Beyond Lovecraft: An Interview with Jasper Bark and Rob Moran about their new graphic novel

Beyond Lovecraft Promotional Art

Comics writer Jasper Bark (who I’ve been privileged to work with in the past on a couple of projects) and artist Rob Moran have just launched a crowdfunding appeal to support their latest project, Beyond Lovecraft – a graphic novel they tell us that will change the way you see the Cthulhu Mythos forever. I caught up with the pair to talk to them about the project, why they’ve turned to crowdfunding to support the book and their other comics projects in the works…

Beyond Lovecraft is a portmanteau horror story that draws directly on the works of H. P Lovecraft. Drawn by award winning artist Rob Moran and written by award winning writer Jasper Bark, it’s a 96 page graphic novel featuring four stand alone tales and one on going story that links them all together. This is a grim and cosmic love letter to the mythos that means so much to the creators.

Jasper is a multiple award winning comic writer, novelist and children’s author. In addition to five novels, two short story collections and 20 children’s books Jasper has written comics for everyone in the UK from 2000AD and Viz through to The Beano, as well as Channel 4, Games Workshop, Egmont, Panini, Titan, Toontastic and countless others. He now writes comics for Markosia, Aces Weekly and Silver Phoenix Entertainment. He’s won a This Is Horror Award, an Educational Readers Award and more.

Rob is an award-winning illustrator, comic book artist and writer, based in the UK. As a writer he has created various comic titles and wrote a nationally syndicated US newspaper comic strip. As an artist he has been a magazine illustrator, newspaper cartoonist, computer game designer and has created posters for the Scottish Opera. As a graphic artist, he has been published in the UK, Europe and the US with such companies as Marvel, Dark Horse, Image Comics, Silver Phoenix Entertainment, Classical Comics, 2000AD and many others.

downthetubes: Beyond Lovecraft is a great looking project. I know you and Rob have worked together before, but how did it come about?

Rob Moran: Jasper and I have collaborated on half a dozen things some of which are not out yet; I did the illustrations and cover for his story collection ‘Stuck On You’, and covers for his ‘Bloodfellas’ series, we did a charity comic strip, and now we are doing Beyond Lovecraft.

Jasper Bark: Rob and I have worked together on all kids of projects from adapting Japanese fables for Spirit of Hope and Tripwire, through to creating the automotive superhero V-Man for European publishers Infiniti. Rob has also provided covers and interior illustrations for many of my books such as the collection Stuck On You and Other Prime Cuts.

Beyond Lovecraft came about when Rob and I decided it was time to stop churning out hack work just to pay the bills, and produce a real labour of love. In one of our many, long and rambling phone conversation, Rob told me he wanted to do a portmanteau horror comic that used the ancient Library of the Yith as a framing device. The Library of the Yith is an alien archive that contains the entire history of the universe, it appears in Lovecraft’s novella The Shadow Out of Time.

The minute Rob told me the idea, I knew we were on to something, and we began to work up a pitch.

Rob's original concept art for the Beyond Lovecraft project

Rob’s original concept art for the Beyond Lovecraft project

Rob: I came up with the original concept and title, whipped up a promo piece for it, sent it to Jasp who loved it then we worked out the structure together and he went off and wrote some mad stories which I am drawing.

downthetubes: I love the look of the art. It reminds me a lot of Virgil Finlay: is he one of your influences?

Rob: Well spotted that man! Finlay was a very early but very big influence on me and that has started to seep out in the past few years… most people don’t see it though.

downthetubes: Why did you go with Markosia as publisher?

Jasper: We approached a few publishers to begin with, but the problem we ran into, was that the amount of money they were offering was not worth the number of restraints they wanted to put on the work, or the rights they wanted to retain. Markosia put out another graphic novel I wrote, earlier this year, called Bloodfellas, and Harry Markos, the owner of Markosia, is a huge fan of Rob’s work. He knows Rob and I work closely together and he was really keen to get us to do something for Markosia, so when we told him about Beyond Lovecraft he snapped it up on the spot. He wasn’t in a position to pay us a proper page rate, but he gave us complete control of every element of the project and a huge amount of help and support.

Beyond Lovecraft Promo2

Art © Rob Moran

downthetubes: HP Lovecraft’s stories have been the inspiration for many comics and adaptations of the original novels. Given part of the appeal of Lovecraft’s fiction is that the look of the Cthullu and other horrors are left to the reader’s imagination, why have so many comic creators brought them to life?

