Coming up in the wake of Halloween and in the roll out to Thought Bubble in Leeds in the UK this week, an upcoming horror comic has inspired a wide-ranging art show in multiple mediums to celebrate all things macabre. Bleeding Cool spoke with P M Buchan to learn more about the event and its goals.
Bleeding Cool: So, this HERETICS art show in Leeds. What is it?
P M Buchan: Running alongside Thought Bubble comic convention, the HERETICS exhibition is an exhibition of folk-horror art based on the 2017 44FLOOD series created by me (P M Buchan), Martin Simmonds and series editor Kasra Ghanbari.
This is a celebration of the macabre, packed with original art by people you'll recognize like Ben Templesmith and Caspar Wijngaard, alongside some incredible physical art, including a dark bohemian jewelry collection made from feather and bone.
Think wolfskin pelts, bloody teeth, black nail varnish and pagan totems and you'll get the idea. Plus we're throwing a free launch party on the Friday night from 7pm till late, only ten minutes walk away from the official Thought Bubble bar, with live art, music chosen by horror host Tomb Dragomir and a bar, plus free entry!
BC: Who all is included?
PMB: The HERETICS exhibition will feature work by comic creators including Martin Simmonds (Titan Comics: Death Sentence London), Ben Templesmith (IDW: 30 Days of Night), Caspar Wijngaard (Image Comics: LIMBO), John Pearson (British Comic Award-shortlisted Beast Wagon), Sarah Gordon (British Comic Award-shortlisted STRIP), Alisdair Wood (Rockstar Games including Red Dead Redemption and Grand Theft Auto), Will Kirkby (Image Comics: Island), Conor Boyle (Titan Comics: Hookjaw), Anna Fitzpatrick (Between Worlds) and M D Penman (Titan Comics: Dark Souls).
I'm gonna set out my stall here and excluding Ben's work, which everybody already loves, this exhibition features some of the most exciting emerging UK comic creators today. This isn't hyperbole, I know several are working on mainstream US series that they aren't allowed to announce yet, some are coming fresh off the back of recent Image series, some are getting mainstream work as covers artists for the first time… hell, the internet went crazy this week for the trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2 and we've got a guy that contributed to the success of Red Dead Redemption.
This is an exhibition of folk-horror art though, not limited to people who've worked in comics before, so we're also going to be exhibiting pieces by internationally-acclaimed glitch artist James Usill, award-winning metalsmith Luke Axworthy and contemporary bohemian jewelry designer Stevie-Leigh Smith. We're pushing it close to the deadline here, but all being well the final show will feature a range of work by graduates or students from Plymouth College of Art and Leeds College of Art.
At the launch night the party will feature a playlist chosen by Rue Morgue Magazine and Rue Morgue Radio's Tomb Dragomir, one of the world's best loved horror DJs. There'll also be live art from Tasha Wild and Steve Myles Illustration (Pyre Climber).
And even after listing all of those names, I'm sure to have forgotten someone important. Like series graphic designer and letterer Michael Stock, or our Euro Horror cinema expert Rob Talbot, who's written regularly for magazines like SCREAM and Diabolique, who'll hopefully both be around on the night. Rob is a key part of the HERETICS team and definitely someone you'll want to talk to if you have strong feelings about horror movies. Or maybe not if you're a fan of the remake of Wicker Man. Best to keep that to yourself.
BC: Where exactly can folks see the exhibit?
PMB: Lady Beck, Mabgate, Leeds, LS9 7DZ. The exhibition runs alongside the comic convention aspect of Thought Bubble. Luckily Lady Beck is only ten minutes walk away from the official Thought Bubble convention bar on the Friday night. Or, based on our parties from the last two years, maybe twenty minutes crawl…
BC: When does it open and does it continue?
PMB: The free launch party runs 7pm until late, Friday 4 November 2016. We amended our timings so that even though there's a little overlap, there's plenty of time to visit the HERETICS exhibition launch party alongside any of the other Thought Bubble events on the same night.
If you miss the launch party, the exhibition will also be open to the public Saturday 5 November and Sunday 6 November, 1pm until 4pm. Then we're gone.
BC: Wait, let's slow down for a minute before bidding you adieu. What is this comic, Heretics, and how did it inspire this art show?
PMB: It's too early to give away too much about a series that won't be coming out until 2017, but what we're releasing at this point is that HERETICS is an upcoming 2017 44FLOOD folk-horror comic-book series created by Martin Simmonds (Titan Comics: Death Sentence London), P M Buchan (La Belle Dame Sans Merci) and series editor Kasra Ghanbari (44FLOOD: TOME volumes 1 & 2).
Set in 1999, HERETICS follows the journey of investigative journalist Isobel Lockwood as she travels to a remote island off the coast of Scotland in an attempt to save her younger sister from the Children of the Sun, an abusive cult, founded by their father, that believes in free love and group sex.
The best way to find out about HERETICS would be to come to the show or read our issue zero to get a taste for what's to come. We'll be giving 50 copies of issue zero away to the first 50 people to arrive at the launch party on Friday night, we'll be selling copies from our table in the marquee at Thought Bubble, or ForbiddenPlanet.com will be taking preorders from sometime around 2 November 2016 for anybody that wants to buy a copy but can't make it to the convention.
