Bringing “Rivers of London” to comics: An exclusive interview with Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel

Alongside the launch of Monday, Monday, an all-new Rivers of London comic, also out next week from Titan Comics is a fantastic Deluxe Writers’ Edition edition of the very first Rivers of London graphic novel, Body Work, written by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, with art by Lee Sullivan. We thought it high time we caught up with Ben and Andrew, to talk about the new release, and about how they bring the supernatural police procedural crime novel series to comics…

Rivers Of London: Volume 1: Body Work (Deluxe Writers Edition)

Rivers Of London Volume One: Body Work Deluxe Writers’ Edition presents the full script of the first Rivers of London graphic novel along with the unlettered, full-colour artwork, allowing the reader to read the original script and see the artwork side-by-side.

In the Rivers of London stories – described by some as “CSI meets Harry Potter” – Peter Grant is part of a very special London police unit. A full-time cop and part time wizard, he works on rather unusual crimes – those that involve magic and the general weirdness that permeates London’s dark underbelly.

Body Work begins with a perfectly innocent car on a homicidal killing spree – without a driver. But, before you know it, there’s a Bosnian refugee, the Most Haunted Car in England, a bunch of teenagers loaded on Ketamine and a seemingly-harmless wooden bench with the darkest of pasts…

Rivers of London - Body Work Forbidden Planet Exclusive
The original, sold out Rivers of London – Body Work Forbidden Planet Exclusive

So, Andrew, Ben… Body Work was the first Rivers of London graphic novel. When Titan approached you with the idea, what did you see as the main challenges to bringing the highly successful novels to the comics page?

Andrew Cartmel: We didn’t see challenges, just opportunities, as we both were itching to write comics.

Ben’s said in a previous interview that the advantage of the comics is that you can break out of Peter Grant’s first person narrative of the novels and shake things up a bit, and see events from different character views. Is that an easy path to tread, without losing sight of the elements of the novels that have made them popular?

Andrew: We still use Peter’s voice over even if he isn’t always present, so that ties things together.

Ben: Peter’s distinctive voice and his sense of humour allows us to maintain a consistent tone while playing around with character and visual style.

Comics is very much a “show not tell” medium, whereas the Rivers of London novels take more of a “hold cards up sleeves” approach. Do you drop visual clues into the strips that regular readers might spot, so see later on a second reading, as well as focusing on the action?

Andrew: We write very detailed scripts visually and take pride on occasionally doing “silent” wordless purely visual sequences. As for leaving little details for the readers to spot, we love doing that. They’re usually humorous details or call backs.

Rivers Of London: Volume 1: Body Work (Deluxe Writers Edition) - Sample Art
Rivers Of London: Volume 1: Body Work (Deluxe Writers Edition) - Sample Art

Apart from being able to read the full script of the graphic novel alongside with the unlettered, full-colour artwork, what do you think will make this “Deluxe Edition” of Body Work of particular appeal? Do you think that some fans who’ve read the novels might be more likely to read the strip story in this format?

Andrew: When I was an aspiring comics writer I couldn’t wait to read some actual scripts — by Alan Moore — as opposed to seeing the finished comics. Also readers will love this because Ben, in particular, includes brilliant descriptions and humorous asides purely for the artist, which would otherwise never see the light of day.

Ben: It’s very important to keep your artist happy since they’re doing most of the hard work.

Rivers Of London: Volume 1: Body Work (Deluxe Writers Edition) - Sample Art

Have you found that there’s a different audience for the ROL novels and graphic novels, or are most fans reading both?

Andrew: So long as the graphic novels have covers that aren’t too cartoony, and are in a traditional bookshop setting, we feel that we can sell them to almost all of the readers of the prose novels. Even those who would never normally dream of reading a “comic book”.

Ben: It’s very hard to judge who buys what – we think we are reaching quite of lot of ROL readers who normally wouldn’t pick up a graphic novel, but who knows. Our philosophy is produce the best work you can and hope that other people will shell out their hard earned readies for it,

Body Work was released in 2015. Has your approach to telling ROL stories in comics form changed since then in any major way, and if so, how?

