Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Q & A with John Lees on his latest book "And Then Emily Was Gone"

Give this to your local comic book retailer to ensure you get
copies of "And Then Emily Was Gone"
I told you this was coming. I keep my promises. I got to ask John Lees some questions about the first issue of "And Then Emily was Gone" ! This unique story caught my attention with it's riveting cover art as I mentioned before. I wanted to know how this story was developed. 

The Frog Queen: "And then Emily was Gone" is such an odd story. The detective who sees monsters, and then a town racked with missing persons. What inspired you to write this book?

John: Odd in a good way, I hope! There are a few things that inspired me to write "And Then Emily Was Gone." Part of it was that I'd written "The Standard", which is very much a classic superhero tale, and I wanted to really push myself and do something out-there and totally different. "The Standard" was my love-letter to the superhero genre, but in truth I've probably loved horror for as long as I've loved superheroes, so another factor was trying to write the kind of horror comic that, as a reader, would freak me out and that I'd want to read. And any answer about the inspirations for this comic would be incomplete without giving a nod to "Twin Peaks," and the work of David Lynch in general. That strange, dreamlike quality, and how at its darkest that can slip into pure nightmare logic, was definitely something I hoped to capture.

The Frog Queen: Is our detective Hellinger really insane? Or are monsters real?

John: Well, I know the answer to that.... but if you want to know you'll have to keep on reading!

The Frog Queen: The spooky childrens' cautionary tale about Bonnie Shaw, is this based on anything from your own childhood? 

John: No, I made it up. Though, funnily enough, I've had a bit of fun pretending that the story of Bonnie Shaw is an actual old folk tale from Orkney and Shetland. Over on the "And Then Emily Was Gone" blog, Visit Merksay, I ran a series of articles on Orkney folklore, posting up stuff about actual legends like the trows and the Black Dog, but then I seeded in stuff about Bonnie Shaw as if it was part of the same tradition. And when I go to conventions, I talk about how Bonnie Shaw is actually an obscure part of Scottish folklore that I dug up in researching Orkney, and that the character is "real." Possibly the best moment was when I got talking to a con attendee who said he grew up on Orkney, and claimed to remember hearing about Bonnie Shaw as a child!

The Frog Queen: I really enjoy Iain Laurie's artwork. How did you come to collaborate with him for this book?

John: I will happily praise Iain Laurie until I'm blue in the face, and I'm sure he's a bit embarrassed by it, but I'll say it again: Iain Laurie is, and has been for a good while now, one of my favourite artists. Not just "one of my favourite artists on the indie scene" or "one of my favourite artists to work with," but one of my favourite artists of anyone working in comics today. I've been a fan of his for years now, and included "Iain Laurie's Horror Mountain" in my list of the best comics of 2012. I've been very keen to work with him for some time, and we had been planning on collaborating on a large-scale British comics anthology project. But when that fell through, we decided to develop our own original project together. Iain fired off a bunch of story ideas in my direction, and I took elements from each of them and blended them all together into what became "And Then Emily Was Gone." It's been an interesting experience for me, as a writer, because I have written "And Then Emily Was Gone" very consciously as an "Iain Laurie book," trying to script stuff that ties in with some of the recurring motifs of Iain's work, or which I as a fan would love to see Iain draw and know he could excel at visualising. It's very much Iain Laurie's Greatest Hits! Even if "And Then Emily Was Gone" achieves nothing else, if it gives Iain a platform and gets his unique artwork in front of a bigger audience and wins him new fans, I'll view it as a success.

I should also take a moment here to acknowledge the rest of the creative team. Letterer Colin Bell was onboard from a very early stage, and has also been an invaluable collaborator in terms of the comic's design and visual aesthetic. Colorist Megan Wilson joined the team a little later, but it very quickly came to a point where I can't imagine "And Then Emily Was Gone" without her. Her colors are the perfect match for Iain Laurie's art, and she's managed to add a whole new dimension of sickly weirdness to the book.

 The Frog Queen: Is Riley Rossmo (artist for the cover B) going to be contributing to the body of the story as well?


John: He's not, though Riley has contributed much in terms of guidance and support, which has been immensely appreciated. Riley Rossmo and Nick Pitarra, artist of Image Comics' "The Manhattan Projects," have both been tireless advocates of Iain and I, a pair of Scottish oddballs, and it has meant a great deal. Though Riley Rossmo is only providing one of the covers for this first issue, the 50/50 variant scheme will be continuing throughout the series, with Iain Laurie drawing one cover and the other cover being drawn by a high-profile guest artist. Nick Pitarra has done a cover for issue #2, while Garry Brown (currently working on Marvel's "Iron Patriot") has crafted a doozy of a cover for issue #3, and I just recently got a terrifying cover from Joe Mulvey for issue #4.