Comics, Anathema and Super Nintendo – An Interview with Rachel Deering

Welcome to the first ComicStoryworld original interview! I’m thrilled to bring you independent comics creator (and fellow Super Nintendo-worshipper) Rachel Deering, creator of the horror series ANATHEMA. In this interview, Rachel and I  chat about ANATHEMA, the future of the comics medium, and worshipping at the altar of the Super Nintendo.

ANATHEMA- what’s it all about? 

 ANATHEMA is a limited series adventure/horror/romance comic about a woman who, in her desperation, takes on dark powers in order to save her lover’s soul from a twisted cult, bent on resurrecting an ancient vampire lord. Some might hear romance and horror in the same sentence and go running for the hills. Don’t panic. This book is nothing like the romantic monsters you see all over the movie screens these days. Here, romance turns to tragedy, tragedy turns to fear, and fear turns to revenge. No vampire makeout sessions on my watch.

What drew you to comics? 

I grew up way back in the hills and hollows of Kentucky, where entertainment was scarce. Somehow, my uncle had managed to amass a meager collection of horror comics, which he passed on to me. After reading those books cover to cover until I could recite them from memory, I went looking for more, but there was none to be found. It was at that point that I decided to make my own comics, and I’ve been doing it (to some degree) ever since.

What and/or who do you count among your inspirations? 

I draw inspiration from everywhere, really. Books, comics, movies, video games, and real life horror stories on the news. As for the specific people who influence me, well, I’d have to go with Algernon Blackwood, Robert E. Howard, William Blake, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Count Stanislaus Eric Stenbock to name a few.

What are you reading now? 

I work as a freelance letterer for comics, so I am reading a lot of other people’s comic scripts, haha. Outside of that, I just picked up a wonderful leatherbound copy of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA  and Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN together in one volume, the original illustrated SHERLOCK HOLMES stories, and a non-fiction book called COMIC-CON AND THE BUSINESS OF POP CULTURE by Rob Salkowitz. As for comics, I’m trying to finish up the NORTHLANDERS series by Brian Wood, and I just finished ALABASTER: WOLVES by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

As a freelance independent creator, what are the biggest hurdles you face? 

The biggest hurdle for me was finding and keeping a dependable artist. I went through two artists before [Chris] Mooneyham (my current artist) came along. I won’t go into specifics about the previous artists, but suffice it to say they didn’t work out for their own individual reasons. Next on the hurdle list would definitely be marketing. I don’t have a huge budget for pushing my books, and I don’t have a publisher backing me to lend a hand, either. So far, I’ve had to rely upon various social networking outlets to promote and sell my books. Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt have been my big saviors so far.

According to your DeviantArt profile, the SNES is your favorite system. The biggest, most important question of the whole interview: What’s your favorite game? 

What a question… Wow. I guess it’s a toss up between FINAL FANTASY III (or VI in Japan) and THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST. I could go on for days about the SNES, so we’d better move on…

Fair enough. What’s the future of comics? How will the medium survive?

As much as I hate to say it, comics will probably head toward a mostly digital form of distribution. I used to be staunchly anti-digital, and I refused to release any of my books as anything but printed hardcopies. These days, I’m starting to realize that I’ve got to move past that bias and embrace all avenues of distribution if I hope to proliferate this career of mine, haha. I think what print will remain will be in the form of full graphic novels and trade paperbacks. The single issue (or floppy *shudder*) will likely become a thing of the past. Like I said, I’m not a fan of this outlook, but it seems to be the only thing comics can do to keep up with other forms of entertainment. It has to be immediately available 24/7 from the comforts of a person’s home, or it’s going to die out.

What do you want readers to take away from your work? 

I’d like if they realized that horror doesn’t have to be in-your-face blood and gore. It doesn’t have to be torture porn and extreme violence and all out nudity and vulgarity. Great horror can rely on atmosphere and tension to make you feel something. I think society has become desensitized to modern horror tropes. You can’t really scare audiences anymore, unless it’s a cheap jump scare via an overly loud theater sound system. If you want a good example of what I’m talking about, go back and watch The Howling from 1981. Watch the scene where the werewolf takes the file folder from the woman’s hand. No jump scare there. No sound effects. Not even any music. It just happens, and it’s effective.

What did I miss? 

Here’s a whole string of things: My favorite monster is the werewolf, my favorite band is Iron Maiden, my favorite color is green, my favorite food is pizza, I have a tiny chihuahua, I’m a lesbian, and I’ve been with my wonderful partner for six years!

Many thanks to Rachel for the chat. Be sure to check out ANATHEMA and all of Rachel’s work by going to her DeviantArt page, following her on Twitter, or joining her on Facebook.