Andrew: We’re better at what we do thanks to more experience.

Ben: Understatement. We’ve learnt to take much fuller advantage of the opportunities that comics offer.

You’re busy not only with new ROL stories, but you’ve what else are you working on, right now, and when will it be published?

Andrew: In terms of comics, it looks like I may be doing some Doctor Who-related Happiness Patrol strips based on Graeme Curry’s brilliant originals. They should be out later this year. But most of my time is spent on novels — I am deep into the sixth Vinyl Detective adventure, Attack and Decay — or stage plays, which are what I most love writing these days.

Ben: I’m working on next Peter Grant novel, which hopefully will be out in 2022.

Rivers of London - Water Weed

Which comic project you’ve worked on are you most proud of and where can people see it or buy it?

Andrew: Personally, the Water Weed Rivers of London graphic novel, closely followed by Cry Fox.

Ben: I like Night Witch the best – but I’m proud of all of them.

How do you plan your day as a creator? (Do you plan your day?)

Andrew: Trying to get all of the domestic stuff out of the way so I can devote the rest of the day to writing.

Ben: I’m the opposite. I try and get all the writing out of the way so I can concentrate on procrastinating.

What’s the best thing about being a comics creator? And the worst?

Andrew: Collaborating with an illustrator (when they’re good) and collaborating with an illustrator (when they’re bad).

Ben: The fact that the artist has to do all the hard work, also unlike prose you get to tease the internet with flashy visuals.,

What most distracts you from getting your work done?

Andrew: Answering questions for f****** interviews.

Ben: Real life tends to get in the way of work – its all about achieving the right work/work balance.

What one piece of advice do you offer people looking to work in the comics industry?

Andrew: I think a writer artist team would stand a better chance of breaking in than either individually alone.

Ben: We had an IP that we could leverage giving us a way in. I agree if you’re starting from scratch, you will need to knock the commissioning editor’s socks off. This is easier to do if you already have visuals a sample ready go.

Andrew, Ben, thanks very much for your time, and thanks for Rivers of London, too – terrific stuff!

Rivers Of London Volume One: Body Work Deluxe Writers’ Edition is on sale from 6th July 2021 from all good comic shops and book shops | Written by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel | Illustrated by Lee Sullivan | ISBN 9781787736252 | HC, 256pp, $29.99/$38.99 | Buy it from Forbidden Planet (Affiliate Link)

Rivers of London – Monday Monday #1 is on sale in all good comic shops from Wednesday 7th July 2021

A Werewolf is on the loose and will stop at nothing to avoid capture! It’s up to Peter and his cohort of chums to hunt the deadly lycanthrope and bring him to justice.

Ben Aaronovitch
Photo: Jola Soyinka

Check out the other Rivers of London graphic novels available from Forbidden Planet

Ben Aaronovitch was born and raised in London and all his work has reflected his abiding fascination and love for what he modestly likes to refer to as the ‘Capital of the World’. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed, internationally bestselling Peter Grant/Rivers of London urban fantasy series. The eighth novel in the series, False Value, published in 2020, entered the Sunday Times Bestseller list at #1.

In his youth he wrote for Doctor Who (his Remembrance of the Daleks is regarded as a classic by many) Casualty and the late lamented space soap Jupiter Moon – a show so low budget that you were only allowed seven of the regular cast in any given episode!

He also wrote a series of well regarded tie-in novels for Virgin Books and Big Finish which turned out to be excellent practice for his fiendish plan to inflict his prose upon an unsuspecting world.

In 2019, in conjunction with Gollancz, Ben launched a new BAME SFF Award.

Ben Aaronovitch is online at | Check out Ben’s blog, Temporarily Significant, here | Follow Ben on Twitter | Wikipedia

Andrew Cartmel was born in London, where he lives today. He grew up in Canada and returned to the UK to complete his education, such as it is (Andrew attended Queen Mary University and did postgraduate studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury).

