We recently sent some interns to distant R’lyeh to chat about our new children’s book “Where’s My Shoggoth?” with the creators, writer Ian Thomas and artist Adam Bolton. Most of the interns were lost in time and space, but the one who returned brought back this awesome interview.
Is this your first story? How did you two meet?
IAN: No — I’ve worked on a number of feature films, short films, kids’ books, multimedia titles, game worlds and computer games. However, this is definitely my first children’s Cthulhu horror parody.
We met via a friend at his bachelor party. I’d written a speech for the wedding, and wanted to give the happy couple an illustrated version as a memento. Adam was introduced to me as an illustrator, and we spent a lot of the evening talking about this idea for a kids’ Cthulhu book I’d had…
ADAM: I tend to only appear on this plane of existence for a few decades during each epoch. I’m not quite in sync with this universe you see. Luckily Ian had been stirring the ideas for Shoggoth together during this most recent materialisation and we were able to get to work!
What made you choose ‘Where’s My Shoggoth?‘ as your first Archaia title?
IAN: Adam met Mark Smylie at the New York Comic Con a couple of years ago. Adam was already a fan of Archaia’s output, and plucked up the courage to approach him about Shoggoth. Mark was keen. I absolutely love Mouse Guard, and when I heard that it was the same publisher, I jumped at the chance.
Aside from feeling that we’re on the same wavelength in terms of content, we’re really pleased to have ended up with a publisher who cares so much about production quality – Archaia books have a heft and finish to them that we wouldn’t have found elsewhere. Plus, glow-in-the-dark!
ADAM: Yes, it was great to sit down with Mark and I was chuffed to bits that Shoggoth grabbed him as quickly as it did me. When Archaia said yes I started summoning up the entities one by one. They were all very happy to be included and I’m pretty grateful to them for taking the time to pose for me. I was only bitten twice too.
What is your favorite scene or moment in the book?
IAN: The encounter with the Deep One. It sets the tone for what follows and is a great, great picture by Adam — I love the surroundings and the glowing runes.
ADAM: I think the picture of the scene at the dinner table is my favourite. Or perhaps the pages with the telescope. In either case I had the chance to quietly obsess over those pages and enjoyed making them as maddening and involved as I could!
There are a lot of fun design aspects to the book, which one is your favorite?
IAN: Adam’s art brought in loads of extra things to the very simplistic story I’d written. In particular, I’m delighted with the parallel visual story going on about the black cat and its eventual fate. And all the snippets of mythos — and other — references in the background of each page, particularly in Nyarlathotep’s library.
ADAM: Heh, we certainly worked a lot of references, jokes and surprises into each page. Enough so that the book is worth going back to again and again, both for mythos lovers and the uninitiated. But I would certainly say the Shoggoth itself is pretty fun. Those readers out there who have eagle eyes will certainly get a kick out of that!
I am also particularly fond of the Seussian style rhymes that Ian wrote for the whole book. I find them darkly comic when placed alongside the imagery. So I guess all the pages contain one of my favourite design aspects.
What is your favorite H.P. Lovecraft creature?
IAN: I have a soft spot for Nyarlathotep, but the Shoggoth must be my favourite, really. Ever since I heard the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society’s musical. Which isn’t unconnected to our book…
ADAM: I think I would say Yog-Sothoth, probably because it’s so abstract. And with that, it allowed me to play with optical illusions and broken perspectives while I was drawing his/her/it’s portrait. Or maybe Azathoth, just because it’s sheer scale is terrifying.
Who would you say are your biggest influences as a writer/artist?
IAN: I love the prose of Guy Gavriel Kay — there are very few authors who can bring you to tears with the twist of a sentence. For audacity and scope of fantasy, and for being a genuinely nice guy, Neil Gaiman, and Terry Pratchett’s works are deceptively easy to read, but underneath the humour I think he’s very wise, and knows more about human nature than anyone else I can think of. Other than that, from film and TV: the Coen brothers, William Goldman, Joss Whedon. Snappy dialogue, undercutting of stereotypes.
ADAM: That’s a really tough one. There are so many writers and artists whose work I love. However, picking those books and animations that really grabbed my attention at an impressionable young age I would have to say:
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Alan Moore writing on Swamp Thing, Pat Mills and Kevin O’Neill on Marshall Law, Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, Bryan Hitch on Death’s Head and nearly every single artist and writer for 2000 AD and Judge Dredd Megazine. I have most of the 2000 AD’s here in my studio. I’m keeping them safe for Nyarlathotep.
In reality the full list is probably longer than both my arms and my tentacles.
How would you entice a Shoggoth to be your pet?
ADAM: Take 3 eggs, 2 cats (live), half a pint of milk and a bowl of demerara sugar. First bring the milk to the boil whilst preheating the oven at gas mark 7. Whisk the eggs and then proceed to dip in each of the cats in turn, making sure you have covered them fully (you may want to wear gloves for this). Next, place the cats on a baking tray, sprinkle them with sugar and check the oven has reached the required temperature…
What future projects can we expect from you?
IAN: Well, as you read this, Little Big Planet should be available for the Playstation Vita, which I’ve spent the last year and a half on. And at the beginning of 2013, a feature film I wrote should be out — it’s currently in post-production. There are dozens of other projects ticking away…
However, Adam and I are working on a couple of Shoggoth-related follow-ups in a slightly different media, so fingers and tentacles crossed!
ADAM: Yes, the Shoggoth related projects that Archaia have enquired about are certainly possibilities. Any readers of the book may get a hint of what they might be… Time will tell if those projects are goers!
I’m also working on a number of other books, including a comic called Empyre alongside writer Stephen Aryan and artist Ryan Taylor. We shall have to see if anyone bites (I’ll let you guess which popular monster is involved in that book!).
Make sure to get your tentacles on a copy of “Where’s My Shoggoth?” on Sept. 26 in comic book shops and Oct. 1 wherever books are sold! In the meantime, Archaia does not condone harming kittens for any reason, including Shoggoth baiting.