I was able to corner Marian Churchland for a few minutes to answer a few questions about her first graphic novel: "Beast".
A very sweet lady who was a joy to interview. Hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did interviewing her.
Now I've read the After-word to the book, so I've gotten some of the history of the creation of this title, but let me ask you: How long was the character of Beast actually floating in your mind before you were able to put him on paper?
It's hard to pin-down, because so many of my stories (or initial ideas for stories) have a character that resembles Beast. I think that his specific design, though - the shadowy tendril thing - first showed up in a story I fiddled with briefly a couple years before I began the book, about a girl in medieval Ireland searching for her missing brother in a ruined castle. Sort of a ye-olde Resident Evil, in which the lord of the castle was an oddly polite gentleman-monster. The story never worked out, but the monster stuck around.
The character of Roz, was she based off of anyone that you knew? She's a very mysterious character and one that isn't as fleshed out as some of the others; how much of a back story does she have in your head?
She doesn't have much of a solid back-story in my head, actually. I mean, I have lots of guesses, but I don't really know, and I tried to keep it that way.
When I first designed her, she was a much more comforting, cozy character, but that's obviously just what I wanted for myself. And in a way, I think it would have been equally for my own comfort if I'd given her a cohesive history, and tied it up neatly with the plot.
But it's also just more like life, isn't it, that you never find out what the deal is, with a lot of the really enigmatic and fascinating people. And it's sad, too.
Brandon (Graham) likes to point out that Roz is the physical embodiment of the house, and that's probably a good way to think about her.
You should be very proud of the powerful imagery in your work. When did you start drawing and when did you realize its what you wanted to do?
Thank you. I started just about pre-memory. I can't remember a point in my life where my drawing wasn't a main defining factor, as much so as my name or my gender. Mostly I was just an incredibly introverted child, who wanted to huddle in a corner, if not an empty room, and do something quiet and inconspicuous. I'm not sure if I ever had a "this is what I want to do" moment, because when you're a child you just do stuff, and that's that, but I remember my parents informing me that I'd be able to get nice fancy university degrees, and do it by drawing and painting, and that seemed like a good scam to me at the time. The nice fancy university degrees hold less appeal now, but it's a good scam anyway.
What would you like the readers to take away from Beast?
I left so much of Beast open for speculation - as you pointed out with the Roz character, for instance- that I consider it almost designed for people to be able to take away from it whatever they wish. What I hope is that people will continue to think about it after they've read it. That the characters will have burrowed a little place in the readers' heads. I want to have made an open world, not a closed one.
What's next for you? Are we going to get to see any more of your work in the near future?
I plan to spend the coming half-year or so writing the script for my next big graphic novel (or more likely, series of graphic novels). In the meantime I'll be working on shorter projects. I'm doing something called Fetchers with my friend Claire Gibson, about children in a kind of fantasy Renaissance England, who catch animals and monsters in exchange for money. I shouldn't even be trying to describe it, because I don't think I can do it justice, but it will be a lot of fun. I'll be doing another issue of Elephantmen, as well. And whatever other short work I can scrounge up. I'm very excited to be working in comics right now. I feel like there's a thirst for what is new, and innervating; that it's a good time to be taking risks.
Well Marian, if "The Beast" is any indication of what you have to offer us in the way of new and innervating, take all the risks you want... they are going to pay off in a big way!
Beast, by Marian Churchland, will be in stores tomorrow!