Rodionoff, Fawkes & Huddleston Talk The Horror of "Mnemovore"

This April sees the first issue of the new horror mini-series "Mnemovore" hit store shelves from DC/Vertigo. It brings together three creators from very different parts of the comics industry, yet they all seem to have gelled quite nicely together.

The book is written by Hans Rodionoff and Ray Fawkes. Rodionoff has previously been seen in comics as the creator of "Lovecraft" from Vertigo. This was a film-script he wrote that was adapted for comics by writer Keith Giffen. He also wrote the upcoming "Man-Thing" film, based on the Marvel Comics character, which is scheduled to air on the SciFi Network in April.

Next up is Ray Fawkes, who has been working hard at comics for some time now, previously having published "Spookshow" at Cyberosia as well as a self-published version of "Mnemovore," which he both wrote and illustrated, but more on that a bit later.

The duo are joined by Mike Huddleston, whose work has been seen in a wide variety of books, most notably "Batgirl," "Deep Sleeper" and "The Coffin." He's also got a short story written by Joe Casey in the upcoming "Four-Letter Worlds" anthology from Image Comics.

Together the three make up the creative team behind "Mnemovore" and we sat down with all of them to learn about this mysterious series and it's unusual beginnings.

CBR News: Allright guys, let's start by introducing "Mnemovore" to our readers. What have we got here?

Hans Rodionoff: Well, the title says it all, doesn't it? I'm kidding, but the word "mnemovore" is actually derived from Greek and Latin roots. The first part is Greek, the second part is Latin. Ray created a new word using multi-lingual appropriation, an incongruity that is related to the book thematically. If your Greek or Latin is a little rusty, the easiest way to think of this story is as a paranoid Lovecraftian thriller told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator.

Ray Fawkes: This is a shock-mystery story, so it's one the readers ought to go into knowing as little as possible about what they're about to experience. Suffice it to say: it's about memories, unreliable and otherwise, and what happens to the ones that go away.

Mike Huddleston: I think that in it's simplest terms this story is about regular people confronting something fantastic, be it internal or external, our characters are facing something outside of conventional experience. That's what really attracted me to this book in the first place.

CBR: Our main character is a woman named Kaley Markowic. The solicitations text mentions she's been badly injured. How exactly? Based on the description it sounds like she's suffered a pretty serious head wound.

RF: She certainly has. Kaley's a competitive snowboarder, and the story begins just after she takes a rough spill on a course, leaving her with a severe concussion and a few other scrapes and bruises. She's a tough customer, so this is just the latest in a history of injuries - but it's the one that will put an end to her career.

HR: Kaley doesn't like helmets. She thinks they impede her vision and ruin her flow. We catch up with her on the day that she really should have been wearing one.

MH: I'm happy that Kaley wasn't too injured by her accident, but personally I'm glad she took a tumble. When I first talked to the guys about the book, I was imagining having to draw alot of snowboarding competitions (which I know nothing about), but instead I'm in more familiar territory dealing with creepy environments, scary creatures and the occasional corpse.

CBR: In the solicitations there's mention of a mysterious creature. Anything additional you guys can add here?

RF: Hints are all I'll give before the book is read, I'm afraid. The creature, if it actually exists, is an elusive, nebulous presence that anyone in his or her right mind would be horrified to stumble across. That's really all I'm willing to say on the subject.

HR: I'll add that the creature is something that's both ancient and new at the same time. It's tough to get into specifics about it without spoiling the book because this entity is something that the reader will be discovering with Kaley.

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MH: The guys had a pretty complex idea for the creature and it took a few rounds of sketches to really capture a visual for it. I think it's an exciting character and one you'll see a lot of in the book... sort of.

CBR: Hans, talk about how you and Ray got to working together? And talk about the creative process a bit - what's your collaborative process?

HR: It was pretty much the quintessential San Diego Comic Con experience. I think that everyone goes down there hoping to meet someone that they really connect with on a creative level. I was wandering around the booths and I stumbled on Ray who had his nose stuck in a sketchbook. He had a whole stack of books that he had self-published called "Mnemovore." I loved the title right away and I asked him what it was about. Ray looked up from his sketch long enough to give me a log line, then went back to work. I flipped through the book, and got a really creepy feeling from the art. Ray's got a very strong Lovecraftian bloodline and we can smell our own. I was originally planning on just adapting his self-published book into a screenplay when I started having these really vivid nightmares. I'd call Ray and tell him about all of these half-formed thoughts and disturbing images that were needling into my mind at night. Ray would just laugh. But what we found out from those conversations was that we were both trying to tell the same story. We were both haunted and frightened by the same things.

