The plot thickens for John Arcudi’s “The Creep,” as the Jonathan Case-illustrated strip now running in “Dark Horse Presents” continues into a miniseries in August, courtesy of Dark Horse. “The Creep” #0 will collect the “DHP” serial, followed by a four-issue miniseries of new material continuing the story of Oxel Karnhus, a private investigator reunited with an old friend through tragedy after both their lives have been irrevocably transformed. Comic Book Resources caught up with Arcudi to discuss “The Creep,” writing about difficult topics and how his own creator-owned projects contrast with his ongoing work on “B.P.R.D.”
Arcudi’s “The Creep” first appeared during the original run of “Dark Horse Presents,” and while the new strips will not be a reboot they also do not require any knowledge of what’s gone before. “Let’s just say it’s a fresh start in the same world — which is is to say, our world. We’re still in NYC, and we’re still in the late 1980s, but this is a larger story than I had attempted before and — I hope — a richer one,” Arcudi said.
The first installment of the three-part “Dark Horse Presents” story is in stores now in issue #11, introducing readers Oxel Karnhus, a private detective with a distinctive appearance; and his college sweetheart, Stephanie, whose son has committed suicide and who enlists Oxel’s aid after twenty years out of touch. “When they knew each other, it was before Oxel was struck with acromegaly — the disease that ultimately disfigured him — so Stephanie has an ideal of what her life was like back then, before her troubled marriage and before her son’s death, all embodied in the memory of a 19-year-old Oxel,” Arcudi said. “But then, Oxel shares that delusion, so they’re even on that account. Anyway, when Steph finds out that Oxel is a private detective, she tries to get him to help her solve the mystery of why her son killed himself — or maybe that’s just a pretext to reconnect in a time of despair. Hard to say.”
Acromegaly is a condition in which excess growth hormone causes sometimes deforming growth, as well as having other effects on the body related to the enlargement of tissue. Arcudi said that, for the purposes of his current story, he is focusing on the outward symptoms. “Most of all, it impacts the way people see him. When I wrote the first ‘Creep’ stories I got a bit more into the other aspects of the disease — the brittle bones, the headaches — and we do a little of that here, but this time around we just wanted to concentrate on the visuals,” the writer told CBR. “People have certain expectations when they see a guy who looks like that, and the fun in this story was bursting the expectations the characters have of Oxel. In spite of how he looks, Oxel manages to somehow connect, and our hope is that readers will be surprised by this as well.”
The “Dark Horse Presents” strip deals with the sensitive topic of teen suicide, and Arcudi said that, as a creator, “the only way to approach this stuff is with honesty.” “Obviously, I don’t know what goes through the mind of a kid who kills himself, but I do know what survivors of suicide go through, and that’s the story here,” he said. “The guilt, and the the whys. So it only makes sense that a mother would look for answers, and and for comfort. That’s really the only story you can tell unless you want to write anti-suicide propaganda, but then who is ‘pro-suicide?'”
The artist for both the current “DHP” serial and upcoming “The Creep” miniseries is Jonathan Case, who recently won Stumptown Comics Festival awards for Best New Talent for his work on “Green River Killer” and “Dear Creature,” and Best Artist as well for the latter book. “As I said earlier, I just want to tell a story that’s not didactic or… well anything other than a story, and Jonathan is the guy for that,” Arcudi said of his collaborator. “He’s not obsessed with selling pages by creating splash panels that don’t work. Instead, he makes every panel interesting and engaging, and drives you forward through the pages. Even more importantly, he’s equally talented in different drawing styles and that was really important for this story that shifts perspectives and timelines.”
Arcudi said that, though the “Dark Horse Presents” strip ties directly to the miniseries, each also stands on its own. “The ‘DHP’ stuff gets reprinted in an issue #0, and then we’ll have four issues of new material, and while the ‘DHP’ chapters take the story to one possible conclusion, the four issues following pick up right where that leaves off and then takes it all to another conclusion. Sounds a little complicated, but it’s not. It just means that readers can read only the ‘DHP’ stuff if they want to stop there, but if they like that, they can get a bigger, fuller story in the five issue arc.”
Having written “B.P.R.D.” with Mike Mignola since 2004, Arcudi has become most associated with that series. But the writer has also found some success with his own creator-owned projects like “A God Somewhere” and “Major Bummer.” CBR News asked Arcudi how projects like these and “The Creep” contrast with his monthly tours of duty with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence. “‘B.P.R.D.’ is great in that it allows me to explore long-form storytelling like no comic has ever offered in me in my whole career,” he said, “but yes, there are other stories I want to tell that don’t have supernatural elements, and/or don’t work in that long-form and I’m very, very lucky that I’ve had chances to tell them now and again.
“It’s no different than what anybody else does in his or her life, you know? Those varied interests or disciplines, they need expression. It’s just a matter of finding ways to do that, which we all know isn’t always easy. Again, I’ve been lucky.”