I recently became aware of a very powerful horror comic called Anathema, the story of a huntress Mercy Barlowe in the puritan era. That peaked my interest, but aside from the plot the journey the book has taken is an interesting story as well. Rachel Deering, comic book writer and letterer (Anathema, The Other Side, and Womanthology), had conceived this original, powerful, frightening book and decided to self publish. And what better way to self-publish than with a “Kickstarter” campaign. She received great press and a plethora of backers (actually exceeding her fundraising goal). But why isn’t this book on the shelves? I decided to ask her for myself….
Rachel, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. I think the first thing people will wonder when they see this article is, what is Anathema?
RD: Anathema is my heartfelt homage to, basically, my every childhood obsession, and those elements which started me down the path to being a creator. I took influence from the Warren magazines of the 60’s and 70’s like Creepy and Eerie, Hammer horror movies, and Robert E. Howard characters like Conan and Solomon Kane. Combine all of those elements and throw in a strong female lead, and you’ve got my little horror comic.
Why a horror comic?
RD: Horror has been my “thing”, I guess you could say, since I was old enough to read or cram a VHS tape into the VCR. I’m sure some overpaid psychologist could delve into the reasons behind my early attraction to horror, but for me it was simply the ability to get a glimpse into the fantastic – the dark side of life – without having to put myself in any sort of immediate danger. The very first comics I ever read were EC horror titles, and that influence has stuck with me. Plus, do we REALLY need another superhero book on the shelves? Really?
Why do you feel there aren’t more strong female leads in comics today?
RD: Because the industry is primarily made up of male writers, and I think men are unsure about how to approach writing a female lead. Good writers are taught to write what they know, and men know men. I think I prefer that men stick to writing tights, muscles, and face punches. There are plenty of up-and-coming female writers out there, so I think the balance between male and female leads is just on the horizon.
How do you feel the character Mercy Barlowe will be received by the mainstream comic reader?
RD: People will be able to pick and choose which elements they enjoy, whether it be the real-to-life and emotional Mercy, the over-the-top ass-kicking Mercy, or the monster Mercy. I think I’ve written a character with enough complexity that nearly anyone should be able to identify with her. I feel like she’ll be very well received. I hope so, anyway!
Is the entire story written? How many issues will it run?
RD: The entire story is written out in a detailed document, plotting the key events and elements in the overall tale. The first issue is completely scripted, and about 3/4 of the art has been produced. I’m hoping to have it completed and back from the printer in April. The series is set to run for at least 6 issues. Maybe more, if a publisher requests.
What stopped publication?
RD: Money. The root of all evil. I came into some issues with artists, and found myself set back about $2,000, which essentially crippled my printing and distribution plans. Right now I’m taking on any and all writing, editing, and lettering gigs that I can to try and make up for it. Unfortunately, this whole thing has put the book months behind schedule.
Have you been contacted by or have you contacted any indie publishers?
RD: Not really. I wanted to have the book finished before I submitted anything to publishers. I wanted to show them that I have the drive and dedication to finish a book on my own, without asking them to take it from a 5 or 6 page sample and script. I think the more effort I put into this book, the more a publisher will respect it.
Have you considered printing just the 300 you need to satisfy the backers and releasing the series in digital? Then releasing the trade in print at a later date?
RD: Yeah, that was my plan, actually. I’m not sure how many people will be into buying the digital version, but I plan to offer it until I can afford to fund a higher print run, or a publisher decides to give it a shot.
How can we, the comic loving public help get this book into our local comic shops?
RD: At this point, just read it, let me know what you think, and let the other readers know what you think. When the time comes for a full print run, or publication, hopefully the demand will be big enough that shops will have no problem ordering it in.
Are you still attending Boston Comic Con? Will copies be available?
Unfortunately, no. I’ve had to cancel my panel at Boston Comic Con. It all came down to money, and I didn’t have enough to make it happen. Didn’t see that one coming, huh?
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions which
you’ve probably answered 1000 times before! Anything else you’d like
to mention, plug, touch on, rant about?
The usual stuff: Read books you enjoy, stop buying books that you don’t. If you read a book that you like, spread the word and help that creator make a living. I’ve got 5 projects coming out so far this year, so if you want to keep track of them and get TONS of previews, you can follow me on twitter @racheldeering. Thanks for the interview!
On top of graciously granting me this interview Rachel also sent along some pages to peruse, check this stuff out!
Rachel Deering is findable on the interwebs (told myself I’d never use that term) as she said her twitter is @racheldeering or look for her at her site: http://www.racheldeering.com. And remember she also wrote for and was an editor on IDW’s Womanthology drop by and take a look at that too!
Spread the word guys, we need need this book published!