Discussing John Lees and Iain Lauire's Caledonian Gothic -- And Then Emily Was Gone!

You may remember And Then Emily Was Gone from my reviews, ranting on the podcast and overall joy of the news that it was picked up by ComixTribe for a wide release in North America. If you don't remember any of that then you're still in for a treat as I was able to chat via email with the creators John Lees and Iain Lauire about the book, ComixTribe and its transition from black & white to color. Before we begin though some important information about the series Diamond Comics release. It's currently in the May Previews under code MAY141251. Take that code to your LCS and have them order it for you, but keep in mind that each issue has a 50/50 cover split. Iain has a cover for each issue of the five-part mini, but then they have some great guest artist illustrating the other covers. For the first issue Riley Rossmo is on board (see it below) and Nick Pitarra for the second issue (also below). Other cover artists include Garry Brown and Joe Mulvey so keep an eye out for those as well. Now, let's get into interview and preview pages!

Emily1ALaurieDUSTIN: First off let’s start off with how you’d describe And Then Emily Was Gone to the unfamiliar?

JOHN: We've described And Then Emily Was Gone as a Scottish Twin Peaks, or like The Killing meets The Wicker Man.  It's the story of a seriously damaged individual called Greg Hellinger, a man who sees monsters.  He used to be a brilliant, celebrated detective, who specialised in tracking down missing people, but five years ago he had what he calls a "spectacular nervous breakdown," and now he's plagued with these horrific apparitions that he sees wherever he goes.  He's half-crazy and living as a recluse, but he's tracked down by Fiona, a 17-year-old girl who needs his help to find Emily, her missing best friend.  Emily lives on Merksay, a remote community in the Scottish Orkney Islands where strange and terrifying things are happening.  And from there, things gets really weird...

IAIN: I think the term we came up with was 'Caledonian Gothic'... which sounds cool if nothing else!

DUSTIN: Was there a real world event that sparked this idea or did it stem from something else?

JOHN: There's no one true event that the story is drawn from, but I'd say it's more influenced by a melting pot of fictional influences.  The work of David Lynch is a big cultural touchstone, for both Iain and myself.  Not just the obvious Twin Peaks, but stuff like Lost Highway and Blue Velvet, that sense of waking dream and creeping dread.  There's something of a John Carpenter streak in there too, particularly his under-appreciated gem In The Mouth of Madness.  Iain and I also talked about British TV series The League of Gentlemen, and walking that fine tightrope between the horrific and the absurd.

IAIN: I think that covers it, although when I was drawing it I realised how much the look of it was a bit like the kind of weird European fairytales they showed on UK TV when I was growing up. There was an old animated version of Peter And The Wolf that I think influences me without me realising it.

DUSTIN: How did you guys end up working with each other?

JOHN:  It was meant to be!  Working with Iain Laurie has been on my comics bucket list ever since I first became aware of his work back in 2011.  He's an incredible artist, and we have rather complimentary sensibilities as storytellers, and I long had a feeling our creative union would create a wonderfully monstrous offspring, like the child in Rosemary's Baby.  After a couple of near misses of collaborating on other projects, the stars just aligned for And Then Emily Was Gone to happen.  I've specifically written this for Iain, to the point where no one else could draw it.  So much of the plot beats and sequences in the script are me attempting to emulate some of the recurring motifs in Iain's art... either that, or just me writing stuff I want to see Iain draw!

IAIN: I saw The Standard and was really impressed, as it looked like a comic trying to be a comic rather than something desperately trying to look lo-fi and indie. I was doing a lot of experimental stuff and had been thinking of doing something more structured and less difficult and I thought, "That's the guy!" We nearly worked on something else that didn't happen but in doing that we realised we have very similar tastes... although Johns a better person than me. It's very much Good Cop/Grumpy Cop.

JOHN: I wouldn't say I'm a better person, I just hide my wickedness more effectively.  Look beyond the grinning face and you'll see the soulless eyes of a killer!

Emily1BRossmoDUSTIN: What’s the creative process between you two after Iain is given the script? Does Iain just attack the page or is there more back and forth?

JOHN: The creative process is mostly Iain sobbing and saying, "I can't draw this sick filth, you monster!  Why can't I draw superheroes and happy, cuddly animals?"

IAIN: Pretty much. This is a lot more work than I'm used to, but basically I look at the script and try and imagine if I was watching it as a film how I'd direct it, then I send layouts or pencils to John to approve. I'm bad for going off my own way, as anyone who has worked with me will tell you, so I need John to keep me on track.

DUSTIN: Other than John previously working with ComixTribe, what made you decide that And Emily Was Gone was the right fit for them?

IAIN:I'm very naive about the whole comics scene so I trusted John about them.  And I'm glad I did, as they've been great.

JOHN: Previously working with ComixTribe was a big part of it.  I know publisher Tyler James, editors Steven Forbes, Sam LeBas, Steve Colle, regular creative collaborators Joe Mulvey and Alex Cormack... they're all good people, and like me, they're passionate about comics and serious about telling the best stories they can.  They're the kind of people that, once you partner up with them, you want to keep working with them.  And I saw ComixTribe's expanding roster of titles coming up in the year ahead, and really saw a place for And Then Emily Was Gone to slide into that lineup.

Emily2BPitarraDUSTIN: Are you excited to see And Then Emily Was Gone in color and what do you think that will add to the series?

IAIN: It's insane. Megan Wilson, who does the colour art, is amazing. I still think in black and white and draw like that.  I envisioned Emily as a bit me, a bit Rafael Grampa and a bit Charles Burns, so black and white was a big deal, but then when Megan came on board I had to rethink it a bit.  But I think you'll gradually see me learning to make way for colour as the book goes on. Megan takes it next level (and covers up my endless mistakes).

JOHN: Yeah, I just want to echo that Megan Wilson has been a fantastic addition to the creative team, to the point where it's unimaginable having the book without her now.  Her and Iain make a great tag team, she really brings out the best in his visuals.  I also want to give a shout-out to our letterer, Colin Bell, who has a great eye for design and had a big part to play in the visual DNA of the comic as a physical entity.

Once again And Then Emily Was Gone is available in the May issue of Previews Magazine under the code MAY141251. Check out our reviews for the first two issues if you need that extra push, but really this is a series you're not going to want to miss. A big thank you to John and Iain for their time!