Image Comics), Captain Midnight, Predator: Fire and Stone (Dark Horse Comics), Voodoo and Uncharted (DC Comics), just to name a few. VixenVarsity sat down with Williamson to discuss all things NAILBITER, which features black protagonist, Nicholas Finch.


VixenVarsity: NAILBITER is a cross between Criminal Minds and Hannibal, are you fans of those shows? Also, what in the world possessed you to write about serial killers?

Joshua Williamson: Hannibal is an amazing show. I’ve been a big fan of Bryan Fuller’s for a while. He’s made a lot of shows that I love, especially “Pushing Daisies”. It’s interesting to see how he went from a sort of subversively dark but bright and colorful show like Pushing Daises to Hannibal… which is just as dark as they come. They don’t hide it. BUT it’s equally as beautiful. Been meaning to do a rewatch before season 3 starts in the summer.

Criminal Minds, I’ve only seen a few episodes. Which is odd, since it seems like it will be right up my alley. Now that it’s on Netflix, I’m going to give it a try from the start.

I’ve always had an odd fascination with serial killers. Silence of the Lambs and Psycho are in my top five movies of all time. And then listening to people tell stories or talk about serial killers led me here.

A few years ago a woman I worked with came into the office upset. She had broken up with her boyfriend. I thought things were going great between them, so I asked what happened and she said that her boyfriend’s uncle had been arrested for being a serial killer. I was confused for a moment so I asked if her boyfriend knew or was involved… she said he didn’t but the boyfriend and the uncle were close… and she knew she couldn’t be with someone who was so close to someone so evil.

That got me thinking about the effects serial killers have on our lives. There are more victims than the people they kill. Their own families are also victims in a way. That idea stuck in my head for a bit and made me want to run with this book.

VV: Warren likes to bite the nails of his victims, that’s just gross. Out of all the types of serial killers in the world, why did you choose a nail biting one? You don’t bite your nails, do you?

JW: I do. Life long nail biter. So that’s where it comes from. Been hassled about it my whole life. It grosses people out. That motivated me to create Warren… who takes that bad habit to the next level.

VV: Mike Henderson is AMAZING, he has brought NAILBITER to life. Mike has dialed the creepiness factor up to your script and I am so here for it, even when my eyeballs and insides are screaming. How did you two get together on this project?

JW: Mike and I met on the internet and starting talking about doing some digital short stories together. That is what led to our Masks and Mobsters comic we did with Monkey Brain on Comixology. As we worked on that we knew we wanted to do another series together. We had clicked really well on Masks, and I had been working on the plot of NAILBITER for a few years… and just knew Mike would know what I was going for. Thankfully he did and ran with it, giving the book its style and tone.



VV: There aren’t many blacks in comics nowadays and I applaud your choice to have Finch, an African American male, as a lead character in NAILBITER. Can you tell us a little bit about adding a diverse character into this series as well as the lack of diversity in comics?

JW: Thank you. I love Finch. One of my favorite characters to write. Easily.

But… Finch wasn’t always African American in the book. In the early days of developing and writing the book, I was writing Finch and he was slowly taking shape in my head. Then one day I just saw what we have now… and told Mike. He agreed. It felt like a no-brainer to us. We’re incredibly thankful we went that path with his character. It added so much character to him and his perspective. Once we made that decision he came alive to me. Again… one of my faves. And I’m glad we’re adding to the library of books with African American leads. There should be more.

The lack of diversity is insane to me. On a creator and character level. Most days it just leaves me speechless and frustrated. I do feel like we are making strives to fix it, but we still have a LONG way to go. I want different perspectives and experiences in my comics. And the best way to do that is to add diversity. Just like making Finch African American in NAILBITER… it feels like a no-brainer.

VV: We featured Finch on in February, he was apart of our Blacks in Comics series. Many readers didn’t know about NAILBITER until I did a write up on him. The followers of #BlackComicsMonth were intrigued and quite a few picked up the trade. Some even mentioned that he was one of their favorites black comic book characters. I have to say thank you to you and Mike for making the change to creating Finch as African American who reminds us of Luther, played by Idris Elba. Seeing that diversity in comics is so far and few in between, having Finch as a lead character is just the beesknees – no pun intended!

JW: Ha. Thank you for giving Finch so much attention. I’m super happy that people are picking up the trade because of Finch and enjoying it, but at the same time I don’t want to pat myself on the back here. It really shouldn’t be an issue. It should just be how it is.

nailbiter williamson

Nailbiter #1

VV: Let’s talk about the good gal and the bad guy. Crane and Warren have a different kind of relationship and the town can’t seem to get enough of throwing it in Sheriff Crane’s face. Why did you decide to make the sheriff and serial killer high school sweethearts?