Andrew Cartmel

A lifelong desire to become a professional writer initially earned Andrew some television script commissions and resulted in him being hired as the script editor on Doctor Who, in the days when that role at the BBC was virtually the same as a show runner.

He served for three seasons on Doctor Who, a highly influential run which has become memorialised as the ‘Cartmel Masterplan’, before moving on to script edit a season of Casualty and then writing for and script editing Dark Knight at Channel Five.

Other television commissions include scripts for Torchwood and Midsomer Murders.

He has written novels, toured as a stand-up comedian, written plays for the stage which have been performed in London (End of the Night, Under the Eagle, and his new comedy Screwball) and also written a number of graphic novels.

Andrew writes extensively about jazz for the website London Jazz News.

He is currently collaborating with Ben Aaronovitch on the highly successful Rivers of London comic franchise, but his primary focus is his series of crime novels about the Vinyl Detective, a jazz-loving record collector turned sleuth. Available now are Written in Dead Wax, The Run-Out Groove, Victory Disc, Flip Back and Low Action, with a sixth in the works. (Warning: may contain cats.)

Andrew’s blog, Narrative Drive can be found here | Follow Andrew on Twitter

River of London – The Stories in Chronological Order

Rivers of London - Action at a Distance - Graphic Novel

Action at a Distance – Graphic Novel

October, 1957. A serial killer terrorising the women of Cumbria has moved to the streets of London, with Constable Angus Strallen hot on his heels.

But this murderer has special abilities, and Strallen soon realises he needs the help of an old friend from the front lines who can match this madman’s power, London’s own wizarding police officer, Thomas Nightingale. As the pair move in closer, it quickly becomes clear that murder is not this man’s only intent.

• Nightingale: London 1966 – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

• Dedicated Follower of Fashion – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London

Rivers of London – Novel

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden … and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

• The Home Crowd Advantage – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

• Tobias Winter – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Moon Over Soho – Novel

I was my dad’s vinyl-wallah: I changed his records while he lounged around drinking tea, and that’s how I know my Argo from my Tempo. And it’s why, when Dr Walid called me to the morgue to listen to a corpse, I recognised the tune it was playing. Something violently supernatural had happened to the victim, strong enough to leave its imprint like a wax cylinder recording. Cyrus Wilkinson, part-time jazz saxophonist and full-time accountant, had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. He wasn’t the first.

No one was going to let me exhume corpses to see if they were playing my tune, so it was back to old-fashioned legwork, starting in Soho, the heart of the scene. I didn’t trust the lovely Simone, Cyrus’ ex-lover, professional jazz kitten and as inviting as a Rubens’ portrait, but I needed her help: there were monsters stalking Soho, creatures feeding off that special gift that separates the great musician from someone who can raise a decent tune. What they take is beauty. What they leave behind is sickness, failure and broken lives.

And as I hunted them, my investigation got tangled up in another story: a brilliant trumpet player, Richard ‘Lord’ Grant – my father – who managed to destroy his own career, twice. That’s the thing about policing: most of the time you’re doing it to maintain public order. Occasionally you’re doing it for justice. And maybe once in a career, you’re doing it for revenge.

• The Domestic – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

• Whispers Underground – Novel

Peter Grant is learning magic fast. And it’s just as well – he’s already had run-ins with the deadly supernatural children of the Thames and a terrifying killer in Soho. Progression in the Police Force is less easy. Especially when you work in a department of two. A department that doesn’t even officially exist. A department that if you did describe it to most people would get you laughed at. And then there’s his love life. The last person he fell for ended up seriously dead. It wasn’t his fault, but still.

Now something horrible is happening in the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the tube system that honeycombs the ancient foundations of London. And delays on the Northern line is the very least of it. Time to call in the Met’s Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9, aka ‘The Folly’. Time to call in PC Peter Grant, Britain’s Last Wizard.

• The Cockpit – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

• Broken Homes – Novel

A mutilated body in Crawley. Another killer on the loose. The prime suspect is one Robert Weil – an associate of the twisted magician known as the Faceless Man? Or just a common garden serial killer?