Jasper: I think it’s Lovecraft’s uncanny ability to get the reader to imagine the unimaginable. With Lovecraft’s fiction, there is a palpable sense that you’re encountering genuine alien consciousnesses. So much so, that his creations have taken on a life of their own, a life that stretches far outside his own canon of work. His descriptions of unknown lifeforms are often so vivid they inspire other poets, artists and even musicians to bring them to life. These creations seems so real, we want to see them depicted visually, in illustrations, on film and especially in comics. With its seamless blending of text and visuals, comics lend themselves incredibly well to bringing Lovecraft’s visions to life.

Rob: I think it’s almost irresistible if you are an artist and a Lovecraft fan you have to want to draw all those terrible, wonderful creatures that populate his mythos.

downthetubes: And you’re absolutely sure this isn’t a plan by the Deep Ones to infect all our literature – as one of your stories, “A Cover Out of Space” suggests?

Jasper: There are some questions a man must never ask. Not if he hopes to cling to the fragile sanity he might yet possess.

In "The Thrall of Cthullu", an alternate world, the Cthulhu Mythos has infected all literature like a virus. Few people can remember a time when every story ever told wasn’t about the dark Old Ones. A handful of readers must work with a tiny group of fictional characters to repel this invasion and keep their reality safe from the Elder Gods. Art: Rob Moran

In “The Thrall of Cthullu”, an alternate world, the Cthulhu Mythos has infected all literature like a virus. Few people can remember a time when every story ever told wasn’t about the dark Old Ones. A handful of readers must work with a tiny group of fictional characters to repel this invasion and keep their reality safe from the Elder Gods. Art: Rob Moran

downthetubes: £8000 is an ambitious target but you’ve clearly outlined the costs involved given the lack of a Publisher’s upfront or page rate. You achieved nearly £1000 in the first 24 hours of the campaign. What’s different and unique about this project that you think has struck a chord with Lovecraft fans?

Jasper: I think the main thing that’s drawn people to the project is that they share our passion for Lovecraft’s work. The other thing that makes our campaign stand out, is that it belongs to whoever gets involved with the campaign. So many readers feel they have a personal stake in the Cthulhu mythos because, from the very beginning, Lovecraft shared his mythology with other authors as well as his readers. We want to continue this in our approach to the campaign. Every perk we’re offering, is designed to put contributors at the heart of this campaign, to give them a sense of ownership.

You know when you pick up a comic and think: “This was made just for me!”? If you’re a Lovecraft fan, that’s what we want you to think about Beyond Lovecraft. We’re putting it together especially for everyone who gets involved with the campaign.

Rob has kindly provided this memorable image of how funds raised from the crowdfunder will be split between Jasper and himslef. I'm sure he'll be sending variants of this image to Jasper on a daily basis after it reaches target...

Rob has kindly provided this memorable image of how funds raised from the crowdfunder will be split between Jasper and himslef. I’m sure he’ll be sending variants of this image to Jasper on a daily basis after it reaches target…

Rob: Apart from being a cracker of an idea, some wonderful new twists and insights on the classic Lovecraft stories by Jasper and, all modesty aside, probably the best art of my career.

I think there is a great thirst for Lovecraft to be done properly. There have been a slew of Lovecraft books done and I can’t read most of them because I don’t like the art; too many cartoony, animation styles which for me just don’t gel with the great man’s prose.

Can you imagine Lovecraft drawn by Bernie Wrightson or Frazetta or Jesus Blasco? That’s the kind of art I want on Lovecraft stories and I think a lot of Lovecraft purists might feel the same way, at least I hope they do.

In Beyond Lovecraft: A Cover Out of Space, a Fortean journalist travels to Arkham’s blasted heath to investigate the mysterious disappearance of legendary, underground cartoonist Victor Rodriguez and the rumours of an alien visitation. He discovers the unimaginable truth lies between the covers of a living comic book, a sentient being, made of ink and paper, that gets high when you read it. Art by Rob Moran

In Beyond Lovecraft: A Cover Out of Space, a Fortean journalist travels to Arkham’s blasted heath to investigate the mysterious disappearance of legendary, underground cartoonist Victor Rodriguez and the rumours of an alien visitation. He discovers the unimaginable truth lies between the covers of a living comic book, a sentient being, made of ink and paper, that gets high when you read it. Art by Rob Moran

downthetubes: Do you think crowdfunding is a sustainable way forward for the creative industries?