JW: Because from the start I knew this book was about “What would you do if someone you loved was a serial killer?” So having two of our main characters having a past loving relationship was crucial. Also… it adds to their characters, actions and the creepy factor.

VV: BEYOND CREEPY that Warren was hiding under Crane’s bed. You’re just a tad bit sick, you know. Does Warren do that often, visit Crane in her place, rummage through her things, watch her as she sleeps?

JW: Pretty much, yeah. He still loves her and in his super creepy way this is how he shows it. It’s not healthy.

VV: There was a guest in NAILBITER #7, some “guy” named Brian Michael Bendis. That issue was such a creepy book, I thought he wasn’t going to make it out alive. So glad he did. Will we ever find out who sent Bendis that note?

JW: Yes. Bendis was a great sport letting us use him in the book. But the story of who was whistling at him in the caves and who wrote that note isn’t over.



VV: In NAILBITER #8, we got to see more of the bees that we saw in the first issue. Bees in North America have been disappearing. Did that inspire you to use them in Nailbiter?

JW: There is a certain mystique with bees… these deadly predators that some species die when they attack. How crazy is that? They sacrifice themselves to protect the queen. There are so many interesting things about bees… and like you said… they’ve been disappearing. It felt like a good weird thing to add to the small town of Buckaroo. It’ll all add up in the end.

VV: Issue #9 we had even MORE BEES! The grandson said, “He’s one of the _____” darn you for having a ton of bees going in his mouth. Is the grandfather an unknown serial killer?

JW: Yes… and NO. We’ll get to that down the line. We get an update on him in issue 11… but there is a lot of story behind the old bee man.

VV: NAILBITER Volume 1 was released in October, issues 8 and 9 were all about BEES, NAILBITER Volume 2 recently hit the shelves, so what’s next for Buckaroo, Oregon?

JW: Issues 1-5 were about setting up the world and the players. Issues 6-10 were about the town and how the madness effects people in it. Issues 11 is back to the main mystery of “why did this town give birth to 16 serial killers?” And it’s going to be a wild ride.

NAILBITER 11 out tomorrow

NAILBITER 11 out tomorrow

VV: Thanks so much for the advanced copy of NAILBITER 11! When I saw that amazing cover from Mike, I knew the SH*T was going to hit the fan. I was not expecting what I saw. I’ll be honest here, that issue had me in tears and my jaw dropped. I have not been so disturbed and afraid. Those panels on page 13 had me legit scared, I slept with the light on that day. THANK YOU! That’s the way I love my horror. Without going super spoilery, what made you guys dial up the horror factor? Don’t get me wrong you’ve had some “Ewwww GROSS!” moments from me, but this book? That page? Nightmares ensued.

JW: NAILBITER #11 is a jumping on point for new readers. We hope to attract people who have lapsed or are just getting the trades.. and we knew that we needed to up the tension. The book is called “Nailbiter” after all. There are a LOT of scary moments coming up. And some bloody gross ones, too.

VV: That was a beyond bloody issue, sheesh. Will we be getting scared even more with this arc? What can you share about this upcoming arc and how many arcs do you have planned for NAILBITER?

JW: Mike and I have an end in mind, but there is a lot of ground we cover first. There a few scary beats in these issues that I’m really happy with. Some insane cliffhangers.

This next arc will be about Finch, Warren and Crane trying to figure out the mystery… but learning that the answers might cost them their souls.

VV: A lot of comics are being adapted to the big or small screen. Are there any plans for a Nailbiter show or movie and who would play the leads in your dream cast?

JW: Obviously that would be great. I just try to make sure the comic is good and that there is plenty of material there for us to adapt later. There are always talks. Ever since the book was announced there have been talks, but we’re trying to play it safe and make sure we get the best deal.

I have a lot of ideas for who I think would make great leads… but I’m going to keep that secret for now.

Josh Williamson

Josh Williamson

VixenVarsity: I’m definitely looking forward to what you have in store for us NAILBITER fans, this is one book that I’m glad I found. Keep up the great work, you and Henderson do an outstanding job. What’s next for you, will you be at any cons this year and where can your fans find you on social networks?

Joshua Williamson: This year is a somewhat busy one for me with cons. I just did ECCC in Seattle this month, C2E2 in Chiacgo in April, SDCC and Boston Comic Con in July, Rose City in Portland in September and then New York Comic Con in October. That’s the most cons I’ve done in a year in a long time. I don’t normally do so many. It’ll be a blast and I’m looking forward to meeting fans of my books or fans of comics in general.

My twitter handle is: Williamson_Josh

Stay tuned for a preview and review of NAILBITER #11 along with a giveaway courtesy of Joshua Williamson!