Jimmy Gaspero was delighted to chat with members of the creative team from Dauntless Stories' EAT MY FLESH, DRINK MY BLOOD to talk about the inspiration behind this project, what makes their collaboration so successful, and to use the word "transubstantiation" in a sentence.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Hello and welcome to the Yeti Cave! We’re here today with members of the creative team from the newest Dauntless Stories project, Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood. It is now available for pre-order until September 4th and is expected to arrive in January of 2022. How is everyone doing today?
FRANKEE WHITE: I’m doing well. Spent the weekend choring so I feel like I got something accomplished. Thanks for asking.
ADAM MARKIEWICZ: Eh. Can’t complain, I guess. Thank you.
A.H.G.: Still trying to wake up, I'll get there someday.
CBY: Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood is described as an “absurd romantic horror” and I’d like to start there with...what exactly is "absurd romantic horror"?
FW: EMFDMB is the intersection where those three avenues meet. EMFDMB’s core genre is horror. There will be plenty of blood and guts to be seen, and terrors to revel in, but it’s also a romance. The heart of the story is Lisa and John’s relationship. The story is about them and how they choose to navigate the challenge of being in a committed relationship. The absurd aspect comes from our approach to telling this story. I can’t talk too much about it without giving away a good chunk of our book, but despite this being a story with real heart and horror, it also has a good chunk of humor and absurdism to how we approach everything.
"It was decided early on that this story would be three panels per page. I thought it would be an interesting writing constraint while simultaneously being able to thematically tie it back to Catholicism and the Holy Trinity." – Frankee White
CBY: As a person who was raised Catholic and attended 16 years of Catholic education, the title EMFDMB instantly makes me think of church and The Last Supper and transubstantiation. I know from Adam and A.H.G.’s cover (see above) and the synopsis on Dauntless’ website that church is indeed involved. Is church or religion merely a backdrop to this story or does religion generally, perhaps Catholicism specifically, play a larger role in the themes of this story?
FW: Short answer, yes. I was raised Catholic for the first 14 years of my life. I consider myself lapsed Catholic/agnostic. We definitely take the words of the Liturgy of the Eucharist a bit literally in EMFDMB. We’re subverting the beliefs I was raised on and perverting them (some people may find our book offensive), but despite that, this is a book about faith and how it is necessary. What that faith is differs from person to person, though.
CBY: I’m curious about the format as well. It’s a 52-page magazine-sized graphic novel. Was there something about this story that lends itself to that format or were there other considerations that lead to that decision?
FW: It was decided early on that this story would be three panels per page. I thought it would be an interesting writing constraint while simultaneously being able to thematically tie it back to Catholicism and the Holy Trinity. Additionally, the three-panel-per-page format allowed us to approach the story cinematically and have these incredibly wide frames. From the beginning, we approached this comic as if we were making a drive-in grindhouse film. Once we realized that, it made sense to double down on that and widen the page itself a little bit.
CBY: I’ve seen the preview pages on Dauntless’ website and am intrigued as to what inspired/influenced this story and what the process was like to develop it, including the approach to the art style, panel layouts, and colors.
FW: EMFDMB has been in the oven for awhile now (at least a year, I think). I had originally started writing this story as prose. I was going to make it a novella. About a page into it, I realized I was structuring this story like I do a comic, so I shifted gears. I love making comics that take place in a really short amount of time. Most comics in the indie scene are conceived as epics and mine tend to be the opposite. Let’s tell a story over an intense night or two. So once I realized that, I stopped writing prose and switched to scripting.
"I made the decision after Broken Bear that anytime I have a say in who the colorist is on any book I’m involved with, it’s going to be A.H.G. I’ve been lucky to have some other very talented artists work on my books, but A.H.G. brings something unique that I feel just gels with my line art." – Adam Markiewicz
FW: As to what inspired it? Horror movies. I love them. I love watching them. I love conversing with and about them. I especially love horror movies that are a bit glib with their use of violence and sexuality. Considering we don’t have a ratings board to submit to, I thought it would be fun to do an emotionally grounded story that pushes the limits of good taste.