I came at the story from a cinematic standpoint, so I wanted to focus on the setting and some of the characters. Ray had built a great mythology and had a perfect understanding of the underlying themes. I think of our process as that of two sculptors. Ray brought the clay, and carved some big chunks out. I roughed out a basic form. Ray came back and did detail work. We just keep going back and forth until we're both happy. If you both agree on what you're trying to sculpt, it's easy.

RF: Hans says it all here. I am, in fact, the man who laughs when people call me from across the country to tell me about their nightmares. Especially when I had a hand in provoking them.

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CBR: As you mentioned above, this isn't the first time "Mnemovore" has seen print. Ray originally published this book as an 88-page self-published graphic novel last year. So, is this simply a new printing of the original with some input from Hans, or is this a reworking with both of you behind the writers desk now? What are the differences between the two editions?

RF: This is a complete rework, based on the same core story. The protagonist is different, the setting is expanded, and there is another, more complicated plotline woven around the original. Mike Huddleston was brought on board to create totally new artwork, with which he's done a stellar job. Basically, if the original was a one-act play set in a single room, this is the full and free-roaming multi-chapter version of the story. Better visuals and a more broadly experimental approach.

HR: I'd had a great experience with Karen Berger on my first graphic novel, "Lovecraft" [which Rodionoff spoke more about in a May, 2004 Interview] and I was anxious to work with her again. I told her about the general premise for this book and she really latched on to it. After that, Karen took an active role in developing the story and she brought on another really bright editor, Pornsak Pichetshote. The team at Vertigo really nurtured this book, and understood the tone immediately. They suggested Mike Huddleston for the art and Ray and I lost our minds. I had been reading "Deep Sleeper" and really loved Mike's ability to capture grotesque images and subtle characterization in the same book. We knew he was the perfect person to bring our nightmares to life.

CBR: Let's spend some time discussing the inspiration for "Mnemovore." What are you pulling from to craft the story?

HR: There are a lot of things going on in this story thematically and tonally. Ray and I both have much love for Asian horror and so the aesthetic of "Uzumaki" or "The Ring" was something that we wanted to capture. It's Lovecraftian, otherworldly, eldritch. But it's also contemporary. In fact, the most frightening elements are the pieces that relate to where we are as a society and where we're going. Ray and I are pulling from a lot of different sources. Asian horror. Lovecraft. Scientific American. It's a ghoulish goulash.

CBR: That's a wide array of influences to be sure! Guys, seeing as how this collaboration has gone so smoothly, should we expect to see more work from both of you in the future? Any hints as to when that might be?

RF: You should both expect it and demand it! Once our work on this book is done, we're going to sit down together and talk about the possibility to see if an attractive idea presents itself.

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HR: We've definitely got some more tricks up our sleeves. I think this year at Comic Con will give us an opportunity to catch our breath after "Mnemovore" and decide what our next project will be.

CBR: Sounds good, guys. Now, let's have Mike finish out the interview.

Seeing as how Ray had previously published and produced "Mnemovore" all on his own, did you have any reluctance to coming in on this project knowing you'd be taking someone else's vision and making it your own?

MH: I don't really remember at what point I found out that Ray had produced an earlier version of this story, but that never made me reluctant to jump on board. Working on a project like this, as an artist, you're always taking someone else's vision and making it your own. The key is to find people to collaborate with who respect what you bring to the table and let you do your thing. I've been real lucky so far to find people like Phil Hester and now Ray and Hans that have enough faith in me to let me run wild with their ideas.

CBR: And looking at the preview pages it looks like you've certainly done that. But, did you ever reference the original publication much in preparing your pages for this series?

MH: I looked up Ray's earlier book online and gave it a glance, but then I pretty much did everything I could to forget it. As good as Ray's book is, I didn't want to be influenced by any of his artistic decisions and thankfully he's never asked me to follow how he might have done things. I am hoping, though, that when they collect the "Mnemovore" series, that they include a look at Ray's earlier version - I think it would be cool for readers to see different takes on the same concept.

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