Everyone has scars and beasts from their past hiding deep down inside. In I Walk With Monsters, the theme of monsters inside and out permeates the narrative, providing a haunting tale that nearly everyone can relate to in some way or another.
Written by Paul Cornell (Doctor Who, Saucer State), the new Vault Comics series is illustrated by Sally Cantirino (Dead Beats, Last Song) and colored by Dearbhla Kelly (Red Sonja, Queen of Bad Dreams). Tim Daniel is on designs.
Cornell chatted with The Beat via email about the title and what readers can expect when they dive in.
Deanna Destito: How did the premise for the book come about?
Paul Cornell: It’s an idea I’ve had for several years, one of those organic ones that’s generated from my own experiences. I think we’ve all thought, every now and then, how good it would feel to have a beast beside us who’d do what we couldn’t allow ourselves to do. Once I took it to The Vault, Adrian gave me lots of good notes on the plot, and we really honed it into, I think, my best work in comics.
Destito: What horror stories or writers inspired you (in general and on this series)?
Cornell: Stephen King is the absolute master for a reason: he writes fantastical horrors about real trauma. He allows us to process trauma at a safe distance, but to do that he needs to know human beings inside out. (As it were.) I also love Clive Barker, because he does much the same, but adds new places to go. He very much sees the connection between horror and epic fantasy, that the latter is the former seen from a distance. Poppy Z. Brite appeals to my messiness and, again, is a student of human nature. (There’s a theme here.) Lauren Beukes is a current writer who can actually scare me with what’s directly on the page, rather than by implication, which is a unique talent.
Destito: Why is a book like this important for people who may be going through trauma or for those having trouble expressing anger and other emotions?
Cornell: I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, because I’m not about to say reading a particular book will be useful or appropriate for anyone’s particular trauma. What I would say is that it’s a journey through some very dark places that does, I hope, provide redemption at the end. Those dark places may be too much, but it’s written from the point of view of someone who comes to this from the inside, not who’s looking at it from a distance or using it to sell copies. We’ve been incredibly careful about what we show, and about whose point of view the comic is from. That is to say, Jacey, the young woman at the heart of this, is at the center of the story.
Destito: How has it been working with the creative team?
Cornell: It’s been the most incredible process. I know creators on comics often say the current team they’re part of is incredibly awesome, but we’ve reached new heights here. The other day I put something to the artist, Sally Cantirino, about a splash page, saying ‘I’m not sure it’s actually possible to convey this visually’, and she did it! The sheer quality and precision of the acting in her work means I can lean on expressions and body language to tell the story. And she can really rip it up when it comes to monsters. The release of those big rampage moments is extraordinary. Dearbhla Kelly has been doing an extraordinary job on the colours, all these calm tones which suddenly erupt. And the editorial process, care, and attention to detail from The Vault has been amazing. They really do care about every part of the process. This is how comics should be made.
Destito: How important are the visuals and how did you and the art team come up with the approach and style?
Cornell: Because I can cut down on the dialogue, the visuals tell the story to an amazing degree. I’ve been able to wax poetic in my scene descriptions and see that all on the page! Sally and Dearbhla brought it all to the table. I had a lot of input on the look of the beast, suggesting influences, but almost all of this is down to Sally’s uncanny ability to render every nuance of words into pictures!
Destito: You’ve stated that this one is personal. Is it easier or harder to write from a personal place, especially in a genre like horror?
Cornell: Both. Easier in the sense that this is a story that’s bursting out of me, not something I have to artificially create to make a deadline (not that there’s anything wrong with the latter), harder in the sense that I actually have to open up and let the truth show on the page, which makes me feel very vulnerable. That sort of vulnerability is what I’m in this business to explore. It’s been one of the best creative experiences of my life.
I Walk With Monsters #1 hits stores in November. Look for covers by Cantirino Nathan Gooden and Jen Hickman. Take a peek at a few pages here.