Whatever Happened to James FALCONSPEARE? – An Interview with WARWICK JOHNSON-CADWELL
COMIC BOOK YETI: Warwick, thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave to talk about Falconspeare. How are you doing?
WARWICK JOHNSON-CADWELL: Doing well, thanks. It’s a great cave, thanks for having me.
CBY: For anyone not familiar with Professor Meinhardt and his assistant Mr. Knox, along with Ms. Mary Van Sloan, what can you tell us about Falconspeare?
WJC: The Professor and Mr. Knox were first seen in Mr. Higgins Comes Home and they returned for several adventures in Our Encounters With Evil, where they were joined by Ms. Mary Van Sloan. This trio have been fighting supernatural forces in the late 19th century for many years. Originally, the trio was a quartet, four young vampire hunters out to tackle evil. James Falconspeare was their fourth member. Over time the group have lost touch, but a mysterious correspondence sets the three on a trek to find the fourth, Falconspeare.
CBY: This is the 3rd book featuring these characters after Mr. Higgins Comes Home and Our Encounters with Evil, and your 2nd time taking on writing, art, and coloring duties. Has your approach to telling these stories changed over the past few years or since taking on several roles?
WJC: Yeah, the approach has added an extra layer at the start. These stories come to me visually, ideas that I draw down on paper and work out that way. So in order to write a script to draw pages from, I thumb and sketch out story ideas to write from. Then look again at the artwork. Another great benefit to this approach is that I can edit my script work when the pages are finished to make the best for the story.
CBY: I want to talk about the motivations and moral dilemma at the heart of this story and at the heart of the character of James Falsonspeare, but it’s difficult without spoiling anything. What was your inspiration for his character as well as for this setting?
WJC: These stories are set in this end of 1900s-era Europe, and that’s where a lot of their inspiration comes from. It’s like the classic texts of Dracula, The Vampyre or Frankenstein but reworked for the classic Universal monster movies and Hammer Horror films. These have a strong tradition in their stories that we can work with and also add our own twist and turns to. The dilemma at the heart of Falconspeare is a really interesting one, but really only works within the rules we have in our stories. The previous books have a lot of action, humor, and big doses of gore, but this book brings something a bit more dramatic and profound I think.
CBY: I appreciated how the setting and colors worked to create a foreboding, suspenseful atmosphere that never became too dark in either tone or color palette. Is it difficult to strike that balance with a story like this that has comedic moments combined with monsters and decapitations?
WJC: Yes, it is difficult. Trying to create a balanced story with a variety of moods and tones is tricky because it is easy for these moments to be too jarring against each other, or to bring someone out of the story entirely. That becomes one of the great pleasures of making these books––it’s a big puzzle. I know what sort of thing I want the story to be, but I don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like or how I’ll do it until I get into it.
CBY: You are once again working with lettering great Clem Robins. Robins is a perfect match for this story, there are some great SFX here, what has your experience been like working with him and did you have a favorite SFX that you wrote that he brought to life on the page for this story?
WJC: A lot of the sound effects, or “SFX,” were drawn into the pages by me, but not all. Clem Robins has an amazing ability with lettering. The SFX he brings to the books are perfect. When I get to see his work on my pages, it really transforms the stories. These books are the result of the team’s work at Dark Horse, and I’m very proud to be part of that.
CBY: The universe of Professor Meinhardt is set outside the Hellboy Universe and the Outerverse, but do you see Professor Meinhardt, Knox, and Ms. Sloan’s world being expansive as those? Are there still plenty of stories to tell here?
WJC: Something that I’ve been able to rely on from the very first sketches for Mr. Higgins Comes Home is that these stories continually bring opportunities for more. The characters are vampire hunters but have encountered werewolves, the Devil, and other horrors, and so it’d seem a great shame not to introduce them to a Dr. Frankenstein or a Jekyll and Hyde or a mummy or two.
CBY: I found the story works quite well as a stand-alone and not one for which it is necessary to read Mr. Higgins Comes Home or Our Encounters with Evil (but you should, dear reader). Is that something you considered when crafting this, whether it was new reader-friendly?
WJC: I definitely did. I felt that the stories in Our Encounters With Evil could be placed anywhere around Mr. Higgins Comes Home. The same could be said for Falconspeare, though here we have a flashback that sees the characters in their earliest days yet. I did like the idea of a fairly general chronology so that any book could be tried first. However Mike Mignola wrote Mr. Higgins Comes Home, which sets the tone for the books, and now that there are two others I feel that maybe they are developing as they go. So at some stage, if there were more, following them in order may start to be more interesting.
CBY: Are you working on anything else that CBY readers should check out?
WJC: James Aquilone’s Kolchak: The Night Stalker 50th Anniversary Kickstarter is underway and I’m drawing pages for that written by Nancy Collins. I also have an original series this year coming from a brand-new publishing partnership, and news of that will come as it’s made available. Exciting stuff.
CBY: I can't wait to hear more. Where can you be found online?
WJC: I’m busiest on Instagram @wocco but also on Twitter @WarwickJC. I’m on Patreon too as Wocco It’s a fairly gentle Patreon, but there’s previews and tip-offs when there’s anything to announce.
CBY: Thank you very much. I appreciate you taking the time to talk about Falconspeare.
WJC: Thank you!!