The following is an interview with Patrick McEvoy, artist behind the Casefile: Arkham graphic novel from 01 Publishing which gathers inspiration from and pays homage to the works of HP Lovecraft. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with McEvoy about his creative partnership with writer Josh Finney, why 01 Publishing makes the perfect home for the book, the creators’ upcoming plans for more Lovecraft-inspired projects, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: How did your creative partnership with writer Josh Finney on Casefile: Arkham come about, and how would you describe your creative process?
Patrick McEvoy: I met Josh, along with his wife and fellow artist Kat, when I was working on a book with writer David Rodriguez called Starkweather: Immortal for Archaia. They had released another book, Titanium Rain, with impressive art by Josh and Kat, and written by Josh. So, we got to talking at various cons while signing at the Archaia booths (WonderCon and San Diego, I think.) and struck up a friendship.
A couple of years later when Josh was conceiving the first graphic novel we worked on together, World War Kaiju, he called me to see if I’d want to contribute a few pages to it, and it led to collaborating on the whole thing. The rest is history! (Actually, given the story in WWK, the rest is “alternate” history).
As to the creative process, we start with long phone conversations that are basically stream-of-consciousness brainstorming sessions, throwing out “wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas. Josh then turns those into actual plots, and we go from there.
Josh did very unusual scripts for Casefile: Arkham, where he’ll lay out the page in rough panels with a first draft of the dialogue, where he’s thinking it would go on the page, and occasional reference pictures included. I then proceed to ignore his layout completely! Ha – sort of at least… But it’s really helpful to see how much space each balloon is going to take and the relative importance Josh gives to each panel, so I can fit the art with the dialogue in a (hopefully) seamless manner.
Josh has a few ideas then to tighten up the layouts, and then when I’m done he writes the final script based on what I’ve drawn, sometimes making changes if I’ve inspired new ideas with the art. Since it was just the two of us, we were also able to go back and make a few additions and changes towards the end to pump up some of the themes that had presented themselves during the whole process.
Overall, it’s not the most streamlined way to make a comic book, but it’s a very satisfying creative method.
BD: Why did you feel that 01 Publishing provided the perfect home for Casefile: Arkham?
PM: I’ve worked with 01Publishing in the past, with the very successful World War Kaiju project. I knew that Kat Rocha, the publisher, was capable of fundraising, then getting a great-looking book printed and distributed.
It’s very difficult for an artist working in comics to make anything close to a fair wage these days, unless they are lucky enough to get a gig with the “big two.” Indies like 01Publishing are unicorns in the industry – we’re not getting rich (yet!), but we’re not getting exploited unfairly either, and we can get paid while putting out a book with no superheroes or Little Ponies.
BD: What initially intrigued you about working on the graphic novel, and have you likewise been a longtime fan of Lovecraft’s work?
PM: I read a collection of Lovecraft short stories when I was about 13, and I’ve been interested in his work ever since. On the surface, I love that overly ornate wordsmithing (like Ambrose Beirce. Or Lord Dunsany, whom I’d read even earlier), but the deeper themes of hopeless cosmic terror and the incompatibility of the human mind with inter-dimensional creatures – that all really stuck with me.
And another great love of mine is film noir, and the broader world of detective fiction in the pulp era, especially Hammett and Chandler. So, when the opportunity came to put these two genres together, I already had an idea of how well they could fit, and it was a dream project. A terrifying and bleak fever-dream, but a dream nonetheless.
BD: Did you have an idea in mind for the art style when you first read the script, or did the artwork develop as you worked on the project?
PM: We worked on the project together from its inception, so I had been doing sketches and character designs long before the script came in. So, I’d already decided that I wanted a lush, brushy, black-and-white look, with figures reminiscent of Alex Raymond or Al Williamson. Since I’d never done a black-and-white project of this scale, I thought that would also give me a chance to master that style at the same time.
I was also working on a theory I had that creepy horror art (at least, what creeped ME out) has a lot of texturing detail. Some artists like to do horror with a lot of black – the mystery of the unknown – but I find that it’s the squiggly details on the edge of the blackness that really creep me out. Also, the sense of unease you get from German Expressionist films where angles and shadows are never quite right – perspective is “off” somehow. That’s another component I wanted to explore.
So, by the time the actual script started to come in, with the wonderful opening sequence of the couple being chased through the alleys, I pretty much knew in theory where I was going, and it worked out better than I could have thought which, for an artist, is a rare thing.
It still took me about 20 pages to really get the hang of the style with regards to the characters, and you can see it progressing as I go. It was very satisfying to see the improvement in both quality and speed as I went.
BD: Do you have plans to adapt other Lovecraftian works for the sequential art medium, or are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
PM: Casefile: Arkham II, baby! Keep an eye out for the Kickstarter this summer! We’re incredibly excited to be working on it again so soon.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Casefile: Arkham?
PM: There’s a lot to preview online, if you’re interested! You can go here to see preview pages and behind-the-scenes stuff, plus news about upcoming events and links to buy!
Also, I posted a lot of the original art pages (no dialogue) on my Deviantart gallery as we were working on it.