Before PC Peter Grant can get his head round the case, a town planner going under a tube train and a stolen grimoire are adding to his case-load.

So far so London.

But then Peter gets word of something very odd happening in Elephant and Castle, on an housing estate designed by a nutter, built by charlatans and inhabited by the truly desperate.

Is there a connection?

And if there is, why oh why did it have to be South of the River?

Rivers of London - Body Work (2016)

• Body Work – Graphic Novel

Having become the first English Apprentice wizard in fifty years, Peter Grant must immediately deal with two different but ultimately inter-related cases.

In one he must find what is possessing ordinary people and turning them into vicious killers – and in the second he must broker a peace between the two warring gods of the River Thames.

• Foxglove Summer – Novel

In the fifth of his bestselling series Ben Aaronovitch takes Peter Grant out of whatever comfort zone he might have found and takes him out of London – to a small village in Herefordshire where the local police are reluctant to admit that there might be a supernatural element to the disappearance of some local children. But while you can take the London copper out of London you can’t take the London out of the copper.

Travelling west with Beverley Brook, Peter soon finds himself caught up in a deep mystery and having to tackle local cops and local gods. And what’s more all the shops are closed by 4pm …

• What Abigail Did That Summer – Novella

Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.

It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. This might, by those who know her, be considered a mistake. While her cousin, police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, is off in the sticks, chasing unicorns, Abigail is chasing her own mystery. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged, the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.

Aided only by her new friend Simon, her knowledge that magic is real, and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?

• The Loneliness of the Long Distance Granny – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London: Night Witch #4 Cover A

Night Witch – Graphic Novel

Press-ganged into helping a Russian oligarch hunt his missing daughter, PC Peter Grant and his boss, Thomas Nightingale, London’s only wizarding cops, find themselves caught up in a battle between Russian gunmen, a monstrous forest creature – and their nemesis: The Faceless Man.

But as Grant and Nightingale close in on the missing girl, they discover that nothing about this case is what it seems!

• Favourite Uncle – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London: Black Mould #1 Cover B: Lee Sullivan / Luis Guerrero
Rivers of London: Black Mould #1 Cover B: Lee Sullivan / Luis Guerrero

Black Mould – Graphic Novel

Something dark and slimy is dripping through the walls of suburban London. Not the usual stuff, this mould is possessed by some dark power full of bad intentions.

Looks like it’s another case for London’s one and only trainee wizard cop, Police Constable Peter Grant, and his reluctant partner, Sahra Guleed…

• King of the Rats – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

The Furthest Station – Novella

There’s something going bump on the Metropolitan line and Sergeant Jaget Kumar knows exactly who to call.

It’s PC Peter Grant’s speciality . . .

Only it’s more than going ‘bump’. Traumatised travellers have been reporting strange encounters on their morning commute, with strangely dressed people trying to deliver an urgent message. Stranger still, despite calling the police themselves, within a few minutes the commuters have already forgotten the encounter – making the follow up interviews rather difficult.

So with a little help from Abigail and Toby the ghost hunting dog, Peter and Jaget are heading out on a ghost hunting expedition.

Because finding the ghost and deciphering their urgent message might just be a matter of life and death.

Rivers of London - Detective Stories

Detective Stories – Graphic Novel Collection

An anthology series of stories featuring Police Constable Peter Grant, his partner, Sahra Guleed, and their associates, as they tackle supernatural crime on the streets of London!

An all-new adventure for Ben Aaronvitch’s laconic, way-past-cool but slightly geeky trainee wizard and budding detective, Peter Grant! Tying directly into the Rivers of London continuity.

• Reynolds – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London - Cry Fox #1 - Cover A by Steve White
Rivers of London – Cry Fox #1 – Cover A by Steve White

Cry Fox – Graphic Novel

Vengeful Russian mobsters are looking to hire members of London’s own more-then-natural underworld to bring bloody retribution down on the witch Varvara.

However, the ex-Soviet sorcerer is under the protective wing of London’s own wizarding cop, Peter Grant (now a proper detective and everything), and to get the attention of Grant and his colleagues, the the daughter of a prominent Russian oligarch is kidnapped by parties unknown but possibly fox-like.

