I was introduced to Rachel Deering's work through Amelia Cole and the Unknown World (Amelia Cole and the Hidden War starting in May, folks!). I was impressed, because, as I've said more than once, the Amelia Cole team are amongst the most talented people working in comics today. I was even more impressed when, a couple of weeks ago, Rachel's creator-owned title, Anathema, was rolled out in the first wave of the Comixology Submit program. Anathema's a great book, and there should be a review of it somewhere near here on the left hand column. Go read the review, then read the book, it's great. In the meantime, here's me talking to Rachel about Anathema, comics and Comixology Submit.
How did you get started in comics?
I grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky, so I didn't really have access to comic book shops or grocery stores that carried comics on the spinner racks. My uncle gave me a small stack of horror and adventure books when I was about 8 years old, which I eagerly devoured again and again until the covers were mangled and tearing away. I was hooked at that point, but I knew that if I wanted new stories, I was going to have to make them myself. I started writing and drawing my own comics, and never looked back.
I began making comics in a professional capacity when a local horror anthology in Columbus, OH took an interest in my writing and asked me to submit a story. I pumped out a few pieces for them before Renae De Liz came along and asked me to join in on the WOMANTHOLOGY project. The rest is history, I suppose.
What was your first work?
The horror anthology back in Columbus called NIX COMICS QUARTERLY. I had a comic in issue #3 called "Mrs. Peterson and the Wolf" about a bratty kid who sets out to debunk local legends, but bites off more than he can chew when he breaks into the old Peterson place. I did another for NIX in issue 4 called "Mono-Nomicon" about two moronic teenage boys who unwittingly summon a set of mummies to their home which leads to some very…STRANGE romance.
Tell us a little about Anathema.
Anathema is my self-published horror/adventure series, which was completely funded through kickstarter last year. The story follows a young woman who must travel to the darkest corners of the earth and face off against fearsome foes to reclaim her lover's soul, stolen by a cult of nightmarish creatures. She must learn to harness the darkness within herself if she hopes to vanquish her foes and set her lover free. I took lots of inspiration from Hammer horror movies, various creature features, and adventure games from the 90s. The whole series is just a huge homage to the nerdy interests I held in my formative years. I love it.
What influenced the story?
The tone of the story is very much Hammer horror. I love the over-the-top drama and set design of those classic Hammer films, so I wanted that to come through in the artwork. The thematic elements are all influenced by mankind's response to things which they deem unnatural. It's not so absurd to draw parallels between gay people and monsters, unfortunately. There's a lot of subtext to be found within the pages of the book for those who wish to look. For those who want surface level monster madness, it's in there, too. You make it what you want.
How long do you see the book running?
The book is set to run for six issues. No more. No less. I am not a big fan of drawn out series, so I want to give my readers a nice chunk of story with a definite beginning, middle, and end. A full, three-course, literary meal that is satisfying but not over-filling.
You're one of the first independent books out of the gate as part of Comixology Submit. What led you to the program?
I was actually asked by one of the founders to be part of the initial launch. I did everything I could to get my books seen by the right people when I first heard of the Submit program, and it worked. I had a short phone conversation detailing the specifics of the program, and accepted the proposal right away.
What was the submission process like?
It was incredibly straightforward, actually. I created a web quality PDF file of the first three issues of Anathema, logged in to the Submit servers, uploaded the files, filled out some information about me as a creator, my publishing company, and gave short blurbs about each issue. The rest was just a bit of waiting. Like I said, all very easy, very straightforward.
How are you finding it so far?
ComiXology has been great about promoting the Submit books and giving the whole program a prevalent spot on the front page of the site. It seems like it might take a bit for the community to grow, but that's true of any new concept, really. I'm extremely excited to see future marketing strategies for the program. Ask me again in a few months when I have my sales numbers, haha.
I can definitely see the Hammer influence there but also a little Kelley Jones and Mike Mignola. Who influences your style?
Aside from the obvious nods to Hammer horror films, I take a lot of inspiration from classic authors like Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, William Blake, Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, and Count Eric Stenbock. Most of my comic inspiration as far as pacing and panel layouts comes from 70s horror magazines like Creepy, Eerie, Nightmare, Psycho, etc.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I have an "all-ages" gothic horror graphic novel in the works. I say all-ages only because there are no curse words, nudity, or violence within the book. It's truly all-ages in that anyone can safely enjoy the book. Adults will not be bored, I promise. I am also co-writing a mystery/horror series with Rachel Edidin, which should hopefully see light of day sometime later this year. Outside the realm of comics, I am working on a horror novel, which I can't really say much about. So much secrecy in this business, haha.
Lots of new comics and prose, for sure. I'd love to write and produce my own radio drama and have that pressed on vinyl. I plan to try my hand at screen writing. I don't want to limit myself when it comes to expression. I want it all.
Thanks to Rachel for taking the time to talk to me. Anathema's a phenomenal book and the first three issues, priced $1.99 each are available now through Comixology.