I recently had the pleasure to interview the talented and stunning Rachel Deering, creator of the upcoming horror series Anathema, which we featured here. She currently is funding the project through Kickstarter. As excited as I am for the series, my enthusiasm began to wane when the driving directions instructed me to go down this dark and abandoned road until I saw a castle under the blood red moon. Considering we don’t get “blood red” moons that often, my skepticism was high. Arriving at the house, I saw what could only be described as Bram Stroker’s dream/nightmare home.
After knocking on the door, the weathered hinges began to creak and moan. Once open, my eyes fell upon a towering figure with pale skin and a dull visage. Without uttering a word, he seized me by the shirt collar and pulled me inside, slamming the door behind. The home’s decor seemed to be lifted out of an Edgar Allan Poe story. I was led to the den where Rachel sat waiting upon an iron throne. She wore a dark dress with a leather bodice, revealing enough curvature to make Elvira blush. In an attempt to lighten the mood, I jokingly asked if I had arrived on the night of a costume party. Without batting an eye, she took up a scepter and pointed it toward a ragged old chair, a silent order to be seated.
James Halstead- How has the fan response been to Anathema and what of the support from Kickstarter?
Rachel Deering - I’ve been blessed in that the conventions I’ve heard so much about, with your friends and family being your biggest supporters on Kickstarter, don’t seem to apply to me. I’ve had more support from total strangers. It’s been fantastic thus far, but it’s far from over.
JH - Yes, I see that you have 158 backers so far, with over half your goal, and 20 days left, so that must be encouraging.
RD - It gives me hope, for sure. I had one person cancel their pledge earlier tonight, and that totally put things into perspective for me. These other 158 folks could do the same if they wanted. I gotta stay on edge and make sure I’m giving people what they want!
JH - Oh wow, that is jarring for sure. This story is very intriguing and the bonuses for pledging are very cool.
RD - Thanks. I’ve put a lot of thought into both the story and how I would reward people for helping me bring it to life. That’s sort of the key to a successful Kickstarter. The double whammy of a well thought out and passionate story, combined with rewards that are worth the money you’re pledging. You can’t expect to ask people to pay $20 for a 24 page floppy.
JH - That is true! Now, speaking of the story, where did you get the inspiration for this idea?
RD - An idea came to me one night for a werewolf assassin story. I thought it would be really cool to read about a werewolf with a vengeful purpose. I carried the story throughout my nightly routine, you know, taking a shower and brushing my teeth. By the time I was ready for bed, I had most of Anathema plotted.
JH - Can we expect to see other monsters in this story? And will they play prominent roles?
RD - You will see vile and twisted creatures, to be sure, but they won’t be monsters in the traditional sense. You won’t see any vampires or zombies. I’ll be creating the entire world and its dark inhabitants.
JH - That is what I like to hear, some original content! That is both risky and exciting.
RD - Oh I don’t mind taking this risk. I have a lot of faith in the nightmares I’ve conjured for the story. They will not disappoint!
JH - Fans will be pleased. Speaking of risky, did you set out to make the characters lesbian from the beginning or did the story craft that way?
RD - No, actually. A lot has changed from the original concept. I initially had the main character plotted out as a man. I started thinking “Why does every hero have to be a man?” and “What if I made the hero a woman, and not only that, but a lesbian. How would that work in a puritan setting?” I got really excited at that concept, and took it from there.
JH - I must say that is what hooked me in, I mean even modern comics don’t have that many gay characters, but in the puritan, witch burning days? That is insane!
RD - People like Gail Simone are writing gay and lesbian characters, but you’re right, it’s still not the popular thing to do. America still has a lot of prejudice toward LGBT themes. It’s one of those things we have to work through.
(Four women entered the room, all wearing long, flowing robes. They lead a man in chains towards the back, their eyes never straying from their course. My concern grew.)
JH - Progress is a slow train, but it always moves forward. Speaking of Gail, I see you are a member of Womanthology, how has that experience been?
RD - It’s intense for me! I first came on as the letterer for the book, and then Renae asked me to pair up inkers and colorists into teams for the pencillers and writers. Once she saw that I could handle organizational tasks pretty well, she presented me with the opportunity to be an editor. It’s been a wild ride, but I’m having so much fun with it. This book is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to see it finished!
JH - We have been covering it extensively here as well. We are all excited for it. Our very own Nicole Sixx is working on it as well, so we have an extra interest!
RD - Yeah, Nicole and I have talked a bit here and there on Facebook. She’s a rad gal!
JH - She is pretty awesome. Did you lend any creative direction to the stories or was it more of a behind the scenes job?
RD - No, I pretty much just play a supportive role. I am an organizer, problem solver, question answerer, and overall cheerleader.
JH - Hey cheerleaders rock! How long have you been in the comic book industry?
RD - In the industry? Not long. A year, maybe. I started making comics when I was about 8 years old though, so it’s nothing new to me. I just had to adjust to the business side of things, haha.
JH - That’s usually how it works out, most creators have breathed this all their lives. Is Anathema your first book?
RD - It’s my first full length work, yeah. Up until now, I mostly dealt with scripting short stories for anthology projects. I tried to get my own anthology off the ground, something akin to the old Warren Publishing magazines, but it never came to fruition.
JH - Were you inspired by any stories, as far as setting it during the 1600s era?
RD - I took a trip last year to New England (mostly to visit the grave of H.P. Lovecraft), and I was totally awestruck over the history that just seeped from every aspect of the region. I started feverishly researching the history of the area and, of course, the witch trials. I was sort of obsessed for a while.
JH - Lovecraft was an amazing writer, could we see a subtle nod to his work?
RD - The story begins in a New England type setting, where Mercy will travel to the coast in search of the first vile creature of many. It could very well have some Lovecraft inspired traits. We’ll just have to wait and see.