What makes it worse is that Peter is going to have to leave his beloved London and gasp go out into the countryside! And when there’s trees and fields and wildlife involved, things never end well.

• Water Weed – Graphic Novel

Spring Breakers meets Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on the banks of the Thames in this new graphic novel from Ben Aaronovitch!

When two of the less well-behaved River goddesses, Chelsea and Olympia, decide to earn a few quid on the side, Peter and Bev find themselves drawn into a sordid cannabis-smuggling operation, controlled by London’s new queenpin of crime – the brutal and beautiful Hoodette!

The Hanging Tree – Novel

Suspicious deaths are not usually the concern of PC Peter Grant or the Folly, even when they happen at an exclusive party in one of the most expensive apartment blocks in London. But Lady Ty’s daughter was there, and Peter owes Lady Ty a favour.

Plunged into the alien world of the super-rich, where the basements are bigger than the house and dangerous, arcane items are bought and sold on the open market, a sensible young copper would keep his head down and his nose clean. But this is Peter Grant we’re talking about.

He’s been given an unparalleled opportunity to alienate old friends and create new enemies at the point where the world of magic and that of privilege intersect. Assuming he survives the week . . .

• A Rare Book of Cunning Device – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

The October Man – Novella

Trier is famous for wine, Romans and for being Germany’s oldest city. So when a man is found dead with, his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth.

Fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything.

Enter Investigator Tobias Winter, whose aim is to get in, deal with the problem, and get out with the minimum of fuss, personal danger and paperwork. With the help of frighteningly enthusiastic local cop, Vanessa Sommer, he’s quick to link the first victim to a group of ordinary middle aged men – and to realise they may have accidentally reawakened a bloody conflict from a previous century. But the rot is still spreading, literally and with the suspect list extending to people born before Frederick the Great solving the case may mean unearthing the city’s secret magical history.

. . . so long as that history doesn’t kill them first.

Lies Sleeping – Novel

Martin Chorley – aka the Faceless Man – wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague – Lesley May – who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch…

• Three Rivers, Two Husbands and a Baby – Short Story
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London Volume 8:The Fey and the Furious - Cover

The Fey and the Furious – Graphic Novel

Trouble never lies far from the race track. When a flash car belonging to a young boy racer from England washes up in the Netherlands with a bagload of unusual cargo, it’s evident there is more than meets the eye happening at street races held in an Essex car park.

Enter Detective Inspector Peter Grant. Fresh from suspension, he takes to the track in his orange ‘asbo’ Ford Focus to try and infiltrate the big leagues. But Peter soon finds himself sucked back into an Otherworld – a real-life fairyland!

False Value – Novel

Peter Grant was once the Met Police’s first trainee wizard – yes, they exist – in fifty years. Now, he’s facing fatherhood and a new job, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm.

Leaving his old police life behind, he takes a job with Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s new London start up: the Serious Cybernetics Corporation.

Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous “silicon roundabout”, Peter thinks it should be a doddle compared to his last job. But he doesn’t know that a secret is hiding in the building.

A secret that stretches back to Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, and forward to the future of artificial intelligence. A secret that is just as magical as it technological – and twice as dangerous…

• Vanessa Sommers Other Christmas List
Features in the Tales from the Folly short story collection

Rivers of London - Monday Monday #1 Cover A

Monday, Monday

Launching 7th July 2021 – on sale in all good comic shops

It’s the case of a Swedish Werewolf in London, the unmissable next chapter in the life of full-time cop and part time wizard Peter Grant. Grant works as part of a very special London police unit investigating unusual crimes involving magic and the general weirdness that permeates London’s dark underbelly.

What starts as a routine undercover operation to break up an organised teenage pickpocket gang turns into something far more dangerous when the Metropolitan police are confronted by a Swedish werewolf who’ll stop at nothing to avoid capture. Now it’s up to Peter and his cohort of chums to hunt the deadly lycanthrope and bring him to justice!

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