Jasper: To be honest, the creative industries, particularly music and publishing, are in such a constant state of flux it would be difficult to suggest any way forward was sustainable. Things are changing far too quickly to make a call at the moment, and all bets are off. You, Rob and I have been working in publishing for the past two decades and we’ve seen many opportunities for comic creators simply disappear. On the other hand, the rise of digital publishing and the increasing reach of crowdfunding has opened a whole new set of possibilities to today’s creators.

Everyone in the creative industries not only has to keep abreast of these changes, they need to embrace them. Crowdfunding is enabling a lot of us, who’ve long had a creative career, to not only continue working in the face of falling publishing revenues, but to to produce work of a higher quality. That’s a pretty good thing, when you think about it, and it’s all down to the simple generosity of our fellow readers and writers.

In "Out in Innsmouth", Growing up gay in the poverty ridden town of Innsmouth leaves 16 year old Zeke desperate to escape. When he meets Jay on-line he doesn’t realise that the older man is grooming him, but the sinister currents of Innsmouth’s murky past are about to catch them both in its inescapable undertow. Art: Rob Moran

In “Out in Innsmouth”, growing up gay in the poverty ridden town of Innsmouth leaves 16 year old Zeke desperate to escape. When he meets Jay on-line he doesn’t realise that the older man is grooming him, but the sinister currents of Innsmouth’s murky past are about to catch them both in its inescapable undertow. Art: Rob Moran

Rob: I think in today’s comic business crowdfunding is possibly the only way to get a project that is purely a labour of love and not based on some already existing commercial property out as a book… at least if you do it for a living like Jasper and I. None of the big companies are really open to new stuff that isn’t superheroes, zombies, or based on film and TV.

Crowdfunding is a way of really connecting with people who love your work, who want to see what you produce next and who are willing back their love with hard earned cash… it’s pretty damned cool, actually.

downthetubes: Rob, have you been involved in crowdfunding projects before?

Rob: I did draw a comic that was crowdfunded but had no part in the actual process of raising the cash… I was just the hired artist.

In ‘Occupy the Mountains of Madness’ a band of eco warriors, protesting arctic oil drilling, uncovers an evil far greater than the one per cent who own all our wealth. Art: Rob Moran

In ‘Occupy the Mountains of Madness’ a band of eco warriors, protesting arctic oil drilling, uncovers an evil far greater than the one per cent who own all our wealth. Art: Rob Moran

downthetubes: A 96 page book is hugely ambitious. When will it be published once completed?

Jasper: Publishing, as you know, is a hazardous process, and many things can derail the best laid plans. So, I don’t want to tempt fate, but we will deliver the majority of our pledges by September 2016 and we hope to have the project published very soon after.

downthetubes: What else are you working on, besides promoting Beyond Lovecraft for the next couple of months?

Rob: As far as I know Jasper has probably ten novels, twenty short story collections and dozens of comics in the works. I’m working on my own horror graphic novel written and drawn by me that continues at a glacial pace, I’m illustrating a couple of prose books, and doing some commercial illustration.

Together, Jasper and I are working on a strip which is our take on the classic British comic pulp adventure character, a sort of anti-hero version of those set in an alternate Britain, called ‘The Iron Skull’.

Jasper: I have a lot of things on at the moment, projects winding down and others ramping up. I have a horror novella coming out from Knightswatch Press in February called Bed of Crimson Joy (Rob’s doing the cover for it) and a short novel called The Final Cut coming out soon after with Crystal Lake Publishing. I’m just doing final edits on both.

Parassassin, the epic sci-fi strip I wrote for David Lloyd’s Aces Weekly is coming out on Comixology and Silver Phoenix Entertainment are publishing an offbeat superhero comic I wrote called Roller Derby Drama.

While those projects wind down, I’m just starting to write a one person stage play for Steampunk superstar Veronique Chevallier and the first draft of a new novel I’m rather excited about.

downthetubes: Jasper, Rob, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedules to answer our questions. The very best of luck in all your endeavours, and particularly, with Beyond Lovecraft.

Check out the Beyond Lovecraft project here on IndieGogo

• Find Jasper Bark online at www.jasperbark.com

• Check out Rob Moran’s art at: http://robmorancomicart.blogspot.co.uk

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: British Comics, Comic Creator Spotlight, Creating Comics, Crowd Funding Projects, Featured, Features, Horror Comics

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