Cult Empire Comics have already impressed with their Vietnam Zombie Holocaust & Horror Show but they’ve taken on some old school horror with their latest release Vampires Everywhere and I got the chance to chat with the whole team behind it.
Writer – George Lennox
Is Vampires Everywhere a title you’ve wanted to add to Cult Empire Comics for a while?
Definitely, it was another story I felt the need to do first before I could go onto to do the others I had planned. Some may say it’s a love letter to the genre and to be honest I wouldn’t argue with that.
What inspired you to write VE?
When I started to write VE there was so many vampires movies and TV shows out that had actually lost all concept to the origins of the vampire mythology. I wrote VE for my love of the genre as I grew up reading and watching the classics. So to see postmodernism Vampires wearing sun cream, drinking fairy blood and babysitting kids it just felt like I had to take it back to the original foundations. For this book I had in mind setting it in the Scottish highlands with mysterious Vampire Countesses. These characters like to destroy people’s lives whether it’s killing helpless victims or toying with people who they want to turn into vampires. But I also had this idea of this hard arsed Scottish crew that cleans out town of occult characters. That was it really after that the story wrote itself as I already had a lot of knowledge on the Vampire myths. Coming from a small Scottish town that has small villages near by Alexander’s crew was inspired by my youth of going into territories that you my end up having a scrap or fighting your way out of. There’s a lot of VE in those experiences as I always like to add in a mix real life with fantasy.
Did VE end up looking like what you envisioned?
Some creators may argue with the question but if I’m honest I would say yes and I think one of the reasons this book did was because we found the right team from the beginning. Whenever I start writing a new script I always have an idea of what style of artwork I want for the story. The hardiest thing after that is finding an artist who gets you and gets the script. But for VE it was how I envisioned it and I must say it looks even better than how I imagined it due to the professionalism of the whole team. This was down to a bit of luck as the whole team knew each other for years which made the creating process a lot easier. When it came to putting our views across about the script or characters we all understood each other.
Thomas’s original VE artwork is just beautiful to see, honestly its stunning stuff and for me as a writer that’s very inspiring. At the beginning I needed an artist whose art was more of a mature level but also someone who was very professional. I wanted the book to feel like a classic horror story but at the same time we see the normal country side we can relate to. The book needed detail in each panel which is very important as creating comics you want the reader to feel part of that world. I really hate artwork which is lazy and has no detail in the background theirs no need for it.
In VE Thomas really has some stunning panels with my favourite being Alexanders vision of the Vampire Countesses at the castle. Another thing that was important was James’s colours as that took the artwork to a whole new level. As much as I loved the old black and white Universal horror movies when I was a kid it was only when I saw Hammer Horror movies in colour that it sucked me into the world more. James colours really make you feel you’re in the dreary highlands but at the same time you are sucked into the world. Even when it came to the covers Alex and James done an amazing job with two totally different covers. I think with each cover you can also see their own love for the genre. With my commitments editing VZH, Eli came in to help while the book was in production a hard task but again she got the concept and we all managed to pull together and finish an excellent book.
Will we see more from the VE characters/world?
Absolutely, that was always the plan from the beginning. Introducing Alexander and his crew opens up the whole concept and theirs lot’s of new stories I want to develop. I have a few new tiles I’m working on first but hopefully I can write a new VE book soon.
Artist – Thomas Crielly
What attracted you to work on VE with Cult Empire Comics?
I had met George and Jim a few times at various comic events (mostly Scottish ones) and had already got to know them both a bit, nice guys and really easy to get on with, which I personally think is just as important as any other factor in Independent books. They had some books out already so I could see the work they were starting to produce (like VZH – which is great, go pick up a copy), so I knew they were committed to publishing quality books at a high standard.
What were your influences for the look of VE?
I watched a load of vampire movies from all eras and at least subconsciously took a little from each, but primarily a lot of the older classic black and white horror movies and old Hammer material influenced the look. I also looked at a lot of horror and vampire comics, from Tomb of Dracula to Warren and Eerie comics. I didn’t aim to imitate any particular style, but again the older material probably had more of an influence on the final look. The only thing I did want was for the art to be able to work as well in black and white as it does in colour, so I was going for a more rendered and darker style than my other work.
Do you have a favourite scene in VE?
I really enjoyed adding the final inks on this book (normally I prefer just to pencil so my inking isn’t normally a factor). With the book being traditionally inked the story line and environments provided me with lots of texture rendering opportunities and techniques to try out . I love the freedom and spontaneity of ink spattering and those kinds of processes. I managed to get that kind of method on most pages to a varying degree, so I’m not sure that I have a favourite scene artistically. I do have a couple of pages that I like the most, pages 16 and 46, as I don’t (yet) feel the need to go back and tweak or change them which is really unusual for me as I normally want to make edits as soon as I’m finished, really happy with how those pages looked when inked up.
Would you like to do more with the same characters?
I think the characters have a lot of potential to explore. Although self-contained, the book really serves as an introduction to the group and hints at various back stories and events between the characters that have already taken place, so I think it leaves a lot of story line options to revisit from the setup as well as lots of potential for fresh adventures going forward from where this one ends.
Colouring, Letters & Regular cover – James Devlin
How did you approach the colouring for this new horror story?