JH - Ah, nicely played. Now to get back to werewolves, are they your favorite monsters?
RD - Without a doubt! Hands down. I have been a rabid fan of werewolves since I first saw The Howling. You just can’t beat a good werewolf tale.
JH - Awesome! I have a love/hate relationship with The Howling, but the effects were amazing. What are your thoughts on the recent Wolfman?
RD – The Wolfman was awkward at best, haha. Benicio Del Toro is a rad dude, but a Larry Talbot he is not. I thought Anthony Hopkins did a wonderful job, though. I am CG’s number one enemy, so I was turned off by a lot of the special effects in the movie. Rick Baker did a great job on the practical effects, though.
JH - I couldn’t agree more, and Hugo Weaving was good.
RD - I can’t look at him without thinking “Secret Agent Elf”. That kinda ruins him for me.
JH - Ha! But the baddest “Secret Agent Elf” in the land. How was it working with Alan Quah and Jorge Maese on the book?
RD - I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to bring Anathema to life. They were instantly drawn to the script, and they became so involved in the story. You can tell in their art that they really had a lot invested in it. I can’t speak highly enough of those two.
(I began to hear odd chanting coming from the room where the women had taken the chained man, followed by a piercing scream. As if I wasn’t there, Rachel stands up from her seat and goes into the room. I hear a loud thud and then silence. Without blinking, she returns to her seat and shoots me a casual look, awaiting the next question.)
JH - From the pages I’ve seen, the artwork looks incredible!
RD - Thank you! That means a lot. I get so frustrated when I visit my local comic shop and I see these stunning covers on the shelves, and then I flip to the interiors and want to vomit on the pages. I wanted the quality of the art to carry throughout my book from the front cover to the back.
JH - I know what you mean. I’ve read a few books where the story is amazing, but the artwork was lackluster.
RD - You’re nicer about it than I am, haha.
JH - Diplomacy, I want to be a politician!
RD - Good luck with that. The world of politics is far more frightening than anything I could ever hope to create.
JH - Ha, no kidding. Are there any titles out right now that you are reading?
RD - Yeah, I keep up with Locke & Key, The Goon, Chew, Mouse Guard, and The Walking Dead. I also read a lot of limited series books and one shots. I like Mike Mignola’s Baltimore books a lot, and Eric Powell’s Buzzard and Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities.
JH - Some excellent reading material, I loveThe Walking Dead and am excited for season 2 of the TV Show to come back on.
RD - Shane is still alive. I am still pissed.
JH - Ha, well here’s hoping mid season!
RD - Meh, I’ll follow along with it, but don’t expect me to be pumping my fist and beating my chest with excitement.
JH - You are a tough critic. How do you like the direction the horror genre has taken?
RD - Are you sure you want to open Pandora’s box? Horror is a pale likeness of what it once was. I can’t stand this onslaught of remakes. What were once great movies like Night of the Demons and Fright Night are now being shat upon and fed to the public as “new” and “edgy”. That’s not to say that there haven’t been a few gems here and there. I just watched a movie called Stake Land, by recommendation from Mike Mignola. It was good. I also like most of the Guillermo Del Toro movies.
RD - I have the original movie poster hanging on the wall in my office. It’s one of my favorites.
JH - Wow, I am infinitely jealous.
RD - You should be. Haha
(The robed women enter the room, dragging what I can only assume is a cauldron. Who uses a cauldron these days? Their chants continue as Rachel stirs the liquid inside. Never breaking from the interview.)
JH -I am a huge horror fan and I share the sentiments exactly, the remake craze has been a thorn in my side for a long time.
RD - Strap in, son. I don’t see it slacking off anytime soon.
JH - I know, I’ve turned to foreign horror films to find something worthwhile.
RD - Smart choice. Most of the better horror movies in recent years have come from Australia, France, and Korea. If you haven’t seen The Loved Ones from Australia or Inside from France, you’re missing out.
JH - Inside! That movie disturbed me deeply. Martyrs as well. Martyrs actually shook me for several hours.
RD - That was a good one, too. It definitely left me feeling empty and cold.
JH - That is the best way I’ve heard it summed up. How do you feel about the recent comic book movies to come out?
RD - I haven’t seen a comic book inspired movie since Hellboy II. I don’t really care for superheroes anymore. Haven’t since I was probably 10 years old.
JH - Fair enough.
RD - I think the last story arc that really excited me in a supe story was the Maximum Carnage series. I loved how evil Carnage was.
JH - That is such a coincidence, I just wrote a review on Maximum Carnage.
RD - I saw that! Good choice.
JH - That was by far my favorite story from the Spider-Man series.
RD - So you’re drawn to the evil too! I knew I liked you.
JH - Indeed, the villains are always more fascinating. Carnage is my favorite. With Mercy, did you draw any parallels to your own life?
RD - I may have tossed in some subconscious themes here and there, haha. I don’t want people thinking I’m some sort of tortured lesbian who hates the world. I’d say our biggest similarities would be the dark hair, green eyes, and sexual preference.
JH - And choice of wardrobe I’m sure.
RD - Haha, I definitely wear leather armor on a regular basis. People in the grocery store tend to avoid me.
JH - That would make shopping so much better! Any words of wisdom you want to share with your fans?
RD - Support more creator owned comics. Don’t believe the hype. You’re never too legit to quit. And stay off my f*#%^* lawn.
JH - All sound advice kids!
After finishing the interview, she asked if I wanted to see the dark ones consume the world and plunge us back into the abyss for a thousand years. I politely declined and ran like hell to my car. The ground began to shake, and from my rear view mirror I could see, as I drove like a mad man, the house breaking open and what appeared to be a tentacled hand rising from the hole. I’m sure everything’s fine!