AM: The three-panel layout was Frankee’s idea. It intrigued me because, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, movies were my first love, and I spent my high school years thinking I’d be directing horror movies, not making comics. So this was sort of a chance to merge the two, and the challenge is not thinking of the framing in terms of comics, but in terms of film, in trying to merge the languages of comics and cinema. Which aren’t that far apart when you get right down to it.
A.H.G.: The whole three-panel cinemascope panel idea intrigued me since it sounded like a crazy experiment (the good kind) and I'm all for those.
For me, I have always been inspired more by animation rather than live-action film, but I find the visuals in live-action movies and the language of cinema in general (which can be found in both) extremely intriguing. My instinct was to "light this like a film" and render everything in a semi-realistic way, but as the time went on, I found myself interested in going in a completely different direction.
Early on, Frankee had [shown] me a collection of pictures by a photographer called Briscoe Park, which helped set the mood for the whole book, and then I thought, well, "how can I make this more interesting and do something that film really can't do?" and that's when I got the idea to go a bit more loose and impressionistic and implement directional brush strokes like the kind you'd see someone like Van Gogh use while keeping the basic idea of "lighting it like a movie" in the back of my mind.
CBY: I have seen 2 great covers for EMFDMB, one by Adam and A.H.G. and another by Skylar Patridge. What do you hope to accomplish when you create a cover for a series? Are you trying to evoke a particular moment from the series or mood about the overall content? How did Skylar Patridge become involved in creating a cover, and what direction was she given?
"Like they've both already mentioned we just click together, we're on the same wavelength. But what makes this also very special to me is nothing is off limits, I can be as crazy and experimental as I would like and when things don't work well, they let me know." – A.H.G.
FW: I’ll let Adam and A.H.G. talk about this one mostly, but I know for my personal taste, I like a cover that evokes a mood. My favorite posters don’t tell what the film is about but what the film will potentially make me feel.
Regarding Skylar Patridge’s involvement on the variant cover, I have been a BIG fan of hers for a while now and have wanted to work with her. We worked together briefly on some pieces that ended up in STARLESS DAYDREAM, and after that, I wanted to work with her more. She was on my shortlist to do interiors on EMFDMB at the very beginning of production, but our schedules didn’t work out, so I’m glad she was available to do this gorgeous variant cover.
AM: Skylar’s cover is really amazing. She really captured what the book is all about. As for mine, I spent an afternoon looking at old grindhouse and exploitation movie posters. I had a couple ideas I showed to Frankee and Marcus, then went ahead and did the drawing. Then A.H.G. came along and worked his magic and made it WAY better than I ever could have on my own.
A.H.G.: The cover in terms of conceptualization of color was very easy for me to do because as soon as I saw Adam's lines I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like. I wanted it to be unsettling, eerie and unconventional, so if you look at it in a book store you go "what the f**k is that about," and can't help but at least take a peek at it (or, at least, that's what I hoped to accomplish with the colors).
As for Skylar's cover, I don't know what I can say that hasn't been said already. It's an absolutely stunning piece of art and I'm really glad we were able to get her to be a part of the book.
CBY: Adam and A.H.G., I am someone that has very little artistic ability and so I am always fascinated with how artists create their art and I was hoping that both of you could talk about your process in creating EMFDMB.
AM: I read the script. I try to envision the scene, and then I do roughs to get the framing and character placement down. I show the roughs to Frankee, he somehow deciphers them and gives me his notes, and from there, I go to work. Once the pencils are done, I give Frankee another look-see and he gives whatever additional notes he has, and then I do the inks and that’s that.
A.H.G.: For me, it was first about setting up the right mood, and that requires the right palette and the right brush. I try to give every book a different feeling and look. Once that's decided, I start setting up the scenes. This book has a lot more in common with Broken Bear in terms of style than my latest work but it's pushed in an impressionistic direction even further.
CBY: This is the same team from Broken Bear (which I just adored). What was it like getting the band back together, so to speak, and what is it that makes this collaboration work well?