Being set in the Scottish Highlands, and also being set in the 19th Century, I knew I wanted to create a dour, washed-out, moody palette. I then enjoyed contrasting this look with splashes of lurid Technicolor, more in the traditional Terence Fisher era Hammer horror vein.
What was it like colouring someone elses work in VE?
I’ve coloured many different artist’s work before, so it was no problem for me working with Thomas. In fact, I particularly enjoyed colouring his brilliant art. The pages he produced are bold, striking and full of atmosphere, so I could tell almost right away how I’d approach any given page. Thomas has always been very happy with how the colour pages look, and obviously that’s very important to me. It’s nice when the artist and colourist tap into each other’s styles.
Your colouring & lettering adds a real sense of mood to VE – how important do you think that was for VE?
Thanks for saying so, Gary. Thomas’ fantastic balance of black and white means his pages really do stand up on their own, so it was always going to be a challenge enhancing them. Hopefully I have managed that. As for the lettering, I think most comic creators feel that the page finally feels like a real comic once the letters are done. I think horror in particular is a fun genre to letter in, and George has given me plenty of opportunity for using gory sound effects!
You do the regular cover for VE too – what was the inspiration behind that?
My favourite type of cover or movie poster has always been the epic montage style. It all goes back to the iconic Star Wars posters I loved as a kid, created by great artists like Tom Jung, Tom Chantrell and Drew Struzan. There are so many great movie posters from back then. I also took inspiration from many vintage horror movie posters. While many horror posters were also done in a montage style, rather than having the slick style of the 80s posters, these images are raw, lurid and even a bit crude sometimes, which I also love. So I basically tried to stir all these influences together and, seeing as the Vampires Everywhere cover is a wrap-around, I really got the chance to go crazy with the composition, throwing as many elements in there as possible.
Variant Cover Artist – Alex Ronald
What was the inspiration behind your VE variant cover?
I was aiming for the look of a painting you might see in a religious museum (albeit a very dark religious museum) with the main character taking the form of a crucified man and the vampire’s everywhere around him.
Did you approach the cover for VE and differently to previous ones you have worked on?
Not really. I have my own workflow and style, I usually don’t deviate from that unless it’s specifically asked that a cover have a different look. Like recently I worked on a cover for Pat Mills and he asked that it be done in the style of Ron Lichtenstein. That’s a totally different approach, more graphic design.
Your cover adds a “wow factor” to VE & other titles – is that easy to achieve time & again?
That’s kind of you to say. I always get cold sweats with every cover I do, usually at the roughing out stage. I’m always worried that the parts won’t fall into place and it just won’t work for me. Getting the composition right for a nice balance of elements is the most important but stressful part. If I get that right and it looks good in the rough form, I know the painting will be fun and I can relax and just get into it.
What was it like working with the rest of the VE visual team?
I know them all but I didn’t actually work hands on with anyone other than George when he sent his brief.
Editor – Eli Winter
What was it like working on VE compared to other titles you’ve edited?
It started differently and I was quite apprehensive, actually. On all other projects I’ve worked on, I’d edited the script before it’d got near the artist, so there was freedom to change the structure of the panels and/or pages, if I thought it was necessary for the story (and the writer and I agreed, of course). I was brought on as Cult Empire editor whilst this script was being drawn, so I worried that it would be a ‘limited’ edit and if there was something fundamentally wrong, it would be too late to repair (you can’t ask an artist to redraw a panel because they’ve been sent a flawed script). I had that in mind whilst editing the script. Thankfully, there was nothing to be fixed in regards to the pacing and plot, so it was a moot point.
What was working with the creative team on VE like?
I’ve known everyone on the team for years – I’ve seen them at comic cons, marts and just socially, many times. I therefore didn’t need to think about whether they were good or not – I’ve seen their work and they’ve seen mine. We already had respect for each other so in that sense, it was very easy and we could talk freely amongst ourselves.
Was the process easy for a self-contained graphic novel like VE?
No. If anyone ever answers that question with a ‘Yes’, they aren’t telling you the truth (or they aren’t doing it right)! Whilst it’s quite right to say that a self-contained GN is easier than a continuing series or an anthology, it isn’t easy to produce any comic – end of story.
There are always bumps in the road, as it’s a team effort. I could write you a whole article on this subject! For VE, it was relatively painless – we were all on board with the project, so dealt with the bumps with relative ease.
What do you think is the strength of a title like VE?
It’s very ‘pulp’ and it’s cross-generation.
It’s horror but it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
A 14-year-old could read it and be slightly alarmed, but his/her 35-yr old parent could also read it and be reminded of B-movie horror films from the ‘80s, which scared the hell out of them at the time. And his/her 70-yr old Dad or Mum could read it and be reminded of the old Black and White Hammer films, with fondness. There aren’t many comics that a 14-year old kid would enjoy just as much as their parents and grandparents.
You can order a copy of Vampires Everywhere over on the Cult Empire Comics online store now and get hold of this and more at MCM Scotland this weekend. You can also keep up to date with the other projects from Cult Empire over on Facebook & Twitter.
You can also check out the creator’s links below:
Thomas Crielly – Website, Facebook, Twitter
James Devlin – Website, Facebook
Alex Ronald – Blog
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