Reimagining the World’s Oldest Story - An interview with CAM KERKAU
Comic Book Yeti contributor Cody invites Cam Kerkau into the Yeti Cave for some Cryptid-Bits about Gilgamesh: Eternal, now on ZOOP, and to discuss both the challenge and fun of adapting this story.
COMIC BOOK YETI: Welcome on into the Yeti Cave, Cam! Feel free to grab a seat and let’s start warming things up! I appreciate you stopping by to talk about Gilgamesh: Eternal #1-2 and the current ZOOP campaign. How are you doing today?
CAM KERKAU: I’m doing fantastic and I’m so excited to be chatting with you today! I appreciate you having me on to talk about Gilgamesh. CBY: Thank you so much for the opportunity to read #1. The world’s oldest story feels like a perfect fit for a comic. Or at least you and your creative team’s take on it was! Can you give us a bit about what Gilgamesh: Eternal is about for anyone that doesn’t know and the team behind it?
CK: I’d love to! As you said, Gilgamesh: Eternal is the world’s first story, retold in the world's greatest storytelling medium.
We’re re-imagining The Epic of Gilgamesh as a fantasy-action comic written by myself with art by Kostas Pantoulas (IRWIN ALLEN’S LOST IN SPACE: THE LOST ADVENTURES, FREAK SNOW: WASHED IN BLOOD) and letters by Mira Mortal (DOLL ISLAND, MADE UP: ZOMBIE CLOWN CIRCUS).
In the first issue, Gilgamesh and his partner, Enkidu, travel the world slaying monsters in search of glory. Unfortunately, they make too many enemies along the way and the Bull of Heaven is sent to destroy their home in retaliation. In the second issue, we see Gilgamesh overcome with grief and thrust into the wilderness as he grapples with the aftermath of that battle. CBY: We’re talking about an adaptation of a story that dates back to a series of poems in 2100 B.C. with the most recent complete version being discovered around the 12th century. What goes into taking that and translating it into comic format? Did you experience any hiccups along the way? CK: Actually, the reason I was interested in adapting The Epic of Gilgamesh was because of the timelessness of its themes. It really centers the hero’s struggle with grief and his own mortality in a way that I found really compelling and it’s that aspect of the myth that we’re most interested in examining in Gilgamesh: Eternal - accompanied by some outrageous action sequences beautifully rendered by Kostas.
The hardest part of adapting the epic was challenging ourselves to tell it satisfactorily in only three issues. It’s not that the myth is very long or that the plot is overly complicated, it’s that there are so many interesting threads that we could have pulled on and extrapolated upon. We could easily have spent several issues just on Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s journey to slay Humbaba alone, but we decided to focus all of our efforts on delivering three solid issues that tell the whole story to the best of our abilities.
CBY: The interiors for #1 were just gorgeous, the way you are able to take a story from a long time ago and craft it in a way that it’s appealing to a modern audience is incredible. Without spoiling too much, did you have to take liberties to make it work for your format?
CK: The fun thing about translating a text to comic format is the opportunity to experiment with visual language. All of our locations and character designs take inspiration from Mesopotamian art and artifacts, but Kostas has also injected a strange kind of bio-organic science fiction flair to the more fantastic elements of the myth that gives our telling a look that is wholly unique.
Apart from that, we did take some storytelling liberties in order to fully examine each character's motivation in a way that I believe is consistent with their role in the myth. Some characters are going to play a larger role than one might expect and have their own arcs that will tie directly back into Gilgamesh’s journey. This is absolutely more of a creative interpretation than it is academic, but I’m confident that those who have studied the myth will appreciate the decisions that we’ve made.
CBY: A little bird from ZOOP told me that you had an exclusive variant cover you wanted CBY to reveal and I know I could barely contain my excitement. For anyone that missed it here's the link: Dennis Menheere cover.
CK: Absolutely! I’ve been waiting to show off our issue #2 variant cover from Dennis Menheere for far too long. Dennis is an outstanding talent and I’m always excited to see what he’s going to do next.
Dennis’s cover features Shamhat, a high-priestess of Inanna’s temple, flanked by Gilgamesh’s mother, Ninsun, and Inanna herself. Shamhat is Gilgamesh’s closest friend and is actually the one who brought Enkidu to civilization. She takes a central role in the second issue as King Regent of Uruk during Gilgamesh’s absence and the goddesses see Shamhat as something of a political pawn during this time. So we’re going to watch as she is forced to navigate their ambitions while keeping the well-being of her people in mind.
CBY: Id' like to focus on some of the upcoming rewards and add-ons. Which ones are you most excited for and what type of stretch goals can we expect?
CK: We have one more variant cover for the second issue that I can’t talk about yet* but that I am very excited for, as well as an updated printing of the first issue with re-touched color and dialogue. We’re also offering a digital comics bundle that includes comics from some really incredible creators like Jason Inman, Brittany Matter, Anas Abdulhak, and many more.
Kostas works traditionally so backers will have the opportunity to purchase original art pages from both the first and second issues and we also have limited opportunities to purchase a sketch card commission from him as well.
I’m also personally offering three slots for editing services for writers that would like another eye on their standard length comic script.
*This interview was conducted prior to the Zoop campaign going live.
CBY: Outside of the Gilgamesh: Eternal series what other projects does 2023 hold for you? Anything that the Yeti Crew should keep their eyes peeled for? CK: I’m currently editing a horror series called Nightwalkers, written by Cullen Bunn with art by Joe Bocardo, colors by Colin Johnson, and letters by Justin Birch. The third issue is available for pre-order now at your LCS from Source Point Press and I’d really appreciate anyone who checks it out!
As for more creator-owned work, I’m currently working on two other big projects for sci-fi fans that I hope to be revealing in the coming months. CBY: Are there any social media platforms you would like to shoutout to our readers? Where can they find future works from you?
CK: Readers can find me on Twitter and Instagram at @CamKerkau, Kostas can be found on Instagram @k.pantoulas.art, and Mira is on Twitter at @mortalcoil! CBY: Thank you so much for coming by and not only giving us an exclusive look at the new variant cover, but also taking time to give us a deep look into Gilgamesh: Eternal! We can’t wait to see you fund! CK: Thanks for having me, it’s been my pleasure!