FW: Thank you! I love working with Adam and A.H.G. and I plan to do it forever. We are kindred spirits and resonate in similar creative frequencies. They seem to know exactly what I want to see from my scripts, and hopefully I write things that they love to bring to life. We’re also honest with each other. I don’t need to worry about not communicating how I feel about something good or bad because of that. I feel like, for the most part, our editing phases are kept to a minimum because of these things.
AM: Frankee is one of two writers I will work with until the day I die (the other being my The Great Divide collaborator Ben Fisher). He explained well enough why. I made the decision after Broken Bear that anytime I have a say in who the colorist is on any book I’m involved with, it’s going to be A.H.G. I’ve been lucky to have some other very talented artists work on my books, but A.H.G. brings something unique that I feel just gels with my line art.
A.H.G.: It's always a pleasure to work with these two crazy human beings. We all wanted to do something together after Broken Bear but life got in the way in various forms. (laughs)
Like they've both already mentioned, we just click together, we're on the same wavelength. But what makes this also very special to me is nothing is off limits, I can be as crazy and experimental as I would like and when things don't work well, they let me know. But that's the thing; I trust their judgment and they trust mine. And they're both absolutely fantastic at what they do, which makes working with them an absolute joy.
And while we're on the subject of collaboration, I would like to thank our editor Marcus [Jimenez] for helping us with getting this book together and putting it out there!
CBY: Do you think fans of Broken Bear will find something to connect with in EMFDMB?
FW: Yes, definitely. I mean if you loved the art on Broken Bear, especially. Adam and A.H.G. have both leveled up since Broken Bear, and their work on EMFDMB is truly great stuff. From a story perspective, there isn’t a whole lot in common between Broken Bear and EMFDMB, but they both carry a similar level of irreverence and fun despite going to some dark places.
AM: EMFDMB has more nudity, but Broken Bear has more people with bat ears. I think it’s a trade-off.
A.H.G.: I think if you like Broken Bear, then you obviously have superior taste, which means you will probably enjoy this book as well!
CBY: Frankee, I have read The Love Remains, Broken Bear and 20 Fists. Your stories are very character-driven and I was wondering, in your work, does the character come first or the genre/setting? I don’t necessarily mean in terms of importance, but actual creation.
FW: It usually sparks with a setting, because I don’t know who these characters really are until far into the outlining and even scripting process.
Broken Bear, 20 Fists, and The Love Remains all started where the comics literally start. A cursed, wooded swamp, a thumping bar at 2am, a flooded mountain in a near-future apocalypse. Then I had to figure out who was there, why they were there, and who they were. I don’t typically start any story by saying, “I want to write this type of person.” Those people just tend to make themselves apparent as I write. EMFDMB was written similarly. I knew that first panel shot right away, and then everything fell into place after. Lisa & John were very different people when I started figuring them out.
CBY: Is there anything else you all are working on (together or separately) that CBY readers should be on the lookout for?
FW: I have another project I’m working on with Bayleigh Underwood called What Comes Will Kill. It’s a dark fantasy about revenge, how far we’re willing to go to get it, and how much we as spectators should root for it. I can’t talk too much about it, but I’m very excited with where it is heading so far.
AM: I’m currently at work on The Great Divide 2, which A.H.G. will also be coloring. I’ve also been doing a weekly NSFW sci-fi webcomic on Patreon with writer Michel Leclair called Into The N-Zone. It’s sort of like Star Trek, only everyone’s naked. I’ve got links to it in all my social media.
A.H.G.: Right now, I've got the miniseries Dark Blood coming out through BOOM! Studios. [Two] issues of it are already out. And, like Adam said, we're teaming up for the Great Divide 2 which I'm very excited about! I'm also currently working on becoming a comic's Swiss army knife by making my own comics from start to finish, starting out with a few shorts to get my feet wet while working on writing a full graphic novel, mwahahaha! If you're interested in that, you can follow me on the hellish bird app to stay posted.
CBY: Thank you so much for being here and, I look toward to reading all of EMFDMB.
FW: Thank you for taking the time to interview us. You’re the best!
AM: Thank you, thank you!
A.H.G.: Thank you for having us!