The 24-page HERETICS issue zero acts as a prequel to the main series and features an original nine-page story about Isobel's undercover investigations into the Heaven's Gate commune. The issue also features a five-page early preview of issue one, plus an exclusive feature article about the classic folk-horror film Blood on Satan's Claw, written by Euro horror cinema expert Rob Talbot and illustrated by Beast Wagon co-creator John Pearson, and an exclusive feature article on the top ten songs from 1999, written by Kerrang! Magazine deputy editor George Garner and illustrated by John Pearson.
BC: Why did you want to bring so many people into the show, and how did you go about doing that?
PMB: It was a combination of things. Partly because we're working with 44FLOOD, such a prestigious group of artists. I mean, they've published artists like Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt and Dave McKean before, and in my mind have always occupied that space where things like horror, comics and fine art intersect. We didn't want them to just publish our comic, we wanted to bring everything we could to the table in return. And who wouldn't jump at the chance to put on an exhibition where you could show original work by Ben fucking Templesmith?!?
Also, realistically Martin and I aren't that well known outside the UK. Martin did stellar work on Monty Nero and Titan Comics' series Death Sentence London, but that was the first chance most readers outside of the UK will have had to see Martin's work. And me? Nobody outside of the UK will have heard of me until today. I've got a few self-published comics under my belt that I'm proud of, including one that got some notoriety when it was rejected by a couple of printers on grounds of obscenity, but this will be my first big US mainstream project. And if I'm trying to convince retailers and readers to preorder HERETICS then I'm gonna have to work damned hard to persuade them that we're worth taking a chance on. The story speaks for itself, but I'm hoping the caliber of artists that we're working with will help to communicate how hard we're working and how much we believe in this story.
As for how we did it, well luckily my good friend John Pearson has been running successful fringe parties at Thought Bubble for the past couple of years and he has the experience and background to put together an event like this. The contributing artists are mostly people I've been wanting to work with for years and the stars aligned for this project. The truth is that there's not one of them I wouldn't want to work with on future comic-book series, and a few that I've been heavily invested in pitching with in the past. Most have seen me drunk before, so the launch party probably won't put them off. Probably.
BC: I actually haven't seen a situation that often where an art show featuring a certain comic's work was so wide-ranging in including other artists. Do you think folks ought to do this more often? It seems like it would raise greater awareness of the comics medium and various genres of comic art.
PMB: More often?!? How are we going to stand out if everyone else is doing it too?!?
In all seriousness, when I see the effort that so many artists put into their sequential work, I feel like it should all be hanging in galleries, but what the hell do I know? It's a disposable medium, right? We definitely can't boast that modern comics have attracted some of the greatest artists of their generations.
Ask me again after the exhibition, when I've got a ton of photos and I see how many magazines are willing to write about the show. I'll tell you then whether it helped to raise awareness of the medium.
BC: If people can't attend, how can they follow the happenings of the show, see the art, and keep up with the comic in future?
PMB: We're very aware that only a fraction of people around the world that would enjoy the HERETICS exhibition will get a chance to visit it, but hopefully after the launch night there'll be a wide range of photography of the night itself available online. Hopefully some here on Bleeding Cool!
After Thought Bubble is over, HERETICS issue zero will go on sale at ForbiddenPlanet.com, which will give a taste of the series that's to come next year. You can keep up to date about HERETICS news on the HERETICScomic Facebook page, the under-construction website, or sign up to receive emails from our newsletter. The main thing is just to preorder at your local comic-book store when you see the solicitations go up for issue one next year.
The vast majority of artwork from the exhibition will go into the series next year or the collected edition. Just preorder issue one as soon as it's solicited and everything else will fall into place. Then Martin and I can go on to a happy career of creating some of the most harrowing, distressing forms of entertainment you'll ever read.
BC: What other things do you do that are comics and horror related, Bucky? You seem incredibly busy and devoted to the form and genre.
PMB: I just love horror and there's not a reason in the world to be ashamed of it or to dress it up as something more literary or elevated than it needs to be. I love it all. I love ghost stories and psychological horrors, I love monster movies and creature features. I love torture porn and J-horror. I don't need to defend my love of Rob Zombie or Eli Roth any more than I need to strut around extolling the virtues of Takashi Miike or Higurashi. In the immortal words of Lux Interior, "I don't know about art, but I know what I like."
As soon as there's some more money in the bank I've got the third and penultimate issue of La Belle Dame Sans Merci ready to print, my Gothic-horror series with Karen Yumi Lusted. I'm out of print of the first issue of our horror-comedy anthology BLACKOUT, which featured booze, death-by-misadventure, necrophilia, cannibalism and suicide, in that order, and I'd love to see a collected edition one day.
I've got pitches for future projects with Martin Simmonds either until we're old and grey or he gets tired of drawing skulls and pentagrams. I'm always looking for opportunities to work with my friend Joe Whiteford again, who fronts a horror-folk-punk band called Harley Poe and is an amazingly offensive artist. Mostly though, right now I want see HERETICS through to its conclusion and behave like it's the only story we'll ever get the chance to tell. Martin and I have waited a long time to bring HERETICS into the world, uncompromised and unapologetic, and I want everyone to know about it.